The Religion of Humanity (Pilgrimage [Hajj] and Poor Rates) (Part 2)
The Light (Pakistan), 1st May 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 10, pp. 1–2)
4. Principle — Pilgrimage [Hajj]:
Now we come to the fourth principle, that is, Pilgrimage [Hajj], which represents the unique scene of man’s fraternity at the sacred city of Mecca.
It is true that in our daily prayer a prince and a peasant stand shoulder to shoulder, yet the difference of their respective costumes and dresses are still enough to differentiate them. But in the Hajj or Pilgrimage we have to eliminate these differences of society as well and are entirely brought down to the level of the whole of humanity.
The Pilgrims who visit the Holy shrine at Mecca belong to different climates of the world; they differ in caste and creed; they differ in ranks and grades; they differ in speech and modes of living; but still they are fastened with the unbreakable bond of fraternity and are saturated with the true belief of the Unity of God and equality of man. The display of wealth, of rich costumes and of expensive clothing make distinction in society, but the divine wisdom which found the fullest and the last exposition in Islam and which wants to destroy all these conventional distinctions and differences in order to create a universal brotherhood of man could not allow the same in the levelling atmosphere of Mecca in the days of Pilgrimage. Hence every Pilgrim, no matter what his rank and position, has to divest himself of his particular costume before stepping into the Holy precincts of Mecca, and to dress himself in seamless white sheets — the ihram.
This scene is simply wonderful. Just picture to yourself thousands of men and women belonging to different ranks and creed of society, clothed in the same garb of humility, passing days and nights in the same circumstances before the sight of one God. All distinctions of wealth and position, colour and nationality, disappear there. The king and the peasant are alike; one cannot be distinguished from the other. In short, the whole of humanity assumes one uniform aspect before its Maker and the universal brotherhood of man becomes a living reality.
5. Principle — Poor Rates:
As regards the last and fifth principle of Islam, which has been promulgated by the Holy Quran in the terms of Zakat (poor-rates) or sadaqat (alms), every Muslim is expected to take stock of his savings every year and to disburse 2½ percent of this as “alms.”
Charity in Islam takes two different forms; one is optional, and the other compulsory, which is also called Zakat. When asked what was the ultimate object of Zakat, the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)] is reported to have replied that it was a means whereby the rich had to give something out of their wealth for the help of those who are in need.
The Holy Quran has laid down eight different purposes for the expenditure of the Zakat money. It says:
“Alms are only for the poor, the needy, the officials appointed over them; those whose hearts are made inclined to truth, the ransoming of captives, those in debt, in the way of Allah, and the wayfarer” (The Holy Quran, 9:60).
It is Islam only that has given charity the prestige and form of an institution. Before it, the followers of other religions used to do charitable deeds on their own personal fancies and had no organised form of charity. But the Holy Prophet, whose aim was to systematise the religion and make it a living force in the civilisation of mankind, laid down rules and regulations for charity, so that the general welfare of society may be achieved.
Here, again, the spirit of brotherhood is prevailing. The wealthy are required to part with a certain part of their wealth for their fellow beings so that they may become useful members of society.
The Western world goes on dreaming of its Utopian socialism, which, if carried out into practice, will make society devoid of incentive. But Islam being a practical religion, has established a most useful financial institution in the form of Zakat which can provide sufficient funds to improve the status of those who are lingering behind in the race of life, leaving at the same time sufficient scope for individual incentive and ingenuity.
There is also one other phase with regard to the Islamic law of charity which should not be ignored. Before the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, charity was considered only an individual act of merit, and therefore it was thought necessary that it should be performed secretly. Jesus Christ, for instance, addresses his disciples in these words:
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew, 6:3).
But Islam has made a little modification in it and allows the giving of alms openly as well. I think this change has made the teachings of Jesus perfect, as the Holy Prophet came to perfect the law or, in the words of Jesus,
“to guide us in all truth.”
One can easily see what a tremendous amount of good is done to humanity by openly raising the funds of charity. The useful work which is accomplished by the Red Cross Association during the great war would have been a failure if the rule of secrecy in charity had been observed by the Christians. Nay, the whole system of the Church can come to a standstill if open charity is discontinued. Here again the world at last has been obliged to sit at the feet of Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him).
We have briefly surveyed the five principles of Islam, and everyone can see for himself that the whole trend of these teachings goes to show that it is a religion which is meant for the whole of humanity. Its articles of faith, its practical institutions, its ordinance of commission and omission, bring this one fact home to us, viz., we all belong to one Great World Family and our duty lies in helping one another.
The Holy Prophet is reported to have said that the religion consists of two things:
- submission to the will of Allah; and
- service to His creatures.