Rekindling the True Spirit of Islam
By Rafiq Ebrahim Valjee
The Holy Kabaah majestically stands in the sacred mosque in all its glory and surrounded by a multitude of pilgrims busy in the remembrance of Allah. This monument, only a cube of black stone nine meters high and twenty-three meters wide, surpasses any other monument in the world in its magnificence and commands the respect of more than a billion believers.
I was overwhelmed by the number of pilgrims in the mosque last month when I was there to perform Umrah for the third time. It was neither Ramadan nor Hajj season, yet the mosque remained over-packed particularly at the time of prayers. If you are a little late you have to pray 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 full of people – looking like a vast sea of human heads bowed in submission to the Almighty.
I also witnessed a surging sea of believers in Masjid-e-Nabavi in Medina. The number of pilgrims keeps on mounting, and because of the phenomenal rise the authorities in Mecca and Medina have started the construction of new hotels, apartments and other high buildings everywhere. The addition of Mecca Tower with a big clock at the top, three hotels, shopping arcades and food courts inside, gives the surroundings the look of an ultra-modern city. One is sure that in a few years’ time the cities of Mecca and Medina will outshine any modern city in the world.
In the Harem Sharif in Mecca and in Masjid-e-Nabavi in Medina, you can also see a number of families of limited means sleeping at night. Men, women and children sprawled in the courtyards - eating, resting and praying - pass the duration of their pilgrimage in utter peace and oblivious of the people around.
One thing that struck me was that Islam is not only the fastest growing religion in the world today but 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-Nabavi in Medina, they seem to lose themselves completely in their devotion; and since these mosques are often over-crowded, one is likely to be subjected to jolts and heavy pushes from other believers.
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 the huge glass window, the realization stirred my mind. We are fully devoted to our Faith. We pray zealously, fast during Ramadan 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 part 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 render us homeless. Muslims from different countries and sects look down upon each other. There is absolutely no unity.
I, and many others like me, are inclined to believe that Allah is not pleased with us. That’s why His Blessings and Mercy do not reach us in spite of our adherence to the five tenets of Islam!
The glorious past of Muslims when they ruled over half of the world and were at the forefront in all fields is over. After the conquest of Mecca in the seventh century, the true spirit of Islam pervaded the hearts of the believers and growing followers. Our Prophet (pbuh) preached peace and emphasized that people of the Book (Muslims, Christians, Jews and all others who believed in one God) were believers and as such should remain at peace with one another. Besides religion, he taught the Muslims basic human values, such as piety, compassion, kindness, good manners, sacrifice, unity and pursuit of knowledge.
After the passing away of the Prophet (pbuh), for many years the rightly guided Caliphs and the true followers of the religion kept the spirit of Islam alive. But gradually the baser elements began to surface. Political intrigues, corruption, conflict, bloodshed and greed for power raised their ugly heads. Muslims started losing Islamic values. Their ascendancy in the world was seriously challenged.
The Muslim Empire which had risen to the zenith of power and cultural splendor, which was the center of enormous wealth, literature, learning, medical, architectural and scientific achievements, 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 ignoring the benefits of technical innovations, higher education and good governance. The trend continues, except that today 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.
This is the state of Muslims today. They pray for Divine help, but forget what is in the Qur’an: Allah never changes the condition of people unless they change themselves.
These reflections abruptly ended as I heard the azaan. It was the call 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 usher a new Muslim Age which would rekindle the true spirit of Islam and spread it far and wide to the farthest corners of the world.
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