The manner in which Hajj has been emptied out of its Qur’anic basis and turned into mere ritual by the Saudis poses a major challenge to the Ummah. Getting rid of the Saudi occupiers of the Haramayn is the most pressing problem facing the Islamic movement.
Traveling from Jeddah to Makkah to perform Hajj or Umrah, Muslims are stopped at a checkpoint at Shumaisi, just outside the Holy City. A huge billboard announces that from this point on, non-Muslims are not allowed to proceed toward Makkah. A separate road takes them into other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Shumaisi marks the spot where the noble Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had signed the Treaty of Hudaybiyah in the sixth year of the Hijrah. The purpose of the billboard, however, is not to remind the hujjaj of that historic treaty.
This fork in the road at Shumaisi is based, according to Saudi understanding, on a prophetic hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn Abbas. The text of the hadith reads, “Akhriju al-mushrikeen min Jazirah al-‘Arab: Expel the mushriks from the Arabian Peninsula.” The Saudis and their court ‘ulama have reduced this prohibition to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. They have added other distortions. Does the hadith refer to an average non-Muslim? If so, how do they explain Allah’s (swt) permission for Muslim men to marry women of the Christian or Jewish faith? Would a resident of Makkah or Madinah who marries one of these women not be permitted to take her to his city of residence?
The hadith of the noble Messenger (pbuh) actually prohibits mushrik power from building a base of operations in the Arabian Peninsula, the cradle of Islam. Yet, under Saudi rule, mushriks can maintain military bases and their soldiers can crawl all over the Arabian Peninsula but ordinary non-Muslims cannot set foot in Makkah or Madinah. The Saudis perhaps claim that they know even more than ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second khalifah of the Muslims. During his khilafah, an elderly Jewish person was seen begging in Madinah. ‘Umar immediately ordered a stipend for him from the Bayt al-Mal. He did not ask what a Jewish person was doing in Madinah. Instead, he accepted him as the responsibility of the Islamic State. How could a Jewish (or Christian) person live in Madinah at the time of ‘Umar but is now prohibited from setting foot there under the Saudis? According to Saudi misinterpretation, churches, synagogues, and places of worship of other faiths are also prohibited in the Arabian Peninsula.
This is one dimension of the problem with the Saudi occupation of the Arabian Peninsula. Equally serious is the manner in which Hajj, one of the most important pillars of Islam, has been distorted and emptied of its true meaning. Unfortunately, Muslims have been led to believe that Hajj is only about rituals. This erroneous understanding has been deliberately promoted by Saudi court ‘ulama — who are more particular about maintaining the separation of church and state than the secularists themselves — and regrettably accepted by many Muslims elsewhere. Those ‘ulama and committed Muslims that try to emphasize the Qur’anic basis of Hajj are immediately accused of “politicizing” it.
Let us remind ourselves of the divine words in the majestic Qur’an that are seldom mentioned in the Saudi-style dumbing down of Hajj, “And a proclamation from Allah and His Apostle [is herewith made] to all mankind on this day of the Greatest Pilgrimage [Hajj], ‘Allah disavows all who attribute divinity/authority to any beside Him, and [so does] His Apostle…’” (9:03).
Allah (swt) commands Muslims to proclaim their dissociation from mushrik powers, especially at the time of Hajj; yet the Saudi occupiers of the Hijaz and the Arabian Peninsula insist that Muslims must not bring up such matters during Hajj. Perhaps they fear that Muslims coming of age may indict the felonious khadims as being mushriks themselves. Under what Islamic injunction do the illegitimate rulers and their court ‘ulama make such pronouncements? Are Muslims required to fulfill their obligations according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the noble Messenger (pbuh) or should they abide by the oppressive policies of the House of Saud?
The Muslim world faces numerous challenges, imperialism and Zionism being the most serious. To these must now be added incessant attacks by predatory powers on the honour of the noble Messenger (pbuh) as well as unrelenting drone, missile and bomb strikes on innocent Muslims. If Muslims cannot raise these issues at the time of Hajj where should they turn to plead their case with Allah (swt)? Why should policies of the House of Saud take precedence over the teachings of the Qur’an?
Muslims must rise up against such restrictions and liberate the Haramayn from Saudi clutches by driving these corrupters of din back to the desert. The Muslim world will continue to suffer humiliation as long as Makkah and Madinah remain under Saudi occupation. Liberation of the Haramayn must become an urgent priority of the global Islamic movement.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought