Page 76 - Islam In Focus

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The description of the rules and steps followed during the Hajj are rather lengthy.
They will not be discussed here. For further details the reader may consult the
elaborate works on the subject. However, it should be pointed out that during the
whole course of Hajj there are informed guides always available to help the pilgrims
with right instructions
It should also be pointed out that the entire course of devotion is to God alone. The
Muslims go to Mecca in glory of God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-
divinity. Kissing or touching the Black Stone at the Ka’ bah is an optional action, not
an obligation or a prescription. Those who kiss the Black Stone or touch it do not do it
because they have faith in the Stone or attribute any superstitious qualities to it. Their
Faith is in God only. They kiss or touch or point to the Stone only as a token of
respect or a symbol of love for Prophet Muhammad, who laid the Stone at the
foundation of the Ka’ bah when it was reconstructed. That event has a special
significance. It depicts Muhammad as a man designated for peace. When the Ka’ bah
was under reconstruction, some years before the advent of Islam, the Black Stone was
to be laid at its foundation. The tribal chieftains had a quarrelsome dispute over him
who was to have the honor of restoring the Stone. This was a very serious matter and
the shadows of civil war hung over the holy place. The Stone was held in especially
high reverence by the chieftains, although it was nothing more than a piece of stone.
This reverence may be attributed to the fact that the Stone was connected with
Prophet Abraham, the Great Grandfather of the Arabs, and that it was, perhaps, the
only solid stone remaining from the antique structure of the Sacred Edifice. Be that as
it may, the Stone as such has no significance whatsoever as far as Islam and the
Muslims are concerned
When the chieftains failed to settle the dispute among themselves, they agreed to let
the first incomer decide the issue. Muhammad was the first incomer. He then decided
to wrap up the Stone in a piece of cloth and asked the disputants to hold it together
and restore it in such a way that each chieftain would have had a part in the operation.
They were happy with his wise decision and put it into effect immediately. Thus the
issue died out and peace was maintained. This is the moral of the story of the Black
Stone. So when the pilgrims kiss the Stone or point at it with reverence, they do so in
remembrance of Muhammad, the wise peace-maker. The point may become clearer
by comparison. It is a natural thing for a good patriot returning from exile, or a
fighting soldier coming back from the battlefield to do certain things upon reaching
the borders of his beloved homeland. For example, he may kiss the ground at the
borders, or embrace with deep emotions the first few compatriots he meets, or show
admiration for some landmarks. This is considered normal and appreciable, but no
one would think that the patriot or the soldier worships the ground or deifies his
fellow compatriots or attributes some Divine qualities to the landmarks. The behavior
of the pilgrims should be interpreted in a similar way. The Ka’ bah at Mecca is the
spiritual center of Islam and the spiritual homeland of every Muslim. When the
pilgrim reaches Mecca his feelings would be like those of a patriot coming home from
exile or a triumphant soldier returning from a decisive battle. This is not a figurative
interpretation. It corresponds with the facts of history. The early Muslims were
expelled out of their home and forced to live in exile for years. They were denied the
right to worship in the Ka’ bah, the most sacred house of God in existence. When they
returned from exile, the Ka’ bah was their main destination. They joyfully entered the