September 26, 2015
[When] we were going to stone the jamarat, on the Day of Eid, I noticed something incredible. Many groups were carrying a flag as a way to keep [everyone] together, and to find them if someone got lost. Some groups used their country flag. Since we were still in a state of ihram, it was recommended to repeat the Talbiyah (“Labayk Allah huma labayk…”). So as we were going through the tunnels, I saw a mass of people, with the flags of their countries raised, all chanting the same praise to the same God, a praise that echoed through the tunnels and increased in volume. It was this moment where the unity of Islam really sunk into me. I can’t remember who said it, but I once heard that religion is the only thing that can unite mankind. Things like nationality, language, ideals, even the UN (for all its efforts) are all subject to our own biases and prejudices. But religion is the one thing that transcends all of those things. It is submission of our own wills, laws and desires to a higher power.
This was one of the epitomizing moments on Hajj for me. It was a moment where I saw the true spirit of global community that Islam instills. You hear about it a lot, listening to speakers and scholars. The word in Arabic is “ummah”, a term which generally refers to the global collective of Muslims as a whole. While walking through that tunnel, seeing the flags of many countries waving while people marched and chanted the same call, I truly felt and understood the universality of Islam.
From the beginning, Islam was meant to transcend race and nationality. It was meant to elevate people above petty disagreements and prejudices such as racism. In the Quran, God addresses mankind as such:
“O people, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble of you to Allah is the most righteous of you. Verily, Allah is knowing and aware.” (49:13)
Almost as an accompaniment to this verse, Prophet Muhammad said in his final sermon:
“O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no virtue of an Arab over a foreigner nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness.”
This revolutionary idea—that man was equal regardless of race—still continues to be an issue of contempt today. But there in the heat of Mecca, marching towards our destination, I saw men and women of all nationalities and colours united for a single purpose: God. A sea of pilgrims flowing forward, a unanimous sound booming forth from us like a wave, praising God. It was here that I truly felt part of a global community—an ummah.