Surely, the first House founded for mankind is that at Becca, abounding in blessings and a guidance for all peoples. [3:97]
In this verse, the Qur’an draws the attention of the People of the Book to the antiquity of the Ka’bah in order to point out that the real and original centre of God’s religion is the Ka’bah; other houses of worship, adopted by Jews and Christians, being of later origin. Just as certain foods which Jews abstained from were not originally forbidden but came subsequently to be held unlawful, similarly their Qibla [the direction in which they worshipped] was not the original Qibla but was adopted as such at a subsequent time.1
In it are the manifest signs; it is the place of Abraham; and whoso enters it, enters peace. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty which men – those who can find a way thither – owe to Allah. And whoever disbelieves, let him remember that Allah is surely independent of all creatures. [3:98]
After alluding to the historical evidence in favour of the Ka’bah, the Qur’an proceeds to state that reason also demands that the Ka’bah should be adopted as the Qibla. The verse gives three reasons to show that the Ka’bah is entitled to be adopted as the Qibla or the centre of God’s religion.
The first reason, as hinted in the words, the place of Abraham, is that Abrahamas came and prayed here. Jews and Christians, to both of whom Abrahamas is worthy of great reverence, have to admit that Abrahamas visited the place. Therefore it cannot be denied that it is a blessed place.
The second reason, referred to in the words, whoso enters it enters peace, is that the Ka’bah not only promises but also affords peace and security to those who enter it. This promise has been literally fulfilled. Temporally, God has ever protected it against wars and invasions both in ancient and modern times. The way in which Abraha, ruler of Yemen, and his hosts were destroyed when they tried to invade the Ka’bah and the way in which this territory, which then formed a part of the dominion of Turkey, was kept outside the conflict during the last World War (1914-18) afford remarkable instances of how miraculously God protects the Ka’bah. Unlike the sacred places of other nations, it has never fallen into the hands of a people who would not revere it. Even in the Days of Ignorance when the different tribes of pagan Arabia were constantly at war with one another, the territory of the Ka’bah was held to be sacred and no fighting was allowed therein. Spiritually, also, it is a place of security for those who enter it in the spiritual sense, i.e., embrace the religion of Islam. They become recipients of divine favours and enjoy security from the punishment of God.
The third reason which entitles the Ka’bah to be adopted as the Qibla is hinted at in the words, pilgrimage to the House is a duty which men…owe to God. The verse contains an implied promise on the part of God that the Ka’bah shall ever continue to be the centre to which men of different countries and diverse nations will resort for pilgrimage. The fulfilment of this promise is proof of the fact that the Ka’bah has indeed been designed by God to be the Qibla of all nations.
Every Muslim who can find a way to Makkah is bound to perform pilgrimage to the Ka’bah once in his lifetime. If he performs it more than once, it is regarded as a supererogatory act of devotion.
The words, who can find a way thither, embody three conditions: (1) one should have the necessary conveyance for performing the journey; (2) one should have the necessary money to bear the expenses; and (3) there should be peace and security on the way (Dawud). If a person is sick, he is supposed to have no ‘way’ and pilgrimage does not become obligatory on him.
The words, and whoever disbelieves (let him remember) that Allah is surely independent of all creatures, signify that whoever refuses to accept the Ka’bah as the Qibla, in spite of the arguments given in its favour, should remember that these commandments have been given for the good of man himself; so if he does not act upon them, he only harms himself and does no harm to God, Who is ‘independent of all creatures.’
The object of pilgrimage is to accustom men to leave their home and country and suffer separation from relatives and friends for the sake of God. The pilgrimage to Makkah is also a symbol of the respect shown to places where the will of God was specially manifested and a reminder of the incidents connected with that manifestation. It reminds believers of the long and hazardous journey of Abrahamas and Ishmaelas to the desert valley of Makkah and of Ishmael’sas being left in that dessert by Abrahamas; it tells them in speechless eloquence how those who make sacrifices in the way of God are protected and honoured by Him; and it fosters their faith in the power and might of God. Again, the pilgrim, on finding himself near the place which has, from the beginning of the world, been dedicated to the worship of God, is sure to experience a peculiar spiritual association with those who have, through centuries, been bound together by the love and remembrance of God.2
And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come to thee on foot, and on every lean camel, coming by every distant track. [22:28]
The pilgrimage as an institution began with Abrahamas as the words ‘and proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage’ show. It was not an idolatrous institution incorporated into Islam by the Holy Prophetsa to conciliate the idol-worshipping Arabs as some Christian writers have been led to think. From the time of Abrahamas, pilgrimage has continued without a break to this day and will continue till the end of time. The Ka’bah was once the centre of pilgrimage for the Arabs alone, but now it is the centre of pilgrimage for the whole Muslim world and is destined to become the spiritual centre for all mankind. It is when Islam will prevail in the world that the Ka’bah will become a symbol of the Unity of God and of mankind. The time is not far off when there will be only One God, one Religion, one Prophet and one Book with the Ka’bah as the one spiritual centre for the whole of mankind. That the Ka’bah was destined one day to come into the possession of the Holy Prophetsa who was to set free captives ‘not for price nor reward’ and at whose hands it was to become the spiritual centre for the whole of mankind was foretold several hundred years before the advent of the Holy Prophetsa by the Prophet Isaiahas. Isaiah’sas prophecy is as follows:
I have raised him up in righteousness; and I will direct his ways: He shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor rewards, saith the Lord of hosts…the labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: They shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God (Isaiah 45:13-14).
The prophecy is too clear to need any explanation. It evidently applies to the Holy Prophetsa.
The verse also constitutes a mighty prophecy. The proclamation that Ka’bah would one day become a great centre to which people from distant lands would come to perform Hajj was made at Makkah at a time when the very fate of Islam was hanging in the balance. Life was not safe for the Holy Prophetsa and his followers. They were being driven away from their hearths and homes and did not know where to go. It was at that time that it was proclaimed to the world, as if with a beat of drum, that to the Ka’bah would come people from all parts of the earth. The gathering in Makkah every year of many hundreds of thousands of Muslims from very distant lands bears an irrefutable testimony to the remarkable fulfilment of this prophecy.3
That they may witness its benefits for them and may mention the name of Allah, during the appointed days, over the quadrupeds of the class of cattle that He has provided for them. Then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed, the needy. [22:29]
Apart from the spiritual good that the pilgrimage does to a Muslim, it possesses great social and political significance. It has great potentialities for wielding different Muslims countries into one strong international brotherhood of Islam. Muslims from all parts of the world who meet at Makkah once a year can exchange views on all sorts of matters of international importance, renew old and establish new contacts. They have opportunities to acquaint themselves with the problems that confront their brethren in faith in other countries, to copy one another’s good points and profit by one another’s experience and also to co-operate with one another in many other ways. Makkah being God’s appointed centre of Islam, the pilgrimage can serve as a sort of a United Nations Organization for the whole Muslim world.
All other religions have failed to produce such a forum for the exchange of international ideas and programmes. But it is regretted that Muslims have not yet awakened to the realization of Makkah being an international capital for the whole Muslim world. These are some of the material benefits and advantages to which reference has been made in the words, ‘that they may witness its benefits;’ and the words ‘and may mention the name of Allah,’ refer to the great spiritual benefits which Muslims can and should derive from the pilgrimage to Makkah.4
- Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmoodra, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, Vol.2, (Tilford: Islam International Publications, 1988), 429.
- Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmoodra, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, Vol.2, (Tilford: Islam International Publications, 1988), 429 – 430.
- Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmoodra, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, Vol.4, (Tilford: Islam International Publications, 1988), 1744 – 1745.
- Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmoodra, The Holy Qur’an with English Translation and Commentary, Vol.4, (Tilford: Islam International Publications, 1988), 1745.