Saturday, 28 September 2013

Dr. Nasseef visits KAICIID and VIVA Mayr in Austria

Dr. Nasseef visits KAICIID and
Viva Mayr in Austria

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, former President of the Jeddah-based King Abdul Aziz University (KAAU) and present Secretary General of the Cairo-based International Islamic Council for Dawah and Relief (IICDR) visited Austria and the United Kingdom in the month of September, 2013. Those visits were both informative and educational. I interviewed him to know in greater details about his experience in those visits. Of course, part of the visits was official.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre
for Interfaith & Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna
Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef is the Vice-President of the Presidential Commission of the King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue of Saudi Arabia. He went to Vienna, Austria in the 1st week of September and visited King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interfaith & Dialogue (KAICIID) which was opened in at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna on the 26th of November, 2012 in the presence of a global audience of almost 800 guests, including ambassadors, government representatives, religious leaders, academics and scholars.

Speaking about his visit in Vienna, Dr. Nasseef said, “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interfaith & Dialogue, in Vienna, Austria has a very big historic building. It has various activities and there is regular meeting every month on humanitarian and international matters. Next meeting will be in October 2013. So I visited the Centre.”

Mayr Medicine Viva
Dr. Nasseef then went to Mayr Medicine Centre in Viva, which is 350 kilometres from Vienna. VIVA, the Centre for Modern Mayr Medicine, is one of the most modern health hotels. This special peaceful place with its ancient ritual floor, right on the shores of the turquoise lake W├Ârthersee conveys a magical atmosphere. The beautiful beach and the romantic garden invite you to relax and let your mind wander within a wonderful oasis to discover yourself, to soak up the tranquillity and the energy of the nature’s beauty. Of course the hotel VIVA is equipped with every imaginable comfort spa.

Speaking about the Mayr Medicine VIVA, Dr. Nasseef said, “I went to rest in resort where there are internal medicine treatments. This is called the Mayr medicine centre in Viva about 350 kilometres from Vienna; the Lake City of Austria. It is very attractive place, not only for that centre of treatment, there are hotels and resorts; nice hotels. We try the centre of treatment; just for the sake of knowing more and also for making the maintenance for the body.”

Speaking about the treatment at the Mayr Medicine VIVA, Dr. Nasseef said, “The philosophy behind that Mayr medicine viva is to clean the body from the toxified materials coming from the air, water, wood and foods. So the poisons accumulated in the body. People are not living healthy life; they do not eating healthy food; they eat all junk foods; even at home, not only in the street. So the accumulation of those poisons cause troubles and upsets the system of the body. Some people are seriously in a bad shape and some people moderately and I said I am not complaining from anything; I want to test something; I checked my blood pressure, my weight and they said everything is all right.”

“So the philosophy behind the thing is that you eat very slowly. I chew the bread or anything for 40 times so it becomes liquid; don’t swallow it unless it becomes liquid.  So it has ferment of saliva going through the digestion of foods. In this process it will dissolve some of the poisons accumulated, especially, in the stomach and the intestines. Intestines are the place where it is stored. So I am going to see other treatment,” said Dr. Nasseef.

There are different kinds of medical treatments: Active Exercise Therapy; Medical Therapies; Laboratory tests; massages; kneipping; kosmetik and healing principles. Manual Abdominal Treatment by your Doctor.

Varieties of treatment, massage, exercise: Mayr Medicine VIVA has many varieties of treatment, such as massage, exercise, relaxation, swimming, footbath, hydro aerobic exercise etc. Dr. Nasseef mentioned, “They give other treatment; massage. Body’s massage system makes the body active and drives things out through special massage of the certain parts of the body, especially stomach and intestines. They also have exercise; outside exercise – drive bicycle under water; it is called hydro aerobic exercise. They also ask you to relax. Relaxation is part of the treatment. When this relaxation session started you forget anything whether it is academic or commercial life and sit at the side of the lake and watch the nature and also they ask the people to watch the people swimming. .It is nice thing that everybody is swimming.”

Nutritional treatment: Besides this, there is treatment also through diet, what type of food and fruits you will eat; what sort of juice or tea or coffee you will drink. Speaking about the dietary treatment at the Mayr Medicine Centre in VIVA, Dr. Nasseef said, “Food is very little. Mainly vegetables, fruits, chicken and fish; specially salmon, steamed salmon, every day business. The only vegetable you have the avocado, and the yogurt, goat yogurt and also goat cheese of different forms. They have also almond crashed and a little bit of walnut oil.”

“And there are all kinds of soups, watercress, beetroot, ginger, light soup and standard vegetable and fish; all these are only of limited amount. People who are fat, they have little; but other people take a little bit more. People who are normally shaped they take little bit more food. They have two kinds of bread, soya bread or spelt bread; spelt is a kind of wheat; natural wheat. The amount of food is very little. Drink tea or coffee is totally forbidden. Tea and coffee should be eliminated from the life of the people. Tea and coffee both and also the carbonic acid soft drinks or fizzy drinks are forbidden totally. You can drink spring water and natural water, but no juice. They have only herbal teas. They have 16 or 18 kind of herbs to boil them and drink them. Ginger is also another kind of drink. Those drinks you can drink as much as possible between meals; one hour before meal or after meal. They give you pills of vitamin or something to drink with very little water to swallow them,” mentioned Dr. Nasseef about drinks.

Footbath treatment: Mayr Medicine VIVA has another kind of treatment such as footbath. Describing about this kind of treatment, Dr. Nasseef mentioned, “They have also footbath. They put the foot of the people in a bathtub, big pot and then put electronic machine to analyse the water and bring the poison through the feet from the body. Usually the water becomes brown, dark brown or sometimes black as because the poison coming out from the body.”

Besides the above treatment, there are very beautiful scene and scenarios. There are scene scenarios and flora, fauna and sauna, and steam bath and music to listen. These are free and are not part of their treatment but you treat yourselves, said Dr. Nasseef.

Dr. Nasseef also mentioned, “They check everyday blood pressure and other things and they also give lot of vitamins, especially V12 and other things and also some materials making fusion to deliver; because deliver is very important in extracting poison from the body. Those people who make their body bath for their liver they have hot water bag to put it on bed and sleep overnight under the ribs of the right hand side to cleanse the body. People who are there are either they have certain complaints; of course people who have serious problems there are other treatments in addition to these. But there are some people who are there to enjoy the time and to renew their holiday, clean their body and other treatment.”

Viva means losing weight as a pleasant side effect of becoming healthier.

United Kingdom
From Vienna, Austria, Dr. Nasseef came to the United Kingdom. He is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and that of the Islamic Academy, Cambridge.


Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
Trustees’ meeting in Oxford
From Vienna Dr. Nasseef came to the United Kingdom and went to Oxford to attend the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OXCIS) of which he is the chairman. Speaking about the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies which was held on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 10th and 11th of September, 2013 at Oxford, Dr. Nasseef said, “We have different committees, the finance committee, the strategy and planning committee, the education committee and so on and so forth. As usual, we run the business, approving the budget, the auditor’s report and the education policy. The Director’s report was very intensive and important; because it mentioned about the centre’s activities in the field of research and scholarships, training young Muslims in Britain and other things. Their programme is really very rich.”

“OXCIS’s Director spoke for one hour discussing those activities which has been completed. People thank Director for his activities with his people. The Centre’s publication, the Journal of Islamic Studies, is making money. It is covering its expenses and is in very big demand as because it is published by the Oxford University Press. All the publications are very important. There are other publications ready which are needed to be published,” said Dr. Nasseef.

The chairman of the Board of Trustees of OXCIS also mentioned about the new building of the Centre. Dr. Nasseef said, “We also talked about the new building. The new sight is one of the wonders in this world of today. The building has been designed by Abdullah Waheed and his group and it is really very attractive, very practical and very beautiful. The centre receives donations from several countries. Malaysia gave woods. Some woods came from other countries Yemen gave marvel. Turkey gave something. So the building is really collective wonders from the Muslim world. The dinning Hall which is donated by Sultan. The building is finished almost now; the final touches and the furniture which needs at least ten millions pounds. It’s on the way Insha Allah. So the people visited the centre. It can be opened on the spring of 2015 after 18 months almost. So this is generally what happened.”

Cambridge-based The Islamic Academy’s
Trustees meeting in London
Then Dr. Nasseef came to London to attend the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge-based The Islamic Academy of which he is again the chairman. Speaking about the Board of Trustees meeting of the Islamic Academy Cambridge, which was held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Wednesday, the 11th of September, 2013, Dr. Nasseef said, “We talked about its future and how can we affiliate it to some other organisation. Because here things are very low profile; no money and activities are very limited. So we discussed whether it can be affiliated to other bigger organisation to activate the Academy and absorb its activities.

Prince Turki al-Faisal’s lecture at
British Parliament London
Dr. Nasseef, the former Deputy Chairman of the Shoura Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, stayed overnight at the Hilton Hotel to attend the lecture of Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Committee Room of the British Parliament on Thursday, the 12th of September, 2013. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Transatlantic & International Security organised a Talk on “A Saudi Perspective on a Changing Middle East” by His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, who served as the Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate (GID) from 1977 to 2001 and served as Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland from 2002 and from July 2005 he was appointed as Ambassador to the United States.

Speaking about the lecture by Prince Turki al-Faisal, Dr. Nasseef said, “I went to the British Parliament to attend to the meeting to listen to the speech of Turki al-Faisal in one of the Committees Room. He spoke as usual, the policy of Saudi Arabia towards her neighbours, the international community and the world about everything. He spoke very well about the future relations of Saudi Arabia as a country and Saudi Arabia is looking for more stability and peace and development of the country and its neighbours and Arab countries are the best. He spoke about Israel and Palestinians and he mentioned that Israel is reluctant to bring any solution; so things will be going in the same way.”

Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the
Islamic Foundation, Leicester
Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, former Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) and the present President of the Karachi-based World Muslim Congress (WMC) is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester. He attended the Board of Trustees meeting at Leicester. I went to Holiday Inn Heathrow near the Heathrow Airport where Dr. Nasseef was staying overnight on his way back to Saudi Arabia. I interviewed him on Thursday, the 19th of September, 2013 about his visit to The Islamic Foundation, Leicester where he went on Friday, the 13th of September to attend the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Foundation. About the meeting, Dr. Nasseef said, “We had the meeting of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester and as usual we spoke about the progress and the problems and the lack of money.  They have some debts; because they have borrowed money and they could not pay. So we promised that everybody will try their best to raise funds and also seek the possibility of find other solutions; because money is not coming and fund-raising is becoming so they will seek some other sources.”

Dr. Nasseef also mentioned, “I gave them the proposal of taking over the Islamic Academy in Cambridge.  In principle, they accepted but they will send somebody to go within this week for field-survey and to interview Dr. Shaikh Abdul Mabud Director General of the Islamic Academy Cambridge. So we will see what will happen. Of course, they said we don’t have money; but we see and negotiate; and find out some solution. It took long time. They were talking about their financial problems and the budget and it took long time. Making money in some places; publications are alright. Committee will look into the possibility of raising the income of the Foundation.”

East-West University in Chicago
Dr. Wasiullah Khan, the founder and chancellor of East-West University, a private, non-profit, non-denominational college based in Chicago, was here in London to have a meeting with Dr. Nasseef. About his meeting with Dr. Khan, Dr. Nasseef said, “Committee is coming to Jeddah. They borrowed money from bank and they have to pay and that’s the main problem they have now. They are fund-raising in America but they need more. I told them that the Gulf areas will not help; people are not interested there. They have their own problems; they will look for other possibilities.”


Friday, 20 September 2013

The Niqab/Veil Debate

The Niqab/Veil debate

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The British Home Office Minister called for a debate on wearing a face-veil. Jeremy Browne, the first senior Liberal Democrat, called for a national debate. Mr Browne told The Telegraph: “I think this is a good topic for national debate. People of liberal instincts will have competing notions of how to protect and promote freedom of choice.” He added: “I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.”

“But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married,” said Mr. Browne.

“Do you feel we simply don't have enough discussion about how women dress? Do you worry that every conceivable angle of what might be considered too modest or immodest has yet to be thoroughly interrogated, even regulated?” enquired Ms. Kira Cochrane, while writing in The Guardian, on 16 September, 2013. She also wrote, “Well, you're in luck. In the last few days it has become abundantly clear that we are back in the middle of the seething debates over full-face veiling so roundly explored in 2006, when the then leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw, declared veils made him "uncomfortable". If possible, it seems the arguments might be even more heated this time.”

London’s Blackfriars Crown Court ruling
This issue has never really gone away. Back in August, a trial started at Blackfriars crown court, in which a Muslim woman was accused of intimidating a witness. The accused woman wears a niqab – a full-face veil that leaves only a slit for the eyes. Last Monday, the 16th of September, Judge Peter Murphy, sitting at London’s Blackfriars Crown Court, ruled a Muslim woman standing trial could wear a full-face veil but would have to remove it when she gives evidence.

Liberty, which campaigns on civil liberties and human rights issues, said it welcomed the ruling. Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "Credit to Judge Murphy for seeking to balance the freedom of conscience of the defendant with the effective administration of justice. He has shown a sensitivity and clarity that can only further build confidence in our courts in Britain's diverse communities and around the world.”

Birmingham Metropolitan College decision
The above ruling came just a few days after the reversal of the decision to ban Muslim women from wearing veils on the grounds of “security risk”. The college, Birmingham Metropolitan College, one of Britain’s largest institutes of higher education, had originally said students must remove all hoodies, hats, caps and veils to ensure individuals were ‘easily identifiable’ as part of keeping a ‘safe and welcoming learning environment.’ The ban had come to light when a teenager tried to enrol for an A-level course, to be told she could not wear her niqab, because of security concerns. This decision prompted a huge social media campaign, including a petition signed by 9,000 students and a plan for protest demonstration. The multi-campus college, which teaches more than 9,000 16- to 19-year-olds as well as thousands of adult learners, decided to reverse its decision. Shabana Mahmood, MP has described the college’s decision to reverse its ban on the Muslim face veil as ‘enormously welcome.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, said: “This change in policy is enormously welcome. The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced.”

Aaron Kiely, national black students’ officer for the NUS, said: “I'm delighted that the petition attracted so many signatures in such a short amount of time, which affirms just how outrageous the decision to enact this policy was.”

Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK, said: "The complete ban of the face veil on campus by the Birmingham Metropolitan College was a disproportionate response because female students who wear the veil are not only very small in number but were also willing to show their face when required so their identity could be verified.” This was reported by James Meikle in The Guardian, 13 September, 2013.

Those individual negotiations and decisions could have been the end of it, but some MPs are clearly keen for the arguments to continue, wrote Ms Kira Cochrane in The Guardian. Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, the Home Office minister, has called for a national debate. Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, has suggested that the niqab should be banned in schools and colleges, saying the veils are “deeply offensive” “In my opinion it is time for politicians to stop delegating this to individual institutions as a minor matter of dress code and instead set clear national guidance,”she wrote in The Daily Telegraph, on 15 September, 2013.

BBC conducted several interviews on this issue and below are some of the viewpoints on this issue:

Shaista Gohir, chair of Muslim Women's Network UK.
Shaista Gohir, chair of Muslim Women’s Network, UK and also member of International Advisory Group of Musawah, a movement for equality in Muslim families, said, “Women and girls should not be pressured to conform - it's important they make autonomous choices about their lives and their bodies including what to wear and not wear. For this reason I oppose a complete ban of the face veil.”

“The vast majority of the 1.4 million Muslim women in Britain do not even wear the face veil, as it is not considered a religious obligation. The tiny minority that do are probably happy to remove the veil when required,” she added.

Ms. Gohir said, “Everybody should be free how to dress and how to practise their faith”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation
Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a UK Muslim organisation working to build better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims, said, “In a liberal democracy, as we claim we are, everybody should be free how to dress and how to practise their faith. And if there are a small number of women who choose to wear the veil, then they should not be discriminated against and parliament should not pass laws to restrict Muslim dress. That's very clear if you believe in a liberal democracy and individual freedom.”

“This is political opportunism of its worst kind. These are politicians who don't really talk to Muslim women. Jeremy Browne, for example, I don't know how many Muslim women he spoke to that wear the veil and have been forced to [do so]. I've not seen any evidence of that - this is politicians trying to look tough on the back of Muslim women,” Mr. Shafiq told BBC.

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society
Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society, said, “There are however compelling reasons, both practical and on principle, to oppose attempts to introduce a general ban on the veil - not least a woman's right to choose what she wears and her right to religious freedom. Forcing a woman not to wear a burka or niqab contravenes a woman's right to choose in the same way that forcing her to wear one does; both cases represent an attempt to control the woman and dictate how she should express herself.
Are women who wear the niqab really a threat to national security any more than a nun?”

Ameena Blake, vice president of the Muslim Association of Britain
Ameena Blake, Vice-President of the Muslim Association of Britain, said, “To allow the face veil or not to allow the face veil? That is the question on media minds at the moment; and indeed the Muslim community. However, the question seems to hide a more hidden: “To have freedom of rights or to not have freedom of rights?”

She added, “What we, the folk of Britain - a hub of diversity - need to consider, in [deciding] whether we agree with the principle of covering the face or not, is: “Is it ok to remove the right to dress how we please from any individual?” Are women who wear the niqab, or face veil, really a threat to national security any more than a nun or any other individual who chooses to dress in a way that is maybe not the same as the majority of people?”

“There's no reason spectators in court or dinner ladies in schools shouldn't cover their faces,” Ms. Blake said.

Dolan Cummings, of the Manifesto Club
Dolan Cummings, Co-founder of the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against over-regulation, said, “In principle people should be allowed to wear whatever they want, and it's not the business of the authorities to dictate what is and is not acceptable.What we should certainly object to is any blanket ban on face coverings, in particular places regardless of context: for example, there's no reason spectators in court or dinner ladies in schools shouldn't cover their faces if that's what they want to do.”

Also one of the organisers of the annual Battle of Ideas festival in London, said, “In a free society, the state must allow citizens to do as they please as long as it doesn't harm others, and to resolve any problems that arise through negotiation and informal give and take, rather than legislating on the minutiae of everyday life.”

Richard Freeth, education lawyer at Browne Jacobson
Richard Freeth, education lawyer at Browne Jacobson, said, “The recent decision about wearing the veil in the court when giving evidence provides a clear example of the need to balance competing considerations and find a suitable compromise. The same applies in the school context where individual needs must be balanced against other important factors such as the school community, the ethos of the school and the impact on the wider community. This is not a case where one-size-fits-all will produce the right response.”

Salma Yaqoob on Niqab debate
Ms. Kira Cochrane said in her write-up in the Guardian mentioned above, “Salma Yaqoob, formerly a Birmingham city councillor, sounds weary at the idea of another national debate on the issue. “How many national debates have we already had on this?” she says. “It just seems an easy distraction for our politicians. I mean, really? Is this the biggest issue we face in the UK right now? I'm a bit cynical when politicians call for a national debate that has already happened many times over.”

“Such debates have a detrimental effect on Muslim women in general, she says. “The women who do wear the face veils are a tiny minority within a minority, so the thought that they're any kind of threat to British society as a whole is beyond laughable. But at the same time, [these debates] do, of course, increase the vulnerability of Muslim women as a whole. Time and again, verbal and physical attacks on Muslim women increase when we have these so-called national debates. In emotional and psychological terms, I think it does a huge amount of damage."

Women who wear the veil "are trying to observe what they feel are their religious convictions", she says, "but are made to feel that they are somehow imposing on the whole of society and that they are the biggest problem. And, of course, that isn't conducive to integration, belonging and a positive atmosphere. It doesn't foster cohesion, I think it does the very opposite, and ironically it actually stifles healthy discussion and debate.”

Mrs. Talat Ahmed of Muslim Council of Britain
Mrs. Talat Ahmed, chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Social and Family Affairs Committee, said: “There are few people who wear the niqab, and they should be allowed to wear this veil if they freely decide to do so. All Islamic junctions make provision for necessity and exceptional circumstances.”

She also added, “Nevertheless, this is a personal choice. In Britain, we cherish our right to freedom of religion. I would like to remind those who call for a ban to heed the warning of minister Damian Green who said that introducing such a ban would be ‘un-British’. To do so, would involve embarking on a slippery slope where the freedom to wear religious attire of all faiths would be at risk.” 

Muslim Council of Britain on The Niqab in Hospitals
Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has issued a press release on 19th September 2013 on “The Niqab in Hospitals – Let Pragmatism and the Needs of the Patient Prevail”. The press release runs as follows:

The Muslim Council of Britain has been inundated today with media enquiries concerning the veil, this time in hospitals. In response, Dr Shuja Shafi, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and a senior health professional for many years issued the following statement:

"In the latest twist to the ‘moral panic’ about the niqab, or face veil, many are now getting quite exercised by the possibility of a health professional wearing this in our hospitals. That this has become an issue is a surprise to all of us. Having worked closely with hospitals and hospital chaplains, we have never been made aware of any concerns or complaints raised about doctors, nurses or healthcare professionals wearing the niqab. That is primarily because there are few, if any, who do adopt the face veil in hospitals. It is our understanding that Muslim women who do wear the veil are prepared to be pragmatic and take off the veil when required. For example, a basic security requirement for all hospital workers, without exception is to wear photographic ID. This would be a requirement for people who wear the face veil as well."

Dr Shuja added: “We are puzzled why the face veil is being made more of an issue than it really is. Surely there are greater concerns we should worry about, such as the quality and provision of care we give to all our patients."

Earlier this week, Mrs Talat Ahmed, the chairwoman of the Muslim Council of Britain's Social and Family Affairs Committee said: “Every time we discuss the niqab, it usually comes with a diet of bigoted commentary about our faith and the place of Islam in Britain.”

The comments came after a judge ruled that a Muslim woman take off her face veil during the trial. The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed this decision saying the judge made “the right decision by allowing women to wear Niqab and take it off when giving evidence. We should accept that reasonable accommodation has been made to respect her religious rights.”

Hajj - A Lifetime Journey to Grand Muslim Congress

Hajj: A Lifetime Journey to
Grand Muslim Congress

Dr. Mozammel Haque

ISLAM IS A PRACTICAL RELIGION which lays down a complete code of life. It makes various provisions for creating peace and harmony in the lives of mankind as well as in the universe. Peace and harmony can be achieved only when there is solidarity and universal brotherhood among human beings. Islam preaches this concept and puts it into practice through the unique annual assemblage of the pilgrims during Hajj.

The institution of Hajj in Islam is quite extraordinary and unparalleled. It is only Islam that has made the annual assemblage at one place, Makkah, an obligation for the capable Muslims from all corners of the world. In other words, it may be called the World Muslim Congress. This assembly has many distinctive features which no other gathering has and no other religion stipulates. The concept of unity and brotherhood is embedded in Islam in such a way that one is truly amazed to see millions of Muslims dressed in two white sheets of cloth gathered at one particular place, i.e. in Arafat during a fixed time on certain fixed days in the year. All human and man-made barriers and distinctions are demolished during that assembly.

We shall here deal with the aspects of unity and universal brotherhood which, besides others, are quintessential among the concepts of Hajj. First, let us take universal brotherhood. This universal brotherhood emanates from the following basic concepts and is demonstrated in a most authentic and brilliant manner here on this occasion:

Adam is the first man from whom all human beings have sprung up;
Abraham is the father of monotheistic religion;
Acceptance of all prophets as prophets of God;
Belief in all revealed books of Allah.

Thus, this acceptance of Abraham as the patriarch of the concept of Tawheed and recognition of the continuity of Prophethood from Prophet Adam to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and having faith in all revealed books keeps up a chain of faith known as Islam throughout the world. This binds the whole humankind into a bond of brotherhood whose genealogical father is Adam and the spiritual father Abraham. Thus Muslims believe in the continuation of the human race on earth. There are no conflicts and controversies in the monotheistic religion decreed by God. All Muslims (those who consciously and willingly surrender to the Will of the Creator) belong to this Ummah and therefore constitute a fraternity of faith. This is one way the Hajj conveys the message of universal brotherhood.

This aspect of universal brotherhood can also be noticed during Hajj when Muslims come from remote corners of the world and congregate in Makkah in the vicinity of the House of God, i.e. Baitullah. Though they might have come from the east or west, north or south, and all differences in colour, language, race and nationality notwithstanding, they find their oneness on the basis of their faith in One God, One Qiblah, One Book and One Prophet.

The practical training for this universal brotherhood starts from the local or neighbourhood level with the five times daily prayers in the mosque, which gets enlarged with the Friday prayers once a week. The circle is again made substantially larger during the Eid prayer, and it becomes internationalised transforming into a global gathering once in a lifetime. So the concept and training in universal brotherhood, which reaches its peak, starts from the very childhood at the local level.

As regards unity, Islam, first of all, removed all man-made bonds and barriers bringing all human beings into one global family tracing their genealogical origin to common parents and biological chemistry to one element, i.e. clay. Almighty God has laid down in the Holy Qur’an, “O Mankind, We have created you from a male and a female.” (49: 13) This establishment of absolute equality on the basis of their ancestral origin and biological composition removes all artificial differences between man and man.

The enforcement of the concept of Muslim brotherhood is the greatest social ideal of Islam. Islam places emphasis on unity and unifies mankind on the basis of one God, one Book - the Qur’an, one Qibla - the Ka’aba and one leader - the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Noble Prophet’s mission was to establish unity and peace throughout the world. The Islamic concept of unity transcends all other forms of unity based on territory, geographical boundary, linguistic and ethnic affinity. He united Muslims on the basis of faith, which is the Oneness of God, Islam.

On this vital concept was based the Prophet’s sermon in his last pilgrimage, which shows that Islam cannot be completely practiced until this ideal is achieved. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) unified and cemented the Muslim Ummah under the banner of La ilaha illallah Muhammadur-Rasoolullah by establishing the first-ever Islamic state in Madina, which later on took the shape of a grand Caliphate. Under the Caliphate the Muslim Ummah was unified and integrated. Thus the first concept of universal and worldwide unity was demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad more than fourteen hundred years ago having been guided and inspired by God for establishing unity and peace in the world.

Islam is essentially a community and group-oriented religion. So, the practical lesson in unity and equality first starts within the family, then in the neighbourhood, especially through the institution of five daily prayers in the mosque and still on a larger scale in the locality, during weekly Friday prayers, and then in much larger gatherings in the two Eid prayers and ultimately in the international or global gathering during Hajj. This very characteristic and feature of Islam demonstrates the universality of this religion and its heavenly origin which transcends all worldly barriers of race, colour, class and nationality.

Pilgrimage is the best occasion to bind again the loose threads, tighten them on the basis of belief and in the presence of God and frustrate the nefarious machinations of the enemies of the Ummah’s unity.

Another aspect of Hajj is making sacrifice in the way of God for the cause of Islam. As Islam itself is a religion of sacrifice, its different pillars also contain the same features and characteristics. It is a known fact that the Islamic or Hijra calendar starts with the month of Muharram and ends with the month of Hajj. The first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, is the month of sacrifice – a sacrifice made by the grandson of Muhammad, Hussain ibn Ali, who laid down his life at Kufa in the cause of Islam and its ideals. Similarly, the 12 months of the Hijra calendar, the month of Hajj, marks the remembrance of the sacrifice made by the Prophet Ibrahim for the sake of God and His Pleasure.

The Patriarch, the first Prophet of monotheistic religion, Islam, the Prophet Ibrahim was ready to sacrifice his most loved one for the sake of God. He loved his only son, Ismail, more than anything else. God asked him to sacrifice Ismail. Ibrahim was going to sacrifice Ismail, in the way of God by His Order. The Holy Qur’an explains the story of Ibrahim and his son Ismail thus:

Then when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son; I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now say what is your view.” (The son) said: “O my father; do as you are commanded; you will find me, if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy.” So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him, “O Ibrahim; you have already fulfilled the vision; thus indeed do We reward those who do right.” (37:102-105) The Qur’an says: “And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.” (37:107)

The sacrifices made by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail for the love of God left an indelible imprint on the history of mankind. This sacrifice is still remembered and re-enacted during Hajj. Ibrahim left a glorious record of sacrifice to please God.

In modern times, sacrifice is symbolised by an act of slaughtering a camel, cow or lamb for the sake of God during the days of Eid-al Adha, i.e. starting after the Eid prayer till the sunset on the third day of Eid. Sacrifice is a strongly recommended Sunnah of the Prophet and was introduced in the second year after Hijra. The purpose of sacrifice is to remind oneself of the great sacrifice of Ibrahim.

The sacrifice of life and wealth in the way of God is the zenith of a man’s belief. God says: “By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, of a truth God knows it well.” (Al-Qur’an 3:92) This means that when something, which has been held so dear, is sacrificed in the way of God one may hope to secure God’s Pleasure. The verse tells us that to attain righteousness one has to sacrifice things, but to attain it in perfection one has to sacrifice things, dearer to one.

Every sacrifice and every effort is to be aimed at seeking God’s Pleasure. That God be pleased with us is the real capital of our lives and it is to win this pleasure that everything should be sacrificed. In the words of the Qur’an: “Surely my prayers and my sacrifice, my life and my death is for God alone, the Lord of the Universe.”

In the modern age, the pilgrims, when they start their journey to Makkah for performing Hajj with only two white sheets on their bodies leaving behind their wives, children, kith and kin and their wealth and properties, they practically exemplify their act of sacrifice for the love of God.

Hajj is the greatest training and practical demonstration of the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit of Jihad in the way of God. It shows that Islam does not end with giving some utopian ideals for the human life. It is not only a religion, it is the guidance for the whole mankind to shape their lives in this world and hereafter. That’s why God makes provision for the teaching and training of humankind in every quality through practical implementation.