Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friday Sermon Stirs Millions in Makkah

By Siraj Wahab

Published in Arab News on Saturday, November 14, 2010

About two million pilgrims listened with rapt attention to Imam Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais’ soul-stirring 40-minute sermon on Friday from the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The sermon was carried live on state television and many Arab, African and Asian television stations. On many occasions during the sermon the congregation was reduced to tears as the imam spoke about the tough times that Muslim world faces in these critical times.

Al-Sudais called for the liberation of Palestine and said now is the time for Palestinian factions to bury their differences. “These differences have only added to the miseries of our brothers and sisters in Palestine. This inhuman blockade has made life hellish for them. Now is the time for Muslim countries to unify their ranks and liberate Palestinians from the shackles of this inhuman bondage,” he said. “All differences among regional countries should be and can be resolved in the true spirit of Islam. The best example of our unity is this congregation in which every Muslim from every corner is united through the love of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Holy Qur’an.”

The imam described Palestine as the single biggest problem confronting the nation of Islam. “Every day brings a new form of misery for them,” he said, breaking down in tears. “O Allah, unite all Muslim nations.” The congregation responded with a vociferous “Aameen.”

Al-Sudais repeatedly stressed the value of unity. “Our divisions have given our adversaries the ruse to exploit us. We are fragmented despite being in such a large number. Unity is the key to our well-being. The message of Haj is unity. Let us pray for the unification of Muslims throughout the planet.”

The imam also stressed the need for hope and optimism with trust in Allah at all times of adversity. He quoted the Holy Qur’an: “And never give up hope in God’s soothing mercy: Truly no one despairs of God’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith.”

Al-Sudais congratulated the pilgrims for undertaking the most important journey of their lives. “This was your lifelong dream. You always wanted to be here. You always wanted to carry out this important task of Haj. Well, here you are in the holy land. You are lucky. It is all due to the blessings of Allah the Almighty. I congratulate you. From here you should take the most important message of Islam and that is tawheed (the oneness of Allah).”

Referring to Iraq, he said the cycle of unending wars has destroyed that nation. “Again, it is the lack of unity and petty issues that have been responsible for the tragedy in Iraq,” he said.

Al-Sudais thanked the Saudi leadership, led by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, for landmark projects to provide ease and comfort to the pilgrims during the various rituals of Haj. “The train services for pilgrims that go into operation this year are a remarkable achievement. May Allah protect this leadership, and may He grant them long life,” he said.

The Makkah Metro is ready to service pilgrims during this Haj. Saudi Arabia has poured billions of riyals into various infrastructure projects in Makkah, Mina and Arafat. The cost of such projects has never been passed onto the pilgrims.

Al-Sudais also paid rich tribute to all those Saudis who have dedicated themselves into the service of pilgrims. “You deserve congratulations for helping the guests of God. Allah has bestowed this rare honor on you to help the pilgrims, and you have not let the pilgrims down. May Allah keep you safe.”

“I've never experienced such calmness,” retired Nigerian military officer Salisu Ali said of Al-Sudais’ sermon. “I don’t speak Arabic nor do I understand it, but the verses that he was quoting from the Qur’an are all too familiar to us. And I could understand in what context he was quoting them. I couldn’t control my tears because everyone was crying. The sheikh moved us all.”

An aged Pakistani woman, Begum Jahanara Sarwat, said she never felt such peace. “We keep hearing all these bad stories and depressing events," she said. "However, today I did not feel weak at all. Why should I? We are this many people,” she added as she gestured to the throng of faithful. “Is it possible for our enemies to destroy us? These are momentary setbacks, my son. Don’t lose hope. Allah se acche ki ummeed rakho (Expect good from Allah)."

Every corner of the Grand Mosque was filled by pilgrims as early as 10 a.m. even though the time for Friday prayer was scheduled for 12:05 p.m. The relatively hot weather did not deter the pilgrims from performing the prayer on roads and in alleyways surrounding the mosque. The congregation thinned an hour after the prayer, and outside the mosque pigeons fluttered past the minarets and swooped down on any vacant space available in the mosque’s massive courtyard.

Spirituality combined with anxiety was evident on many pilgrims’ faces. With just 24 hours remaining before pilgrims begin the trek to the valley of Mina in the first leg of the five-day journey, the pilgrims’ minds are clearly focused on the rituals that they will perform in fulfillment of their obligations. “We are a little anxious. Being in Makkah is an overwhelming experience," said Syed Abbas, an elderly Indian man making his first pilgrimage. "There are so many people here. We come from a small town. Even performing circumambulation or tawaf is a big task."

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