In the center of Masjid
al-Haram you see the Kaaba. A simple cube like structure made of dark rough
stones with white chalk filling the fissures. At the first sight a shiver runs
through you and you wonder in amazement ... This plain and empty structure is
the center of our faith, prayers, love, life and death?
You question in
admiration; Where have I come? What is this place?
What you see is the
antithesis of your visual imaginations of the Kaaba. Some might perceive a
sacred place to be an architectural splendor whose ceilings are covered in
silent beauty or it could be a sacred tomb housing the grave of an important
person - a hero, a leader or prophet! But No! - instead it is an empty room. It
reflects no architectural skill, beauty, art, inscription or quality; and no
graves are found here. There is nothing specific that captures your attention or
feelings except a yearning pulling you towards the Kaaba.
You will realize that
there is nothing here to disturb your thoughts and feelings about God. The Kaaba,
which you want to embrace, is a gateway for your feelings to ascend to the
heavens and connect with your creator. This is something you were unable to
achieve in your world filled with distractions and fragmentation. Before you
could only theorize, but now you can see the "absolute", the one who
has no direction - Allah! He is every where.
How fortunate it is to
that the Kaaba is empty! It reminds you that you are at the Kaaba to start a
pilgrimage. It is not your destination. Moreover, it is a guide to show you the
Having decided to move
toward eternity, you begin the Hajj by moving around the Kaaba. It is an eternal
movement towards Allah not towards the Kaaba. The Kaaba is the beginning and not
the end. It is the place where Allah ,
other great people will meet you. You will be present there only if your mind is
not preoccupied with self-centered thoughts. You must be one of the people!
Everyone is dressed in the same special garments and is being honored as guests
of Allah. He has more enthusiasm toward humanity than any one else. However, the
Kaaba the house of Allah is called the "house of people".
The first sanctuary appointed for humankind was that at Bekka (Mecca), a blessed
place, a guidance to all people." (Quran 3:96)
If you enter this house
while still being attached to your material self you will miss the sacredness of
Mecca is called "Baite-Atiq".
Atiq represents being free! Mecca belongs to nobody. It is free from the reign
of rulers and oppressors; therefore, no one controls it. Allah is the owner of
Mecca while the people are its residents.
Under the provisions of
travels, a Muslim is allowed to shorten his prayers if traveling at least forty
miles away from his home. But at Mecca, regardless of where you are from or how
far you have traveled, you devote yourself to the complete prayer. It is your
land, your community and you are safe. You are not a visitor, but you are at
Before coming to Mecca,
you were a stranger, exiled in your own land. But now, you have joined the
family of humanity. Humankind, the dearest family of the world, is invited to
this house. If you as an individual are "self centered", you will feel
like a homeless stranger lost with no shelter and no relatives. Therefore, shed
the self distinctive tendencies. You are now prepared to enter the house and
join this family. You will be welcomed as an honored guest of Allah.
As you enter this house
visualize Prophet Ibrahim
who was considered a radical for his times. Rejecting all the idols of his
forefathers, he oriented his loved and obedience to the One True God. With his
own hands and along with his son, Ismail ,
he built the Kaaba. A structure that symbolizes the singular nature of Allah in
The building is
uncomplicated. Black rocks of "Ajoon" are laid on top of each other.
There is no design or decoration involved. Its name, Kaabah, means a
"cube" - but why a "cube"?
Why is it so simple and
lacking in color and ornamentation? It is because Almighty Allah has no
"shape", no color and none is similar to Him. No pattern or
visualization of Allah that man imagines can represent Him. Being omnipotent and
omnipresent, Allah is "absolute".
Although Kaaba has no
direction (because of its cubic shape), by facing the Kaaba when performing
prayers, you choose Allah's direction and face Him. Kaaba's absence of direction
may seem difficult to comprehend. However, universality and absoluteness
prevails. The six sides of the cube encompasses all directions and
simultaneously their sum symbolizes no direction!
Allah belongs the east and west, and wherever you turn you will be facing
Allah." (Quran 2:115)
When praying outside of
Kaaba you must face it. Any structure except the Kaaba directs north, south,
east, west, up or down. Kaaba is an exception; it is facing all directions while
it is facing none. Truly a symbol of Allah, it has many directions yet it has no
Toward the west of Kaaba
there is a semi-circular short wall which is arching towards the Kaaba. It is
called Ismail's Hagar. Hagar signifies lap or skirt. The semi lunar wall
resembles a skirt.
Sarah, the wife of Ibrahim
had an Ethiopian maid called Hagar. She was a poor and humble servant of Sarah,
who was given to Ibrahim
in order to bear him a child. Here was a woman who was not equal to Sarah's
noble stature yet Allah connected the symbol of Hagar's skirt to His symbol,
The skirt of Hagar was the
area in which Ismail was raised. The house of Hagar is there. Her grave is near
the third column of the Kaaba.
What a surprise since no
one, not even prophets, are supposed to be buried in mosques but in this case,
the house of a maid is located next to Allah's house! Hagar, the mother of
Ismail is buried there. The Kaaba extends toward her grave.
There is a narrow passage
between the wall (Hagar's skirt) and the Kaaba. When circumambulating around
Kaaba, Allah commanded that you must go around the wall and not through the
Those who have submitted
them selves to the oneness of Allah and those who have accepted His invitation
for Hajj touch this skirt when circumambulating the Kaaba. The grave of a maid
and a righteous mother is now a part of the Kaaba; it will be circumambulated by
Allah, the Almighty, in
His great and glorious Divinity is all self-sufficient. He needs no one and
nothing. Nevertheless, among all His countless and eternal creatures, He has
chosen one, humankind, as the noblest of all of them. From among all
humanity He has chosen: a woman, from among all women: a slave, and from among
all slaves: a black maid!
The weakest and most
humiliated one of His creatures was given a place of dignity next to His own
The Unknown Soldier has
been so chosen in the community of Islam!
The rituals of Hajj are a
memory of Hagar. The word Higrah (migration) has its root in her name as does
the word Mahajir (immigrant). "The ideal immigrant is the one who
behaves like Hagar." (Saying of Mohammad )
Higrah is what Hagar did.
It is also a transition from wildness to civility and from denying the truth to
accepting the Ultimate Truth.
In Hagar's mother- tong
her name means "the city". Even the name of this Ethiopian slave is
symbolic of civilization. Furthermore, any migration like hers is a move toward
Hagar's grave is in the
midst of man's circumambulation of Kaaba. You, the mohajir (immigrant), who has
detached himself from everything and accepted Allah's invitation to go to Hajj,
you will devote your circumambulation of the Kaaba to Allah and at the
same time you will be paying homage to the grave of a African maid.
It is difficult to
realize. But for those who think they live in freedom and defend humanism, the
significance of these incidents transgresses the scope of their understanding!
Adapted from a section of the book
"Hajj" by Dr. Ali Shariati. Translated by
Dr. Ali A. Behzadnia
Reflections on its Rituals
Shariati & Translated by Laleh Bakhtiar)
ships within 24 hours.
masterpiece work about Hajj, its concept and spirit rather than