Friday, May 04, 2007

Hajj, a Life Changing Journey, how Hajj changed El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s Life

Many can look back in time and find an event, person, place or thing which was influential or life changing. For some, it was a special teacher, or a mentor, for others, it could have been moving to another country or city. The one event that totally changed El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s (aka: Malcolm X) life, was his pilgrimage to Mekkah. Hajj, is a religious obligation that is at the heart of every Muslim believer. If able, he or she is expected to make Hajj at least once in their lifetime. This Hajj experience in 1965 truly changed his perspective on race and Islam. He witnessed the beauty of Islam in front of his eyes, seeing a multitude of Muslims from every corner of the earth, and every hue imaginable. It was more than just a religious experience; it was a journey into truth, an epiphany. In order to fully comprehend this awakening metamorphosis, transformation, and its impact, one must know the man before the pilgrimage.

El Hajj Malik Shabazz was born in Omaha, Nebraska May 19th, 1925. His father was a pastor who openly spoke out against racism and injustice. His voiced was silenced when he was brutally murdered by the Klan (racist White separatist group). Malik Shabazz was a boy at the time. In the absence of his father’s strict up bring, he fell into trouble with the law in his early 20’s. Ironically, he began studying Islam while incarcerated, later joining The Nation of Islam lead by Elijah Mohammad.

He once viewed people of European decent as devils, and evil. Perhaps the highly volatile racial climate during his life time played a role in some of his views. Lynches were the norm in the South, and contrary to what some believe, also occurred in the North. America was extremely divided, from the battle fields of the civil war, to the segregated water fountains of the civil rights era. African Americans’ home were burned by the Klan in the South, and also in the North. Young Emmit Tills was savagely murdered in Mississippi, to the point of un recognition. Martin Luther King was assassinated, as well as President Kennedy and his brother Senator Robert Kennedy adding more kindle to the flame.

In 1963 he ignored a direct order from Elijah Mohammad to remain silent after President Kennedy’s assassination and publicly went on record stating that Kennedy’s assignation was a matter of “the chickens coming home to roost.” He and was eventually excommunicated from the group. The nation of Islam was a highly militaristically structured Black Nationalist group. Many of their beliefs did not fall in line with orthodox Islam.

At some point, he began to question his own positions, the teachings and leadership of the Nation of Islam. El Hajj Malik Shabazz’s departure from the Nation of Islam just might have been the catalyst of change in his life. He went to Hajj, and soon rediscovered Islam. It had a remarkable impact on his life. His racial perspective changed as well as some past ideology. He said, (in a famous letter he wrote about his pilgrimage) “During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of the blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the ‘white' Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.”

In his timeless epithany, Malcolm said "America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered White - but the White attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color." The Koran says (49:10), The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear God, that ye may receive Mercy. “ He also said in a letter to members of the newly formed Masjid in Harlem “… on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth…”

It is sad that 40 years have passed, and so many have not embraced the great lessons of unity that Malcolm learned from his hajj journey. Hajj is a manifestation of a core Islamic principal of Muslim unity in the Ummah. The Koran also states (3:103): And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God's favor on you; for ye were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth God make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided by Islam.

Ossie Davis delivered Malcolm’s eulogy on February 27, 1965. He warned the people about those who would come and try to tarnish his legacy, telling them to “revile him, to flee, even from the presence of his memory, to save ourselves by writing him out of the history of our turbulent times. Many will say turn away, away from this man, for he is not a man but a demon, a monster, a subverter … And we will smile. They will say that he is of hate, a fanatic, a racist who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle!...” They did not know him.

No part of this article can be reproduced without the permission of the author .
Copyright Karema Akifah Saleh

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