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Hajj: Origin and Significance

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By Syed Abul Ala Maududi

Hajj, or the Pilgrimage, is the last among those acts of Worship, which Islam enjoins upon you. Like the prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, it mounds your life and prepares you so that you may live in surrender to Allah.
The word Hajj means to make a resolve to visit a holy place: Visiting the Ka’aba in Makka is therefore called Hajj.
The Origin of Hajj is rooted in the Prophet Ibrahim’s life, peace be on him. That story is instructive, and illustrative, too, of the true meaning and significance of Hajj. That story you must know to fully understand the benefits Hajj can bring to you.
Ibrahim was born in what is now Iraq, over four thousand years ago. At that time the people had forgotten the One God. No one recognized him as the Master, no one lived in surrender and obedience to Him. The people among whom Ibrahim was born, while the most advanced in the world in art and science, industry and agriculture, were also the most steeped in ignorance and error. One simple they despite their technological advance, could not understand: anything, which has itself been created cannot be worthy of worship. Idolatry was the norm. Superstitions like astrology, idol-worship, divination, Witchcraft and use of talisman and amulets were widespread.
A priest class controlled the class controlled the temples, supervised worship rites and rituals, conducted marriage and funeral ceremonies, and claimed to be oracles able to disclose the unknown, foretell the future, and determine Divine wishes. And the people, in general, believed that they indeed had such powers, that they access to their deities, that they could intercede with them on their behalf or invoke their wrath to fall upon them. For them the priests were the lords of their fate.
The kings were in collusion with the priests, the two sides working together to keep the people under servitude. They gave full backing to the priests, and the priests made people believe that the king of the day, as well as being the owner of his country and complete master of his subjects, was also a god among other gods. His word was absolute. Indeed, worship rites were performed for and before the king so that the belief in his godhood came to be entrenched in the minds of his subjects.
In times like this, the Prophet Ibrahim was born into a family of privileged priests. His forefathers were high priests and it was quite natural that he should follow in their footsteps. He received the same education and training; the same gifts and offerings were awaiting him. Many adherents were eagerly waiting for the moment when they could bow their heads before him with folded hands. The ancestral seat of priestly power could be his for the taking.
In his dismal darkness, where not a single soul existed who knew or believed in the Truth, it would not ordinary have been possible for a man like Ibrahim to find its light, nor break away from the little of comfort and power mapped out for him by his family.
After leaving his home, the Prophet Ibrahim wandered in Egypt, Palestine and Arabia. God, alone, knows what sufferings he went through on his journeys. He had no money or possessions nor did he have time to earn his livelihood. His sole vocation, day and night, was to bring people to the worship of the One God. If a man of such ideas could not be tolerated by his own father and his own community, how was he going to be any more successful elsewhere? Where would he be welcomed? Everywhere the same temple priests and kings claiming godhood held sway; everywhere the same confused and ignorant common men lived, who were completely hoodwinked by them. How could, then, Ibrahim live peacefully in such an environment? For, not only was he himself not ready to accept the godhood of anybody except God, but he was also committed to proclaiming to the people that none except Allah was their Master and Lord and that, therefore, they should ignore the authority of their leaders and demi-gods and submit only to the One Being. Thus condemned to a nomadic existence, wandering through Palestine, Egypt and the vast deserts of Arabia, he passed his whole adult life.
During the last period of his life, when he was eighty-six and had despaired of offspring, Allah gave him a child, Ismail. But even then, this loyal servant of Allah did not think that, having himself wrecked his own home life, he should at least prepare his children to earn their living.
It was in Makka that Ibrahim and his son built the Holy Ka’aba, the center of the Islamic movement, on a site chosen by Allah Himself. This building was not intended for worship only, as mosques are; its purpose was to act as the center for spreading the universal movement of Islam, a world-wide gathering point for believers in the One God to assemble to worship Allah in congregation and go back to their respective countries carrying with them the message of Islam. This was the assembly, which was named Hajj. Exactly how this center was constructed, with what hopes and prayers both father and son raised its walls, and how Hajj was initiated are described thus in the Quran:
Peace always reigned in and around the Ka’aba, when all around it were rampant plunder, murder, devastation, conflict, and warfare – such was its sanctity that even the Bedouins who respected no law, if they detected in its precincts the murderer of even their father, did not dare to touch him.
Look at Ibrahim’s prayers to find out what the real purpose and significance of Hajj is:
And when We made the House a place of visitation for mankind, and a sanctuary; take, then, the place whereon Ibrahim stood for place of prayer. And We commanded Ibrahim and Ismail, ‘Purify My House for those who will walk around it, and those who will abide therein in worship, and those who will bow down and prostate themselves.’ And when Ibrahim prayed: My Lord! Make this a land secure and provide its people fruits, such of them as believe in God and the Last Day…
And when Ibrahim was raising the foundations of the House, and Ismail, [they prayed]: Our Lord! Accept Thou this from us. Thou, Thou alone, art the All-hearing, the All-knowing. Our Lord! And make us surrender ourselves unto Thee, and out of our offspring make people surrender themselves unto Thee; and show us our rites of worship, and turn toward us; surely Thou alone truest, and art the Mercy-giving. Our Lord! Do Thou send to them a Messenger, from among them, who shall convey unto them Thy revelations, and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify and develop them. Thou alone art the All-mighty, the All-wise! (Quran 2: 125-9).
And when Ibrahim prayed, My Lord! Make this land secure, and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. My Lord! They have led astray many people. Hence whoso follows me truly belongs to me; and whoso disobeys me – surely Thou art All-forgiving, Mercy-giving. Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in a valley where are no arable lands, near They sanctified House, our Lord, so that they may perform the Prayer, and Thou make peoples’ hearts to incline towards them, and provide them fruits so that they may be thankful (Quran 14: 35-7).
And when We assigned unto Ibrahim the place of the House [We said]: You shall not take any god beside Me, and purify My House for those who will walk around it and those who will stand, and those who will bow down and prostate themselves. And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage; and they will come unto you on foot and on every lean mount, they will come from every deep ravine, so that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention God’s name during the days appointed over such heads of cattle He has provided them. Eat, then, thereof, and fee therewith the unfortunate poor (Quran 22: 26-8).
This is the story of the beginning of that Hajj which is the fifth pillar of Islam. You now understand that Makka was the headquarters for the mission of the first Prophet appointed to propagate the message of Islam. The Ka’aba was the focal point from where this preaching was spread across the world, and the worship rites of Hajj were introduced so that all those who chose to live in surrender to God alone should belong to one center where they could assemble every year, and go around it again and again. Their lives of faith were to be like the wheel tied to and revolving around its axle.Gentiles are invoked when movements talk of distributive justice and inequality.


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Opinion

Beyond the Manifest

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By Amir Suhail Wani

Modern philosophical worldview with its nomenclatural diversity has pushed the human mind further and farther into trajectories of abstraction. The ideological extravaganza clad in tricky rhetoric denies any possibility of metanarrative, but simultaneously bombards the human mind with an infinitude of narratives. This irreconcilable dualism has rendered our intellectual tradition plundered, and made us survive on decaying ideological carcasses. Bonaparte is reported to have said, “I died because of too many doctors”; our state of affairs is no different. Ours is a state of ideological multiplicity which culminates into dread. The jargon of authenticity, and authenticity of authenticity ad infinitum, is going to render us intellectually bankrupt. There is such an impending gloom hovering over our intellectual horizon that multiplicity is in a continuous process of devouring the originality. Accepted, that truth in its process of manifestation assumes a multitude of forms, but to throw a mind open to all these forms without proper appreciation for this diversity, has created an aura of ideological inundation. It is believed that, loosely speaking, philosophy stands on the substructure of its contemporary science, though at times it may break away here and there from accepting scientific norms in its quest for ultimate realities, but the correspondence between philosophy and the science of any age is undeniable. Our contemporary scientific landscape has been dominated for the last hundred years by Quantum theory, which in its philosophical overtones favours uncertainty, chaos, subjectivity and perspectivism. These scientific notions have their philosophical equivalence in trends like existentialism, deconstruction and postmodernism.

The transition of epistemology and ontology from expansion of human understanding to its limitation has proved to be most grievous crime committed by pundits of Western philosophy. Philosophy, in the post renaissance era operated under the influence of science and this led philosophical methodology to be characterised by same shortcomings as were inherent to the science of the times. In placing entire emphasis on the sensory faculties of man, the philosophers of this era paid no attention to the rational and spiritual facilities of man. Hegel, Kant and others of their species metamorphosed the landscape of western philosophy which later had its repercussions of widest and worst possible nature. From what one can know the nature of question was now changed to what one cannot know. From what one can understand the emphasis was laid on what one can perceive by mere sense organs. Locke thought that the role of philosophy was not to extend the boundaries of knowledge but precisely to limit it. This limited epistemology and consequently bounded ontology constricted and constrained the trajectories of human imagination. Human mind, with its sensory, rational, imaginative, intellectual and spiritual possibilities of understanding is intrinsically infinite. The infinity of human imagination is not circumscribed by the finitude of human physicality. Man’s quest for infinity with all its possible implications finds its satisfaction in the perception of God, the institution of sacred and the concept of divine. Despite his physical finitude, man is infinite in terms of his rational and spiritual dimensions. Despite the fact constraints of space nullify his quest for physical infinitude and constraints of time defy his quest for eternity. But man, blessed with sensual, rational, cognitive, and spiritual faculties has devised means of conquering this finitude of time and space. Religion, with its overtones of spirituality and metaphysics is man’s response to his quest for eternal and literature with its all diverse manifestations is man’s response to his yearning for infinite.

Philosophy has reached a stage where one comes across notions like “morality as cultural relativity”, “gender structured language and its consequences on reality imaging”, and sometimes irksome theories like “reality as a social construction”. This is to say that philosophy has learnt not only to criticize concepts, but to dissect its own soul as well. But one is afraid to accompany a philosopher in this process of dissection. Though all these perspectives are healthy in their own right as long as their postures reflect a quest for reality (if there’s any), one must not lose insight of the fact that, any philosophy that weaves ideological fancies and recedes far from the realm of pragmatic human affairs, may survive well as an academic discourse, but it may never inspire humans to scale higher altitudes of life in living. These philosophies may survive the textual worth, but may fail to transform into living text; whether it is a presupposition of philosophy to become living text is an issue much debated in pragmatic, analytic and continental philosophical traditions. But in the east, this philosophical enquiry presents a quagmire of lesser degree to populace, for we share “the heritage of tradition”. The traditional itself is a touchstone reliable enough, that we can assuredly test the verity of any philosophical idea on this touchstone before incorporating it into our cultural corpus. The tradition includes in its lap: the old wisdom, religious inspirations and cultural constructions, and all of them are to be equally favoured to arrive at a comprehensive picture of life and the Universe that we live in.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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Opinion

Congress and cow nationalism

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By Prabhat Shunglu

We promise to build gaushalas in all panchayats. We promise to start commercial production of gau-mutra (cow urine). These are not statements culled out from a political speech of UP’s BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. These are not guidelines from the Sangh Pariwar elder to a BJP functionary.

The two statements are part and parcel of the Congress manifesto for the impending state Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

The Congress released the manifesto in Bhopal last Saturday. Those present on the occasion included party seniors Kamal Nath, in-charge of the Congress campaign in MP, two-time CM of the state Digvijay Singh, and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the lead campaigners and among the party’s top choices for the chief minister.

The Congress, in its manifesto, has also promised to build more cow sanctuaries and provide grants for their upkeep and maintenance. This in a state that boasts of developing the first cow sanctuary, whose foundation was laid by the RSS Kshetra sanghchalak Ashok Soni.

Expounding on the virtues of the manifesto that has strong shades of saffron and could have been mistaken for a BJP manifesto, Rajinder Singh — incharge of the party’s manifesto committee and deputy speaker in the state Assembly — made it clear the Congress wants to shed its pro-Muslim image. “The BJP used to brand us as Muslim party. Earlier we did not do anything to change the perception. It’s a conscious decision to do away with that tag,” Rajinder Singh told a correspondent.

The party has been out of power in the state for 15 years and is seemingly desperate for home coming. Surely, the Congress would like to exploit the anti-incumbency sentiments against the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. But the party seems unsure whether its traditional secular tag shall help it romp home and wrest the state from its arch-rival, the BJP, which has vowed for a ‘Congress-mukt’ new India it engineers to construct.

Is it the fear of getting irrelevant that Congress is out to soak up in a hue of saffron, hithero an exclusive domain of the BJP? Going by the manifesto’s contents, party leaders’ replies and party president Rahul Gandhi’s discovery of Hinduism (he started his MP campaign with a visit to Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain) the answer certainly seems to be in the affirmative.

Though on the face of it, the Congress shall be loath to discard the secular tag completely, but it feels there is a symbiotic relationship in being secular and being a ‘pro-Muslim.’ It’s the latter image it wants to shed for electoral gains, though it remains to be seen how the party shall uncouple the two.

But the more important question is this: Is the Congress well on its way to becoming a BJP? Is the party square with the fact that it ignored majority sentiments all along? Is it also the admittance of a sort of guilt that it didn’t do itself any good electorally by ignoring the majority sentiments thus far? So, was there merit in BJP’s long-standing accusation that the Congress politics has always been about minority appeasement?

The Congress manifesto isn’t just about the cows. The manifesto promises to build a religious tourism corridor in the state by invoking Ram and rivers, some of which are considered holy in India. While the BJP bares its teeth in preparation to reclaim Ram’s birthplace in the disputed Ayodhya site for the Hindus, the Congress has found a MP connect with Ram of Ayodhya fame. According to scriptures, Ram left his imprints in the state, a slice of mythology that has not been popularised. The party has promised to develop ‘Ram Path Gaman’, a corridor that traces the route of Ram during exile in Chitrakoot, MP.

In fact, for all its manifest appropriation of Ram and rivers (Ganga and Saryu — UP CM Yogi Adityanath has started Saryu aarti on the same lines as Ganga aarti in Varanasi, along with Saryu mahotsav) by the BJP, the Congress wants to replicate a similar model around these two symbols of Hindu faith in MP too.
If voted to power, the party manifesto promises to come up with Ma Narmada Nyas Adhinayam and develop a Narmada parikrama (circumbulation) route dotted with resting places for pilgrims every 15 km.

Congress’ dalliance with soft Hindutva since the days of the return of Indira Gandhi to power post- Emergency is an open secret. Rajiv Gandhi pushed that envelope further by opening the gates of the disputed site at Ayodhya.

PV Narsimha Rao was prime minister when the mosque was brought down. After the humiliating 2014 Lok Sabha defeat and a series of setbacks in the Assembly polls, Rahul set out to discover himself anew and found nirvana in wearing a janeu (holy thread) and going on a temple-hopping spree.

There is no gainsaying the fact when Rahul claims “country’s temples are not the sole property of the BJP and the RSS”. But tapping into identity politics by exploiting symbols of religion and faith to appear as a contender in the battle of competing majoritarianism has its own pitfalls, some of which have blown up in the face of the idea of India, as our constitutional forefathers had envisaged.
(DNA)

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Opinion

Islam in Kashmir –Through the lens of becoming

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By Abid Ahmad Shah

Islam is one of the monotheistic and major religions of the world with an enormous following of 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the founder of Islam in Arabia. With the passage of time, the companions of Prophet SAW played a great role in the spread of Islam in the world facing a lot of hardships day-in and day-out.

The messenger of Allah sent his companions every right, left and centres to convey the divine message of one God to the people of the world in order to show them a real path of eternal religious prosperity.

History is replete with the facts that although Islam had reached Kashmir very early, but the practical aspect was missing thereof. Kashmir was once a non-Muslim land where people were accustomed to non-Muslim practices and were mostly Hindus. Thus, there came an intervention in their lives. Whether, we call it divine or by chance, Islam arrived to make its roots permeate into the lives of the masses of the valley of South Asia.

It was initially Hazrat Syed Sharaf-ud- Din Abdul Rahman(RA), a Sufi from Turkistan also known as Syed Bulbul Shah(RA) who provided the idea of Islam in Kashmir.

Unfortunately, there have been little literary forays into his life, although few references to him form a part and parcel of the historical narratives of the medieval Kashmir. He was thus the first Islamic missionary to Kashmir who laid the foundation of Sufi order here. He played a catalytic role in the spread of Islam to concretise the societal transformation at large. According to historical sources, many people in Kashmir embraced the creed of Bulbul Shah.

After this great saint, there arrived the descendent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), known as Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (R.A), a Sufi of Kubrawi order from Hamadan, Iran from central Asia along with 700 Sayyids in Kashmir to enlighten the masses with the glorious Islam and its practical aspects through his teachings. He was a Shafi Muslim scholar from an educationally well-off family. He was born in 1314 A.D. at Hamadan, Persia from parents namely Syed Shihab-Ud-din and Saiyidnah Fatima.

Shahi Hamadan R.A. came to Kashmir thrice with a noble mission of spreading the religion of Islam and arrived in Kashmir for the first time in 1372 A.D. and left for Mecca afterwards. Thereafter, he again arrived in Kashmir and stayed briefly and left vale again. Finally, he again came to Kashmir in 1383 and remained in Kashmir for a short span of time and left this earthly world towards eternal heavens afterwards and Tajikistan became the epicentre of his eternal bodily stay.

Shahi Hamdan is also known as Ali Sani (Second Ali) in Kashmir and revered by one and sundry with a linked genealogy through Imam Husain (R.A.) traced back to fourth Caliph, Hazrat Ali (R.A.). He contributed not only Islamic tenets and principles based on the Islamic philosophy for the people, but also contributed the dual elements of art and crafts in Kashmir.

He contributed subjects like ethics, science, philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, poetry and prose immensely in Kashmir. He also profoundly impacted the architecture in Kashmir through construction of Khanqahas and tombs.

The arrival and influx of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) in Kashmir brought a socio-cultural and religious revolution. Shah-i-Hamadan was also an author and a poet par excellence who wrote books like, Zakhiratul Muluk and Muwwadatul Quraba. Zakhiratul Muluk dealt with his political ideology, the duties of rulers and the responsibilities of the people. Besides, he also authored several books spanning religious and spiritual aspects.

Awrad-E-Fathiya is a major case in point. It is the collection of religious prayers of great religious people which is recited every morning after the Fajr prayers in almost all the Hanafiya School of thought mosques reflecting the faith and deep commitment in one God laying emphasis on the the unity of God and His attributes.

Another important poetic collection of Shahi Hamadan (R.A) is Chahlul Asraar .Every year prior to Eid Ul Adha, the Urs of this great saint Shah Hamdan (R.A) is
celebrated on the 6th of Zil Haj of the Muslim calendar at few sacred abodes of his shrines, including Seer Hamdan, Dooru Shahabad, Tral and Srinagar as a mark of deep reverence and regard for the unrelenting efforts of this saint for the upliftment and prosperity of the people of Kashmir.

The inroads of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) into Kashmir without any regard for the rewards makes the point clear that the great saint as a mark of legacy of the mission of his dynasty of Prophet Muhammad SAW cared about the people of Kashmir and yearned to stabilise their lives socially, religiously and culturally.

Today, when Kashmir is at the crossroads of uncertainty, whether politically or otherwise, if we follow the paths of the great religious saint, time will not be far when divinely support to our problems will annihilate them and a valley of scenic beauty will restore and regain its charm again and metamorphosize our pains into peace.

Together, by following the charted discourse of Shahi Hamadan R.A, our lives will blossom both here and hereafter. I still remember tears rolling down the cheeks of my deceased father Master GH Mohi Ud Din Shah at the time of prayer’s recitation of Urs of Shahi Hamadan R.A at dargah of the saint at Seer Hamdan. This was the time that etched my memory and solidified my love for the Auliya.Today,if we follow into the shoes of these mystics,there can really arrive peace in our trouble torn Kashmir.

(Feedback at: [email protected])

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