The pilgrimage & tour of corroborative narrations      

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Labbaika  Allah Humma Labb’aik (Here I am, at your service, O’ Lord)

Shabir Sarwar Malik

Ponder, O man tossed to the ground

See the signs strewn all around

Travel through the earth and see the woeful end

Of mighty people, who, manifest signs didn’t comprehend

Blessed are those for whom Allah has arranged

A PILGRIMAGE, to perform; the rite ordained.

The apt response to the clarion call of Allah-that was voiced by the Prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and later by the praise-worthy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W), can be none other than Tasleeman- Labb’aik (Accepted- Here I am). The call is an all encompassing invitation to accept, declare, ponder and to comply- of ushering ones head, heart and soul unto Almighty’s divine presence by offering one’s cleansed self in His Majesty’s service; seeking in all humility His beneficence that is manifest in His Essence and Attributes, exquisitely expressed in all that has been created or ordained.

For performing the prescribed rites (manasik) pilgrimage (Hajj) to holy Mecca; previously known as Bacca ( see 3:95 Al-Quran; 84:6 Old Testament, Psalms; meaning habitat in Syrian language) during the well known appointed days ( Ayamin Maloomaat), has been declared as duty for people, in Holy Quran (3:97)’ for we all know pilgrimage to certain places of significance is prescribed in almost all belief –systems somewhat on the higher pedestal than the pattern of annual village fairs, in terms of magnitude, purposefulness and benefits that, besides spiritual gains,  had  social aspects as well as economic and trade facet as an additional plus . One surmises whether the purposefulness of pilgrimage, that logically must have started in times nigh to Prophet Ismael (A.S) and could have, over centuries, largely deteriorated into the ludicrous, burlesque, boastful trivialities, coquettish ‘ghazal-goyie’ of fairs like Ukaz.

In the largest peninsula called Saudi Arabia there exists in the Wadi-e- Ibrahim (Valley of Ibrahim) the holy city of Mecca where the most ancient house (Baitul- Ateeq) is dedicated by the roving prophet Ibrahim (A.S) and his son prophet Ismael (A.S) to the worship of Allah, some forty centuries ago, which has remained ever since, the pivotal point and central place of pilgrimage for Muslims. Besides this house of worship, popularly known as The House of Allah ( Bait-ul-Allah), as well as Kaaba (literally a Cubit), there exist some monuments (mashair) of great significance and above all those places that have shared a relation with the revered prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) including meditation cave of Hira,  battle grounds near Medina, stoning ( jammarrat) place associated with Hd.Ibrahim & Ismael, Mina, Arafaat and old heritage remnants. There are other holy places outside Saudi Arabia, that are associated with Hd.Ali (A.S) or his holy family (making them equally sacred for pilgrimage) especially among the Shia Muslims.

Since repetition of well known rites and rituals, that one can find in numerous modestly priced and easily available ‘Hajj- booklets costing few bucks’, is not my purpose, here in this write up, I am of firm belief that writing about Hajj pilgrimage if confined only to the basic narratives afforded by scriptures and other minor books, the write-up would appear drab and ‘mere tales’ to younger generation, unless transferred into the realm of history with the comprehensive and intelligible summary of the result of modern research and investigations that pour in at a pace unheard before (- that I have painstakingly perused, largely, decades back -thanks to the stalwart editor of the local English Daily Newspaper, who upon realizing what amount of labour I had put-in, encouraged me, not only, by devoting half OPed page for 4 days for my article in 2013 Jan & Feb, after I returned from holy pilgrimage, but extending same attitude that led me to become non-political columnist of three local dailies from 2003 to 2019.

So my dear readers- adsorb that a Sundial in basalt, with Himyaritic inscription, belonging to 1st century AD has been found in Madayin Saleh. In later period Nabtaens practiced the sculptural art so intensively at Petra that the city became renowned on that account. Compared to them or to Indians, the Arabs, by and large, knew very little about the art of chiseling, carving stones so in Arab land statues of deities of non-believers were crude figures including that of Laat, Mannat and Uzza. These were far below the high standard of “ butaan-e- hind” (statues of Hind). The script of Nabataean language is akin to Aramaic and Hebrew. It is believed that the later Islamic Kufic script grew out of it.

In the Arab land, remnants of past habitations like Madayin Saleh of the pre-historic Thamud race existed in North West Arabia, where prophet Saleh (AS) preached in the 9th century B.C. In the area that lies between Hijaaz and Syria, especially where rock-hewn chambers of later date i:e 6th century BC, bearing Nabatean inscriptions of Babylonian origin that were first seen by The Islamic Army in the 9th Hijri, when they were coming back from Tabuk, have been recently found in an area, 280 Kms north of Medina. It  was much late (in recent centuries) visited by the English explorer Charles  Montagu Doughty, author of ‘Travels in Arabia Deserts’, who had his education in Cambridge and Caius in 1880.  Archaeological marvels in the shape of columnar temple have been unearthed recently that are hinted in surah 89, verse 7. From Assyrian sources one comes to know that during the reign of King Sagon II (722-705 BC) a Sabean Prince brought Spices as tribute. Around 500 BC Sabeans found a colony in Aksum, Ethopia (East Africa). Google search reveals that in this Horn of Africa, archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years. At this culturally advanced East Africa area rock-cut Christian churches from 12-13th century existed at a site called Lalibela. Aksum is the ruins of an ancient city with Obelisks, tombs, castles and Lady Mary Zion Church.

In southern part of Arabia, the race of Aad lived during pre-historic times in Hadramaut area of Yemen where prophet Hud (AS) preached. Ever since Van Wissmann and Meulen wrote in 1932 about this area, our knowledge of its unknown past has increased.

Towards the sea lived the Himayarite race and there existed, in 10th Century BC, the flourishing state of Sheba (Saba of 27:29 Al Quran, mentioned as the recipient of Prophet Sulaiman’s (AS) letter), that bore affinity with Abyssinia and Mesopotamia, whose spice-fields, Vineyards and incense farms were nurtured by the famous 2 mile long, 75 meter high, MARIB Dyke (Eram of 27: 23) commonly attributed to their king Luqmaan bin Aad, that ultimately burst around 120 AD, causing a ravaging deluge, to which Holy Quran refers in 34:15 and whose remnants T.J. Arnaud saw in 1893 AD.  Later in 1951 AD an American team also worked there for a long time.  (To be continued…)

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