To derive the full benefits from Hajj, what we need at the center of Islam are such hands that could make it effective, such hearts that could pump pure blood into the body of the Ummah, such minds that could turn the pilgrims into ambassadors of Islam, carrying its message far and wide. At least Makkah should have been a living example of Islam.
Alas, this is not the case at present. From the time of the Abbasids till the Ottomans, the kings of every period, in order to serve their political ends, tried to weaken the Arabs. They brought them to the lowest levels of decadence in knowledge, morals, and culture. The result was that the land from which emanated the light of Islam, spreading its rays to all corners of the world, reached almost the same state of ignorance in which it was before the advent of Islam.
There is little knowledge of Islam or Islamic life. People from far-off places flock to the sacred precincts of the Haram with the deepest devotion, only to find ignorance, filth, greed, indecency, love of this world, bad manners and disorganization.
The result is that, for many, the experience of Hajj, instead of strengthening their faith, weakens it.
Priestly exploitation which was imposed in the Ka’ba after Ibrahim and Ismail, and which was abolished by the Prophet, blessings, and peace be on him, has again been revived. Read this article and you’ll understand what is meant in this paragraph.
The administration and the Mu ‘allimiin (who guide the pilgrims) have again adopted the ways of priests. The House of God has become their property and Hajj a source of business. They consider the pilgrims as their customers.
Agents have been appointed in different countries on big salaries to canvas and bring in these customers. Every year a whole army of brokers leaves Makkah to seek out and fetch them from all parts of the world.
People are induced to perform Hajj by having Quranic verses and Hadith quoted at them. The motive is not to remind them of the duty imposed by Allah but to make money.
It almost looks as if Allah and His Messenger initiated Hajj for the sole purpose of sustaining the Mu ‘allimiin and brokers.
Trading in religion, Mu ‘allim, Mutawwif, their attorneys, keepers of keys to the Ka’ba – all confront a pilgrim at every stage. They and the Government itself are all co-sharers in the Hajj ‘industry’.
The performance of the rituals of Hajj is conducted on payment and even the door of the Ka’ba is only opened for a fee. How strange that such is the condition of the followers of a religion which abolished all priesthood!
How can the true spirit of worship survive where the work of conducting it has become a source of wage-earning and trade, where sacred places are exploited for personal gain, where Divine commandments are employed to lure people to empty their pockets, where a man is obliged to make payment for every rite he performs, and where Din has become a business commodity?
In mentioning these facts I do not intend to cast blame on anyone. My purpose is simply to point out what factors have so seriously weakened such a potentially tremendous source of spiritual, moral and social power as Hajj.
There should be no misunderstanding in anybody’s mind that this state of affairs is due to any deficiency in Islam. The deficiency lies with those who do not follow Islam correctly.
The situation is like that of an expert physician whose prescriptions fall into the hands of quacks and thus become useless and possibly positively harmful.
This address was given in 1938. Conditions have now greatly improved and the Saudi Arabian Government is trying to enforce further reforms. Two matters require special attention. Firstly, the two sacred precincts of Makka and Madina must be protected from the onslaughts of Western civilization. Second, the methods and procedures employed by Mu ‘allims should be improved.
May God enable the Saudi Government to adopt corrective measures in this regard!