“Stand Up for the Sake of Allah…” (34:46)

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Stand Up for the Sake of Allah
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

Imam al-Khomeini during his exile in Najaf al-Ashraf would advise his students (including my own teacher who similarly advised me) to reflect upon the following verse of the Qur’an and to apply it to their lives:

قُلۡ إِنَّمَآ أَعِظُكُم بِوَٲحِدَةٍۖ أَن تَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ مَثۡنَىٰ وَفُرَٲدَىٰ ثُمَّ تَتَفَڪَّرُواْۚ

“Say (to them O Muhammad): ‘I exhort you on one thing only: that you stand up for the sake of Allah either in pairs or individually, and then contemplate (within yourselves)…’” (Qur’an 34:46)

In the verse, the Almighty commands the beloved Prophet (s) to exhort his community, to press them on doing one thing alone, تَقُومُواْ لِلَّهِ, standing up for the sake of Allah. He then refines the exhortation of standing up by saying مَثۡنَىٰ وَفُرَٲدَىٰ, in pairs (plural) or individually, meaning if the believers en masse are taking part in this action, then join them, but if none are then one must stand up – even if it means going it alone. This verse of the Qur’an colored the view of Imam al-Khomeini, it was the driving factor in his success as a revolutionary; the reason why he did not back down after years of torture, exile, and threats of execution.

To comprehend the depth of this verse we must first understand what تَقُومُواْ means, what it means to stand up for something, and to understand it we must first understand its opposite. The opposite of standing is sitting, and sitting is passive, hence to stand up for something means to do the opposite of passivity, to act when the majority are submissive and acquiescent to the state of affairs; and when the state of affairs is antagonistic to the way of God – the way of righteousness, one must stand up and present a challenge.

As this is the month of Sha‘bān, the birth month of the master of martyrs, Abi ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn (‘a), our minds naturally gravitate towards him, for he in his entirety represents the personification of this given verse. In the year 60 AH, when Mu’awiyah appointed his son Yazid as his successor, the vast majority of Muslims – including the many living companions of the Prophet (s) who may not have been happy with such designation but it was only a few who realized their disapproval into action, and of those few it was only Husayn and his small band of supporters who risked leaving the safety of Makkah and Madinah. While others took to the house of Allah for protection, Husayn left it for its protection; his every action was for the sake Allah, لِلَّهِ.

So, when the image of standing up alone, فُرَٲدَىٰ, is drawn, what will be depicted is Husayn standing alone on the battlefield of Karbala facing ten thousand swords all thirsty for his blood. On the 10th of Muharram, facing an enemy of insurmountable numbers, he stood with full composure and declared the following magnificent line:

إن كان دينُ محمّدٍ لم يستقم إلّا بقتلي، فيا سيوف خذيني

“Verily, if the religion of Muhammad (s) cannot survive except by my slaughter, then gather all your swords and strike upon my neck.”

Imam al-Husayn at this moment personifies the verse by declaring that if the moral, ethical, and just system of Godliness were in danger, one must not hesitate to offer themselves. We must learn from the beloved grandson of the Prophet, and we must reflect on the given verse, for these lessons are timeless. There are many ills in society, some that are totally neglected, we for the sake of Allah must stand up, be it to to protect the environment, or to fight against economic inequality, or any other issue affecting our fellow created beings [especially the innocent], for whatever our lives are worth righteousness is worth more.

When all is said and done, we are then granted the greatest of honors, for we are commanded to then contemplate, ثُمَّ تَتَفَڪَّرُواْۚ. Meaning, we contemplate on our standing up for the sake of Allah, that by taking part in this action we aligned ourselves completely with the, مشيئة, will of God, which is the ultimate objective of all believing men and women.

(This piece was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)

Young Muslims Need to be Radical, Capitalism is Jāhilīyah

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Young Muslims Need to be Radical, Capitalism is Jāhilīyah
By Agha

In the study of the Prophetic life, not much emphasis is given to Muḥammad (s) in his youth. This may derive from the fallacy that his prophethood only began after the age of 40, for that is the advent of revelation. In fact the very first creation of the Almighty, before the angels, was the Nūr (light) of Muḥammad (s). Thus every deed of the Prophet, from cradle to grave, was divinely inspired and a sunnah (practice) for us to emulate. Therefore, as jāhilīyah makes its resurgence, it is imperative that we learn and then espouse the methodology of our beloved Prophet, what he did in those first 40 years in preparation of establishing Islam.

Pre-Islamic Arabia was a land of godlessness – consumed in idolatry, but this is not why it was called the jāhilīyah. The term jāhilīyah may literally mean ‘state of ignorance,’ not knowing the divine truth, but in essence jāhilīyah refers to the supremacy, the domination of a few men over other men. Is this not the current state of affairs? The Almighty created humankind free with no distinction of one over the other, the spirit of monotheism is such that it is God, creation, and nothing in between. Disastrously, in the name of greed man has enslaved the other, rebuking the divine order.

Muḥammad (s), the young man, pointed to the source of corruption in Arabia; economic inequality. Makkah was a center of trade and in it he witnessed how the majority (Arabs) abused the minority (non-Arabs), how there was no equal pay for equal work, how women and children were treated as commodities. These injustices were all tolerated by that jāhilī society for it was ‘good’ economically, unfortunately these are all normative to present-day capitalist societies as well.

He, alongside his uncles Zubayr and Abū Ṭālib ibn ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib, decided no more. They gathered allies, unconcerned with religious or tribal differences, and created an organization that would defend the defenseless, that would fight economic injustice. They called this alliance Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl (حلف الفضول), and concerning it, Ibn Hishām in his Sīrah (Biography of the Prophet) records:

فَتَعَاقَدُوا وَتَعَاهَدُوا عَلَى أَنْ لَا يَجِدُوا بِمَكَّةَ مَظْلُومًا مِنْ أَهْلِهَا وَغَيْرِهِمْ مِمَّنْ دَخَلَهَا مِنْ سَائِرِ النَّاسِ إلَّا قَامُوا مَعَهُ وَكَانُوا عَلَى مَنْ ظَلَمَهُ حَتَّى تُرَدَّ عَلَيْهِ مَظْلِمَتُهُ
“The allies promised and pledged that they would not find any oppressed person among their people or among anyone else who entered Makkah except that they would support him. They would stand against whoever oppressed him until the rights of the oppressed were returned.”

The formation of the Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl was so important to the Almighty, that He made it a prerequisite to the establishment of Islam. It was these very efforts that compelled the non-Muslims, the enemies of the Prophet (s), during the early years of Islam to all testify, that even though they violently disagree with his religion, in character they have no choice but to state that he is al-Sadiq (honest) and al-Amin (trustworthy).

Furthermore, this alliance was not just a stepping stone for the religion, but when asked many years later in Madinah on its validity, the Prophet (s) responded:

لَوْ دُعِيتُ إِلَيْهِ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ لَأَجَبْتُ تَحَالَفُوا أَنْ تُرَدَّ الْفُضُولُ عَلَى أَهْلِهَا وَأَلَّا يَعُزَّ ظَالِمٌ مَظْلُومًا
“If I were called to it (Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl) now in the time of Islam, I would respond. Make such alliances in order to return rights to their people, that no oppressor should have power over the oppressed.”

This pre-Islamic pact between the Prophet (s) of Islam and justice-oriented pagans of that time was not only not abrogated, but it was affirmed and strengthened for future generations of Muslims to adhere to. This tells us two things, firstly that Muslims can and should ally themselves with non-Muslims especially when it is concerned with social justice, and secondly in importance economic rights in the eyes of God and the Prophet (s) are second to none.

Hence, Muslims, especially young Muslims, must emulate the Prophet (s) and fight the good fight, by immersing themselves in the labor struggle and civil rights movements of today; standing up to the rich and powerful, exposing their greed. Be it unionization, or the fight against the gender pay gap, or the rights of migrant Hispanic and Latino workers, if Muslims are not participants in these efforts they are not following the prophetic way.

In the form of capitalism, jāhilīyah, has arisen to heights not seen before. Thus, as the young Muḥammad (s) alongside the Ḥilf al-Fuḍūl fought till the jāhilīyah of his time came crashing down, we as young Muḥammadans must bring the jāhilīyah of our era to heel.

Eve an Equal to Adam: Not Created by the Rib

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Eve an Equal to Adam: Not Created by the Rib
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

According to the United Nations nearly 35% of women worldwide are subjected to gender-based violence during their lifetime, this statistic is not only saddening but also quite shocking. How is it that every third female is a victim, yet we rarely hear of this issue being discussed? Such staggering numbers if related to any other subgroup, be it that of ethnicity, race, or religious background, would most definitely be the focus of societal interest, where the great thinkers and leaders would rush towards solving said issue [whether they find a resolution is irrelevant]. Yet, we find none of that here, and it is only now due to social media that the issue of gender-based violence has started to receive notice.

It is unfortunate to state that such violence is rampant throughout the world without exception, more so within Islamic countries wherein Muslims tend to claim moral superiority. The reasons and explanations given for the problem of violence against women are numerous, but one such reason is the assumption that women are somewhat less human than men. In the Abrahamic community, specifically those who follow Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, many believe that the first woman, Eve, was created from the rib of Adam. Therefore, it is postulated that since Eve was created from Adam, she must have been created to serve Adam and thus women are subjects of men, in importance just above livestock.

Both creation story and hierarchical concept are rejected vociferously by the school of Ahl al-Bayt. We find in Man lā yahduruhu al-Faqīh, one of the major Imāmi hadīth compilations, that the companion Zurārah asked Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) whether Eve was created from Adam’s rib or not? The Imām responded as such:

“سبحان الله وتعالى عن ذلك علواً كبيراً! يقول من يقول هذا : إن الله تبارك وتعالى لم يكن له من القدرة ما يخلق لآدم زوجة من غير ضلعه..”
(من لا يحضره الفقيه 3 : 379)

“Glory is to Allah! He is far above such statements! What, did Allah not have the power to create a spouse for Adam from anything other than his rib?”

Here the Imām, the inheritor of divine prophetic knowledge, not only rebukes said notion but also labels it as illogical and insulting to the position of the Almighty. Furthermore, his father, Imām al-Bāqir (‘a), answered in detail as to how Eve was created:

عن عمرو بن أبى المقدام عن أبيه قال: سألت أبا جعفر (عليه السلام) من أي شيء خلق الله حواء: فقال: أى شئ يقولون هذا الخلق؟ قلت: يقولون: ان الله خلقها من ضلع من اضلاع آدم، فقال: كذبوا أكان الله يعجزه أن يخلقها من غير ضلعه؟ فقلت: جعلت فداك يا بن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله): من أى شئ خلقها؟ فقال أخبرنى أبى عن أبائه قال: قال رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله): ان الله تبارك وتعالى قبض قبضة من طين فخلطها بيمينه ـ وكلتا يديه يمين ـ فخلق منها آدم وفضلت فضلة من الطين فخلق منها حواء
(تفسير العياشي مخطوط ، عنه البحار : ج 11 ص 116)

On the authority of ‘Amr b. Abi Miqdām on the authority of his father, who said:
“I asked al-Bāqir from what material was Eve created?”
He responded: “And what do they (the people) say about this creation?”
I said: “they say from one of Adam’s ribs”
Then he responded: “they lied, was Allah unable to create her except out of Adam’s rib?”
Then I said: “May I be sacrificed for you O son of the prophet of Allah, from what did He create her?”
He said: “My father told me on the authority of his fathers that the prophet of Allah said: God, blessed and exalted be He, held some clay and mixed it with his right hand (metaphorical), and both of His hands are right, so He created out of it Adam and part of it which was left untouched He created Eve from it”

Thus, according to the school of Ahl al-Bayt, Eve was not created from the rib of Adam, but she was created from the very same substance that Adam was, which is clay. Hence, in creation she is not at all inferior to Adam but an equal. Therefore, other schools of thought may oppress women by maintaining the fallacy of subservience based on Adam’s rib, however the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt should be far from this error. Ergo the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt must be exemplary in their mannerisms towards women, they must lead the charge in combating gender-based violence, they must be on the forefront of defending the rights of women.

Lest we forget, there is also historical imperative for us to fight violence against women, to stand up for their rights. After his departure from this temporal world, Muslims who had yet to understand Islam, threatened the daughters of Muhammad (s) be it at their door or at the plains of Karbalā’. They wanted them silent, yet their voices live on through our remembrance; let us add this angle to their remembrance, that after Fātimah, after Sakinah and Ruqayyah, no man dare raise his hand to strike, for we will break that hand and much more.

Picture: (Folio from a Falnama (Book of omens) Angels bow before Adam and Eve in Paradise mid Safavid period Opaque watercolor and gold on paper H: W: cm Qazvin, Iran)

UN Facts and figures: Ending violence against women
http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

Grand Ayatullah Sistani Condemns the Trump Administration’s Decision on Jerusalem

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Commenting on the United State’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the capital of the Israeli entity, an official source from the Office of Sayyid Sistani in the Holy City of Najaf announced the following:

ان هذا القرار مدان ومستنكر، وقد اساء الى مشاعر مئات الملايين من العرب والمسلمين، ولكنه لن يغير من حقيقة ان القدس ارض محتلة يجب ان تعود الى سيادة اصحابها الفلسطينيين مهما طال الزمن ، ولا بد ان تتضافر جهود الامة وتتحد كلمتها في هذا السبيل والله ولي التوفيق.

Indeed, this decision is condemned and denounced, and it has offended the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. However, it will not change the fact that Jerusalem (al-Quds) is an occupied land that must return to the sovereignty of its owners, no matter how much time comes to pass. The efforts of the community (ummah) must come together and its position must be united on this path. God is the guardian of success.

(Note: the Palestinians)

Link to the official statement in Arabic
https://www.sistani.org/arabic/statement/25868/

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The Lonely Grave of Zayd al-Shahid (‘a), the Grandson of al-Husayn (‘a)

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The Lonely Grave of Zayd al-Shahid (‘a), the Grandson of al-Husayn (‘a)
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

As the month of Safar has begun, it is important to remember and reflect upon the many events that took place in this month especially pertaining to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). One particular event that took place on the first (or second) of this month was the martyrdom of Zayd (122 AH/740 CE), the son of Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn [Zayn al-’Abidin] (‘a) and brother of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a). In life, he along with his nephew Imam Ja’far al-Ṣādiq (‘a) are known as the pioneers of fiqh, having a list of countless students including the likes of Abu Hanifah. Many of the Sādāt, or descendents of Muhammad (s), claim lineage from him; of which the largest community resides in South Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India) known as Sādāt-i-Barha, who trace their ancestry to descendents of Zayd al-Shahid from Wāṣit (Iraq) who migrated eastward towards the end of the 10th Century. It is interesting to note that Zayd al-Shahid’s mother, Jaydah, was also from South Asia and was commonly known as al-Sindiyah (The Sindhi Woman).

Zayd al-Shahid, following the footsteps of his noble grandfather Imam al-Husayn (‘a), unsheathed his sword to combat the forces of tyranny and oppression, and like his grandfather he too faced a much larger enemy on the battlefield but yet stood his ground till the last drop of blood from his blessed body moistened the parched earth of Iraq. His life mirrored that of his grandfather’s in many respects, and in one such way was that the martyrdom of both was prophesied by the holy Prophet (s):

“…وقد أخبر رسول الله (صلى الله عليه ‏وآله) عن شهادته، فقد روى الإمام الحسين (ع) أن رسول الله (صلى الله ‏عليه وآله) وضع يده على ظهري وقال: يا حسين سيخرج من صلبك رجل ‏يقال له زيد يقتل شهيدا، فإذا كان يوم القيامة يتخطى هو وأصحابه رقاب ‏الناس ويدخلون الجنة…‏” (ليالي بيشاور)

“…The Prophet prophesying Zayd’s martyrdom, as narrated by Imam al-Husayn: “The Holy Prophet put his sacred hand on my back, and said: ‘O Husayn, it will not be long until a man will be born among your descendants. He will be called Zayd; he will be killed as a martyr. On the day of resurrection, he and his companions will enter heaven, setting their feet on the necks of the people…””

Hence, among the revolutionaries from the Ahl al-Bayt (s) the names of al-Husayn (‘a) and his grandson Zayd ibn ‘Ali (‘a) [and their followers] are the foremost, it is through their sacrifices that the path taken by the Islamic community was rectified. Zayd al-Shahid (‘a) saw that justice was not being implemented, that the Ummayads were again crossing all boundaries in their evil and debauchery. Like his grandfather, he too was invited by the people of Kufa; but on receiving word of rebellion, the Ummayads like those of past, imprisoned and executed the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) en masse and bribed the leaders of Kufa such that very few men came to Zayd al-Shahid’s assistance. On the outskirts of Kufa, Zayd and his party of 2-300 men fought fiercely for two days, against an army of thousands; they fought valiantly but Zayd and most of his men fell.

The surviving followers of Zayd al-Shahid secretly buried his body, and a magnificent structure exists at that location today in Iraq, however the savage Ummayads found his place of burial, exhumed his blessed body, sent the head to Damascus to the accursed Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik and crucified the remains for all to see in Kufa, and later on burned his body in a fire and scattered his ashes in the Euphrates. No part of this great martyr’s body survived other than his head, and after being released to his family no one knows for certain where it is buried, but there are two locations Cairo and in al-Karak Governate in Jordan. The location in Cairo seems to not be the actual burial site, but instead a site of devotion like the maqāmāt of Sayyidah Zaynab (s), Imam al-Husayn (‘a), and other members of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) also in Cairo; built by the Fatimids so that Ziyarah can be made from a distance.

The location in Jordan may very well be the actual burial place; according to certain traditions it has been recorded that after his family members received his head in Damascus it was being brought back to Madinah, and on the way there it was buried, and al-Karak lies in between Damascus and Madinah. The writer of this post was given an opportunity to visit this purported gravesite in the Spring of this year (2017), and what was seen was quite tragic. Not only is the maqām not found on any map, practically no Jordanian knew where the gravesite was, likewise they too had little to no idea who Zayd ibn ‘Ali (‘a) was nor who his blessed father and grandfather were. Myself and my classmates, had to literally search throughout the quite large al-Karak Governate to find this maqām; and after exhausting much time and energy, in a small village called Rabbah, in an abandoned field strewn with litter, home to dogs and other animals, we found the ruins of the final resting place of the blessed head of Zayd al-Shahid (‘a).

It broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart today that this great-grandson of Muhammad (s), who gave everything he had for the religion of Islam, was rewarded in such a way by the Muslims, that not even a grave-marker is to be found where he is buried nor the small plot of land allotted to him is kept clean. Other than a handful of elders in the village of Rabbah, the entire village was ignorant to the blessed maqām in their midsts; and thus the grave is lonely to the extent that no lovers and no reciters of ṣalawat or fatiḥah are to be found.

After having visited the maqām, I have added it to Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/YYKkzPL7zLt

I sincerely urge all those who travel to the Middle East, especially to Iraq for Ziyarat of Karbala and Najaf, to please try and take a flight that makes a stop in Jordan, and then take a short one hour taxi to Rabbah in order to visit the blessed maqām and once there to perform the Ziyarat and then help pick up some of the trash, and verily our loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) demands us to do as such. It should be unbearable to the heart for the lovers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to know that the gravesite of Zayd ibn ‘Ali (‘a) is in such a state.

Lastly, all those who read this post, I urge you to contact representatives of the Jordanian government and to voice your complaints. As the Royal Family of Jordan proudly displays their Hāshimi and Sādāt ancestry, they should be held accountable otherwise their ancestral pride means little.

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Recalibrating ‘Azā

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Recalibrating ‘Azā
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas

As we are in the days of mourning, Ayyām ‘Azā, it is important for us to reflect on the purpose of ‘Azā and to recalibrate it if necessary. The supreme sacrifice of Imam Husayn (‘a), his family, and companions, is such that the world has never seen before and it has unleashed a torrent of emotions that has flowed non-stop for over fourteen hundred years. In the midst of such a deluge, the maqsad (purpose) of the sacrifice is ever at risk of being lost, therefore it is obligatory to return to the Imam himself for guidance, to understand his motive.

When asked why he decided to leave the comforts of his home in Madinah, why he placed his entire family at risk, he answered succinctly:

“…وإنّما خَرَجْتُ لطَلب الإصلاح في أمّة جدّي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم، أُريد أن آمر بالمعروف وأنهى عن المُنكَر…”

“And I have left my home only to seek reformation in my grandfather’s nation. I desire to enjoin goodness and to forbid evil.”

The Imam explains that his only objective was to rectify the straying nation of his grandfather, the noble Messenger Muhammad (s), and to command upon righteousness combatting the forces of injustice. Therefore, as this was the core motive behind our Imam’s stand at Karbala, it too needs to be the core theme of our ‘Azā; and this is so because our Imam, nearing his final moments, exclaimed:

” هل من ناصر ينصرنا هل من معين يعيننا هل من ذاب عن حرم رسول الله صلى الله عليه واله؟”

“Is there any helper who can help us, is there any supporter to support us, is there anyone who defends the sanctity of the Messenger of Allah?”

The historians and scholars largely agree that this final plea of the Imam was not to anyone on the battlefield, for he was then all alone facing the enemy who slaughtered the likes of ‘Ali al-Akbar and Qāsim – and no humanity could the Imam expect from such savages, it was instead an eternal invitation to his lovers not present, specifically in the future generations to lift the banner of Aba’l-Fadl al-’Abbās and to continue the movement of reformation and justice.

Hence, every strike on the chest, every verse of poetry sung from the mouth, and every tear fallen on one’s cheeks must agree with the objectives of the Imam; and if it does not it must be recalibrated as such. The practices of ‘Azā now are not the same as a hundred years ago, and the practices a hundred years ago are not the same as the practices two hundred years ago, and the trend is continuous till its very advent. ‘Azā has evolved and adjusted based on time and space, language and culture, the spirit has however always remained the same; a movement of reform, garbed in the robes of sadness, nourished by the tears of the believers.

(This article was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)

Hajj, a Divine Rebuke of Racism

Ḥajj, a Divine Rebuke of Racism
By Agha Shabbir Abbas

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Racism, or ‘asabiyyah (clanism) as it is known in the Islamic lexicon, demands that a human believes he is superior to other fellow humans based off of slight differences, particularly ethnicity, language, or nationality. Be it in the American civil rights or South African apartheid context, or the abuse of migrant laborers in the Gulf monarchies, this racism has largely served as a chief justification for grievous human suffering. Humans typically refrain from harming the other due to our inherent feelings of empathy, however, racism annihilates this empathy and replaces it with takabbur (pride), allowing humans to partake in unspeakable evils. The religion of Islam, wholeheartedly rejects this pride, for pride belongs to none other than Allah; this is reflected in the entire essence of Islam from its commandments to its rituals, and of these rituals the most glaring is the pilgrimage of Ḥajj.

During the pilgrimage of Ḥajj, Muslims from every corner of this earth, from the entire spectra of skin-tones and languages, answer the call of the Almighty and bow their heads in humility; testifying in the Tawḥīd (Oneness) of Allah. In unison, they chant the talbiyah, declaring their lowliness in comparison to the singular greatness of Allah:

Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk. Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk.
In Arabic: لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ
In English: “Here I am at Thy service O Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners. Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners, here I am.”

When one declares “Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners,” it means that man is created to serve Allah alone, and everything other than this service is meritless; and when one declares “Thine alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty” one negates all self-pride, extinguishing oneself in the face of the Almighty’s grandeur. The millions of pilgrims, in their chanting of this talbiyah, completing the entire list of Abrahamic rituals together, circumambulating (tawaf) the Ka’bah, running (sa’ī) between Ṣafā and Marwah, become one body subservient to the Almighty.

This spectacular scene of unity, forces even those who suffered the cruelest forms of racism to rethink their conceptions. The great American Muslim activist and Black leader, Malcolm X, radically altered his beliefs after completing the Hajj in 1965:

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white… We are truly all the same-brothers. All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

For Malcolm X, yesterday’s devils became today’s misguided brothers, this is the powerful transforming nature of Ḥajj. But for those who, even after seeing the visual unity of peoples, discard this in the claim that all of this is just an unintended consequence of the spread of Islam, are far from correct. For the messenger of Allah, Muhammad al-Mustafa (s), in his utmost love and wisdom, ascended the Mount of ‘Arafah during his last Ḥajj, and exhorted the infantile mostly Arab Muslim community that:

“O people! Indeed, your Lord is one and your father (Adam) is one. Indeed, there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor a black over a white, except by taqwa.”

The Prophet (s) did not say such devoid reason, as the Qur’an declares that his speech is divine revelation (Qur’an 53:3-4), he, the beloved messenger, through the infinite insight of the Almighty saw that the mostly Arab Ḥajj of the 10th Hijri year would in 1400 years transform into a mostly non-Arab Ḥajj. Therefore, it was there and then that he delivered, during one of his last public sermons, shortly before departing the world, a divine rebuke of racism that would manifest itself in the sea of diversity that is the Ḥujjaj (pilgrims) of Ḥajj.

(This article was originally written for the Masjid-e-Ali Newsletter)