Hajj: An Embodiment of Unity in Islam
Tying in Malcolm X’s legacy to better understand the importance of unity in Islam
Author: Raneem Qassem
All Muslims must complete hajj once in their lifetime if they have the means of doing so, and I had the privilege of performing hajj in 2018. It was truly a life-changing experience. Seeing Muslims from all around the world dressed the same, all worshipping one God, helps portray the sense of unity that the religion so strongly preaches.
During hajj, there is no separation based on race or culture-we are all one, performing the same actions in unity. Nowhere else is the sense of brotherhood so strong, truly depicting what the religion calls for. In the Quran, it states that “Among His wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colors. For in this, behold, there are signs for those of knowledge” (Quran 30:22). This passage was unique, especially for its time, in that it emphasizes the differences present among people without teaching that only specific groups were the people of God. Diversity allows us to learn from other people, and it does not imply that there can not be unity with diversity.
In the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, he discussed why racism was detrimental and should not be permissible. He stated that “All humans are descended from Adam and Eve. There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.” This idea forms the basis of Islam, as spirituality and character matter rather than outward characteristics that can not be changed. Instead, someone’s value should stem from their beliefs rather than how they look, and that will allow people to respect others for who they truly are.
During hajj, all men dress with two unstitched towels, which are their ihram clothes. Women dress in long modest clothing, usually black or white. Seeing everyone dressed the same emphasizes that we are all equal in the eyes of God, no matter where we came from or what our financial situation is like. Especially in the twenty-first century, people have become so caught up in dressing or looking a certain way that they overlook its superficiality, and seeing everyone dressed the same brings with it an ease that allows you to recognize that life is too short to worry about those things. Hajj is an experience where religion truly unites us all, crossing all sorts of racial and lingual boundaries. Seeing the vast sea of more than two million Muslims dressed the same all united for one purpose-to worship God-is truly a humbling experience.
A family dressed in their Ihram clothes
The transformative experience of hajj is also portrayed by Malcolm X in his well-known Letter from Mecca, where he describes how Muslims recognize the Oneness of God, thus allowing them to recognize the Oneness of humankind. During hajj, he saw Muslims of all colors from all around the world, and slept on the same bed or rug as kings and other rulers, realizing the extent of unity that Islam calls for. They regarded him as a brother, emphasizing the idea of brotherhood that is greatly encouraged in Islam. Before embarking on the journey to perform hajj, he had not truly recognized the importance of unity and equality for all people, and that just like whites should not be superior because of their skin tone, blacks shouldn’t either. He talks about the problem of racism in America, which he describes as an “incurable cancer.” It is an issue that is currently being discussed all around the country, sparking massive protests in all 50 states. It is our duty as Muslims to support the Black Lives Matter movement, as the color of someone’s skin should not determine how they are treated and our religion strongly supports that.
Islam is a religion of peace, calling for the equality of all. Hajj is truly an embodiment of unity in Islam because everyone is dressed the same, united by their purpose for being there to worship God. It provides a parallel to death, where everyone will end up under the ground no matter what their life was like. When Muslims die, they are similarly wrapped in garments, with no materialistic things from this life going into the grave with them. Hajj serves as a reminder that it is not about how you look or what material goods you have, but rather who you are as a person, and that is ultimately what matters.
Raneem Qassem is an incoming senior at Auburn High School in Rockford, Illinois. She is interested in public policy/political science and is involved in her school’s Model UN club. In her free time, she likes to read, run, and eat.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of Converge Interfaith.