The Pilgrimage We Need Is Not To Mecca by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

PilgrimageMany people have been writing about the Hajj from a critical perspective, telling Muslims it is a time to reflect seriously and deeply about what is happening there in Saudi Arabia with our sacred places and rituals. I am here to add my two cents to that fountain but also, to say that the Hajj we need is not in Mecca.

Even when the season of Hajj is over, it is never too late to ponder the idea that Islam is a spiritual path that encourages a way of life based on reflection, responsibility and ethical decisions. The Qur’an encourages believers through many verses to reflect on the reality surrounding the way of life and on our role in it like in 29:43, 30:21, & 30:22. Among the things Muslims should reflect on and take action concerning are firm opposition to oppression and raising their voices against injustice. That is the call of Allah  in 57:25, 4:76, 4:135, 5:8, for example.

We all know what happens in Saudi Arabia. So, I wonder, if we believe the word of Allah is true: why do some of us, declaring ourselves believers, continue to fuel the arrogance, injustice and oppression of the usurpers of our Faith? Why are we still funding the oppression occurring in Saudi Arabia with performing the Hajj? Are you naive or sheep-minded or unwilling to take responsibility for the role you play in the maintenance of oppression in the name of Islam?

You pay thousands of dollars to the Saudis for the Hajj, and with that you finance a million dollar business that has nothing spiritual or halal .. yes, hear me well: HAS NOTHING HALAL ABOUT IT! Then at the Mosque, Mussala or Derga you are shocked that the Saudis invaded Yemen to kill Muslims, make deals with Zionism, leave thousands of people to die at sea without giving them shelter, torture dissidents and activists and treat women like animals.  After all of that, why do you complain if you don´t have the courage to act as prescribed by the Quran and oppose injustice? Instead you fund oppression and become part of the problem. You are an oppressor by omission and payment via PayPal or Visa!

I do not want that Hajj for me. This is not the pilgrimage I am looking for as a Muslim. I will not spend my money to fund death and oppression, to endorse any system that violates the human rights of women, and to do business with my faith in a so-called pilgrimage that looks more like a tour of hedonism or an Arab version of Las Vegas. I won´t go anywhere where I am treated as a second class creature who needs permission and guidance from a male to perform rituals that are part of my private spiritual life.

If you think I should go to hell for this, then let me tell you it will not be worse than the hell that thousands of Muslim brothers and sisters suffer in the hands of so called Islamic Republics with your sponsorship and connivance. No? If not, then ¨… what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children…? ” (Quran, 4:75)

When I see how easy is for many Muslim souls to fall in arrogance, ignorance and negativity against others and the damaging effect of mainstream Islamic discourses in our communities, I think The Hajj we need as Ummah– the pilgrimage each of us must make– is not to Mecca but a journey within; an introspective journey to measure the condition of our Faith. The Hajj will remain an unshakable pillar of Islam. But if we really care about our relationship with Allah, if we want to approach as close as possible, its finest attributes, then a pilgrimage to sound the state of our  commitment with Allah’s Mercy– the essence of Islam– is absolutely necessary.

It causes more joy to my soul to think of a pilgrimage towards humankind around me: a journey of discovery and encounter with The Divine in my family, my neighbors, my life partner, my friends, the children in a school that is lacking books I can donate, a shelter for battered women where I can volunteer, a conversation with my daughter about her dreams and fears.

The pillars of Islam are tools to increase awareness of Allah. That is their value and purpose. To bring us closer to Allah, make us think about our relationship with Allah, help us to make concrete decisions in our life upon that relationship. Islam is a spiritual path where the human being must consider this relationship, which is far from doing things blindly just because they are commanded.

There is a pillar of Islam that is above the Hajj and to which all act of Ibadah must subject: Tawheed, our unity with the Divine and with all the creation through it. There is no separation between our consciousness and the universal consciousness, between our person and the creation, between our intentions and their results, between our choices and their consequences.

We don´t need to go to Mecca. Hajj is done whenever you meet God and feel one with God and God´s creation.

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente is a Writer, Mentor and Community Educator in Capacity Building for Grass Roots Female Leaders and Advocates. A Muslim Feminist who is an Independent Researcher of Gender and Islam in Latin America on Feminist Hermeneutics, Muslim Women Representations, Queer Identities and Movement Building. She blogs in Spanish at Mezquita de Mujeres, a site dedicated to explore the links between Gender, Religion and Feminism as well to Women from the Global South as Change Makers in their communities.

Author: Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Global Consultant and Community Educator in Gender, Human Rights and Development.

10 thoughts on “The Pilgrimage We Need Is Not To Mecca by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

  1. I know many Muslims in my local community are voicing many of the same doubts and reservations as you have described here regarding hajj and the administration of hajj by the Saudi monarchy.

    I expect that in the months to come we will be hearing more and more Saudi atrocities. Since the Kingdom was appointed to the UN Human Rights commission, there has been a lot of outrage and many groups want them to step down.

    However, as a citizen of the USA, I know that many of my tax dollars are going to support oppression, particularly of groups and communities far beyond the borders of North America. This is also a cause for self examination.

    Oppression doesn’t always ‘look’ ugly, evil is often banal.


  2. Brava! You are the most courageous Muslim I’ve ever heard of. Years ago, I worked as a technical writer at a company that was building ports in Saudi Arabia. One thing I wrote was what I guess was a behavior manual for the American men. I still remember the pages and pages of things they could not do in Saudi Arabia, starting with “Do not bring calendars with photos of women with you.” Women in any state of dress or undress.

    I’ve been wondering why the rich kingdoms around the Gulf don’t take in their coreligionists who are fleeing from Syria. I hate to think of my tax dollars going to fund those awful governments.

    You’re right: the true Hajj is to go within and meet one’s true self and learn what a good god does for his people.


  3. I agree with Vanessa about the core of the points she is making. Saudi Arabia is currently the biggest enemy of Islam one can find. One has to only read the history of Saudi Arabia to know that the breakdown of the muslim ummah, and the turn to extremism it took are squarely to be put at her feet.
    Additionally, all of the evils that currently plague Islam, the oppression of women, the sponsorship of terrorism, the sectarianism between shia and sunni, between salafis and sufis and between wahabism and anyone else, the current Syrian war, along with the enabling of western powers to use the middle east as their playground and personal banks, all come directly from the Saud and their lackeys.

    I also agree with the call for the inner hajj, the inner journey of closeness and the daily practice of goodwill and charity…. that is indeed the greater jihad and the sole measure of our personal relationship with God and our fellow human beings.
    I am of those who have been struggling with the idea of going to hajj in light of the evil of the Saud. I passed on last year’s and am pondering next year’s. I am also aware, however, that the hajj is greater than the Saud. The kaaba happens to reside in mecca, but it is not Mecca. It is the core (physical, spiritual and historical) of a faith that ties Abraham As to Muhamad As.
    It is a tough question to address, what does one do? The hajj, evidently, has some great social and spiritual rewards, as evidenced by the great spiritual changes I see in my own brother who returned last year from his pilgrimage. But it will come down too this: can we legally (religiously) call for a boycott of such a pillar of the faith?
    Is there any other means to express our discomfort that do not challenge such an important religious edict?
    And can’t one pursue the inner hajj while still satisfying the pillar of the pilgrimage?


  4. Along with NMR, I want to thank you for this post and reiterate that I believe we are starting to see a groundswell of protest against the Saudis by refusing to go on Umra or Hajj. I hear over and over again people declare that they will not go under these circumstances. As for me, I would not go at this point. But my own sense is that refusing to go on Hajj is a complicated personal choice based on one’s own sense of piety and obligation. I feel very uncomfortable judging others for their choice on this matter. Not saying you should not, I’m not judging you either for calling people out for going. I am only stating that I do not feel comfortable doing that.

    I personally believe that the only way to deal with Saudi injustice is to press our home countries on their complicity with Saudi oppressions. We have to work towards ending the complex nature of the fighting going on in that part of the world: from US/Russia proxy wars, to Sectarian politics, and the rest. The Saudis do as they please because the US and other countries demand nothing of them in return for air bases, buying their weapons, and meeting their other political and economic ends.

    Perhaps through boycott and political pressure something will happen?


  5. I admire the sentiments and strong principles behind the post and agree with certain points. Maybe yes there’s “nothing halal” about the hajj industry, but the hajj industry and Hajj are not the same. People go there to feel the things you describe, unity with humanity as well as their fellow Muslims, bad and good, faithful and unfaithful, etc. That’s not them being sheep; that’s them trying to find unity at the heart of political, ethnic, moral, and all kinds of differences. That’s not them doing things just because they’re “commanded;” it’s them doing things for the reason behind the command. Saying that we should strive for this experience outside of hajj is great, but we also think that hajj is there for a reason. I don’t know if you have been through the hajj experience, but I find it very hard to encourage people to boycott the spiritual experience for political reasons and risking not experiencing the hajj even once in their lives. Where I live, people save up for years to go, and they only get to go once in their lives if they’re lucky (for the most part). For many of them, hajj is the only place where they get to see people from all walks of life, from all socio-economic backgrounds, from all ethnicities, being humbled in front of the same God and being equal. For some, that experience has been tainted by the Saudi regime (not Saudis at large I must point out here) but declaring the experience tainted for everyone out of hand is inaccurate and can never be because it’s a very spiritual experience.

    I know it’s the ethical dilemma you’re pointing out here, but it’s a dilemma to which the answer is still not very clear to me. some people choose to think that their hajj money goes to building more space for pilgrims, and building more infrastructure, and installing ventilating and power systems that are able to support and protect pilgrims every year. I know this is a naive view, but we are being selective in our perspective anyways. My point is, is it really about hajj, or about the oil? How effective would boycotting hajj be compared to boycotting Saudi oil? Which would stop the killing in Yemen? Does the Saudi regime really draw it’s religious legitimacy from hajj? What about other religious state and non-state actors? I’m honestly not sure, but what I know is that we all live under oppressive governments one way or another. We all choose to fight some fights and leave other fights to others, but judging is not something that we should do lightly, especially if our objective is to change and advocate rather than to preach to our choirs.

    Having said that, it seems that the notion of boycotting haj doesn’t seem very far-fetched now with the death of hundreds in the last season. Iran and Turkey are certainly not happy with KSA hogging all the control and benefit of haj and of course they’re not happy with the death of their citizens during hajj, but it’s still more political than ethical.

    I really liked this post and think it’s courageous. Thank you for bringing up such an important dilemma.


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