The Hajj and Humanity

Last night was a good night for me. I was flipping channels because the Law and Order episode on TNT was one that I had previously seen. As a was bypassing all of the reality shows (Are people really this shallow? If there is to be a clash of civilisations as the both the Bush administration and Osama and his bearded minstrels seem to be taking all of us toward, the current state of American television, would lead one to conclude that it may be a fair fight.)

Anyway back to the matter at hand. As I was flipping channels, I came across a documentary, already in progress, on PBS entitled “National Geographic: Inside Mecca”, which was about the hajj. The hajj was shown through the eyes of three people: an American women and recent convert attempting to enter the larger ummah; a South African black man searching for acceptance and a sense of unity with his Arab and South Asian brothers; and, a wealthy Malaysian man looking for spiritual well-being. Each of these people went to Mecca in search of something to make them whole as well as to reaffirm their faith. The pilgrimage was a beautiful thing to watch unfold. It showed Muslims as a diverse, global community, coming together in an extraordinary show of unity and love for something greater than themselves. In watching this, I realise that there is indeed hope for Muslims. While on the pilgrimage, ideology, nationalism, politics, class struggles, racism, and the other plagues that effect all societies, were left behind. The rituals that take place are a remembrance of sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, devotion, and humanity. The rituals celebrate Abraham, Adam and Eve, and Prophet Mohammad, all the while re-affirming the greatness of the most beneficent and the most merciful.

By the end of the documentary, each of the hajjis featured, underwent their own personal battles, trails, and doubts, only to emerge more fulfilled. It was a very engaging program, because it cast Muslims and Islam in a light that is understandable. It did not show demonstrations, flag burnings, or fanatical clerics calling for destruction. It showed millions of people from around the world who come together to self-reflect and search for their common humanity and in the end better themselves. This program put a compassionate and approachable face to Muslims. We were not treated as the “other” or people with a perverse value system. We were portrayed as human. As a Muslim, if the hajj can make a change in my understanding of Islam, imagine what it can do to shift the perceptions of non-Muslims. I would love to see more of these types of programs and events.

This morning I awoke to learn that four suicide bombers in Baghdad had massacred more than 30 Iraqi civilians on the first day of Ramadan. And once again the Muslim world stays silent, as we have in Afghanistan, Algeria, Indonesia, Libya, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, and Sudan. So much for our humanity.


National Geographic, A Century on Islam Coverage
National Geographic, The World of Islam