By Samar Fatany
19 September 2015
Haj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is a once in a lifetime requirement for every Muslim. It is a spiritual gathering of Muslims from all over the world seeking forgiveness and the blessings of the Lord. Every ritual of Haj emphasizes the fact that we are all equal before God. There is no difference between rich and poor, white or black, superior or inferior, weak or strong, man or woman, Eastern or Western.
It is an experience that is meant to remind us to be humble and merciful. The spirit of Haj is meant to cleanse the souls of greed, hate, selfishness, superior and racist attitudes that divide people and make them devoid of compassion and empathy towards one another.
Haj is the spiritual purification of the self. It is a chance for people to reflect upon their past and plan to lead a better life of goodness and righteousness. The pilgrims come for Haj to start a new beginning and be cleansed of wrong acts that make man turn against man.
In his last sermon during Haj Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, reminded the faithful that they will one day appear before God and have to answer for their deeds. He warned them to beware and not to stray from the path of righteousness after he is gone.
Unfortunately not many Muslims today heed the words of the Prophet (pbuh). Many have gone astray. It is sad how their cruel deeds and greed have made them devoid of any compassion. The spirit of the religion of mercy and compassion has been hijacked by a militant ideology that continues to influence more ignorant and lost souls to kill and destroy. The Muslim world is afflicted with corrupt and selfish leaders leading a vicious campaign of terror to stay in power and excercise control.
Meanwhile Muslim scholars of different sects and ideologies remain passive and reluctant to address their differences, fueling a sectarian war that has killed, destroyed and displaced many helpless human beings including Muslims, Christians and others. The genuine message of Islamic tolerance is completely lost between the warring factions.
There are no winners in such ugly wars. There is only destruction and ruin. The Muslim world remains divided by intolerant and ultraconservatives. It is really sad how Muslims in the world today remain in conflict and find it difficult to accept the existing diversity. They are out to destroy anyone who does not prescribe to their distorted views.
There are many strong voices in the Muslim world denouncing the extremist ideology and promoting “moderation”. However, there are still many others who divide the world into Muslim and non-Muslim and reject other sects within Islam.
Many Muslims today don’t feel safe to practice what they believe to be the true principles of their faith. They are threatened by the merciless extremists who call themselves Muslims while they defy God’s commands and forget that only God is the judge of man on earth.
No one should be obligated to follow blindly the dictates of their distorted ideology. In Islam no one has the right to doubt a believer’s faith if he declares that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet (peace be upon him). It is also a great sin to include extremist interpretations of the Holy Qur’an.
There is no compulsion in Islam. Muslim scholars all over the world should stand united and strongly declare that Muslims are not at war with other religions and sects. Sadly many Muslims have been indoctrinated with distorted views; they need direction and an opportunity to live in a peaceful world.
Educated and enlightened Muslims should not remain idle and allow the fanatics that have gained influence in many parts of the world to spread their evil and radical ideology.
To move Muslim countries forward we need to mobilize all efforts to resolve the ideological crises that have destroyed Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, killing children, displacing families, enslaving women and polluting the minds of the youth. The time to act is now before the terrorists spread further conflicts and destroy the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.
Let us hope that the spirit of Haj this year could empower Muslim communities to reject violence and promote tolerance and peace. Let us pray that Muslim leaders would abide by the true principles of their faith and put an end to the conflicts and wars that have spread misery and pain to thousands of innocent Muslims in this part of the world. Let the spirit of Haj this year revive the universal brotherhood of man.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at email@example.com