Getting to Know Allah
Christianity has its Ten Commandments; Islam, its Five Pillars, four of which are about worshipping Allah. A Muslim who fails to observe even one of these pillars in the prescribed manner dramatically increases their chances of spending an eternity on fire.
The fifth of the Five Pillars is the Hajj pilgrimage (the others being the Shahadah, declaring allegiance to God; Salat, daily prayers; Zakat, compulsory charity; Saum (Ramadan), month-long fasting). Every able-bodied, financially capable Muslim adult must make the trek to Mecca during the sacred month of Dhu al-Hijjahin, the closing month of the Islamic calendar, at least once during his or her lifetime.
The Importance of Mecca
42:7 And so, We revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an in order to warn the Mother of the Cities (Mecca) and those around it and to warn of the Day of Forgathering which is undoubted, whereon a group shall be in Paradise and a group shall be in Hell.
5:97 Allah has made the Ka’ba, the Sacred House, a foundation of religion for all mankind, together with the Sacred Month and the sacrificial offerings and their garlands, so that you may know that Allah knows what is in the heavens and on the earth, and that Allah knows everything very well.
At the center of town is a cube made of bricks and covered by a thick black cloth, the Ka’ba (also spelled Ka’bah). Inside you will find a black stone, a meteorite about the size of a basketball, said to have been part of the original shrine built by Abraham.
3:96 The first House founded for mankind is truly that at Bakka (Mecca), blessed and a guidance to all the nations.
3:97 Therein are clear signs and the sacred site of Abraham. Whoever enters it will be secure. It is the duty to Allah incumbent on those who can, to make the pilgrimage to the House. But with respect to those who disbelieve, Allah has no need of all mankind.
Any non-believer caught within the sacred precinct of Mecca must convert on the spot or be beheaded forthwith.
“In 1979, non-Muslim gendarmes (GIGN, National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) had to convert to Islam before being allowed to assist the Saudis to liberate the Great Mosque which had been taken over by radical Islamist students who denounced the corruption of the regime." Le Point
In one tradition, it is the stone that Adam grabbed just before he and Eve were literally flung out of Paradise and which he dragged to its present location (see Shared Prophets: "Adam," Boreal Books), thereby confirming Mecca as the center of the Universe.
2:150 From whatever place you come out, turn your faces towards the Sacred Mosque. And wherever you all are, turn your faces towards it, lest people should have cause to argue with you, except for the evil-doers among them. Do not fear them, but fear Me so that I may complete My Grace upon you, and that you may be rightly guided.
Before Muhammad’s falling out with the Jews of Medina, Muslims were required to prostrate themselves in the direction of Jerusalem, not Mecca (see Jihad in the Koran: "Medina – A Change of Direction," Boreal Books).
The rituals of the pilgrimages are outlined in the Koran:
22:26 And [remember] when We appointed for Abraham the site of the (Sacred) House [saying]: “You shall not associate with Me anything and purify My House for those who circle around, those who stand up, those who kneel and those who prostrate themselves;”
22:27 And proclaim the pilgrimage to the people, and then they will come on foot or on every lean mount, coming from every deep ravine,
22:28 To witness benefits of theirs, and mention Allah’s name, during certain numbered days, over such beast of the flocks as He has provided them with. Eat, then, from them and feed the wretched poor.
22:29 Then, let them complete their self-cleansing and fulfill their vows and circle round the Ancient House (the Ka'bah).
22:30 All that; and whoever venerates the sacred things of Allah, it shall be well for him with His Lord. Cattle have been made lawful to you, except what is recited to you [to avoid]: so shun the abomination of idols, and shun false testimony.
22:31 Remain true to Allah, associating no gods with Him. He who associates anything with Allah is like one who has fallen from the sky and is snatched by the birds, or the wind hurls him down a very steep place.
22:32 All that; and he who venerates the sacred rites of Allah – it is the fruit of the piety of the hearts.
22:33 You have some benefit therefrom, for an appointed term; then their place of sacrifice is the Ancient House.
Moududi on why Verse 22:33 was revealed:
This is to remove the misunderstanding about getting any benefit from the animals dedicated for sacrifice as they were also included in the "Symbols of Allah.” This was necessitated because the Arabs believed that it was unlawful to get any benefit from them. One could neither ride on them nor carry any load on them nor consume their milk, after they had been dedicated for sacrifice during Hajj. In this verse that misunderstanding has been removed.
22:34 And to every nation, We have appointed a holy rite, so that they might mention Allah’s Name over whatever He has provided them with of the beasts of the flock. For your God is one God. Submit to Him and announce the good news to the humble;
22:35 Those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble, and those who endure what befalls them, and those who perform the prayer and spend from what We have provided them with.
22:36 And the camels We have made for you as parts of the sacred rites of Allah. You have some good therein; so mention Allah’s Name over them as they stand in line. When their sides fall to the ground, eat of them and feed the contented and the beggar. That is how We subjected them to you, that perchance you may be thankful.
22:37 Their flesh and blood will not reach Allah, but your piety will reach Him. Thus He subjected them to you, so that you may glorify Allah for guiding you. And announce the good news to the beneficent.
The penance for not completing the pilgrimages as prescribed can be found in Surah The Cow. The "proper pilgrimage" in the following is the Hajj while the "lesser pilgrimage" is the Umrah, which is not compulsory but highly recommended.
2:196 Perform the proper pilgrimage and the lesser pilgrimage for the sake of Allah. But if you are prevented, then make whatever offering (a sheep) is available; then do not shave your heads until the offering reaches its destination (where it can be slaughtered). Whoever of you is sick or has an injury in the head can atone for it by fasting, giving alms or sacrificing. When you are secure, whoever combines the lesser pilgrimage and the proper pilgrimage, should make whatever offering is available. But if he cannot, then let him fast for three days during the pilgrimage and seven days when he returns. That is a total of ten full days. This is incumbent on him whose family is not present at the Sacred Mosque. Fear Allah and know that His retribution is severe.
No sex please; we’re on pilgrimage.
2:197 Pilgrimage is [during] the appointed months. He who determines to perform the pilgrimage during them, shall abstain from intercourse, debauchery and acrimonious quarrel. And whatever good you do, Allah knows it. Make provision (for your journey). The best provision, however, is the fear of Allah. So fear Me, O people of understanding.
Safa and Marwa
Safa and Marwa are the names of the two mountains (hills, really) near Mecca. After Abraham’s wife Sarah became pregnant, God instructed him to take Hagar and Isma`il (also spelled Ishmael)—Islam considers Hagar a legitimate wife of Abraham and Isma`il, not Isaac, the Patriarch’s first-born son—from their home in Palestine to the desert wilderness of Arabia and leave them there. When their water ran out, Hagar ran frantically between the hills of Safa and Marwa until she collapsed next to her son, who struck his foot on the ground causing a spring to gush forth, the famous well of Zam Zam.
During the Hajj, pilgrims recreate Hagar’s frantic search for water by running seven times between the two hills. This tradition started after Muhammad ordered the destruction of idols on each of Safa and Marwa. Still, some believers were apprehensive about being near the hills because of the previous presence of the idols. Allah sent a revelation to assuage their fears.
2:158 Surely Safa and Marwa are beacons of Allah (His Religion). He who performs the proper or the lesser pilgrimage commits no sin if he goes around them. And those who volunteer to do a good deed will find Allah Rewarding, All-Knowing.
What Hagar did after Isma'il struck his foot may have done more than simply alter the course of scriptural history.
Narrated Ibn Abbas:
The Prophet said, "May Allah be merciful to the mother of Ishmael! If she had left the water of Zam-Zam (fountain) as it was, (without constructing a basin for keeping the water), (or said, "If she had not taken handfuls of its water"), it would have been a flowing stream.
Jurhum (an Arab tribe) came and asked her, 'May we settle at your dwelling?'
She said, 'Yes, but you have no right to possess the water.' They agreed."
Deaths, Molestations and Managing the Hajj
Permission must be obtained from the Saudis beforehand to perform the Hajj. More than two million Muslims do so every year. The Hajj consists of four major rituals, the most important being the mandatory seven circles around the Ka'ba followed by the re-enactment of Hagar's frantic search for water. It also includes Abraham's stoning of the devil and ends with the slow ritual bleeding to death of more than a million head of cattle, sheep, goats and camels. One for every two pilgrims (2019 attendance: 2,489,406).
The Saudis, by being in charge of Mecca, are literally in possession of an inexhaustible gold mine whose output increases as converts to Islam increase. To take further advantage of the pilgrimages, the Saudis have built, less than 300 meters from the Ka'ba, the Abraj Al Bait Complex and shopping mall with five stories and more than a 1,000 stores.
The steady increase in the number of converts making the major pilgrimage has presented Saudis with major problems that are bound to get worse as the world’s fastest growing religion explodes with new converts.
While they have made progress in safeguarding the lives of pilgrims during the Hajj, disasters still occur. The latest, at this writing, the death of more than a thousand pilgrims in 2015, most trampled to death during the stoning of the devil ritual. This ritual is probably the most difficult to manage because Abraham stoned the devil not once, not twice, but three times with seven stones reaching their target on each occasion, as must the stones of the pilgrims who launch their pebbles at pillars representing the Devil.
When he [Abraham] left Mina and was brought down to (the defile called) al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing with a sling. So the Devil withdrew from him."
A problem that seems insolvable with only an estimated 1.9 billion believers (2021) and country quotas is the groping that women and girls must endure as more than two million pilgrims circle the Ka'ba while rhythmically bowing up and down. (Women who cannot get a close male relative or their husband to accompany them are no longer required to perform the Hajj.)
It is next to impossible to segregate the sexes during the Hajj, therefore women and girls must silently submit, lest they be accused of arousing the males next to them, to the probing hands of men and boys whose religion does not allow them to get this close to the opposite sex until they are married, and who seek to understand with their hands what their religion has denied their eyes until their wedding night.
A young woman described her experience of the Hajj this way: "I spent the entire time with a least one man’s hand on my ass.” She half got up from her chair, leaned forward mimicking the bowing motion, lowered her head and raised her hands. "As my hands went up," she said, "two hands would go down to grab my butt, but of course, you don't dare complain."
For a woman’s complaint not to be taken as testimony against herself that she invited the attention would have required four witnesses to testify otherwise. The young woman whose experience is recounted here was accompanied by her father. He was not aware of what happened to his daughter until after, even though he was close to her at all times, trapped like her in a swirling mass of humanity grinding its way around the shrouded cube that is the Ka’ba.
Safely Accommodating Millions More Pilgrims at the Hajj
Two and half million is about the maximum number of pilgrims that can be accommodated for the Hajj because of the limitations of the finite space that is the Ka'ba and its surroundings. If every Muslim alive today wanted to do the Hajj, it would take more than 750 years to accommodate them all; this means that 80% or so could end up in Hell for not fulfilling one of the mandatory five pillars.
How could this have happened? Muhammad anticipated that the end of the world would occur during his lifetime or shortly thereafter (see From Merchant to Messenger: "The Reckoning", Boreal Books) when there was plenty of room for everyone at the Hajj. This may have had something to do with it. We do not know.
The Hajj could safely welcome millions more pilgrims if the Hagar search for water re-enactment and the stoning of the devil ritual—which were perhaps added by the Prophet so that Mecca would not suffer economically from the Hajj being much shorter than the old pagan multi-faith festival it replaced—were made part of the lesser pilgrimage only.
Today, with the number of pilgrims and other revenues, economics are no longer an issue. Millions more could be accommodated if the main ritual was made to mimic that of the Ka'ba in the sky with pilgrims entering by one door and exiting by another.
Except for an entrance and an exit door, Bait-ul-Ma'mur is almost an exact replica of the Ka’ba in Mecca and is situated directly above it, somewhere above the clouds. Like Muslims on earth, angels are required to make a pilgrimage to this Ka’ba in the sky at least once in their lifetime as immortals, and seventy thousand angels do so every day according to the Prophet who was shown the Bait-ul-Ma'mur by the angel Gabriel.
Anas b. Malik reported on the authority of Malik b. Sa sa', perhaps a person of his tribe, that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him) said I was near the House (i. e. Ka'bah) in a state between sleep and wakefulness.
Then the Bait-ul-Ma'mur was raised up to me.
I said: O Gabriel! what is this?
He replied: It is the Bait-ul-Ma'mur. Seventy thousand angels enter into it daily and, after they come out, they never return again.
Sahih Muslim 1.0314
Unlike Earth-bound pilgrims, angels do not circle the Ka'ba but enter by one door and exit by another. Much more efficient, which may explain why Muhammad once considered remodeling the Earth Ka'ba on the Ka'ba in the sky.
Ibn Az-Zubair said to me, "Aisha used to tell you secretly a number of things. What did she tell you about the Ka'ba?"
I replied, "She told me that once the Prophet said, 'O Aisha! Had not your people been still close to the pre-Islamic period of ignorance! I would have dismantled the Ka'ba and would have made two doors in it; one for entrance and the other for exit."
Perhaps it is time to revisit the concept and save perhaps a billion Muslims of our era from Hell’s Fire. As to the groping of women, to my knowledge, there is no rule against having more than one Hajj, only that it be held during the Sacred Month. A separate Hajj for men and one for women would solve the molestation problem.
The modifications suggested here will become even more pressing should intelligent life out there come to the same conclusion as intelligent life here: that there is only one god, and He is Allah, and that you must honour Him by making a pilgrimage to the place He designated as the center of the universe from wherever you are at least once in your lifetime, whatever that lifetime is.
Post Pilgrimage Rituals and Early Departures
2:198 It is no offence to seek a bounty from your Lord. So when you take off from ‘Arafat, remember Allah (pray to Him) at the sacred monument (a mountain near Muzdalafa, where pilgrims stop for the night on their journey back from ‘Arafat). Remember Him as He guided you, although you were, before that, among those in error.
2:199 Then take off from where people take off and ask Allah’s forgiveness. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.
2:200 Once you have performed your rites, remember Allah as you remember your fathers, or even with greater glorification. Some people say: “Our Lord, give us [a share] in this world.” And yet they have no share in the Hereafter.
2:201 Other say: “Our Lord, give us a bounty in this world and a bounty in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”
2:202 Those have a share (reward) of what they have earned (the good they did). Allah is quick in retribution.
If you have to leave early:
2:203 And remember Allah during appointed days (the three days following the day of sacrifice); but he who hastens making them two (the reference here is to who departs on the second day) incurs no sin, if he fears Allah. So fear Allah and know that you will surely be gathered together before Him.
Don’t be like Al Akhnas.
2:204 [You will find] among the people a person whose discourse about life in this world pleases you, and who calls Allah to vouch for what is in his heart, although he is your worst enemy (Al-Akhnas Ibn Shurayq).
2:205 And when he departs, he roams the land sowing corruption therein and destroying crops and livestock; but Allah does not like corruption.
2:206 And if it is said to him: “Fear Allah”, he is seized with pride in sin. Hell shall be sufficient for him and what a miserable resting-place!
Be like those who “sell themselves for the sake of Allah’s Favour.”
2:207 And some people sell themselves for the sake of Allah’s Favour. Allah is kind to [His] servants.
Yusuf Ali’s translation of Revelation
2:207: 2:207 And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees.
The Anthropological Impact of the Hajj
In response to criticism of the Catholic Church for such things as The Inquisition and The Crusades, a writer for Le Figaro defined the problem for those who would deny the cause and effect of the terrible violence done in Allah’s Name. The following is my translation of pertinent parts of his article.
The Catholic Church is not without its faults. Its history is filled with dark pages it regrets … However, what differentiates Christianity from Islam is that Christians can always return to the values in the Gospels and to the gentle person of Jesus and ignore a Church which has lost its way.
... Jesus is nonviolent. A return [to the teachings] of Jesus is the remedy for the excesses of religious institutions. Looking to the Prophet[/Koran] for guidance, on the other hand, only reinforces the hate and the violence.
Islam is a religion which in both its sacred text (Koran and Book of Hadiths) and in banal rituals promotes hatred and violence.
The ritual stoning of Satan every year at Mecca is not simply a re-enactment of a superstition… Its impact is anthropological. It is a ceremony to which every Muslim is encouraged to participate, and which sanctifies and encourages violence…
The greatest impact on the pilgrims’ psyche may not be the banal rituals, however, but the slow, painful and public way Allah wants animals sacrificed to His Magnificence to be put to death in Revelation 22:36, a way His spokesman obviously approved.
The Prophet slaughtered seven Budn (camel) with his own hands while the camels were standing. He also sacrificed two horned rams (black and white in color) at Medina.
A calf slaughtered the ritual way may take up to eleven minutes to die: eleven agonizing minutes during which it is fully aware. In its March 8, 2012 edition, Le Point, the popular mainstream French (France) weekly published excerpts from a confidential government report prepared by Le Conseil général de alimentation, de l’agriculture et des espaces ruraux on La protection animale en abattoir; la question particulière de l’abattoir rituel (Animal protection in slaughterhouses; the question of ritual slaughter, my translation).
The excerpts reveal that in the year 2010, 2,068,439 cattle, 382,460 calves, 2,568,444 sheep and 35,713 goats were ritually slaughtered, i.e., not rendered unconscious before being bled to death. The longest time reported for an animal to die while fully conscious was six minutes for cattle, almost twice that time for calves at eleven minutes, and five minutes for sheep. No time was available for goats or camels. The report goes on to describe, in great detail, the pain and suffering of animals killed in the way Allah prefers that Muhammad demonstrated at every opportunity.
The mass slaughter of animals that occurs during the Hajj and the one-day Festival of Sacrifice, celebrated over all the Muslim world, has to have a conditioning effect on witnesses to the slaughter, especially young men and boys, making them immune to the pain and suffering experienced by living things cruelly put to death. It may even kindle a love of killing in the cruelest way, whether it be an animal or an unbeliever, and they will have the example of what Allah did to Abraham's father to fall back on.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "On the Day of Resurrection Abraham will meet his father Azar whose face will be dark and covered with dust.
(The Prophet Abraham will say to him): 'Didn't I tell you not to disobey me?'
His father will reply: 'Today I will not disobey you.'
Abraham will say: 'O Lord! You promised me not to disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection; and what will be more disgraceful to me than cursing and dishonoring my father?'
Then Allah will say (to him):' 'I have forbidden Paradise for the disbelievers."
Then he will be addressed, 'O Abraham! Look! What is underneath your feet?'
He will look and there he will see a Dhabh (an animal,) blood-stained, which will be caught by the legs and thrown in the (Hell) Fire."
 36:47 And if it is said to them: “Spend freely from what Allah provided for you, the unbelievers say to the believers: ‘Shall we feed him whom Allah would have fed, if He wished. You are only in manifest error?’”