The Hajj brings millions of Muslims together on a horizontal plane each year but it is so much more than just an enormous gathering. Ustadh Salim Mauladdawila brings us back to a core message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – the call to and importance of unity amongst Muslims and what there is to gain from it.
Nearly 1384 years ago to the day, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ addressed his Companions on the Hajj pilgrimage. In the valley of Urana and the foot of Mount Arafat, The Prophet ﷺ sat upon his camel al-Qaswa’ before his Companions and advised them in what was subsequently knows as his ‘farewell sermon’. Imam Muslim relates the beginning of the sermon from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir as follows:
“Verily your blood and your wealth are [made] sacred upon you, like the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this land of yours.”
Two days later, in the holy valley of Mina, The Prophet again addressed his companions from upon his camel. Imam al-Bukhari narrates that he spoke, “O people! What day is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred day.”
He then asked, “What land is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred land.”
He asked again, “What month is this?”
They replied, “It is a sacred month.”
The Prophet then said, “Verily your blood, your wealth, and your honour are sacred upon you like the sanctity of this day of yours, in this land of yours, in this month of yours.”
Certainly one of the greatest accomplishments of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the sacred brotherhood he forged amongst the Companions. The unity found in the melting-pot of Medina at the time of his passing was a living example of the Quranic verse, “O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest amongst you in the sight of God is the most god-fearing of you” [49:13]. Previously-warring Bedouin Arab tribes made peace, Persians were brothered with Ethiopians, and the wealthy befriended the freed slaves. The emphasis the Prophet placed on this unity in his farewell sermon is a fitting capstone to his prophetic message, and the Muslim nation today would do well to reflect upon the poignancy of his words.
The conditions of unity
The unity the Prophet spoke of is a sanctified part of our religion. A Muslim’s blood, wealth, and honour are, as Imam al-Nawawi comments, even more sacred than the holy times and place the Prophet mentioned. As a part of Islam, unity has conditions, and cannot simply be claimed without it having a reality. In the Quran, God tells us signs of its establishment. He says, “Surely all believers are brothers. So reconcile between your brothers, and fear God, so that mercy may be shown to you” [49:10], and “The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, establish prayer, give zakat, and obey God and His Messenger. God will have mercy upon them” [9:71]. True unity, then, manifests itself as “[reconciling] between [our] brothers” and “[enjoining] what is right and [forbidding] what is wrong”. It is unity founded upon mercy, and as long as our unity is lacking this mercy, it cannot be called true.
The consequence of merciful unity
In the second halves of the quoted verses, God tells us that a direct consequence of this merciful unity between Muslims is that we receive mercy from Him. Indeed the Prophet tells us, “The merciful are shown mercy by The Merciful [God]”. The Cordovan hadith scholar Ibn Batal explains that the initial mercy between the believers is itself out of God’s mercy, hence, when the believers give the unity forged between them its due, God invariably increases their unity and exposes them to an even greater portion of His mercy. Sanctifying what God has sanctified and giving our unity a reality, we enter into a state of continuous exponential improvement. Conversely, when we do not do this, we expose ourselves to God’s anger, for as the Prophet explained to us, “God will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind”.
When we lie, cheat and plot
Many Muslims today could benefit from being reminded about the sanctity of our unity. When we lie to and cheat one another, when we plot and scheme against our brothers, we are directly calling upon ourselves God’s wrath; and for what gain? Regrettably, it is all too often that we hear Muslims slandering, attacking, disgracing, and shaming other Muslims over frivolous affairs. Imam al-Bukhari narrates in his book of prophetic etiquette al-Adab al-Mufrad, “If one is fed at the expense of a Muslim, God will feed him like it of hell. If one is clothed at the expense of a Muslim, God will clothe him like it of hell. If one achieves a position of ostentation and hypocrisy at the expense of a Muslim, God will put him in a position of ostentation and hypocrisy on the Day of Resurrection”. Will we let these teachings of our Prophet ﷺ fall on deaf ears?
Several Companions tell the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ looking upon the Kaaba saying, “Verily God has ennobled you, venerated you, and glorified you, and a believer is even more sanctified than you”. The Prophet ﷺ also said, “Whosoever wrongfully harms a believer, it is as if he has destroyed the Kaaba”, and Imam Ibn Majah relates him saying, “The destruction of the world is less [in the sight of] God than wrongfully killing a believer”. Calls of disunity today are heard far and wide, be it on the pulpits of our mosques or in endless social media messages. Vitriolic diatribes have, in some circles, sadly replaced religious knowledge, and we find Muslims seemingly well-versed in technical religious arguments showing ignorance of the basics of cleanliness and prayer.
Together we are stronger
The Quran says, “And hold firmly to the rope of God all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of God upon you: when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make clear to you His verses that you may be guided” [3:103]. Islam united the Companions of the Prophet and was their salvation. Through remaining united our predecessors in faith accomplished amazing deeds and attained greatness in the sight of God. Imam Malik bin Anas, one of the most highly regarded scholars in Islam and founder of the Maliki madhhab, is famously quoted as saying, “The end of this nation will not be righted except by what righted the beginning of it”. Working towards unity, then, should be of paramount importance to us, and God has given us generous incentives to unite. The reward of our five daily prayers is multiplied by 27 if we pray them in congregation. Once a week a congregational prayer is obligatory upon us. Twice a year we gather in a larger congregation for the Eid prayers. Zakat is a decentralised social welfare charity established over 1300 years ago specifically to benefit needy individuals, as many of the scholars state, in one’s local community. We fast for one month a year, gaining a small taste of the hunger that the less fortunate live every day. Undoubtedly the greatest embodiment of this is the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where Muslims gather from all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, don identical clothing, and perform the one great act of worship at the same place, at the same time.
In the midst of this powerful expression of the immense unifying force of Islam and its respect for humans of all backgrounds such that “surely the noblest amongst you in the sight of God is the most god-fearing of you”, we cannot help but feel united. One feels amongst brethren before their creator, a member of a community who have left their homes desiring only their Lord. Good actions become easy. Generosity and forgiveness become one’s natural disposition. We encounter amazing acts of kindness and humanity on Hajj and we leave feeling firmer than ever in our faith and proud to call ourselves ‘Muslim’. All this is an example of God’s mercy, which he promised us when we “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, establish prayer, give zakat, and obey God and His Messenger”.
Hajj is not just a gathering
We should strive, then, to ensure that our gathering in this holy place, where the Prophet told us of the sanctity of unity, is not merely an assembly of bodies, for Hajj is no mere assembly. Those who are blessed to travel this year should do so representing their families, communities, cities, and all Muslims behind them. They should stand before our Lord as one nation in heart and in form, for how repugnant would it be to outwardly honour the Kaaba, but inwardly commit acts worse in God’s sight than its destruction? Those who travel should return striving to maintain the bonds which they felt when they were in that sacred place. For those not fortunate enough to perform the Hajj, they should pray for those who do travel; for their safety and for the acceptance of their Hajj, for in God’s acceptance is renewed forgiveness and mercy for us all. And we should all pray for all Muslims, and do whatever little we can to spread mercy amongst both believers and non-believers.
Islam’s message is complete and we are to take it all as it was given to us. God told us that we are allies, so we should be so. The Prophet told us that our fellow believers are sanctified, so we should treat them so. The Prophet told us, “You shall not enter heaven until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I not direct you to a thing which, if you do it, will foster love between you? Spread the [greeting of] salaam between yourselves”, so let us begin with this small step and may God encompass us all with his divine mercy.