The Excellence of the Kaaba, Mecca and residing therein, The Excellence of Medina the noble over other lands

By Abu Hamid al Ghazali from his Ihya ullum al Deen the book on the mysteries of Pilgramiage.

THE EXCELIENCE OF THE HOUSE AND OF EXALTED MECCA

[The Prophet] — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — ­said, “God most High has promised this House that six hundred thousand [persons] will make a pilgrimage to it every year; and if [the pilgrims] are short [of that number] God most High will complete [their number] with the angels. And [he has promised] that the Ka’ba will be crowded about, like a bride in procession, while all the pilgrims cling to Its curtains and run about It until It enters Paradise and they along with it.” And in [another] traditions “The Black Stone is one of the jewels of Pa­radise; it will be raised on the Day of Resurrection with eyes and with a tongue with which to speak, bearing witness on behalf of all” those who have kissed it in truth and sincerity.” and “[the Prophet]– the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — used to kiss it frequently.

” And it is re­ported that “He — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — prostra­ted himself before it” and used to circumambulate [it riding] on a camel, and would touch it with a stick and then kiss the end of the stick.” ” ‘Umar — may God be pleased with him –[once] kissed it and then said, I know you are just a stone in which there is neither harm nor benefit. If I had not seen the Apostle of God — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him– kiss you I would never have kissed you.” Then he wept until his sobbing raised, and he turned around and saw ‘Ali [Ibn Abu Talib] — may God honour his countenance and be pleased with him — and said, ‘O ‘Abu al-Hassan, here is the place: where tears should be shed and supplica­tions granted. ‘Ali said, ‘0 commander of the Faithful, there is indeed both harm and benefit [in the Black stone]. ‘He said, `How?’ [Ali] said, ‘When God made a covenant with progeny [of ‘Adam], He recorded [it] for them in a book, then stuffed it into this rock so that it might stand as witness to the fulfillment [of the covenant] by the believer and the re­pudiation [of it] by the unbeliever!” It is said that this is the mea­ning of those words spoken by people upon kissing [the Black Stone]:”0 God, for the faith in You, the belief in Your Book and the fulfillment of Your covenant” [I perform this duty].

It is elated on the authority of al-Hasan al-Basari — may God be pleased with him — that one day of fasting in it [i.e. Mecca] is equal to a hundred thousand days of fasting [in other place], and one dirham given as alms [In Mecca] is equal to a hundred thousand dirhams [given elsewhere]; the same is true of every [other] good dead. And it is said that seven cireumambulations [around the Ka’ba] is equal to one lesser Pilgrimage, and that three Lesser Pilgrimages are equal to one Greater Pilgrimage. Thus in a sound tradition [we read] : ” One lesser Pilgri­mage in [ the month of] Ramadan is equal to the Greater, Pilgrimage along with me.” And [the Prophet] — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him– ­said, “I am the first over whom the earth will be split, then I come to the people of Baqi’ so that they will be assembled along with me [on the Day of Resurrection], then I come to the people of Mecca to be resurrected between the two Sanctuaries (haramayn).” And in [another] tradition [he declares]: “Verily, ‘Adam –the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him –­was once met by angels after performing his rites, and they said to him,

‘Your pilgrimage is accepted, 0 ‘Adam. Verily we made the Pilgrimage to this house two thousand years before you.” Moreover, the following is found in the tradition: “Verily God Most High looks upon the people of the earth each night. The first of those upon whom He looks are the people of the Sanctuary (harem), and the first of the people of the Sanctuary upon whom He looks are the people in the Sacred Mosque (al-Masjid, al-Harem). Those whom He sees performing the circumambulation He forgives; those whom He sees praying He forgives; and those whom He sees standing with their faces toward the Ka’ba He forgives. “One of the friends [of God]– may God be pleased with them — to whom the mysteries had been revealed said, “I saw all the harbours prostrate themselves before ‘Abadan, and I saw ‘Abadan prostrate itself before Jadda.

” And it is said that the sun will not set on any day until one of the ‘Abdal has performed the circumambulation and that the dawn will not break forth after any night until one of the ‘Awtad has performed it; if this [daily routine] were to come to a stop, it would cause [the Ka’ba] to be removed from the earth, so that people would awaken [to find that] the Ka’ba had vanished and would find not a trace of it. The same [would also happen] if seven years were to pass without anyone having performed the Pilgrimage, moreover the Qur’an would be removed from its pages [masahif], and people would arise and, so, the paper would be white and glittering without a single letter on it; then the Qur’an would be erased from hearts and not a word of it would be re­membered; and the people would return to the poetry, songs, and tales of the pro-Islamic period; then Anti-Christ would go forth and Jesus –­upon whom be Peace –mould descend to kill him. The hour when all this occurs would be like the pregnant woman in travail, waiting for the mo­ment of her delivery. [it is said] in the traditions “Circumambulate this House frequently before it is removed, for it has been destroyed on two occasions and on the third occasion will be removed.” And it is related on the authority of ‘Ali — may God be pleased with him — that the Pro­phet — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — said, “God Most High said, ‘If I intend to destroy the world I would begin with My House: [firsts] I would destroy It and then I would destroy the world after It.”

THE EXCELIECE OF RESIDING AT MECCA THE EXALTED – MAY GOD WATCH OVER IT

The more cautious and circumspect of scholars consider residing at Mecca to be reprehensible for three reasons:

1. First, it is feared that one will become bored with and, [unduly] accustomed to the House, with the result that the burning reverence of the Heart [for it] would be tempered. Thus ‘Umar — may God be pleased with him — used to strike pilgrims who had completed the Pilgrimage, saying, ‘0 people of al-Yaman, to al-Yaman with you! 0 people of Syria, to Syria with you! 0 people of ‘Iraq, to ‘Iraq with you!” For this reason also ‘Umar — may God be pleased with him — ­forbade excessive circumambulation, saying, “I fear that people will take thi House for granted.”

2. Secondly, separation [from Mecca] arouses longing, inciting the mortive to return; for God has made the House a resort for mankind and a place of security –that is to say, they may be –take themselves to it from time to time, but with­out gaining their end. One [of the learned men] said, “It is better to be in a [far] country with your heart longing for Mecca and fixed upon this House than to be in [mecca] and [find] yourself tired of remaining there and your heart in another country.” One of the Fathers (Salaf) said, “Many of man in Khorasan is nearer to this House than he who circum­ambulates it.” It is said that God has some worshippers around whom the Ka’ba circumambulates in order to draw near to God Most High.

3. Thirdly, it is feared that one might commit errors and sins while there. This is indeed a grave end and, in view of the dignity of the place, is fit to bring on the wrath of God. Wuhayb Ibn a-Ward al-Makki is reported to have said, “It happened one night when I was praying in al-Hijr that I heard a voice from between the Ka’ba and the curtain saying, To God and to you, 0 Gabriel, I complain of that which I suffer from those who circumambulate around me, [namely] their engrossment in talk, their babble, and their sport. If they do not desist I will quake till every stone of mine return to the mountain from which it was hewn.”

Ibn Mas’ud — may God be pleased with him — said that there was not a town in which one was castigated for the [mere] intention [to do wrong] prior to the actual committing [to wrong] — except Mecca, and he recited the words of [God] Almighty; “And who seeks wrongfully to deviate therein [from the right path] we shall cause him to taste of a grievious punishment” ( 22:26 ). [Furthermore] it is said that bad deeds are [in Mecc] just as good deeds are doubled. ‘Ibn ‘Abbas –­may God be pleased with him — used to say, “In Mecca [mere] hoarding is, within the Sanctuary, an act of apostacy.” The same is also said of lying. Ibn ‘Abbas also said, “To commit seventy offences at Rukba is to me preferable to committing a single offence in Mecca.” Rukba is a rest-stop between Mecca and Ta’if. Out of fear of this [consi­deration], some residents [of Mecca] have gone so far as to refrain from relieving themselves within the Sanctuary, and instead to retire to al-Hill to take care of their needs. One of them remained a month without laying down his rib on the ground. In order to bar people from remaining [in Mecca], some scholars have deemed the renting of Meccan houses reprehensible.

Do not suppose that the reprehensibility of ramaining [in Mecca] contradicts the excellence of the place, the cause of this reprehensibitly is the weakness of the creatures and their inability to give the place its full due. Our statement “it is better to avoid remaining [in Mecca] means that [such is better] in relation to remaining [in Mecca] in [a condition of] negligence and boredom. As for [ the notion that] it is better than remaining [in Mecca] while giving [the place] its full due, this it far from the truth. How could it be otherwise, considering that the Apostle of God — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — upon returning to Mecca faced the Ka’ba and said, “Thou art the best [part] of the earth of God Most High and art to me the most beloved of God Al­mighty’s Lands. Had I not been driven from thee, I would not have left thee.” How indeed would the matter be otherwise, when [merely] to gaze at the House is worship, and good deeds [performed] in it are counted as double, as we, have already noted.

THE EXCELLENCE OF MEDINA THE. NOBLE OVER OTHER LANDS

No other place after Mecca is more excellent than Medina, [the city] of the Apostle of God — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him. All deeds are counted as double there as well. [The Apostle of God] — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — said, “A prayer performad in this mosque of mine is more meritorious than a thousand prayers in any other mosque save the Sacred. Mosque (al-Masjid al-Harem).” Likewise, every good deed in Medina is equal to a thousand [elsewhere]; then after the city [of the Apostle] comes the Holy Land where every prayer is equal to five hundred prayers [performed] in other places save the Sacred Mosque; and this is the ease with all other deeds.

Ibn ‘Abbas has reported that the Prophet the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — said, “A prayer performed in The Mosque of Medina amounts to ten thousand prayers, and a prayer performed in the al-Agsa Mosque amounts to one thousand prayers, and a prayer performed in the Sacred Mosque (al-Masjid a1-Harem) amounts to one hundred thousand prayers.” He [also] said — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — To him who endures patiently its [i.e. Medina’s] hardship and severity, I will be an intercessor on the Day of Resurrection.” [Still again] he said — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him –“He who is able to die in Medina let him do so for no one dies in it for whom I will not be an intercessor on the Day of Resurrection.” All places after these three are equal save the frontiers where abiding for the sake of defence has a great merit. Consequently, he said — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — “Do not set off on a journey unless to the three mosques: the Sacred Mosque My Mosque, and the al-4Agsa Mosque.”

Some of the learned men have maintained that this tradition proves that traveling to visit the shrines of martyrs and tombs of lear­ned and pious men is prohibited. However, the matter does not appear such to me, rather, visiting [tombs] is commanded, for he said — the Blessing and Peace of God be upon him — “I forbade [at first] to visit tombs. Now, [go and] visit them, but do not engage in obscene talk.” Thus the tradition [in question] applies only to mosques; shrines are not included in its mea­ning. All mosques, with exception of the Three, are equal, and since every town has a mosque in it there is no sense in going to another mosque. But shrines are not equal, and the “baraka” obtained through there visiting is in accordance with their degree in the sight of God Most High. Of course, if one were in a place where there was no mosque, one would be allowed to set off for another place where a mosque was located, and to make a complete move to it if he wished.

Then, would that I knew whether this speaker prohibits people from understanding journeys to the tombs of the prophets — Peace be upon them — such as Ibrahim, Moses, John, and others — Peace be upon them? That he should have prohibited this is highly unlikely, and if it is al­lowed, then the tombs of the friends [of God] and of learned and pious men must be included. It is not impossible that this [i.e. the visitation

of such tombs] is among the purposes of the Journey [mentioned in the tra­dition under discussion] just as the visitation of living men of learning is among [its] purposes. So much for the Journey.

As regards the residing, however, it is preferable for a dis­ciple to remain in his place if his purpose for Journey is not to acquire knowledge as long as his condition in his place is sound. If it is not sound, then he must seek a place in which inactivity is more feasible, religion is more safe, the heart more free, and worship more convenient. Such a place is best for [the disciple]. [Thus the Prophet] — the Bless­ing and Peace of God be upon him — said, “All countries belong to God Most High and [all] creatures are His slaves; therefore wherever you find kindness live there and thank God Most High.” In the tradition [we read], “Whoever was blessed in anything, let him keep on it; and whose subsis­tence was destined to be in a certain thing, let him not abondon it un­less when it changes [to worse].”

Abu Nu’aym said, “I saw Sufiyan al-Thawri put his bag on his shoulder and take his shoes in his hands. I said to him, ‘Where [are you going] 0 Abu ‘Abdallah? He said, “To a town where I may fill my bag with money.” Or, as another version has it, ‘It was reported to me that there was a town where things are cheap, so that I can reside there. I said, ‘Will you do that 0 Abu ‘Abdallah?’ Yes’, he said, Whenever you hear that things are cheap in a town, go to it because it is more secure for your religion and less [fright with] worry for you.” And he was saying, “This is a time of evil, in which even the obscures are not safe let alone the distinguished. This is a time of travelling. Such that a man travels from town to town seeking escape through religion from temptations.”

It is further reported that [Sufyan al-Thawri] have said, “By God, I do not know which country I may settle in.” Someone said to him, “Khuresan”. He said, “Conflicting doctrines and fallacious opinions [are there]. Then, someone said, “[How about] Syria?” He answered, [There] peo­ple point at you with their fingers.” Then, someone said, “[How about] “Iraq?” He said “[It is] a country of tyrants.” “How about Mecca”, one suggested? He said, “Mecca melts both bag and body.” Then a stranger said to him, “I have resolved to become a resident (mujawir) in Mecca. There­fore [please] advise me.” He said, “I advise you with three things: do not pray in the first row, do not befriend any Qurashite, and do not be osten­tation in alms-giving.” [Sufyan al-Thawri] disliked the first row because it makes one famous, so that whenever one is absent one is missed; and one thereby mixes one’s act with ostentation and hypocrisy.

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