The Hajj for 2017 is over. The grueling and arduous journey for many in the late summer heat has finally drawn to a close. Along with it begins preparations for hundreds of thousands of Muslims to return back to their home countries.
During these days of worship, pilgrims seized the opportunity to correct their faults, to sincerely atone for their worldly sins and make up for any shortcomings or wrongdoings of their past. Deeply engrossed in prayers, the pilgrims prayed for Allah’s mercy.
The conglomeration of millions of Muslims rising above geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic, and social barriers who converged in unison in Makkah is a tribute to the universality of the Hajj.
They are pilgrims from both sexes and come in all colors. They are white and black; yellow and brown; pink and all other colors in the hue spectrum of human complexion.
The pilgrims understand that the sacrament that they had set upon is not simply one of donning an Ihram (plain white and unsown pieces of cloth for men) and perfunctorily going through the motions.
They will soon return home to go about their daily business practicing their faith and doing their daily chores in a peaceful manner. Be it earning a living, studying in school, or raising a family, their immediate concerns are no different than any other peoples.
Practicing Islam in silence
They are the Muslim majority who go about practicing their Islam in silence and faithful obedience to their scriptures. It may also be time to reflect on their survival.
They are often collectively and unfairly maligned with labels of being agents of ‘terror’ at a drop of a hat whenever an incident of terror occurs in any corner of the globe with even the faintest affiliation to their religion or beliefs.
The media frenzy that follows thrusts this silent people into a dark corner of fear and isolation and has led to the rise of Islamophobia in unprecedented levels.
This majority today can no longer afford to be silent. They must correct a misconception and do it fast. These Muslims had not gathered in Makkah to declare war on anyone. They had not banded together with the aim of recruiting forces to spread terrorism.
There are no sermons exhorting violence and mayhem against the rest of mankind. Instead, it is a peaceful personal journey for one and all, and a journey whose foundation is harmony and acceptance of all of God’s things.
The rigors that pilgrims faced are not simply mindless exercises prescribed in textbooks for them to blindly follow, and then carry home as a plaque of ‘being there’. The gathering of such a large and diverse group of Muslims is also to strengthen and renew bonds across many borders and their diverse inhabitants.
In his last Hajj sermon, the Prophet advised those present to convey the meaning and message of the rituals they had just performed to those who were absent from this great assembly.
Thus, a pilgrim’s journey does not end simply with the termination of the rituals he or she has completed. Pilgrims now carry the responsibility of conveying the message and practice of peace back to their homelands irrespective of faith. Islam is all about tolerance.
It is crucial in today’s times that the real meaning of Islam is promoted far and wide by returning pilgrims and especially to people of other faiths. But before that, Muslims should ferret out the radical elements within their community and set the message straight: Islam is not about violence and mayhem and will not be condoned or pardoned!
Islam has taken an unfair pasting in much of the non-Islamic media thanks to the vicious and depraved acts of a small number of thugs and terrorists posing as Muslims going about killing and blowing up people. This has to stop, and it should start with us.
The Hajis of 2017 must dedicate themselves to root out the rogue elements from within their communities, and to reject their messages of violence.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.
Tariq A. Al-Maeena is a Saudi writer. His twitter handle is @talmaeena.