New Impressions at the Holy Land
There rests the Holy Kabaah in the sacred mosque in all its glory, surrounded by a multitude of pilgrims either walking around, standing, bowing, prostrating, busy in total remembrance of Allah at all twenty-four hours. This monument, only a cube of black stone nine meters high and twenty-three meters in width, surpasses any other monument in the world in magnanimity and commands the attention and respect of more than a billion believers.
I was overwhelmed by the number of pilgrims in the mosque recently when I was there to perform Umrah for the third time. It was neither Ramzaan nor Hajj season, yet the mosque remained over-packed particularly at times of prayers. If you are even a little late at the time of a prayer, you have to pray back in the courtyard on the marble floor. Once I even prayed on the steps of the hotel where we stayed, because I was late and the whole courtyard, the street by the mosque and the steps of the hotel were all full of people - giving an impression of a vast sea of human heads submitting before the Almighty.
The same sea of believers I also saw in Masjid-e-Nabvi in Medina. The traffic of pilgrims keeps on growing, and because of that the authorities in Mecca and Medina have started construction of new hotels, apartments and other tall buildings everywhere. In the Harem Sharif in Mecca and in Masjid-e-Nabvi in Medina, you can also see a number of families of limited means sleeping at nights. Men, women and children sprawled in the courtyards, eating, resting and praying, pass the duration of their pilgrimage in utter peace, oblivious of the people around.
One thing that struck my mind was that Islam not only is truly the fastest growing religion in the world, but also its adherents are completely devoted to the Faith. So strong is their devotion that when they are in Harem Sharif in Mecca or in Masjid-e-Nabvi in Medina, they seem to lose themselves completely in their devotion.
Such then is the zeal of Muslims all over the world. Resting at night in my bedroom of the hotel and cherishing the partial view of the great mosque through a huge glass window, something stirred in my mind. We are fully devoted to our Faith. We pray zealously, fast during Ramzaan and on some other special days, give zakat, perform Umrah and Hajj and strongly believe in the oneness of Allah, yet we suffer in every corner of the world!
Muslims are suffering the brunt of natural disasters. External forces are trying to crush us, ethnic and sectarian violence bleed us, suicide bombings and target killings make us homeless, helpless and insecure. Muslims from different countries and sects look down upon each other. There is absolutely no unity among Muslims.
I, and many others like me, would tend to believe that Allah is not pleased with us. That's why His Blessings and Mercy fail to reach us in spite of our adhering to the five tenets of Islam so devotedly!
The glorious past of Muslims when Muslims ruled over half of the world and were foremost in all fields of advancements is over. After the conquest of Mecca in the seventh century, the Force of Islam ruled with power all over Arabia, and the true spirit of Islam prevailed in the hearts of all believers and growing followers. Our Prophet (pbuh) preached peace and harmony and emphasized that people of the Books (Muslims, Christians, Jews and all others who believed in one God) were believers and as such should remain at peace with one another, tied in brotherhood and love. Besides religion, he taught the Muslims basic human values, such as piety, compassion, kindness, good manners, sacrifice, unity and the importance of pursuit of knowledge, and urged them to imbibe in their character all that was noble.
After the passing away of the Prophet (pbuh), for many years the rightly guided Caliphs and the true followers of Islam kept the spirit of Islam alive. But gradually the baser elements began to surface. Political intrigues, corruption, conflict among Muslims, bloodshed and greed for power all raised their ugly heads.
The domain of Islam kept on growing and more than half of the world was under Islamic banner. Yet, piety, honesty, sense of justice and universal love were being replaced by love of luxury, power, voluptuous living and self-gratification. Muslims started losing Islamic values!
The Muslim Empire which had risen to the peak of power and cultural splendor, which was the center of enormous wealth, literature, learning, commerce, medical, architectural and scientific achievements, unfortunately began to harbor vice and corruption, where rulers donned the garb of kings and sultans living in palatial mansions and enjoying utmost luxury, treating people like slaves and overlooking the benefits of technical innovations, general education and efficient and good governance. This trend still continues, except that there are now luxury-conscious sheikhs and kings, corrupt and inefficient presidents and prime ministers, wealth-devouring ministers, who rule - or rather misrule - Muslim countries.
The lamp of learning which Muslim philosophers and scientists lit long back could not illuminate for long their own people, but sparked the western mind!
This is the state Muslims today. Helpless Muslims pray for Divine help, but forget what is in the Quran; Allah never changes the condition of people unless they change themselves.
I came out of these thoughts as I heard the azaan being delivered. It was time for Isha prayers. I came out of the hotel and entered the mosque. My mind was at peace while offering prayers. I prayed to Allah to give guidance to Muslims, to show them the correct path and eventually to bring in a new Muslim Age which would rekindle the true spirit of Islam and spread it far and wide to the deep corners of the world.
Rafiq Ebrahim Valjee is a writer from Winfield, IL, USA. He can be reached at [email protected]