Monday, February 06, 2006

Sacred Steps

A friend of mine forwarded a link to an interesting article about a pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) written by the Melbourne lawyer Waleed Aly from the Islamic Council of Victoria, Australia.

Some of you might know that there are five pillars of Islam, and the Hajj is the fifth one. The performance of the Hajj is obligatory, at least once in a lifetime, upon every Muslim male or female who is mentally, financially and physically fit to do so. It is believed to be enjoined by God to serve many purposes among which are the following:
  • It is the largest annual convention of Faith where Muslims meet to know one another, study their common affairs and promote their general welfare.
  • It is the greatest regular conference of peace known in the history of mankind. In the course of the Hajj peace is the dominant theme; peace with God and one's soul, peace with one another and with animals, peace with birds and even with insects. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
  • It is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of the Muslims. From all walks of life, from all trades and classes, and from every corner of the world the Muslims assemble at Mecca in response to the call of God. They dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations, utter the same supplications at the same time in the same way, for the same end. There is no royalty, but loyalty of all to God. There is no aristocracy, but humility and devotion.
  • It is to confirm the commitment of the Muslims to God and their readiness to forsake the material interest in his service.
  • It is to acquaint the pilgrims with the spiritual and historical environment of Prophet Muhammad, so that they may derive warm inspiration and strengthen their faith.
  • It is to commemorate the Divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael, who are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first house of God on earth, i.e., the Ka'ba at Mecca (Makkah).

The principal story behind the hajj is told in Genesis: the parable of the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son upon divine command. Having demonstrated the conviction befitting a prophet, Abraham is then spared this obligation, and sacrifices a sheep instead. However, the hajj begins, fittingly, with Adam and Eve. Read more here.

According to Waleed Aji, the hajj was a spiritual retreat; an opportunity to look into one's soul and confront its defects without the distractions of the world. This self-diagnosis is not comfortable, but it is rewarding. Humanity's only hope lies in individual people confronting their own deficiencies.

I agree with him on this point, self-reflection is so important. Although we don't have a specific prigrimage obligation as Christians, I believe it's essential for us to have retreat regularly. This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.... (Isaiah 30:15). Surely faith only has value when it is living.

The discipline of solitude and quietness is not to escape responsibilities. It is the dissatisfaction of superficiality, to seek abundant life (John 10:10) and as a result, to be God’s vessel.

Without solitude, there is no prayer;
Without prayer, there is no love;
Without love, there is no commitment;
Without commitment, you can’t serve those in need.


Corry said...

Thanks for sharing this, Kitty.

That last paragraph is very thought-provoking. All is connected, huh?:-)

God's Grace.

Kitty Cheng said...

Yes Corry, all is connected. It's been impressed on me many times recently the importance of 'being' and having solitude and reflection in my life.

Kimber said...

What breaks my heart is that MOST Muslims are so passionate/devoted re: their belief's and they do many things that have 'biblical truth' attached to them, but miss Knowing and embracing the TRUE Messiah...

I do agree with you, as Christians - reflection and solitude are sooo important and helpful to leading us toward living out godly lives.

Thanks for this post.

Kitty Cheng said...

Amen Kimber. Jesus is the TRUTH personified - the TRUE Messiah. It's so sad that many people only embrace their belief / doctrine without having an intimate relationship with God.

audrey` said...

Without serving, there is no sharing...

How are you today, Kitty?

Kitty Cheng said...

Spot on Audrey!

I'm very well today. How are you?

audrey` said...

I'm very happy today =D
Please have a very blessed and joyous day ahead!

Kitty Cheng said...

Great to know that you're very happy today Audrey.