May 21, 2000

Pilgrimage in Islam with no grasp of the Meanings underlying Practices is mere Idolization

  • From friday speech of Master Ali Rafea - March 16th 2000 - Zul-Hijjah 10th 1420
These days of the year we commemorate, and immortalize the meaning of Pilgrimage Hajj. It is one pillar of Islam; an expression of a truthful concept that man has to perceive so that he may live its meaning. As we always say, all religious practices, we are guided to observe, are expressions of basic concepts related to man’s issue of existence, and his relationship with the Unseen al Ghayb, on one hand, and the Manifest ashahada, on the other. Rituals and religious practices are vehicles of communication where “the movement” expresses the truthful concepts to man.
Practices of pilgrimage such as: the circmambulation (going seven times around the Holy kaaba); the litany chanting Labbayk (a pilgrim’s expression that he is responding with his whole existence to the Call of God); the Slaughtering Annahr; (offering a sacrifice symbolizing man’s killing of his animal nature); the Stoning Arrajm, (stoning a symbolic body of Satan as an expression of man’s will to reject the evil in him and around); the State of pilgrim’s Sanctity Ihram ( for very few specified days, a pilgrim wears a sheet of cloth that is not sewn, stops doing so many things that are permitted at other times such as combing the hair, bathing, killing insects …etc., as a symbol that man is in a complete Divine Oneness:) are full of messages. Every practice in pilgrimage reflects an aspect of man’s devotion to God.
Pilgrimage starts by a pilgrim’s intention to start out a journey to the Holy Home. Koran states that : The Eternal Holy Home Bayt was first made available for men (when symbolized by the Shrine) that is at Bakka. It is ever full of Blessing, and Guidance to all the worlds (HQ:3: 96)1
The Holy Home is a symbol of God’s Manifestation on earth. It is a symbol of the Direction that man should turn his face to when praying. It is a symbol of the Truth existing on earth, and that man has to come close to. It is a symbol of the meaning of Life that man has to know and make the focus of his whole existence. It is a symbol of the everlasting existence of the word of God, the Messenger of God, The Home of God, the Spirit of God, and the Light of God on earth. Have we approached each practice this way? Have we absorbed it?
We have to regard every practice as a message directed to us, read it, understand it, grasp it, discuss it among us, and immortalize its meaning.
When we do not read the meaning underlying the practice, we do not get out with anything even if we seemingly perform it perfectly. The greatest gain we get out with from the religious practice, if we read it truly, is that our devotion to the Holy Home is reflected in developing our behavior in all aspects of daily life, and relationships. If we so do in our earthly life, we will be true servants of God; we will be remembering Him in every action because we understand well that every action is but an expression of our loyalty to the Holy Home. We will understand well that any action does not have a value in itself; its main value is that it is a tool for us to gain devotion to God. Our Devotion to Him will be the focus, the center that we remember always, and have in mind and heart while handling anything. If we do that we definitely will pass through (spiritual) transformation, we will turn into better beings, and become more righteous humans, for this is the Law:
“Verily never will Allah change human beings unless they have a working will for changing what is within” (HQ:13: 11).2
You would better contemplate deeply all the religious practices you are guided to, so as not to be worshippers of idols and pagans. You would better be servants of God; when just uttering the creed Shada “ I witness that there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, you do it so sincerely that it provokes your hearts, minds, and bodies to be guided to the Path of truth and real life. We pray to God to support us achieve that goal, and help us be the kind of beings who deserve His Grace, Knowledge, and Wisdom.
To sum up, pilgrimage as one pillar of Islam is rich with many messages expressing truths we are living. The Eternal Holy Home Bayt was first made available for men (when symbolized by the Shrine) that is at Bakka. It is ever full of Blessing, and Guidance to all the worlds (HQ:3: 96). The Holy Home is a symbol for the manifestation of God on earth. It is a symbol of God’s Home, God’s Secret, God’s Light, God’s Word, and God’s Messenger. Actually it is a symbol for everything that belongs to God. It is an expression of closeness to God: “We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein” (50: 16);3 “He is with you wheresoever you may be” (HQ:57: 4).3 The term “near” points to the fact that you can feel Him within, and also around, on earth, because He is the meaning you are seeking, aspiring to, and turning your faces in his Direction. “We see the turning of your face (for guidance) to the Heavens: now shall We turn thee To a Qibla4 that shall please thee” (HQ:2: 144).3 The Holy Home is a symbol of the meaning you direct your faces to in your prayer. It is a symbol of the meaning you are seeking when you start out your journey for pilgrimage. It is a symbol for the meaning we want to come closer to, the meaning of Truth, and the meaning of Life. Man can realize that meaning, express it, grasp it, and turn it into part of his own existence, without moving an inch from his place. Of course when the physical performance of the practices is accompanied by deep meditation man will realize more. The point is that many people just perform the religious practices automatically, with their bodies, with no contemplation of the mind, or appreciation of the heart. Such people in fact go through no pilgrimage. They realize nothing and gain nothing, for they do not receive the message, hear it, nor read it. Going around the Holy Home Tawaf is a way of expressing that your loyalty to the Holy Home is continuously and consistently reflected in all your deeds and behavior. Your devotion to the Holy Home is expressed in your prayer as much as in daily life, and relationships with your family and the whole society. A Sufi therefore says, “If I miss my loyalty to the Messenger of God, for a twinkling of an eye time, I regard my self as no longer a Muslim.” If you are this way you will develop tremendously, and you will be accessible to God to lead you to spiritual transformation, for God does not change people unless they have a working will for change from within. If you replace the selfishness residing in you, the worldliness, and devotion to temporal objectives by a more sublime goal symbolized in devotion to God’s Home, God’s Light, gaining God, God’s Messenger, God’s Spirit, you will be thus ready for a big transformation that God will fulfill for you. Hence, you are created anew; you are endowed with a new existence.
You would better start for yourself. Take your whole existence a step forward by reading all God’s commandments deeply, patiently and reasonably. Do not follow the example of those who handle things superficially, and reduce Religion into a set of shapes and forms they perform by their bodies, but practices do not touch their hearts, minds and souls. Such people have gone through a set back to the Pre Islamic era jahilya: ignorance, and idolization even though on the face value they keep all the practices of prayer, fasting and pilgrimage.
  1. Our Translation. The published Translation by A Yusuf Ali is: "The first House (of worship) Appointed for men was that at Bakka: full of blessing and guidance for all kinds of being". Pickthall's Translation (most commonly used) put "Sanctuary" for Bayt. The word Bayt in Arabic gives the meaning of House and also Home. In Holy Koran the word refers to both: the whole place as a House of Worship and to the shrine itself, the Kaaba, as a symbol. We prefere the "Home" meaning in that context because it coincides with our approach that the Holy Home is a symbol for the existence of God's Light, Spirit, Guidance, Messenger, at all times, and for all men.
  2. Our Translation. The focus is on the fact that the will of man for change is the starting point.
  3. A. Yusuf Ali Translation
  4. Qibla is an Arabic Word the means the Direction that Muslims turn their faces t when praying. Moslems direct their faces to the Holy Home, al Kaaba.