Orland Park Prayer Center

The Prayer Center of Orland Park

The pillars of Islam constitute the foundation of its great structure of knowledge and practice. These pillars are like the roots of a huge tree going deep into the soil to provide the needed nutrients. The pillars of Islam provide the high values that give Islam its meaning and vision. Islam dissociated from its high values is like a body without a soul, and affectations without the beauty of its inner core. Today, we are going to examine the high values that can be derived from Al-Hajj, in particular unity, justice, and hard work.

  1. Unity:

Those who accepted the invitation to al-hajj acknowledge their acceptance by chanting: “Here I am O Lord, here I am. You have no partners, here I am. Surely praise, blessings and dominion belong to you. You have no partners.”

They know the qibla قِبلة or the address and the wijha وِجْهَة or the direction. The road map is obvious and transparent. Nothing is secret about it. Like the message itself, it should not be concealed. The call for al-hajj is made in the open, and every effort is made to make the call well heard and well answered. When Quran said in Surah Al-Baqara: “Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the rituals of Allah.” [2:158], it is not by chance that the verse was succeeded immediately by the following verse: “Those who conceal the signs We have sent down, and the guidance after which We made clear for the people in the book- on them shall be the curse of Allah, and the curse of those entitled to curse.” [2:159]

The pilgrims in their chanting are renewing their commitment to Tawheed. Tawheed, the belief in one God in its deeper and cosmic meaning is the vision of the pilgrims manifested in the unity of the people and in their unity with the universe. It is counterproductive to call for tawheed and then brag about conquering the universe. It is counterproductive to call for tawheed and divide among the people.

From the early days of the message, the Prophet was reminded of the importance of preserving the unity of his people despite their resistance to his message. “For the unity and safety of Quraysh and their journeys by winter and summer.” [106:1-2]

The Sacred House in Mecca, the first house built for the people becomes the symbol for uniting the people by worshipping its Lord. “Let them worship the Lord of this house.” [106:3]

  1. Justice:

The pilgrims in Mecca constitute a representative sample of humanity celebrating their equality and their diverse colors, languages, and cultures. Such diversity must be acknowledged and celebrated because it creates in us the motivation and the willingness to learn from and about the experiences of others and value them through effective and compassionate communication. This is the underpinning of the powerful Quranic principle of “taaruf” تَعَارُف or celebration of diversity.

The pilgrims are in harmony with the people around them wearing simple white garments without special signs, ornaments, or patterns. One becomes all, and all become one. The path is shared, the enemy is common, and the destiny is one. The pilgrims form a human shield as they circle around Ka’aba. “Tawaf” or compassing around ka’aba aims at the mutual recognition among the diverse cultural experiences for the life of the people to be perfected. Speaking about diversity should not include the differences between the rich and the poor. Do not acknowledge or legitimize poverty. Standing at equal footing in prayer, and looking the same in Hajj should be continuous reminders to minimize the gap between those who have and those who do not, and not to accept the status quo. “In order that it (money or wealth) may not merely circulate between the wealthy among you.” [59:7]

The egalitarian view of Islam is best manifested when Quran asks all the pilgrims to come down from Arafa along one undivided pathway contrary to the pre-Islamic practice of separating the elite from the people or masses. “Then pass on at a quick pace from the place whence it is usual for the multitude so to do.” [2:199]

  1. Hard work:

Reaching the summit of Arafa is not without struggle. Actually, standing in Arafa is preceded by sa’y سَعْي.

“Sa’y” is the daily struggle, searching like Hagar, for water and life. This spiral movement is a hegira as the name of Hagar indicates- a hegira from the state of being to the state of becoming, a hegira from clay towards Allah, a hegira that enabled the early emigrants of a qualitative return to Mecca for Hajj. Hajj, as a “state” is itself a hegira that starts from every deep and distant mountain highway” [22:27]aiming at the summit of Arafa.

Deep in place, but also deep in history where you connect with the struggle of Prophets and reformers over 3500 years; and deep in spirituality and the degree of preparedness for that journey. Good health and safe routes and rides are obvious; but sincere willingness, the psychological readiness, and “taqwa” تَقْوى- the inner desire to avoid obscenity, wickedness, and wrangling are the real provisions to realize the state of Hajj and its summit in Arafa. “And take a provision for the journey, but the best of provisions is taqwa.” [2:197]

“Sa’y” produced Mecca the way we know it today. In a valley without cultivation, the symbol of extreme hardship and absence of life, we find a young woman breast-feeding her infant, the symbol of extreme human weakness. Hagar and Ishmael are teaching us an important lesson: Do not despair, and do not give up hard work. For Allah has installed in you the potentials to overcome your weaknesses. You have no excuse to quit, retire, or give up no matter how old or weak you are or how difficult is the situation and hostile is the surrounding environment.

Abraham was an elderly man when he was blessed with the birth of Ishmael and Isaac, and when he built ka’aba with Ishmael. Abraham is telling us: do not stop working and do not stop learning.

The objective of Al-Hajj is to produce new human beings with better qualities and practices by realizing the high values in their daily struggle.

The words of the thirteenth century celebrated poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, describe that journey very well. He said:

The House of Allah is beautiful, you have described it completely

Now show us a sign of the Lord of the House

You say you have visited the garden, where are your roses?

You are coming out of the sea, you say, where is the pearl of your soul?

By Dr. Walid Khayr


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