Close your eyes and visualize what it must be like to see people from countless communities and countries converging on one ‘Centre’ through a thousand and one routes from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Their faces are different, their colours are different, their languages are different, but on reaching a frontier near the ‘Centre’ all exchange the varied clothes they are wearing for a simple uniform of the same design.
This single, common uniform of ihram distinguishes them as the army of one single King. It becomes the insignia of obedience and service to one Being; all are strung in one cord of loyalty and are marching toward one ‘Capital’ to file past their ‘King’.
Hajj: Universal Community
When these uniformed soldiers move beyond the frontier, the same cry issues forth loudly from their mouths:
“labbayka Allahumma labbayk, la sharika laka labbayk”.
(Here am I before You, 0 God, doubly at You service, there is no partner unto You, here am I.)
There languages are different but the words they utter are the same; they have the same meaning.
As the center approaches, the circle containing the pilgrims contracts. Caravans from different countries continue joining each other. All perform their prayers together in one and the same manner.
All are dressed in similar uniforms, all are led by one Imam (leader), all are moving simultaneously, all are now using the same language, all are rising, sitting, bowing down (ruku`) and prostrating themselves (sujud) at one signal of Allahu akbar (God is the Greatest), and all are reciting and listening to one Arabic Qur’an.
In this way the differences of nationality, country and race are obliterated and a universal community of God-worshippers is constituted.
Around the Centre
When these caravans pass on, loudly raising with one voice the call of labbayka, labbayka, when at every ascent and descent the same words resound, when at the time of meeting of caravans these same voices are raised from both sides, and when at the time of every Prayer and at dawn these exclamations reverberate, a unique atmosphere is created whose exhilarating effect makes a man forget his self and become absorbed in the ecstasy of labbayka.
After reaching the Ka`bah comes the act of circumambulation, then the doing of sa`i by all together between Safa and Marwah, then the encampment of all at Mina, then the departure of all towards `Arafah and the listening to their leader’s address, then a night’s sojourn by all at Muzdalifah, then the return of all together towards Mina.
Then comes the throwing of stones in unison by all at jamarat, then the animal sacrifice performed by all, then the return of all together to the Ka`bah for further circumambulation, and then the offering of salah by all together around the center all this carries within itself an effect which has absolutely no parallel.
The article is an excerpt from the author’s “Let Us Be Muslims”.