In all events, the "benefits" the pilgrims could derive from the experience of the Hajj, for themselves, their countries, and the Muslim nation as a whole could, with good planning and guarantees for effectiveness and continuity, bring about enormous changes in the life of Muslims of which they are in dire need. The benefits are numerous, perennial, and capable of increase from age to age and of taking various forms to suit different individuals, groups, or countries. We understand this in the Arabic expression from the use of the indefinite plural in the word "benefits." I will give one example of the benefits Muslims could derive from the Hajj, properly understood.
The Hajj gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes, organizations, systems, and governments from all over the Muslim world to meet annually in a great congress. The time and venue of this congress has been set by their One God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim. No one has the power to bar anyone. Any such attempt would amount to the crime of debarring Muslims from the House of God that He has made "a resort for men and a sanctuary." Every Muslim who attends is guaranteed full safety and freedom as long as he himself does not violate its safety: "Whoever enters it is safe" (Quran 3:97). Such a congress is a miniature of the Muslim nation and offers a unique opportunity for discussion of all Muslims' problems and issues, whether related to the system of government, economics, culture, education, military and defense matters, industry, trade or commerce, and the condition of Muslims in every part of the Muslim world.
Such discussion could take place on the level of the layman, or at specialist level, in the Hajj atmosphere of detachment, inspired by the sense of unity instead of self-seeking individualism, and enriched by a multiplicity of ideas and experience. It could also take place on the level of Muslim decision-makers and rulers whom the Hajj calls from the towers of authority to mingle together and with ordinary Muslims in complete equality before their One Lord. What a tremendous assembly that should be, and what great "benefits" the Muslim could derive from it!
We do not, in fact, go too far when we ask for the unity of the Muslims to be the first issue to which all efforts should be directed during the Hajj season: the efforts of rulers, politicians, economists, thinkers, jurists, and all efforts of the media. Let the unity of the Muslim ummah and work for it be "the provisions" Muslims take from the Hajj when they make for the House of God from every corner in their lands, and let this unity be their starting and finishing point when they seek the "benefits" to which God has invited them on the Hajj. If this happens (and we pray to God to open the Muslims' hearts, eyes, and ears to it), it would restore to the Hajj its foremost function, and realize the message of this devotional act which, alas, appears nowadays to be devoid of it: yet "God prevails in His purpose, but most men do not know it" (Quran 12:21).
Excerpt from "Islam and the Pillars of Faith" published in Islam and Contemporary Society.
This article is reprinted with permission from IslamiCity.com.