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Article citation: Kadom Shubber, (2010) "Hajj, globalisation and the economic dimension", International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, Vol. 3 Iss: 1, pp. -
As all Muslims are made aware early on in their lives, Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is a prime pillar of their religion, in that all those who are capable (financially, physically, time-allowing, etc.) are required to undertake the task, at least once in their lifetime, with preferred extra visits where possible. Apart from the rituals – which are matters of detail and largely symbolic – the question can be raised as to the rationale of this mammoth obligation and the benefits that can be derived from it, whether these are economic, social, scientific, educational, psychological or any other.
Islam’s holy book (the Quran) does not dwell extensively on the logic of the Hajj, apart from emphasising the duty to worship one God and that advantages can be drawn from performing the Hajj procedures. However, it is quite possible for us to think through the nature of this rationale and the various benefits that can be obtained from the experience.
In essence, Hajj can be defined as a “divine crash course in humility and submission to Allah (God)”. It is a “crash course” because the rituals are packed compactly within a few days. “Humility and submission to Allah” are manifested in various forms, including the uniformity of dress, the required presence at central critical places where Islam was borne, the repeated recitation of submission to Allah’s will and that all ownerships truly belong to the Creator, a crucial declaration meaning that Muslims need to remember that no matter how wealthy they become, all their possessions have been procured by the Grace of God, and that they must discharge this ownership under the guise of Allah and in accordance with the set commandments, as the assets are entrusted to them to be managed on behalf of Allah.
In addition, pilgrims are under strict guidance to refrain from argumentation and rough discourse. They are not even allowed to hit an insect!
Clearly, all this does have a message. Clearly again, the message is two-fold: solidify your link to the Creator, and be conscious of His Presence; be civilised, gentle and do good to all. But is this message getting across to pilgrims? Do Muslims who perform the Hajj keep in mind (and abide in practice) their bond with Allah, so as to eschew cheating, misrepresentation, perjury, or damaging/injuring themselves or their fellow human beings?
In fact, there is evidence to the contrary, even during the Hajj season itself! This editor was fortunate to attend the Hajj proceedings this past season, and noticed that – among other things – when crowding occurs there was much pushing among the pilgrims! Does this tally with the central message of this sacred duty?
Some may contend that they need to clear their path, in order to perform the tasks within the precincts of a constrained ambience. Is it not the case, however, that such actions can be considered as rough, unfriendly and even uncivilised, and hence contrary to the gist of the pilgrimage? Also, is it not clear that chained-group formations and pushing others complicate the problem of crowding and make the Hajj experience unnecessarily onerous? These matters are particularly glaring near the Kaba’a and where the symbolic stoning of the devil takes place, causing much grief to those who prefer to refrain from annoying others, while such practices put the old, frail and sick at a decided disadvantage.
Also, while some spectacular and admirable work has been done to expand and upgrade Mecca’s Great Mosque and the Prophet’s Shrine in Medina, much other effort is still needed by way of lodging and transport facilities to cater for the huge and expanding number of pilgrims (e.g. at Muzdalpha). Improvements are urgently needed, so that pilgrims may perform the duties with minimum hardship, and in order to start contemplating over the deeper meaning of this unique form of worship. Research has conclusively proved that whenever we humans are busy tackling day-to-day problems, we have little chance to think creatively and improve. Once routine matters are conquered and start taking less of our time, we begin to think ahead and consider the various avenues for improvements.
But is there a wider rationale to the Hajj, apart from entrenching humility and total submission to God? A strong case can be made for an affirmative answer to this critical question. Hajj can be viewed as a truly global conference, where people from all corners of this planet are present, as noted by the wonderful diversity of colours, ethnic origin, dress, language, educational attainments and social background. It is crystal clear that Islam instituted this “global” event over 14 centuries ago, when the then world was exceedingly fragmented and utterly divided.
While the prime focus of the Hajj is on worship, there is no constraint on networking and gaining acquaintances. People can mingle with others, to get to know their backgrounds, nationality, specialism and prevailing problems. All this may open avenues for subsequent exchanges, research, trade and mutual action.
But again, whether Muslims have understood the true meaning of this opportunity (let alone taking advantage of it) is in serous doubt. As yet, the bulk of trade and economic co-operation done by most Muslim nations continues to be carried out with the non-Muslim world.
Ample scope currently exists for multi-national exchanges and mutual work among Muslim countries in various areas, such as agricultural development, medical research, industrial production and mineral extraction – to name but a few. While some pertinent bodies (such as the Organisation of Islamic Countries) have been able to assist in this regard, much vital room for extra work remains. Indeed, the sight of so many poor people during the Hajj should jolt minds, especially those of people in position of authority and influence, and who should care over the welfare and economic advancement of their nations.
As yet, there is only a negligible amount of mutual Muslim research on combating farming diseases and innovating new types of plants. The powerful large and efficient manufacturing corporations that are competitive on the world stage and function across Muslim boundaries employing Muslim capital, management and know-how are yet to be borne. Also, we are still awaiting the birth of world class research institutions that are truly multinational and draw on Muslim wealth and expertise, in order to bring out solutions in fields such as medicine, mineral production and economic development.
The upshot of all this is that the Hajj should not be regarded as a pure series of blind actions of worship. When we fully and squarely consider this pillar of the Muslim faith, we can see that it is a global spectacular that should assist in improving individual demeanours, reforming societies, assisting with scientific advancement and accelerating economic development. All this should take the Muslim world to levels much higher than its present state.