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Family Named Humanity: Pilgrimage Is the Beginning - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Over the recent years there has been a lot of talk about the “international community” the prerequisites for its harmony, and the vague grading of its members along a scale of good, improving, evil, and their in-betweens. Sometimes, the phrase itself was not much more than the whims and desires of few greater powers that have instated themselves as curators of the “community’s” wellbeing, and judges over smaller countries’ behaviors or misbehaviors.

An inspiring substitute for this exclusive “club of the powerful” could be found in the Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca: Hajj. Hajj is in itself a school for absolute human equality in rights and dignity. It could be the answer to what the “international community” should be like. It is only a shame that the only media coverage this extraordinary event gets is dedicated to accidents.

Each year, at the same time, and over the last thousand and four hundred years, millions of Muslims of all colors, ethnicities and nationalities go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, while millions of other Muslims await their turn with longing. They all go to Mount Arafa in white un-sewed garments where recognizing the rich from the poor becomes impossible. Men and women of all countries pray side by side, just as the Almighty have wanted them to be, equal in their humanity and different only in the measure of their piety.

All human needs and desires withdraw back to let the mind, heart and soul contemplate human relation to God, and the messages of His prophets which were revealed only to spread and strengthen morals and good manners. When God, Almighty, described Prophet Mohammad, his best attribute was that he had “Morals.”

Rituals of Hajj make all human beings equal in absolute terms. Together shoulder by shoulder, they walk the same grounds, in identical outfits, reciting the same prayers, and acknowledging each other with one salute of “peace be upon you.” Peace in oneself and with others is a fundamental concept in Islam, as well as its sure way towards human happiness and prosperity. In Mecca, all Muslims pray for Prophet Mohammad and all other prophets who preceded him, accepting and continuing with the heavenly messages that came before him.

The reality of Islam in Mecca is nothing like the distorted image propagated by international media. One such distortion is the propagated depleted status of woman in Islam. Hajj is the stark contrast to this picture. Hajj is where the world witnesses one of the most intense and uniform cooperation between men and women on earth, where hand in hand they follow the same rituals and uphold the same manners and morals. This is except when women are accorded more support and protection to guarantee their safety and respect their physically more specific needs.

The vital question, however, is why the positive spiritual energy emanating from Hajj is not used to unify Muslims around the world and end their quarrels and differences? If Europe has been able, after decades of wars, to reach unity, then should not the Muslim world, rampaged with aggression and threats of division be more aware of the need for unity? The Hajj is the best occasion to launch such an effort for the best of Muslims and humanity at large.

Muslim leaders should meet in this season every year to find agreement on issues that, no matter how simple they might be, could be driving their countries apart. A first item on their meeting agenda should be bringing peace to the Aqsa, which has been suffering decades of occupation, blockade and aggression. Could we possibly dream of Muslim leaders who commit to the heavenly message of Hajj and its unifying spirit? Could we dream of a rank of Muslim leaders who could do justice to the distorted image of the most encompassing faith and its fundamental principles of equality, justice and peace for all humanity?

This could be a pursuit with a cost-benefit value much higher than any of the empty international initiatives accorded millions of dollars, and that never leave the negotiation tables. It is definitely more noble and substantive than the fraud international principles used by the powerful to cover up for capitalistic greed and serve their own interests.

Hajj is a call to establish a “family of humanity” who competes to perfect morals. It therefore must be the occasion for all Muslims to work on what serves the prosperity and peace of the world at large. It is the best occasion to correct the flawed colonial concepts of the family named “humanity,” so that it is based on equality in status and dignity among all people on earth.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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