9-14-01 to 9-28-01
The Muslim Journal
On Hajj: Part 1 & 2
Imam W. Deen Mohammed
(NOTE: The following interview by Nathaniel Omar with Imam W. Deen Mohammed was conducted at the Office of Muslim Journal on Sat., Aug. 25, 2001.)
Q: Brother Imam, we want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to interview you on the Hajj. Over the years, you have taught us to look deeper into concepts -religious concepts and other concepts. Is Hajj like that? Does it have surface meaning but also a more powerful and deeper meaning that those without insight are likely to miss? Would you explain?
Imam Mohammed: As-Salaam Alaikum. I think the meaning that is most important is not deep, it's plain. It's plain and easy to grasp by ordinary minds. But it's the meaning that I think most of us miss. That meaning is the one given by the learned scholars and Imams. This obvious one says that Hajj is the unity of mankind, especially in Islam. Islam is a model and should be the model of Islam for mankind, for all people.
It is the Unity in the humanity that G-d created when He created our first parent, Adam, Peace be upon him. The meaning is Unity and Oneness for humanity under G-d. The Hajj is a return to your innocence -your purity — your original spiritual mental and social nature that G-d created us in, when He created the first people (or man).
That's the life that G-d wants us to return to. That's the real meaning of Hajj. It's a struggle — it's a struggle to unite humanity. You know that humanity is divided. Divided because of power, greed for power, greed for wealth, greed for the material world, and also sometimes for no other reason than "my family is all I care about. Don't bother me with yours."
Q: In 1967, you made Hajj when the rest of us were in the Nation of Islam and you met Maulana Maududi. You were a young man, in your early 20s. A lot has changed since then. You met him on Arafat. Tell us about Arafat and its importance and the importance of that meeting with Maududi.
Imam Mohammed: Arafat gives the Muslims a chance, the leaders and the common man, too, if he is interested in having some responsibility or some role in society. Arafat is an opportunity for him to come and hear the most learned leaders in Islam. They will be Imams, They'll be educators. They'll be political figures, presidents, kings maybe. They'll be doctors and lawyers — all the professions - all the important professions will be represented there at Arafat during the Hajj.
That gives us a chance to benefit from each other's experience — knowledge and faith, too. When a man of extraordinary strong faith speaks on politics or economics or social life, that man also communicates his strong faith to you — even though his language is the language of his particular profession or field.
So I know that a person or a weak battery can get charged up, get pretty strong just being here to hear what the good leaders are saying.
I was there once when Maulana Maududi was there. I learned that he was there because I could hear them saying: "Maulana! Maulana's under such-and such tent!" Then someone said "Maulana Maududi" and that rang a bell!
I said "Wow! Maulana Maududi!" I recalled reading some of his books from my father's library. So I said, let me find out where he is. While I'm thinking that, someone came; "Brother Wallace!" I said, "Yes." "Maulana Maududi wants you in his tent." And they came and got me and took me to his tent, and I met him and sat right near him.
He said this: "We have to be very aware and careful that we do not try to guide the Muslims in America — assist them, but don't try to lead them." That's what he told me on Arafat, with the tent full and they were all outside the tent. He was very popular with the Pakistanis and the Indians. He was of Pakistan and of the Indian people.
Q: Now we have celebrated Eidul Adha here for many years. Tell us about celebrating the Eid in Mecca. What's it like and also making the Eid Prayers while we're there?
Imam Mohammed: Eidul Adha in Mecca is much different from Eidul Adha away from Mecca. And it's simply because Eidul Adha is celebrated on the 10th day of the Hajj. It is the climax, the highlight of the Hajj, the meeting on Arafat, according to Muhammed the Prophet or the Rites of Hajj.
In Mecca, in the Holy Precincts, you are experiencing the difficulty of Hajj and also the wonderful blessing of Hajj with many Muslims from all over the world -celebrating the sacrifice of Abraham (PBUH) on Eidul Adha. You celebrate it with all those whom you unconsciously but strongly feel a bond with now, because you went through this together. And the crowd is oh so many times magnified, and the celebration too is so many times magnified! So I think that's the difference.
The difference is you are there and you have gone through difficulty and you have received many blessings. Now you are celebrating with so many Muslims from so many different faces and dress and languages, etc.
Q: A brother is handicapped. When he goes on Hajj someone will have to carry him. And he is concerned about the cost of carrying him around. He said his children will help to pay his way. He wants an opinion on that. So would you explain the concept of carrying the handicapped through the Rites of Hajj.
Imam Mohammed: If he's from our community, we should do our best. If there is any brother physically able, young brothers who have physical strength, enough of them to carry our brother, we should have our own brothers do it and let them get extra rewards for doing it.
Q: He's a big brother!
Imam Mohammed: Somebody has to carry him. And I wouldn't want to think the Saudis or some other people are stronger than we are. Why pay them big dollars when we have our own brothers?
Q: Now when the Hajjis returned recently a group of Muslims met them at the airport and some of the Hajjis were crying. Those who met them said it was an almost unexplainable experience. Some were saying there is no place like America. Would you comment on the trip and returning home and what makes the trip so profound.
Imam Mohammed: They were crying! Well, I cried a lot — not at the airport — I cried while I was there all during Hajj. I was crying; tears were coming, but mostly because this was my first Hajj. Crying mostly because I was thinking on Islam and all of the people there, all these different people.
I saw people who looked just like my relatives. I saw a man who looked so much like my father's brother, Uncle Jam, that I wanted to say Uncle Jam!" Something helped me and I got closer to him and I saw he wasn't my Uncle Jam. But even up close, he looked more like Uncle than my father and my brother. And you know how much my father looked like him.
This man was his height, shape, head — everything -features. So I was crying. I saw people who I only saw in the National Geographic with strange dress and strange looks. So that's what was on my mind.
And I was thinking of "me" walking on the same ground that the Prophet walked on - same ground that perhaps David The Prophet walked on. It's the land where many prophets have been on -that area.
That was touching me, and where I came from was touching me! That I came from parents who came from Georgia, and they didn't have education. But they met W. D. Fard and had their whole life changed. And because of that, their son was there walking those grounds and witnessing those things. That kept me crying. I never cried because of hardship or because of being away from the conveniences that we have in our great country. That wouldn't make me cry.
I was prepared to face rocks. They should go when I went in 1967 on my first Hajj. And Saudi Arabia was a land of Bedouins — not a land of oil rich Arabs. They looked for their money during the Hajj, or they were businessmen working outside of Saudi Arabia builders of mosques, etc., getting money like that. Only a few people of Saudi Arabia had the chance to get really rich, like they have after the oil business came into their hands.
So I thank Allah they didn't go over there when I went over there. The streets were mostly rocky; there weren't too many sidewalks and no industry built up then. Only Aramco, and that wasn't the Saudis at that time. So hardship didn't bother me. But I still empathized. I started to say sympathize. I empathized with our pioneers and with our weak in physical strength. Those who are weak and frail because of sickness or because all are not blessed to have strong physiques and those who are short patient. I really empathized with those who are short in patience.
This world makes you short patient and you cannot be comfortable over there with short patience. You'll be in hell, if you have short patience. You have to be patient and you have to be cool when everybody else is hot. That's difficult for most people. But for Hajj, that is what it is.
The word "Hajj" means "meeting the opposition — putting your force against the opposition that's in your way." That's what Hajj means. It means "putting your force against the force that's against you." And the first force against you is your own tendency to be lax before Allah's Orders or His Commands, what He's asked you to do. That's the first thing you must overcome -your own weakness in yourself. And you know the Prophet said "the biggest Hajj is the Hajj of your own nefs." To defeat those things that's working against you being the Muslim that Allah wants you to be. That's the greatest Hajj! Overcoming those things within your own self.
So Hajj is struggle and I think we need better orientation before we go to make Hajj. We need to meet together — all those in the local places — every major Imam in the local places. If he has people going to Hajj he should meet with them and explain Hajj. That you are not going over there to have a vacation. You are going there for struggle - to struggle with your own soul - deliver your soul there before G-d — as G-d wants you to deliver it — not angry — not cursing somebody -not wanting to hurt somebody or anything.
So that's the struggle. And you have to understand that there are weak ones among other people like there are weak ones among us — their weak ones may not be able to contain themselves — they may be rude to you — they may bump up against you — they may push you out of the way so they can be the first one to kiss the Blackstone. You are going to run into all kind of difficulties and we need to have an orientation before we go over there.
I came back too and I didn't see anybody looking and I made Sajdah on American soil — Glorifying G-d. I wanted to put my head and nose and hands and feet on American soil. I made Sajdah on American soil. We do have the most socially mature and advanced country, I believe, in the world.
Q: Brother Imam, I want to talk about the rites of sacrifice — how important are the rites of sacrifice? What should those of us who are poor pay for an animal? What are our choices of small animals?
Imam Mohammed: That's really a problem - I should say a concern. That's what we should be addressing. I have already been asked to give my opinion about what we should do. Now my opinion may not be accepted by the Hajj Admin-station in Saudi Arabia — but this is my opinion. It's not fair to tell poor people that they have to spend a big sum of money to sacrifice a lamb or a goat or a cow and use the scale or the reasoning or logic that was arrived at by someone looking at business people, people with money.
These are poor people. The money that you have to pay to sacrifice in a cow is okay for business people — people making a decent income. But for poor people who struggle just to make a little more than minimum wage, there should be a greater number permitted to share the cow. They want you to buy all of the cow, all of the lamb and all of the goat.
I was over there and caused a little disturbance once — a peaceful disturbance, "peaceful resistance" like Dr. King. I let them know that I wasn't going to accept it. They were asking our poor to donate to the poor of Saudi Arabia, and I thought that we were the ant hill of wealth and they were the Mount Everett of wealth. That wasn't fair to us. So my suggestion is that we insist that more people share in a cow or a lamb or a goat or whatever is being sacrificed. So that it's easy on each one of the poor members participating or sharing the animal.
Q: Now in Suratal Fajr, G-d speaks of the 10 nights and the commentator says that refers to the 10 nights of Hajj. So will you speak on this and also tell us what it will be like at night and our duties at night during Hajj?
Imam Mohammed: Until the sacrifice, those 10 days? I would say that we shouldn't be so quick to want to go to bed, because many times during the day, there's opportunity to take naps to sleep a little bit. So if you are in a good situation with informed Muslims and pious people who love G-d.,. By pious, I mean it's obvious to you that they love G-d and they love His Messenger Muhammed (PBUH), and they love believers, and they love Islam, the Qur'an, the religion.
If you are in such circumstances or such environment, my advice is don't be quick to leave those people and go to bed. I benefited more by being in association with genuine Muslims who could offer something to me, in an exchange with them or a conversation with them. You can even pick up a little Arabic.
You are hearing it so you pick up a little Arabic too. I learned to make my way around just by making Umra quite often and on the Hajj time, just by mixing with people and having exchanges with them.
Then if you don't do that, spend your night in prayer when you are not sleeping. Spend your night in prayers, in Du'a, Do that anyway. Take part of the night to make Du'as for not only Muslims at home but you should remember home first. Then make Du'as for all and include in those du'as to Allah prayers for all Muslims on this earth, all around the world: Palestinians and all the suffering Muslims all around the world.
Q: Now we want to talk about eating on Hajj. Where will we get food? Also fasting on Hajj. What are the rules on fasting on Hajj?
Imam Mohammed: Fasting on Hajj should not be, unless it is the Tradition of the Prophet. And even then I would suggest that you be very cautious fasting on the Hajj, I can't recall but it seems like way back in the depth of my mind there might be some recollection of the Prophet (PBUH) fasting one day on the Hajj, but I'm not sure of that. I can't say. But only during the daylight hours, like you fast in Ramadan — if you fast. But I would strongly suggest that you don't fast on Hajj.
You need to take water often, good water, pure water and you need to eat as you would normally eat at home. Because your body is being tested. Your body is going up against a lot, just having your body in a completely new physical or geographic environment. The land is different, everything is different, the scenery is different. All that is notably taxing your mind and spirit, but it has an effect also on your physical body. So they shouldn't fast in my opinion. They should take care of themselves, because the general won't tell the poor soldier to fast. It's almost like being in the Army.
Q: Now we have been told that some people in the Holy Precincts are there to commit crimes. What methods can be used to avoid becoming a victim of theft or loss of funds or being swindled?
Imam Mohammed: Now there are thieves who will steal even from those who are protecting the senior citizens. So be aware that everybody there are not there for the Hajj — they are there to rob people. Some of them come just to catch something neglected or to slit your moneybag and let it drop off in their hands. You won't know you lost it, until you get where you're going and look at your dress or feel your dress. So there are experts who know how to do those things.
I was told this in 1967. Now this is a long time after 1967 and the people have become much more corrupt all over the world than they were back then. So you should be very careful.
The Saudis now are very hard on criminals. Very hard! Saudi Arabia has gotten a reputation of being very hard on criminals, and the reputation when I was there I wasn't aware of this. I knew some of their laws, Islamic laws, but I didn't see those laws applied to person who was coming in to Saudi Arabia.
Persons coming into Saudi Arabia with drugs, to steal, face some serious, serious justice there. I would advise them to be very careful. I wouldn't even want to see a criminal lose a hand or Jose their life. So I'm speaking now with compassion for the criminal. If you are going there for that reason from our community, be careful! The law is very severe. And they don't play at all: Swift and very severe.
Q: Now there will be a large number of Muslim from this community, the Muslim American Society, joining you for this Hajj. One thousand or more. You must feel blessed to have such a large delegation. Tell us what this Hajj means to you, now that you're taking your own community with you.
Imam Mohammed: Well, I asked for 2,000, you know. But many went last year, so we may not get but a thousand; if we get that this year. Then who knows, except Allah. We could be surprised and late comers might come and we could get 2,000 this year. I don't know. Everything is with G-d.
You said I must feel like a very blessed man. I am. But you all should feel that even stronger than I do. You are a very blessed people to have the son of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad taking you to Hajj.
Q: Al Hamdulillah. Now you did take a large number of Muslims before. Can we talk about that Hajj?
Imam Mohammed: Yes. This was some years ago. In fact, it was a few years after I became leader. We made our first Hajj and we had a delegation of three hundred. And that number was increased because Bro. Jabir Muhammad at that time was still enjoying having a pretty good income because of Muhammad Ali. He was managing Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer who ever stepped into the ring.
So Jabir paid for a big number of our senior citizens to go on that Hajj. It was a great Hajj. I saw a picture recently of myself during that Hajj. The Saudis had given me their garb, and I had on their dress. I was dressed like a Prince in their robe, and the brothers from my security and other brothers in our community were all around me.
Now that really touched me. Now that was some experience. I'll tell you how I felt. I felt firstly grateful to Allah that these people far away from the real picture of international Islam were with me. Elijah Muhammad's son, my mother's son Wallace, with those big numbers and good people. We were the best, and we're still the best. Good, sincere, loving people, loving Allah and loving one another and just loving to do what Allah said we were supposed to do, whether we understood it or not. So I was very touched by that. And I was there not as an individual, I was there as a representative of the whole community that we inherited.
Q: Now Brother Imam, these are all my questions. You might want to have some closing comments to wrap it up.
Imam Mohammed: For Hajj, yes. I will mention again that it's absolutely necessary that we have our local representatives give us a description of just what we are to expect when we make Hajj. Give us all the important details and mostly let us know that it's difficult. It's not a vacation.
Q: Thank you very much Brother Imam. Praise be to Allah. It's a beautiful sermon.