Saturday, February 13, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Pilgraimages

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
As part of a Muslim's religious obligations there is the making of pilgrimages and visitations to the holy temple in Mecca. These pilgrimages were instituted my Muhammad in the Koran.
"They will question thee concerning the new moons. Say: 'They are appointed times [periods fixed] for the people, and the Pilgrimage.'" (Koran 2:185)
"and proclaim among men the Pilgrimage, and they shall come unto thee on foot and upon every lean beast [fleet camel], they shall come from every deep ravine that they may witness things profitable to them and mention God's Name on [the appointed] days well-known over such beasts of the flocks as He has provided them." (Koran 22:28-29)
Their destination was to be the Caaba in Mecca; A square shaped house, or temple, that Muslims believe was built by Abraham at the direction of God.
"And when Abraham, and Ishmael with him, raised up the foundations of the House: 'Our Lord, receive this from us; Thou art the All-hearing, the All-knowing" (Koran 2:121)
"The first House [temple] established for the people was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all being. Therein are clear signs -- the station [standing place] of Abraham, and whosoever enters it is in security. It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there." (Koran 3:90-91)
Pilgrimages to the Caaba are imposed upon all Muslims as a duty; a duty they were not to neglect.
"Fulfil the Pilgrimage and the Visitation unto God; but if you are prevented, then such offering as may be feasible." (Koran 2:192)
Rodwell describes the differences between the Pilgrimage and the Visitation. "The greater Pilgrimage, which every Muslim is bound to perform once in his life, is the Hadjat el Farz (the one obligatory Pilgrimage), or the Hadjat el Islam. The Umrah, or little pilgrimage, may be performed at any time except the pilgrimage season, its their ceremonies are much fewer." (J.M. Rodwell, The Koran, Footnote 2.76) As part of their service at the Caaba, they were to bring with them necklaces, or ornaments, of garlands that they were to offer at the house.
"O believers, profane not God's waymarks [rites] nor the holy month, neither the offering, nor the necklaces [ornaments], nor those repairing [who press on] to the Holy House seeking from their Lord bounty and good pleasure." (Koran 5:2)
Their behavior along the journey was to be pious and they were to abstain from anything that would defile them. They were even to refrain from sex with their wives and their slaves while making the journey.
"The Pilgrimage is in months well-known; whoso undertakes the duty of Pilgrimage in them shall not go in to his womenfolk nor indulge in ungodliness and disputing in the Pilgrimage." (Koran 2:193)
They were also not permitted to hunt for game while on their pilgrimage, although they could fish for food along the way.
"Permitted [It is lawful] to you is the game of the sea and the food of it, as a provision for you and for the journeyers; but forbidden [unlawful] to you is the game [to hunt] of the land, so long as you remain in pilgrim sanctity [pilgrimage]; and fear God, unto whom you shall be mustered [assembled]." (Koran 5:97)
Such pilgrimages are fixed, not only in the religious calendar of Islam, but in the expectations of Allah as to their necessity in making one worthy and a true believer. This idea of the necessity of pilgrimages was foreign to the teachings of Christ and the life of the early church. Even King David understood that God was everywhere and that wherever God is, which is everywhere, is holy. David wrote, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." (Psalms 139:7-12) Paul acknowledges that, speaking of God, "He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist." (Acts 17:27-28) Even Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is not a place; it does not reside in a region, a nation, a city, or a building but "indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21 NKJV

If we live our entire lives within God, and if God also lives within us, then what need have we to journey to find that which is already within us? If what makes something, or some place, holy is the presence of God, then we are already holy and everywhere we go is holy. Everywhere we are is the destination of our pilgrimage for we have come to where God is, for He is forever within us. Jesus never taught or enjoined upon us the need for pilgrimages, neither did His Apostles, nor did the early church show any regard for pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, or any other place deemed to be holy. Muhammad did not understand the reality of God living with us, or the coming of "Immanuel... God with us." (Matthew 1:23) Had Muhammad know the truth, he would have not erred when it came to the duty of the pilgrimage.

More to come...
David Robison

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