Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gender mixing, Co-education and Pilgrimages

Though not able to have a visual sensation of the God literally, we all experience God  in our own ways. But for many, if not most, nothing takes them closer to God than pilgrimages. Last week I was blessed to visit two of the holiest places on earth, Mecca and Medina for performing my Umrah(lesser pilgrimage in Islam).

Whenever I visit these places, it takes me to new heights in terms of sheer spirituality and enjoyment  Every time there is something new to discover and experience. Each visit adds even more dimensions to my views on God and his mercy.

Places trodden by the greatest prophet and his great soul mates and companions,
Where biggest revolution in the history of mankind was unfolded,
Battle fields where the "most peaceful wars" occurred,
Mosques where even non-Muslims where invited to perform their rituals,

The actual rituals of Umrah is even more fabulous. Re-enactment of some of the greatest moments from  history of humankind was an amazing journey with time machine to the past. Circling of the Holy Kaaba which has been practiced by people since ancient period reminded me of my lineage. Then it took me to the time where desperate Hajar performed the frantic search for water in the barren desert and all the tribulations she went through in her extraordinary life. And finally cutting the hair which symbolically shows your willingness to sacrifice anything for your beloved God.

But, what impresses me the most with Umra and Hajj is the splendid display of the concept of universality in Islam. It gives you an experience where you realize your true identity.The identity as just one creation among all the beautiful creations of God. This is THE underlying principle of Islam called Tawhid  and is marked by a clear vertical relationship between Creator and creations. A relationship based on his infinite mercy and compassion. It also means, the relationship among the creatures are that of horizontal and not vertical by any means. That is a relationship not built on hierarchy.                                                                                                                                                                       
 There is nothing more fascinating than experiencing the congregation of people with one motto, one motivation and one attire regardless of their race, color, sex or anything else that matters otherwise. Where everyone move in harmony with one voice and heart. A truly synchronous and rhythmic act of worship. Creations dancing to the tune of Creator.

Sadly, not everything about Mecca and Medina is a shining story; at least not any more.

Capitalism and commercialization is taking its toll. Most of the historic places and monuments are being destroyed in the name of "development" and "expansion". Frantic attempt is going on to cash in on every inch of the site. Shopping malls, star hotels, luxury suites and everything else that caters to the super rich are on the rise. One wonders what is the relevance of seven star hotels and super luxury suites in these sacred places? Places that are the declaration of human equity, justice and simplicity. Even worse, all these activities are destroying some of the glorious evidences that depict the life of Prophet, his family and his companions and the intimacy they had among them.

Back at home the debate about co education is still going on. With various muslim organizations demanding the abolition of co-education in schools. Some even support their arguments with mysterious statistics on perceived improvement in academics due to the segregation and separation!

But I keep wondering,

If men and women are performing Hajj, which is one of the pillars of Islam, together then how does it become a problem for them to study together ?
If they are doing every ritual in the holiest places on earth together, then why is it not so in our mosques or other places ?
If every single body is treated absolutely equal on these great occasions at these great places, then what is making some of them superior than others  in some other places ?

Thank God ! Thank you for reminding us about these thoughts by means of  Umrah and Hajj.

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