Hajj: How the true face of Islam in unity is reflected in this once-in-a-lifetime journey

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Young Asian Muslim man in ihram clothes with prayer beads. (Shutterstock)
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A father and his little son pray with the rosary at home. (Social media/Shutterstock)
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Two brothers among thousands of pilgrims perform the Tawaf. (Social media/Shutterstock)
Updated 13 August 2018
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Hajj: How the true face of Islam in unity is reflected in this once-in-a-lifetime journey

  • ‘Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him’
  • The rites of Hajj are performed from the 8th to the 12th of Dul Hijjah

RIYADH: Hajj is an epic experience that can truly change a person through a spiritual cleansing that is profound. Islam came to eliminate racism and tribalism, and in due process slavery. Hajj reflects the true face of Islam in unity, as all Muslims, regardless of their nationality or status, wear the same cloth before Allah.
This is reflected in the extremely simple clothing: Men wear two white cloths that cover their bodies, while women wear a long robe with and headscarf. (The face should be bare when performing Hajj.)
One of the aspects of Hajj is to cleanse our souls from all earthly possessions and luxuries that cling to one’s heart, reminding us that we shall return to the ground from which we were created.
A vast sea of people can be witnessed walking in unison to perform the rituals. It is a place free of discrimination and filled with appreciation.
In a small spot in Makkah, close to 3 million stand in prayer before Allah, to repent from sins and gather blessings from the Almighty. At that moment when they stand together atop Arafat Mountain, it really does feel like it’s a small world after all.

Togetherness, humility
Many have described their Hajj experience as life-changing. It is not easy to perform, but after completing it, it leaves you spiritually charged and more actively aware.
Hussam bin Ahmed, an organizer for one of the Hajj campaigns, speaks about how there’s a sense of togetherness and humility that unites pilgrims. “The company I work with serves 150 pilgrims yearly, and this is an honor and responsibility I take seriously,” he told Arab News.
“Every year we receive a large number of Hajj pilgrims, some quite famous, and every year, they surprise us with their humbleness and servitude. Many people perform Hajj (to get) spiritually close to Allah, but also to serve the pilgrims. Hajj is a time that shows the true face of Islam, where people come together and help one another. Pilgrims stand hand in hand and help one another in brotherly affection.”
“It’s beautiful when you see pilgrims from all over the world, who don’t even speak the same language, communicate through kindness. All during Hajj we see the true face of Islam, the higher purpose of us in life in its humanitarian aspect,” said Bin Ahmed.
In Hajj, the societal image of Islam is reflected in the inherited traditions since the time of Prophet Ibrahim. All forms of racism dissolved in those rituals.
The claims and the rituals were limited to words, deeds and even intentions. The chiefs did not wear clothing that distinguished them from their soldiers. Performing Hajj is a religious and moral message to the world.
Taking time to reflect on Hajj, Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani told Arab News: “The millions of pilgrims send a message to the whole world in their discipline and in the ethics of their gathering throughout the days and nights.
A small spot that attracts millions of all the nationalities of the world. Not only that, but greetings of peace are said to one another, and if one is need, then others are hastily at their aid.”
He continued, saying: “These huge masses that have good intentions and are determined to repent: It is the greater good of communities, when millions travel each year for the greatest intent, which is ‘self-forgiveness.’ The forgiveness of the past and reconciliation in the future.”
“Hajj season is the greatest channel Muslims have to raise awareness and show the tolerance of Islam and show a different picture than that which is shown of extremism. After Hajj, Muslims from all countries in the world return to their homes and are determined to resume a new life of coexistence with others.”
Moreover, Al-Kalbani says: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him’.”

In the service of Islam
The Hajj security officers are quite exceptional, going above and beyond to make sure that pilgrims from all over the world are safe and comfortable, putting them and their needs before their own. During the 11th Hajj Is Worship and Civilized Behavior campaign, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said: “I’ve been watching the security’s performance during Hajj season since I was appointed the governor of Makkah, and I grow prouder each year of what they do to serve Islam, Saudi Arabia and humanity.”
Performing Hajj reminds us of our humanitarian duties toward one another: That we are all one. After completing this spiritual cleansing, pilgrims continue this belief throughout their lives, as it has been engrained in them for the better.


Misk Global Forum hears that it’s all about skills

Updated 48 min 32 sec ago
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Misk Global Forum hears that it’s all about skills

  • News has changed drastically, with audiences more digitally connected now getting their news through online platforms such as Twitter
  • The third annual Misk Global Forum, with the theme Skills for Our Tomorrow, is taking place place at Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Center on Wednesday and Thursday

RIYADH: As the moderator of the first session, “It’s All About Skills,” at the Misk Global Forum on Wednesday, Arab News’ editor in chief Faisal J Abbas began by holding up the morning’s newspaper: “Two years ago people used to read the news like this,” he said.

But as he pointed out, the news has changed drastically, with audiences more digitally connected now getting their news through online platforms such as Twitter.

With media tweeting out his comments, Abbas began introducing his guests: Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, Saudi Minister of Labor and Social Development; Shaima Hamidaddin, executive manager of the Misk Global Forum; Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN secretary general’s envoy on youth from Sri Lanka; and Sue Siegel, chief innovation officer for General Electric.

Abbas asked Al-Rajhi how the government was tackling the challenge of finding jobs for youth. “With Vision 2030 programs (that) are happening today, we have a lot of initiatives and there is potential,” the minister said. “We all need to work together and collaborate with the education system, employers that create the jobs and the ministry to give a clear direction of where we are going today.”

Asked whether job creation is considered a worldwide issue, the UN envoy on youth confirmed it’s not just a regional concern. “It is not a national or regional issue but a global one: Our world is younger than it has ever been before. I’d like to look at this as an opportunity to achieve sustainability.”

Wickramanayake said out that by 2030, South Asia and Africa will supply 60 percent of the world’s workforce. “We have a large majority of young people that are working but still live in poverty,” she said, and it’s important to invest in them. “If we are serious then this is the time to make those investments: to be productive citizens and employees and employers.”

One of the groups making those sorts of investments in Saudi Arabia is the Misk Foundation, the forum’s organizer, which was founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2011. Hamidaddin pointed out that the foundation plays a complementary role, bridging gaps and working with partners to help equip young people with skills.  

Abbas asked the question that’s on everyone’s minds these days: Are machines going to take over our jobs? Siegel said everybody looks at artificial intelligence and thinks it means machines will take over our jobs, but it will actually enable productivity and create new jobs by taking over the more mundane ones. She pointed out that everyone thought computers would take our jobs, but they just augmented what we do.

When asked about the Arab world’s perception that international companies don’t care about the region, Seigel said that just isn’t so. “It’s inaccurate,” she said. “We have been in the Kingdom for over 80 years. Seventy percent of our business is out of the US. We have 4,000 employees here. The success of the country is the success of our company. We are pleased with the progress we have made here. “

When it comes to preparing Saudi youth for the jobs of the future, Al-Rajhi said a governmental committee formed by five ministers is looking at how well education is preparing them for it.

Speaking up from the audience, Saudi Education Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Issa took the mic: “It’s the easiest thing to criticize the education system, but we can see that all the people here are from education,” he said. “In general, we are reviewing all the education aspects in terms of curriculum or skills that (they) should require. We are also reviewing the specification of the needs of the labor market and education system. “

Al- Rajhi said the skills youth need for the future are definitely changing, stressing the need for problem solving, conversational skills and teamwork.

Abbas asked panelists to describe in one word what skills were needed for the future.

“Agility,” Hamidaddin said.

“The ability to learn,” said Siegel.

Wickramanayake said it’s a holistic approach and that we need to talk about skills development as a package for human beings.

And Al-Rajhi went with innovation. “Try to be always innovative or at least adaptable to innovation - in my opinion this is key to success,” he concluded.

Taking it back to his opening remarks, Abbas wrapped up the session by telling the audience to read about it on arabnews.com, prompting laughter from the audience.

The third annual Misk Global Forum, with the theme Skills for Our Tomorrow, is taking place place at Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Center on Wednesday and Thursday.