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The Answer for those Claiming that Pilgrimage is a Pagan Practise

Answered as per Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
How could you answer those who say that rituals of Islamic pilgrimage are pagan practices?

All perfect praise be to Allah and may His Peace and blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad. Pilgrimage is a pillar of Islam, which came to eradicate paganism and to spread knowledge and virtue among people. It is unacceptable to believe that a religion which came to eradicate paganism would have in its pillars some pagan rituals. Thus, what some people may think to be pagan practices in pilgrimage rituals stems from ignorance and misunderstanding of Islamic Shari`ah (creed), and from the inability to understand the meaning of the term paganism, which is understood to mean different things by different people. If we agree on the meaning of this term, there will be no problem—God’s willing! Paganism in our religion means to attribute the ability to benefit or hurt or any other divine characteristic to other than Allah, the Exalted and the Supreme. If the person’s heart is hung over some other powers in which he/she sees salvation and happiness, then this person is considered a pagan and becomes vulnerable to all powers other than Allah. Islam, on the other hand, calls on people to turn only to Allah, the One Lord of heavens and earth and all that is between them, the Creator of everything. As the Father of prophets Abraham (PBUH) said [Al-An’aam 80]: “Verily! I have turned my face towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, Hanif [Islamic Monotheism, i.e. worshiping none but Allah], and I am not of the idolaters” [79]. There is no doubt that each act of worship is connected with its time and place. If there is some reverence in Islam for places of worship such as mosques and pilgrimage sites, or reverence for certain times such as Ramadan and the ten days of Thul Hijjah [the twelfth month in the Islamic year/Calendar], it is not acceptable to understand that these places and times are divine or gods, or to consider such reverence as a retreat from monotheism to paganism. The one worthy of veneration, who is meant by supplication, fear, and reverence and who is believed to have absolute effect is Allah the Almighty. All revered times and places relevant to some acts of worship are not meant for themselves, and no one would relate any absolute divine characteristics to them. People perform acts of worship in these places and times but do not direct worship to them—and there is a big difference between the two situations. We can clarify this with the following example: Can we understand people’s respect to any memorial statue by publicizing its pictures, using it as a logo on certain official papers and the like as acts of worshiping this memorial, or as acts of paganism? Could people think like this today? Or, is there a difference that all people understand between religions and paganism and reverence of certain places whether these places are of religious, national or racial significance? We cautiously offer this example knowing the position of Sharia on pictures and sculptures. Hence, we say that pilgrimage in general is directing one’s acts of supplication, remembrance, and sacrifice to Allah. For all these are acts of worship that can be directed to none but Allah. All places and times in which these acts of worship are performed are no more than frames and circumstances in which the worship is performed. They are revered because God reveres them, not because they have any divine characteristics. Circulation around Ka’bah [tawaf], the march between Safa and Marwa [Sa’iy] are acts of physical worship with supplication and remembrance done to please Allah. The Ka’bah, Safa or Marwa are just places where such acts of worship are performed. It should not by any means occur to a pilgrim that these places have any special effect on the universe or any power to cause harm or benefit. The same applies to throwing the stones (al-Jamarat). The pilgrim recalls the feelings of Abraham (PBUH) while resisting Satan and stoning him in obedience to Allah, and attempting to slaughter his son Ismael (PBUH). Such remembrance should motivate Muslims to renounce evil and stay away from it and to open their hearts to the worship of Allah. Thus, we see the pilgrims announcing Takbeer[saying that Allah is Great] with every stone thrown. They must not believe that the place of stoning [al-Jamarat] has any divine characteristics. If the situation is as such, then what kind of paganism is there in it?! Kissing of the Black Stone by Muslims is done in reverence to Allah and following the acts of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). For this, Muslims are ordered to announce Takbeer and Tahleel [saying there is no God but Allah] when kissing the stone in order to refute any misunderstanding that they revere the stone for itself. Omar Bin al-Khatab [may Allah be pleased with him] kissed the Black Stone and said, “I know you are just a stone that neither harms nor benefits. Had I not seen the Prophet (PBUH) kiss you, I wouldn’t have done so” (agreed upon ). Scholars explained that “Omar said this because people were recent converts to Islam and he feared that kissing the stone could be understood as a kind of reverence to stones as Arabs used to do in Jahilyah [Pre-Islamic era]. So, he wanted to teach people that what he did (kissing the stone) was in obedience to the Prophet(PBUH) and in imitation of what the prophet did. Not because the stone itself can harm or benefit as people used to believe before Islam.” (Fateh AlBari 3:462). Judge ‘Eyadh says, “Kissing the stone is not an act of worshiping the stone, but worshiping Allah and following His orders—exactly like His order to the angels to prostrate before Adam. While kissing the stone, it is a must to announce Takbeer in order to show that this act is done in obedience to Allah alone. It is only Allah Who decides the good and bad—not the mind” (Ikmaal Al-‘Aqel 4: 180). It is imperative that every Muslim ,always, stays away from suspicious matters that enemies of Islam raise in order to shake Muslims’ beliefs and to make them reject their religion. It is also imperative to know that Islam—with all its regulations and rules—is the religion which Allah wants for his worshipers because of its suitability to all aspects and affairs of life. Allah says: “This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” [Al-An’aam 3]. With all this, we must warn that what is allowed is kissing the Black Stone and touching the Rukn al-Yemani. But seeking to be blessed by touching the other walls of Ka’bah or the post placed on the Mount of Mercy on Arafat is an act of the commons and it is not recommended in the authentic hadeeth/Prophetic Sunnah. Scholars even stated that it is wrong to do so. Ibn Hajar AlHaytami says: “Pilgrims should not kiss nor touch the two north sides [the corners of the Ka’bah from the direction of Syria]” (4:86). However, it should be known that touching the Multazem (the part of Kabah between the door and the Black Stone) in order to supplicate Allah and seek refuge in Him is valid, and there is nothing wrong in doing it.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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