Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Millions of Muslims head toward Makkah every year to perform Haj. Muslims converge on Makkah from every nook and corner of the world. They hail from different cultures, speak different languages and adhere to different political ideologies. But once they arrive in Makkah, all their differences vanish into thin air and they perform all Haj rituals in complete harmony. We see this happening every year. It is intriguing that the unity seen in Makkah is seldom experienced when they return to their respective countries. The spirit of brotherhood disappears when they end Haj and leave Makkah. Haj is not only about moving from one place to another to perform certain rituals, we also celebrate Eid Al-Adha at the end of the pilgrimage. Haj, in other words, is a form of worship and celebration. Haj is a symbol of Muslim unity and equality. All pilgrims don the same simple clothing called ihram. There is no difference in the dress code on the basis of age or economic status. Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, also instills in Muslims the importance of utilizing time effectively. During the pilgrimage, worshippers are supposed to perform rituals at specific time. Haj also teaches us tolerance. Since it is a huge gathering, perhaps the largest of its kind, people cannot perform the Haj without keeping their cool by tolerating others. In short, Haj teaches us self-discipline and to live in harmony with others. Currently, Muslims especially in the Arab world are going through a difficult phase. The entire Arab world has become a cauldron of chaos. On a daily basis, we receive reports about killings and unrest in the region. Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya have all descended into chaos. Unfortunately, in most of these countries Muslims are killing Muslims. During the past five years, hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been killed and many more have been injured in the ongoing bloodshed. The world is seeing millions of Muslims and non-Muslims being displaced from these Muslim countries. While the Muslim world is celebrating Eid, the world is witnessing the ordeal of thousands of Muslims who are fleeing their countries and facing death while seeking refuge in other places. Muslims should learn from the Haj season. During Haj, they live peacefully. They should try to emulate this spirit of brotherhood in other countries and after Haj as well. Living in peace and harmony is more comforting to the soul. And living in peace is a must for any form of development. For hundreds of years, Muslims during Haj have always used this gathering in Makkah to strengthen mutual ties. The entire Muslim world is facing unprecedented challenges that are of our own making and it is us who can resolve the ongoing crises. It is true that others can extend a helping hand but at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the Muslims to play their due roles to get over all the problems. We need to forge unity among our ranks and set aside our petty differences in the greater good of the Ummah. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Time for Muslim Unity reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.