Fruits for the Week

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In the valley of Arafat, on this great occasion, hundreds and thousands of people are assembling, all of them in groups shouting” Here we are, O God! Here we are, in Your Presence!” This experience of a pilgrim cannot be described in words; it can only be felt by one who has gone through such an experience himself.

A pilgrim has left his home, his country, his business and his relatives and has come here to seek the pleasure of God. He has given up all the pleasures, comforts and amenities of life, and has undertaken this long journey to Mecca to go through all the hardships, inconveniences and sufferings of the pilgrimage.

Here he is in the company of thousands of his Muslim brothers, all wearing one dress, answering the call of their Lord in one language. He has even off his worldly dress and wrapped round him two white sheets and has come in the presence of His sovereign to seek His pleasure and goodwill. Having forsaken all the physical barriers which stand between him and his Lord, he is calling and crying,’ Here am I, O God, here am I.’ This extreme concentration of his ideas and mind on God in extreme humbleness brings him in reality into the presence of God.

It is true that God is not confined to any one place, and the Ka’bah is no exception. But the higher experience of nearness to God is attained in the atmosphere of a multitude of people who have left everything behind and have gathered together here for God, their only objective here is God and His pleasure, all worldly comforts, wealths, engagements and relations, which are a veil hiding the spiritual realities of the other world, are left behind, and he can, during the pilgrimage, turn to God and feel his presence in reality.

The great significance of this higher spiritual experience in a gathering may be expressed from another point of view. It is true that one’s heart and mind can have a mysterious communion with another, as proved by telepathy. When you are in the company of a man who is inspired by the same thing and is undergoing the same spiritual experience, your spiritual experience will naturally get additional strength from him and will in return strengthen him.

When hundreds and thousands of people are gathered for the pilgrimage, they are all inspired by the presence of the Divine Being. The objective all of is one and they are all concentrating on that objective.

This internal unity of objective is further strengthened by their outward unity. They are all clad in the same way, all gathered together in the same place and uttering the same words again and again, ‘labbaika Allahumma labbaika’ (Here we are, O God! Here are we in your presence). Their appearance and their demeanour and their regular crying all give the impression that they are, in fact, standing in the presence of their Lord. They are so absorbed in their dialogue with the Divine Being that they have lost all sense of time or space, or even of their own being.

This spiritual experience in gatherings is many times intensified and heightened in its effect on each individual pilgrim by the accumulated effect of the experience of hundreds and thousands of other pilgrims.

Though God is not confined to any one place, it is a reality that many of the people who are gathered at Mecca in the valley of Arafaat on the 9th of the month of Dhul Hijjah do feel His presence among themselves.

The pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime is a religious duty and an act of ibadah for a Muslim. It is obligatory on all adults who can afford to undertake a journey to Mecca.

Thus there seems to be three conditions on the obligation to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca: It is obligatory, first, only on adults and not children. Second, only on those who have sufficient money to pay for the return journey to Mecca and to meet all the expenses during their stay in Mecca and elsewhere. Those who do not possess sufficient provision for this journey are not required to undertake it.

It is essential that pilgrims should take sufficient provision with them so that they may perform the ceremonies of the pilgrimage with complete concentration and peace of mind and will not be forced to resort to begging.  Third, it is necessary only for those who are physically fit to undertake the journey. People, who are sick or very old and are unable to undergo the hardships of a long journey, are not required to undertake it.

(to be continued)

By Afzalur Rahman

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