Alhamdullilah, I returned from Jeddah, via Amman, a couple of days ago. I have some random thoughts on my Hajj experiences I will jot down here but might write something more extensive later given time (I've already had to start working too!).
Weber was probably right: Europeans do bureaucracies better.
Don't believe the hype: British Muslims are more British than they would like you to think.
Western Muslims are a bunch of softies.
"Near the time of Qiyaamah the rich ones from amongst my Ummah will perform Hajj for the sake of travel and holiday [...] The middle class will perform Hajj for commercial purposes, thereby transporting goods from here to there while bringing commercial goods from there to here. The Ulamaa will perform Hajj for the sake of show and fame [...] The poor will perform Hajj for the purpose of begging" (link). You must do Hajj to fathom this in its entirety. God forgive us.
But (on a positive note), Surat al-Nasr verse 2, says something along the lines of 'you will see the people enter God's Religion in crowds'. No matter where around the masjid you stand (I was staying on Ibrahim Khalil Road), the full import of this verse, beyond its historical reference to the Prophet's (upon whom be peace) time, becomes clear when all you see is people from all four corners entering (or attemping to enter!) Masjid al-Haram and perform salat. No matter what time you come to perform a tawaf or sa'i, there are literally, people of all sizes, colours, shapes, nationalities, races. It's a flag-lovers dream to spot the most obscure flag stiched on the clothing or baggage of pilgrims. Subhanallah, it truely is a sight.
Who said the Saudi authorities don't know anything about irony? I mean, why else would they build an Intercontinental Hotel outside the Haram at Makkah and call it Dar al-Tawhid?
Some people forget to stone the devil inside them.
The Zam Zam Towers are less than half complete but salesmen are floating around the Haram offering apartments to pilgrims; if you're interested they start at around SR 200,000 (I only know the figure because it was repeated to me more times a day than the azaan).
Our architecture must be associated with our faith of whatever kind (religious or secular) because it is only faith that can inspire. If so, what can we make of the relentless construction of multistorey hotels, skyscapers and shopping plazas around Makkah and Masjid al-Nabawi? (Didn't William Golding write something on faith architecture?)
The authorities in Makkah and Medina should stick a sign up at the entrance to the Masjid al-Haram, like those found in so many mosques around the world now: "Switch off your mobile phone".
Is there something left in this world that isn't made in China?
Queues are probably haram. As is efficiency.
Add the exercise of reason to the above.
Whatever else one can say about the Saudi ruling clan, it can't be denied that they do at least care, however much one may speculate, about their role as "Custodians of the Two Holy Places"; they've obviously spent a lot of money on modernising the facilities at the two sites, as well as at Mina.
My own personal interpretation of the tawaf: it's exactly like life. In some parts of the circuit you struggle, usually against other people, as you do in life; in other parts of the circuit you find relief and ease, just as you do in life.
Is our own salvation more important the well being and lives of our fellow man?
A sign above a water station which says "Men Only" does not really mean men only, but means sending your wife to collect water from a water station marked "Men Only" and then telling other men they are committing haram when she bumps into them.
The incident at the Jamarat could be avoided if people were taught -- or bothered to learn -- the siginificance of the various rites of the Hajj. Instead people are selfish. One of my relatives was caught up in the incident and says she saw people literally climbing over other people to get away from the area. I only found out about the full extent of the incident when I returned to Makkah around Asr time and received a phone call from my worried sister.
Did the Prophet (upon whom be peace) ever kick or punch or shove someone to get a drink of water?
A new technique for making room for oneself in a crowded mosque: "accidentally" kick the worshipper sitting down while chanting "bismillah".
What would our Prophet (upon whom be peace) have made of the fighting and jumping to enter the area between his pulpit and his resting place?
The Hajj provides an indication of the most advanced Muslim nations in terms of management, organisation and use of resources. Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia pass with flying colours. Pakistan fails miserabley.
Underestimate Turkish pensioners at your own peril.
How many Saudi nationals have ever had their hands amputated for stealing?
There's a reason why Muslims lost control of their third holy site. Just look at the way they treat their other two. Mina and Muzdalifa looked like two huge rubbish sites once the days of rites were finished and people were happy to throw their rubbish anywhere and everywhere around the Masjid al-Haram.
Never again will I believe the claim that Muslims don't wish to be part of modern consumerist societies. Visit Makkah during Hajj and witness the frenzied shopping between prayers (even between Isha and Fajr), the voracious consumption and the sheer waste produced. There were huge queues and fights to get food and drink from the street vendors who would turn up in Mina and Muzdalifa -- and you only spend one night at Muzdalifa!
If you're rich enough you too can be chauffeur driven, in gas-guzzling SUVs, through the crowds at the Jamarat and have a ring of bodyguards protect you from the plebs.
Some Muslims will blame God's will for their own incompetence (like organising a 25-seat minibus for 24 people and all their luggage).
I now understand why my employers have difficulty in selling risk management services to our Middle East clients.
Every beauty does indeed have a veil. Some are more heavily veiled than others, and for me the heaviest veiled was sabr. It is especially difficult to unveil when a hefty Misri is repeatedly shoving you in your back while telling you to have patience.
Having an umbrella with holes during an Indian monsoon would be more useful than asking a Saudi policeman for directions.
Not directly Hajj related: if the Hashemite clan want outsiders to invest in Jordan -- as adverts around Queen Aliya Airport suggest -- then the King's advisors would be advised to ask him to invest some of the US Aid he receives in toilet flushes for their airports.
An individual has left a comment regarding the importance of "priorities":
"[C]onversations based around trousers are.....VERRY [sic] SAD."
"Please wake up and pay heed to FAR MORE PRESSING ISSUES."
(In defence of Haroon and I, it should be pointed out that the individual seems to have taken the exchange out of context; but I digress.)
Two weeks ago I arrived back in London. Being a bookish person I decided that, after the Friday prayer, I would take the afternoon off work and visit SOAS (like you do). SOAS has a very good collection of Islamic works, especially volumes of Arabic texts (though not all are available to a private individual like me). I was leafing through a book, when I noticed this large set of books. It was a work of fiqh by al-Shirazi, a famous Shafi'i jurist. The work is enormous in its size: over 100 volumes (I think it was 110 volumes to be precise).
And then something struck me, whilst I was reading the covers to see what was in each volume. Whereas jihad was covered by some two volumes, salah seemed to occupy nearly 20. About a fifth of this work had been dedicated to covering aspects of the ritual prayer, in comparison to a tiny fraction which was dedicated to warfare.
Looking around today, I wonder: do we have our priorities right?
Progress is the definitive idea of modernism. It is embodied in the claims that modernity has reached a peak from which it can survey all that has come before it, thus shaping all that will come from now on, free of supersition, free of religion, free of irrationalisms. Philosophy, ethics, science, all 'progress' towards the betterment of mankind; indeed history itself is a narrative of progression of the human species. This faith in progress is widespread. But whether or not this is true is not the main point here.
Modern Islam has developed a self-conscious movement which has been called 'progressive' Islam. Is this the same as the modern progress seen in the West? It might well exhibit the same qualities in certain aspects (in anycase, Muslims have had a century long tradition of Islamic modernism, and its affects have even made themselves felt on Traditional and revivalist Islam). But this question requires a lot more thought than I can dedicate.
Why is this weblog called Muslims Under Progress? Well, the truth is that it was initially an accident, of sorts. I happened to have a weblog called "Under Progress", which I used to type a few essays and thoughts 'under progress'. One day, flicking through a work on the Indian Sufi Ahmad as-Sirhindi, I came across the idea on the transformation of evil into good. Sirhindi's idea being that man does not flee to the hills to seek sanctuary in face of evils and temptations; but, it is the hardships (as well the joys) of this life are themselves a transforming process of the individual in his earthly existence; and it is this transformation that I saw as a constant moral progression towards the Last Day and God. Each sin ought to propel the Muslim to overcome his al-nafs al-'ammara (the insinuating soul) with even more rigour, and continue his moral progress, which never ends in his lifetime; there is no moral (or 'spiritual') peak we attain in this life, for that would suggest that life has ended. So, I decided to simply use the 'Under Progress' title to signify what I, as an individual, was going through. In this respect, I must distance myself from any political or philosophical notions of progress, as commonly understood.
So, the individual who, after reading my short essay "Saving Islam from moral nihilism", seemed to be horrified at my criticism of secularism being a 'corrosive acid' (which it is), can rest at ease that I am not out to hoodwink anyone into believing I am a secularist...
Recently, I read an article in Pakistan's English-language "The Friday Times" that said that the 1971 War, wherein East Pakistan declared independence and became Bangladesh, discredited the two-nation theory. However, that is entirely incorrect. Worse still, the event is barely discussed in Pakistan, and whenever it is, it's massively stupid-headedly discussed. I find it ironic that Pakistanis complain about how "Arabs and Turks and Persians" don't care about us (to some degree, it is an accurate complaint -- for all the attention Pakistanis shower on Palestine, very little is returned to issues like Gujurat and Kashmir, unfortunately). Nevertheless, Pakistanis should be paying more attention to the wrongs of 1971.
What undermined Pakistan was not ethno-linguistic Bengali Muslim separatism, but the arrogance of West Pakistani Muslims. Whatever the latter might have thought, Shaykh Mujib was democratically elected and should have been allowed to take office. Preventing him from forming a government was akin to saying, “Your vote counts less than our vote.” (This is the same thing, in principle, that caused the American colonies to leave England’s dominion – not disproving the viability of democracy, but on the contrary, proving it). The idea of the two-nation theory posited that all Indian Muslims, regardless of origin, were in some sense a cohesive entity. Had the Bengalis been on an equal footing with the West Pakistanis, they would not have left (That is, been forced to leave).
Further, had the two-nation theory been a sham, the Bengali separatism and nationalism that exploded in the 1960’s and early 1970’s would have at least made a move for reunification with dominantly Hindu West Bengal (Like Kashmir and the Punjab, the Bengal was partitioned between Pakistan and India). Instead, after a brief flirtation with complete secularism, Bangladesh retained a prominent place for Islam in its Constitution (1975: 4 years after independence). This shows, then, that Indian Muslims required both their national and religious identity to be respected -- which has implications for Pakistan, as mentioned in post II. Bengali Muslim independence from Pakistan does not mean that the Bengalis were against Islam or averse to being part of the same country as other Muslims.
The Bengali Muslims had voted for inclusion in Pakistan. They had welcomed immigrants from India, just as West Pakistanis had. But they were so neglected that, on independence, no one had bothered to send any Pakistani flags to Dhaka, the major city of East Pakistan.
OTHER INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES:
The Muslim League, under Jinnah’s leadership, had alternatively considered a confederation of Pakistans or two independent Muslim countries, in place of the more centralized country. The confederation plan mused that East Pakistan and West Pakistan would be very loosely connected. West Pakistan would be developed and tied to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran, to balance out India’s larger size, while East Pakistan would serve as a regional hub for the huge Muslim population of Southeast Asia. Proposals were floated for developing Chittagong as a major trade center.
Interestingly, Jinnah had also considered an independent Bengali Muslim state, so long as it included Calcutta (Jinnah did not want provinces themselves to be partitioned: His vision of Pakistan was of a country like India, except with a majority Muslim population. He did not conceive of it as wholly Muslim, as indeed his opposition to the partition of the Punjab and Bengal revealed).
Jinnah argued, however, that if this Bengali state was robbed of Calcutta, then the resultant entity would not be economically, politically or physically viable. Alas, recent developments have proved him right. The British carved out East Pakistan so that it was little more than the floodplains of major rivers, preventing the Bengali Muslims from developing a prosperous society. Jinnah was also right in another sense: Preventing the inclusion of minorities in Pakistan has made it a radically intolerant society, and his underlying concern has been proved right, even now: In each of the three countries, the dominant group (Punjabis, Hindus and Muslim Bengalis) has acted in a bullying manner towards lesser populations.
Having mentioned Turkey, let me mention the problem of Ataturkitis, or the “Ataturk disease.” That is, Pakistanis look to the most irrelevant persons and solutions for their very real and accelerating problems. A brief example, before a further diagnosis: The built in the 1960's capital, Islamabad, has been constructed as if Pakistan were a fully industrialized nation (wherein people enjoy living in neighborhoods named after letters alien to them and their culture). This is assuredly stupid, and a result of the aforementioned Ataturkitis.
One of Islamabad’s few un-numbered avenues is “Ataturk Avenue.” Pray tell, what in Allah’s name does Ataturk have to do with Pakistan? Was it because he was a secularist (Actually, he hated Islam and so he gifted his hatred onto Turkey, which is still dealing with it)? There are quite a few hardline secularists who attempt to argue Jinnah was a secularist, whereas he clearly was not. As “proof,” they refer to these three facts:
A) Jinnah drank. Which, to me, makes little difference. Firstly, because he gave that habit up towards the end of his life, and secondly, even if he did -- it's better than supposedly Islamic governments betraying their people left and right. Besides, the first Mughal emperor Babar and the great pan-Islamic poet Allama Iqbal drank, and who would consider them irreligious or secular?
B) Jinnah allegedly ate pork. This story is mentioned once, in M.C. Chagla’s book (Something about Roses, I think), but who is Chagla? A former secretary of the Muslim League who was dismissed by Jinnah and refused to support Pakistan afterwards, so angry was he at this dismissal. Instead, he remained in India after Partition and joined the Indian government. The rest of his life, he could hardly be considered favorable towards Jinnah or Pakistan. Besides, even the most irreligious Muslim does not eat pork, barring Salman Rushdie, who ate it to proclaim his “separation” from Islam (His words, not mine). So what is the likelihood Jinnah did? Some Pakistan-bashers like to raise the last two points, as if they are conclusive. Small-minded Muslims, too, rely on such inanities to judge a political movement.
C) There is a third, less-used but still common argument against Pakistan's founder being "religious" or identifiably Muslim: Because Jinnah included a Hindu in a prominent post on his cabinet, he was secular. Inf fact, he was so "secular" he even attended Christmas services in Pakistan, to reassure the minorities (That sounds strange, does it not? Because in modern day Pakistan, that would be unfathomable). Anyway, this is a silly point. By that logic, because the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, allied himself with Jewish tribes and gave some of his property, at death, to a Jewish man, he too was a secularist.
DESTROYING ATATURK AVENUE:
The Subcontinent is a maddeningly but fascinatingly diverse place. Only in Pakistan, each province has its major language, with some history, literature and music behind it, that makes it distinct from the other provinces. In that regard, Pakistan is quite different from other major Muslim countries, which do not have nearly that same degree of diversity and so the same challenges.
So why would Pakistanis idolize a man who forcibly homogenized, standardized and insecuritized (I made up a word, I know – but it is a good word, I think) his people? It is all very upsetting. More appropriate than Ataturk would be the champions of multiculturalism in India, or in Canada, or in Belgium, or anywhere else major languages are spoken by large portions of the population.
(BRIEF ASIDE): One thing that quite irks me about the Muslim world, overall, is its posited radical separation between religiosity (by which I mean, loyalty to Islam and an Islamic identity) as against any sense of creativity, culture and aesthetics. Or, at times, common sense. In traditional Islamic thought, taking care of the environment, showing a feeling of community responsibility (through the establishment of awqaf, building schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, caravansarai, etc.), preserving language, literature and culture – all were prominent concerns. Understandable, even. Today, it is sadly the opposite.
For example, in order to build Islamabad, much of the region’s storied heritage and old architecture was unceremoniously flattened. The result: A city with no connection to the past (And a people without a past are, automatically, a people without a future). If a person advances a cultural or environmental cause, generally, he or she is perceived as (or is) "secular," and hence, fails to win significant support and attention. Why is there such a massive dividing line, such that religiosity equals xenophobia, and activism in a worldly sense is equated with indifference to spirituality?
(ON TO THE MAIN POINT): I went to Badshahi Masjid last week and what did I see, but people littering left and right? It’s fine if you have become, as a people, so pathetic that you can only take pictures of things your ancestors built (and that with cameras someone else had to invent), but why ruin your heritage – the only thing in which you have an indigenous pride? It made me almost as angry as the second looting and pillage of Baghdad’s grand museums, libraries and collections. For we are as individuals defined by societies, whether some may like that or not. Any destruction or weakening of the society weakens us and cuts short our possibilities. Littering at Badshahi is something like an unspoken wish to promote cultural suicide. Either that, or people have no manners. Which is in fact the point of this post.
I have concluded, Islam needs no “revolution” or “reformation” to re-establish its prosperity, but a return to basic manners and social responsibility. Take that, Tariq Ali. Once Pakistanis, like Egyptians still do, would say salam to strangers and show more openness. Thanks to fanaticism, cultural alienation and the like, Islamabad is a much more suspicious city. What is really needed is basic human decency. I have included some suggestions:
1. Saying "wa alaykum salam"
3. Driving in one’s lane
4. Not building driveways ostentatiously, ridiculously and abruptly halfway out into the road, so that your own street goes from two perfectly acceptable lanes to one accident-prone alley
5. Forming a line instead of shoving the person ahead of you to indicate it is his turn to make an order at Kentucky Fried Chicken
6. Land Reform