Hajj, Symbol of Obedience to God (1)
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. On the occasion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the huge worldwide gathering of Muslims of different countries, diverse ethnicities, various skin colours and speaking a variety of languages, we have prepared for you some short accounts in this regard to be broadcast daily.
Ibn Abi’l-Owja was an avowed atheist. As a fiery speaker, he used to incite hatred in society. Scholars refrained from association with him and in order to protect themselves from his malicious tongue they always kept a respectable distance from him. Once, as the annual Hajj pilgrimage started, Ibn Abi’l-Owja, along with some fellow atheists, deliberately tried to desecrate the sanctity of Masjid al-Haraam or the Sacred Grand Mosque that houses the Holy Ka’ba – the Symbolic House of the Unseen but Omnipresent One and Only Creator of the universe.
Ibn Abi’l-Owja and his friends looked at the pilgrims and tried to mock them as they circumambulated the Holy Ka’ba. Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS) the 6th Infallible Heir of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) was sitting in another part of Masjid al-Haraam surrounded by throng of his disciples listening eagerly to him and noting down the bezels of wisdom he was imparting to them regarding God Almighty, Divine Laws, and the rules of the Hajj pilgrimage.
Ibn Abi’l-Owja, urged by his atheist associates, thought he could ridicule the Imam by engaging him in a pointless debate and thus belittling him in front of all Muslims. He got up and in an arrogant manner and on approaching the Imam, said in a mocking tone: I don't understand how long the Hajj pilgrims would continue to trample the land of Mecca and how long they would continue to worship these stones and rocks? How long would they continue to run around it like runaway camels? Are these not actions of ignorant and stupid people? As you are the Imam of the Muslims and the son of the Founder of Islam, give me a satisfactory answer.
In response to the atheist, Imam Ja’far Sadeq (AS) said, “O man! You have not reflected on the actual matter. The Ka'ba is the protected sanctuary through which the Almighty Allah tests His creation, because this House is associated with Him. Therefore it is emphasized to respect and visit it. It is appointed as the place of worship for prophets and the direction of prayers of religious people. This House is the channel of His mercy and the medium of salvation. He created this House two thousand years before the creation of the world. The dignity of our servility is only that we follow each and every command of Allah and let the purpose for which the Ka'ba is created, be fulfilled.”
Ibn Abil-Owja said: I am sorry to say that you have associated this house to such a personality whose existence I refuse to believe. How can one believe in the existence of something which is unseen? And till one does not believe, there is no question of obeying His commands.
The Imam answered: “You do not use your intellect. He (God Almighty) is present and seeing everywhere and at every moment; and is nearer to you than your jugular vein. He listens to what we say and sees us and He knows the secrets of our hearts.”
Ibn Abil-Owja retorted: First prove His existence. If He is on the earth, how He goes to the heavens and if He is in the heavens, how does He come to the earth? Imam Sadeq (AS) said: “He is not confined to space so that another place is empty of Him or someplace should surround Him. If He had been confined to a place there would not have been any difference between Him and the creatures.”
Ibn Abil-Owja asked: But how does this prove that He is the Creator of all things?
The Imam replied: “Does such an obvious fact require a proof? I ask you, who has created you?”
No one has created me, replied the atheist, and the Imam shot back: “Is it possible for any created thing to come into being without a maker?”
When Ibn Abi’l-Owja heard this he became speechless and worried, and changing tracks he said: Okay, let it be. Tell me what is the use of things like Day of Judgment, accounting, Paradise and Hell etc. of which you are a believer? After death, a man is mixed with the dust and all these things are mere assumptions.
Imam Ja’far (AS) said: “Even if it is assumed that you are right, there is no fear for us after death and if your belief is wrong there is no scope for your salvation, while we are risk-free in both the cases. Now you tell me, which of us is better?”
Hearing this, he bowed down his head and after remaining silent for some time, said: I accept your statement, but tell me, the Qur’an says, 'When the skins of the inmates of Hell are burnt down, they would be given fresh skins.' Can you explain that the skins that had committed the sins are burnt once, what is the fault of the new skins?”
The Imam said: “They would be the same old skins, only their forms would be changed again. Like a brick is powdered and mixed with water and put in a die for making another brick. The same would be the case of the skins of the people of Hell.”
Ibn Abi’l-Owja said, “Further, you tell me why different people die due to different diseases? What is the problem if all were to die due to the same disease?
Imam Sadeq (AS) said: “If it had been so, people would have remained fearless of death till the appearance of this disease and Allah does not like that anyone should be fearless of death.”
We end today’s episode with recitation of ayah 27 of Surah Hajj, where God Almighty tells Prophet Abraham:
“And proclaim the Hajj to people: they shall come to you on foot and on lean camels coming from distant places,”