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Lessons of the Pilgrimage and ‘Id al-Adha

Mankind called back to original, simple beliefs

by the Editor

(The Light & Islamic Review, January-February 1992; p. 4-6)

Introduction / Abraham, and the Jewish and Christian faiths / Meaning of submission to God / Simple principles of faith / Sacrifice /

"Say: Allah speaks the truth; so follow the religion of Abraham, the upright one. And he was not one of the polytheists. Certainly the first house appointed for mankind is the one at Bakkah (Makka), blessed and a guidance for the nations. In it are clear signs: the place of Abraham; and whoever enters it is safe; and Pilgrimage to the house is a duty which people owe to Allah -- whoever can find a way to it." (The Quran, 3:94-96)

The Holy Quran tells us here that the Ka`bah was the first House of worship on earth that man built. Historical evidence, too, bears out that this House has existed from the most ancient times that we can go back to, and that it was visited annually by people and regarded as sacred. Thus Islam has chosen as its central shrine, not a place of significance in its own history (and there are numerous such places), but one which has significance in the history of religion of mankind -- where man first built a house of worship. Similarly, Islam accepted in essence the ancient pilgrimage to the Ka`bah, and did not institute some entirely new ceremony.

This clearly shows that Islam seeks to draw attention to the beginning and the roots of religion, and its original principles. As mankind became more advanced, and separate nations appeared, various prophets arose in each nation who gave more detailed religious teachings, applicable particularly to local circumstances. As time went on, and these religions developed separately, and were further interpreted by man's own thought, they diverged from one another as well as from the basic principles at their root.

So Divine wisdom, in order to make these divergent religions converge again, sent the final faith to the place which was the first where a religious monument was built, to call mankind back to the original principles of religion -- the simple fundamentals which had become lost in the haze and maze of the details of religious doctrines, ceremonies and controversies.

The Quran speaks of mankind (al-nas) when dealing with the Pilgrimage, and not just believers or Muslims. For instance:

"Pilgrimage to the House is a duty which people owe to Allah." (3:96)

"Proclaim to people the Pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path." (22:27)

There is, of course, a prophecy here that people from all nations and religions will join Islam and go to the Pilgrimage. But the Quran addresses all people because the Ka`bah is where mankind first received religion, and therefore mankind is being called back to unite on the original, simple faith.

Abraham, and the Jewish and Christian faiths

Besides addressing mankind generally, the Quran, by establishing the Ka`bah as the Muslim religious centre and instituting the ancient Pilgrimage as one of its pillars, also specifically addresses the Jews and Christians and calls on them to unite on the original principles of their religions. For Abraham, who re-built the Ka`bah from a ruined condition, and with whom began most of the ceremonies and features of the Pilgrimage, is a figure accepted by both Jews and Christians.

It was long after the time of Abraham that Moses arose who founded the Israelite religious law, and laid the basis of the beliefs and customs which define the Jewish religion. When, in the course of time, the followers of this law forgot its true purpose and aim, sticking to its observance only in letter, in a hypocritical manner, and corrupting it to suit their desires, God then sent Jesus to revive the real spirit of the faith, and show how man could attain nearness to God. He was generally rejected by the Jews. The later generations of Jesus' followers themselves misinterpreted his teaching and the metaphorical language he used to express man's relation with God. This led them to reject observance of the Divine law altogether, and to coin the belief that Jesus was the son of God who had come to atone for mankind's sin of not adhering to the Divine commandments, and that man received salvation merely through belief in his death. Thus the Christian religion came into being. So there were two opposing religions with conflicting tenets: salvation by rigid adherence to the letter of the law, and salvation through belief only in Jesus.

The Quran calls upon these two faiths to step back and consider their common origin. It tells them that Abraham, the great teacher who preceded these two religions, attained salvation by simple submission to the One God and the practice of virtue. He neither followed any rigorous, detailed religious law, nor did he merely trust to belief in salvation through someone else's intercession. As the Quran says:

"Abraham was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was an upright man, one who submitted to God, and not one who took others for gods." (3:66)

In other words, the particular doctrines now associated with the names Jew and Christian were unknown to Abraham. He followed the simple, broad principles of religion. The Quran says:

"Who has a better religion than he who submits himself entirely to God while doing good to others, and follows the faith of Abraham, the upright one. And God took Abraham for a friend." (4:125)

Meaning of submission to God

`Submitting to God entirely' means that in everything one does, one gives up all one's lower, selfish desires, and whole-heartedly follows the difficult path prescribed by God. It means that when worldly considerations and our baser desires show us one path, and the guidance of the faith shows us a different path, we reject the former and follow the latter. It is exactly what we pledge ourselves to when taking the bai`at to join this Movement: I will hold religion above the world.

Submission to God does not mean observing rules and regulations in a purely mechanical way, to the letter, and at the same time sticking to your wrong desires. Submission to God also does not mean fatalism, or submitting to circumstances which befall us, and being inactive, claiming that it is God's will. There is also what might be called hypocritical fatalism seen so commonly, where we adopt all means, fair and foul, of achieving a desired end, thinking not of right or wrong for one moment, but if we happen to fail in our endeavours, we then claim that we are submitting to God by accepting His verdict. Were we submitting to God when using unlawful and unscrupulous means to get what we wanted? Submission to God involves a conscious struggle to overcome one's base desires, and follow what we know is the right path.

Simple principles of faith

The simple principles of faith followed by Abraham were, then, submission to God and the doing of good to others. In consequence, he was raised to the position of a friend of God, as stated in 4:125 above. And these were the principles Islam came to restore, and to which it invites Jews and Christians (and others) as being the precepts followed by their own revered founders. The Pilgrimage is a restoration of the original principles of religion, of a simple devotion to God, and it is a call to all mankind to set aside later religious differences and return to the original purpose of religion.

Islam is not requiring people of other faiths to accept beliefs which are entirely novel and unprecedented, and alien to their traditions. That is what Christianity, as preached, is asking people to accept, namely, that Jesus died for their sins. That is not a principle, because for one thing, it could not have been followed by those who lived before the time of Jesus. It is the simple principles described above which are, and have always been, the path to salvation. The Quran tells us that both Jews and Christians assert that none but a Jew or a Christian shall receive salvation. It rejects this baseless claim, saying:

"Nay, whoever submits himself entirely to God and does good to others, he has his reward from his Lord, and there is no fear for such, nor shall they grieve." (2:112)

This is the whole crux of religion, and its simple spirit. Both Jews and Christians had made religion a cumbersome matter: the Jews with their meticulous, detailed law, to be followed to the letter; the Christians with their confusing, incomprehensible explanations of how God could be one and three at the same time, and how Jesus was man and God at the same time.

Regretably, Muslims of later times also made religion a burdensome, complicated matter, marked by trivial details and futile controversies.

Then the Reformer of this age arose and drew attention to the simplicity and the true inner spirit of the faith.


This is a feature of the Pilgrimage in which Muslims all over the world also participate. The Quran says with regard to the sacrificed animals:

"Not their flesh, nor their blood, reaches God, but what reaches Him is your righteousness and doing of duty." (22:37)

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad explained this by saying that the true sacrifice is not of the animal which is being slaughtered, but of the animal desires of the person doing the sacrifice. Maulana Muhammad Ali used to exhort people in his khutbas at this `Id that the real sacrifice by an individual at this occasion is to give up a bad habit permanently. If we took this advice, what would we be like in a few years' time!

Hazrat Mirza has referred to this verse many times, to explain that in all the religious obligations, such as prayer etc., it is not the outward act which counts with God, but how much righteousness you learn from it. The Quran says:

"You cannot attain to righteousness unless you spend (in God's way) out of what you love." (3:91)

So when we fulfill the Islamic obligation of either charity or giving money in the cause of Islam, that only helps us if we also part with some of our desires and things we cherish, and not just money. You cannot buy God with money, you cannot please Him by offering Him the meat of an animal, you cannot flatter Him by bowing and prostrating before Him and saying `You are the greatest'. You have to offer yourself, and sacrifice a part of yourself -- this is what God requires.

To sum up, the message of the Pilgrimage and this `Id is that all mankind should unite on the fundamental principles of religion revealed to it, and live as one brotherhood with equality for all. But that is only possible through a sacrifice of one's animal desires, which are the cause of all discord and enmity among people.