The Fifth Pillar of Islam

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by Hazrat Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi Saheb R.A

The City of Peace should present a True Picture of the Islamic way of Life

The Haj is an annual congregation in which the Muslims from all parts of the world participate. They collect in one place, on a single platform, with a definite aim and conviction, and in a rare religious and spiritual atmosphere, and, from it, they draw fresh strength and gain new inspiration. It gives them a splendid opportunity to remove the faults that may have crept into their beliefs and practices under the influence of alien ideologies and un-Islamic civilisations or as a result of imitating the ways of life pursued in the neighbouring countries, and to acquire the knowledge and awareness of faith from the `fountain of purity’ which is eternally protected against pollution and defilement. It is, therefore, essential both logically and from the point of view of the spirit of Islam and the Haj that the City of Peace (i. e., Mecca) with which the whole of the Pilgrimage is associated preserved the heritage of the Islamic programme of life in all its aspects and presented such a picture of it that the pilgrims were able to appreciate its distinctiveness and to live through it, however brief their stay might be, as a reality. God has made the blessed city of Mecca the seat of the Haj and the place of refuge for all Muslims. They come here with the impression that it is the spiritual capital of Islam and the springhead of sanctity. On coming here an ordinary Muslim who lives far away from the nerve-centre of Islam regards everything related to it to be authentic. Whatever he sees or hears is to him the last word in correctness and propriety for the simple reason that in the eyes of the common Muslim the conduct of no one can be more in keeping with the standard of Islam than that of the people of Mecca and Medina. It could simply be no other way because the followers of every religion or civilisation look to its place of origin or spiritual or cultural headquarters for inspiration, and believe what obtains there to be the measuring yard of excellence. Thus the lexicon of the Quraish is considered to be of the highest merit in Arabia, and next to it is the language of the bedouin which sets the pattern for the idiom, pronunciation and mode of expression among the Arabs. Similarly, the conduct of the people of Medina was regarded as decisive in the Maliki school of jurisprudence and during the heyday of Spain the behaviour of the inhabitants of Cardova was held to be the standard of perfection by the jurists of the West. People, indeed, have always been in the habit of imagining the capitals of their countries to be the citadels of culture. They vie with each other in following the trends set over there in dress and other fields of personal and social behaviour. It is, therefore, a most disconcerting experience for Muslim religious teachers when pilgrims returning from the Seat of Islam tell them that what they had seen there was quite different from what they had been preaching.


What is more important is that Mecca (the City of Peace) should in all circumstances uphold the standards of simplicity and austerity that brought the pilgrims closer to the social and spiritual climate in which the Muslims of the earliest centuries of Islam performed the Haj. On entering it, they should feel that they had stepped into a new world and were living in entirely different surroundings. This will inspire them to cast away the shadow of their past existence and imbibe new values. They will, then, derive a rare spiritual satisfaction from their stay in that blessed town which they could never feel in their own homeland. On the other hand, if the House of Ka`aba or the Haram Sharif remained true to their original state but their surroundings underwent a radical change and the town of Mecca and its neighbouring areas began to look like a part of Europe or America and the Western Civilisation, with all its virtues and vices, swept over it and the Haji, who in the Shariat is described as `the dishevelled and the dust-laden’, set about to enjoy thoroughly the luxuries of the modern age and lead a life of ease and comfort he will not be able to feel the full moral and spiritual impact of the Pilgrimage.

The Haj, because of it, has been described as a kind of Jihad. It is related by Hazrat Ayesha that the Prophet once said, “The best and most superior Jihad is the Haj which finds acceptance (with God).” It is also related by her that once she said to the Prophet that when Jihad was regarded to be a superior act why should they not engage in it (instead of performing the Haj)? The Prophet replied, “But a better kind of Jihad is the Haj on which there is the favour of the Lord.” Another Tradition related by Hazrat Omar reads, “Make preparations for the Haj for it, too, is Jihad.”

If, therefore, Mecca itself changes beyond recognition and accepts blindly the influence of the Western Civilisation and the various modern contrivances of comfort and luxury are freely made available during the Haj the pilgrims will naturally be haunted by a sense of spiritual vacuum and a clear decline in the benefits of the Haj will take place on all sides.