Shabir Sarwar Malik
Ponder, O man tossed to the ground
See the signs strewn all around
Travel through the earth and see the woeful end
Of mighty people, who, manifest signs didn’t comprehend
Blessed are those for whom Allah has arranged
A Pilgrimage, to perform; the rite ordained.
The befitting response to the clarion call of Allah-that was voiced by the great patriarch Ibrahim (a.s) and later in the voice of the praise-worthy Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w), can be none other than Labb’aik. His call is an all encompassing invitation to accept, to declare, to ponder (mutafikaroon) and to comply - of ushering one’s head, heart and soul unto His divine presence by offering one’s cleansed self in His Majesty’s service; seeking in all humility His beneficence that is manifest in His Essence and Attributes, exquisitely expressed in all that has been created or ordained.
For performing the prescribed rites (manasik) in the pilgrimage (Hajj) to holy Mecca; previously known as Bacca ( see 3:95 Al-Quran; 84:6 Old Testament, Psalms; meaning habitat in Syrian language) during the appointed days ( Ayamin Maloomaat), has been declared as duty for people, in the Holy Quran (3:97), for we all know pilgrimage to certain places of significance is prescribed in almost all belief –systems; somewhat on the higher pedestal than and pattern of annual village fairs, in terms of magnitude, purposefulness, & benefits, that, besides spiritual gains, had social benefits as well as economic facet. One surmises whether the purposefulness of pilgrimage, that logically must have started in times nigh to Ismael (a.s) and could have, over centuries, but largely deteriorated into the ludicrous, burlesque, boastful trivialities, coquettish ‘ghazal-goyie’ of fairs like Ukaz.
In the largest peninsula called Saudi Arabia there exists in the Wadi-e-Ibrahim the holy city of Mecca, in which exists the most ancient house (Baitul-Ateeq), dedicated by the roving prophet Ibrahim (a.s) and his son Ismael (a.s) to the worship of Allah, some forty centuries ago, which has remained ever since, the pivotal point and central place of pilgrimage for Muslims (believers) of this globe. Besides this house of worship, popularly known as The House of Allah (Bait-ul-Allah), as well as Kaaba (literally a Cubit), there exist some monuments (mashair) of great significance and above all those places that have shared a relation with the revered prophet (s.a.w), for example meditation cave of Hira, battle grounds near Medina, stoning (jammarrat) place associated with Ibrahim & Ismael, Mina, Arafaat or remnants of previous people at some distance and as per practice of Shia sect those places, outside Saudi Arabia, that are associated with Ali (a.s) or his holy family (making them equally sacred for pilgrimage).
Since repetition of well known rites and rituals, that one can find in numerous modestly priced and easily available ‘Hajj-booklets costing few bucks’, is not my purpose, here in this write up. Instead I am of firm belief that writing about Hajj pilgrimage, if confined only to the basic narratives afforded by scriptures and other minor books, the write up would appear drab and ‘mere tales’ to younger generation, unless transferred into the realm of history with the comprehensive and intelligible summary of the result of modern research and investigations that pour in at a pace unheard before that I have painstakingly perused.
So my dear readers, adsorb that a Sundial in basalt, with Himyaritic inscription, belonging to 1st century AD has been found in Madayin Saleh. In later period Nabtaens practiced the sculptural art so intensively at Petra, that the city became renowned on that account. Compared to them or to Indians, the Arabs by and large knew very little about the art of chiseling/carving stones. So in Arab land statues of deities of non-believers were crude figures, even so were that of Laat, Mannat & Uzza, far below the high standard of “butaan-e-hind”. The script of Nabataean language is akin to Aramaic and Hebrew. It is believed that the later-Islamic-Kufic script grew out of it.
In the Arab land, remnants of past habitations like Madayin Saleh of the pre-historic Thamud race, existed in North West Arabia, where prophet Saleh (7:65) preached in the 9th century B.C. In the area that lies between Hijaaz and Syria, especially where rock-hewn chambers, of later date, i:e 6th century BC, bearing Nabatean inscriptions of Babylonian origin, that were first seen by The Islamic Army in the 9th Hijri, when they were coming back from Tabuk, have been recently found in an area, 280 Kms north of Medina, that was much late (in recent centuries) visited by the English explorer Charles Montagu Doughty (author of Travels in Arabia Deserta; who had his education in Cambridge and Caius ) in 1880 AD. Archaeological marvels in the shape of columnar temple have been unearthed recently that are hinted in surah 89, verse 7. From Assyrian sources one comes to know that during the reign of King Sagon II (722-705 BC) a Sabean Prince brought spices as tribute. Around 500 BC Sabeans found a colony in Aksum, Ethiopia (East Africa). Google search reveals that in this Horn of Africa, archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years, this culturally advanced East Africa where rock-cut Christian churches from 12-13th century existed at a site called Lalibela. Aksum is the ruins of an ancient city with Obelisks, tombs, castles and Lady Mary Zion Church.
In southern part of Arabia, the race of Aad lived during pre-historic times in Hadramaut area of Yemen where prophet Hud (7:65 Quraan) preached. Ever since Van Wissmann and Meulen wrote in 1932 AD about this area, our knowledge of its unknown past has increased.
Towards the sea lived the Himayarite race and there existed in 10th Century BC the flourishing state of Sheba (Saba of 27:29 Al Quran, mentioned as the recipient of Prophet Sulaiman’s letter), that bore affinity with Abyssinia and Mesopotamia, whose spice-fields, vineyards and incense farms were nurtured by the famous, 2 mile long, 75 meter high, MARIB Dyke (Eram of 27: 23) commonly attributed to their king Luqmaan bin Aad, that ultimately burst around 120 AD, causing a ravaging deluge, to which Holy Quran refers in 34:15 and whose remnants, T.J. Arnaud saw in 1893 AD. Later in 1951 AD an American team also worked there for a long time.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.