From Hajj back to temptations
“Whoever performs the Hajj for the pleasure of Almighty, and utters no evil words and commits no evil deeds in the process, shall return from Makkah free from sins like the day in which his mother gave birth to him.” Prophet Muhammad.
How does the servant who just completed the rites of Hajj and has thus become an Hajji maintain his newly-found spiritual capital and identity in the maze of iniquities and unbelief? How does an Hajji go about retaining the catholic mien and ambience that the whole hajj exercise hitherto made possible once he arrives the homeland where profanity and obscenities have become familiar while piety and decency have become unfamiliar? How might the Hajji maintain the spirit of the pilgrimage in a community and amidst groups of people who are constantly on their journey to the cathedral of the faithless?
In other words, if indeed there are questions that those who have just completed the rites of pilgrimage in Makkah on Wednesday this week would constantly have to ponder and answer such might include some of the above. It might include the whole challenge of staying the course when temptations to throw the spiritual patrimony away are seemingly irresistible.
Yes. We are now in the post-hajj season. Pilgrims are now back to their homeland- some into communities where they are minorities and others into spaces where they are minorities of the minorities. Yet others are back to distant lands where they are in the majority- in Asia, in northern parts of Africa, in Nigeria.
No matter where they may find themselves after the season of pilgrimage, the challenges pilgrims to the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah would face are likely to be similar. They shall be confronted with the reality that they are no more within the vicinity of the Kaaba- the epicentre of Islamic socio-spiritual reality. The reality shall dawn on them that they have left Madinah; that Arafah has been left behind, that Muzdalifah is now a very distant landscape. Pilgrims to the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah would face the reality that unlike their brief sojourn in Makkah and Madinah where attendance of congregation prayers was imbued with uncommon spirit of humanity, of universality and communality, they shall now source inspiration to excel from within themselves, not from the other. They shall discover that they are no more in ‘Saudia’ but in Nigeria. They shall be welcomed back to the bubbling cities of Lagos and Lahore, to the rumbling cosmopolitan metropoles in Cairo and Kandaha where materialism and spiritualism compete with equal measure and candour for the attention of humans without prejudice to their gender and status.
The moment he arrives back to that city of ‘wonder’, the new Hajja would be reminded that she is back to the capital of the modern world where heterosexuality is in contest with homosexuality, where secularity is taking over the hitherto hallowed spaces of religious orthodoxy. She would begin to see images of women in nudity, of men who are their way to becoming women- men wearing earrings, men learning how to walk and sound like women.
Thus the real pilgrimage, I would argue, does not begin and end in the brief sojourn the pilgrimage enjoys in those hallowed spaces in Makkah and Madinah. The real hajj, if you ask me, actually continues for the pilgrim on his or her return to her or his homeland. The return from hajj, for discerning pilgrims, should actually mean the departure for another ‘hajj’ in the insuperable landscape of the new Makkahs of today- the Makkahs that our cities have become- spaces of disbelief and unbelief, locales of iniquity and immorality.
Thus how might the pilgrim continue on this important journey in search of certainty; the journey for the pursuit of the eternal, not the ephemeral and the chimerical. Perhaps one way to do this is to understand the differences in-between the space you have left behind in Makkah and the new one that is constituted by your homeland. The difference, I would argue, lies in the opportunity that to be outside the Muslims spiritual homeland affords the discerning the Muslims to recreate another homeland closer home. Mustafa Tahan says if you desire to live in winderland, you must begin by creating one in your heart!
In other words, while it is true that your sojourn in Makkah and Madinah was actually a spiritual boon, one of the greatest opportunities life could offer the individual, it should however solace you and me that to be outside Makkah and Madinah, far away from Muzdalifah, is to enjoy yet another opportunity- that of manifesting your consciousness of the constant presence of the Almighty.
To be outside Makkah is to live outside paradise preparatory to your return to the other paradise. It is to recognize that it is not the intention of the Almighty that you live in the manner of the angels- sinless and perfect. No. One of the lessons pilgrimage teaches the believer is to constant seek a return to his origin, his Creator. The Hajji therefore knows that while it is true that he might have completed the rites of hajj, he has not by that singular endeavour attained perfection. He knows that attainment of perfection on this path of rectitude is a never-ending exercise. We have to be in His service, seeking His pleasure, until the moment the beat stops for and in us.
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