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Hajj a Religious Pilgrimage

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Within the next few days Muslims from across the globe will be converging on the Holy City of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia in order to fulfil the Hajj (Pilgrimage) during a six day period in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. The Hajj has been ordained by Allah Almighty in the Quran: “Pilgrimage to the House (of Allah) is a duty which men owe to Allah, (that is) those who can afford the journey; but if they deny faith, Allah stands not in need (of the services) of any of His creatures”. (Quran 3: 97).  

Hajj is a religious high point in a Muslim’s life and it is something that a Muslim dreams of fulfilling. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and the major if not the most significant expression of Islamic faith and unity. Undertaking the Hajj at least once in a life time is a duty for all Muslims who are physically and financially capable to make the journey to Makkah.  The emphasis on financial ability is meant to ensure that a one takes care of his family first and has sufficient means for the actual journey. The requirement that one must be healthy and physically capable of undertaking the Hajj is intended to exempt those who cannot endure the rigors of extended travel.

The Ka’ba was built when the great prophet Abraham (pbuh) was instructed by Allah to build the structure of the Holy Ka’ba in the valley of Bakkah (now known as Mecca). The Ka’ba is a small rectangular stone structure which stands in the compound of the Sacred Mosque is the first house dedicated to the worship of Allah.

The Almighty commanded Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to build the structure – He fulfilled the command and when he had completed building, Allah commanded him to call the people (mankind) to observe pilgrimage to it. Abraham (pbuh) pleaded “O Allah! How shall my voice reach all the people (all over the world)? Allah told him that his duty was to make the call and it was Allah Almighty who would make it reach the people.

Abraham (pbuh) then climbed Mount Arafah and called out in as loud a voice as he could, “O people! Verily Allah has prescribed upon you the Hajj, so perform the Hajj”. Allah Almighty records this in the Qur’an “And proclaim the Hajj among mankind. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean mount (or some mode of transport) through deep and distant mountain high-ways… ‘We gave the site of the Sacred House to Abraham, saying: do not associate anything with Me in worship and sanctify My House for those who encompass it, or stand up or bow, or prostrate themselves in prayer. And, proclaim the Pilgrimage to humankind’ (Quran 22:26-27).

To this day, every year, millions upon millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of The Almighty made through His Messenger and Prophet – Abraham (pbuh). The journey of Hajj is not meant for any personal ends rather it is undertaken with the sole intention of pleasing Allah and the fulfilment of the duty prescribed by Him. The love of our Creator is heightened as one starts preparing for the pilgrimage journey. With the heart longing to reach that goal, we try to become purer in thought and deed. We repent for past sins, seek forgiveness from people whom we might have wronged, and all that is necessary to get the prayers of others so as not to go to Allah’s court burdened with injustices that may have be done to fellow human beings.

Performing the Hajj is the spiritual high point of the Muslims life. ‘And complete the Hajj in the service of Allah’ (Quran 2: 196). It also brings about on a Muslim the assurance that he has performed the fifth pillar of Islam by following in the footsteps of both Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammed (pbut), but also the realisation that he is part of an Islamic Ummah (nation) that is over a billion strong across the globe.

A striking aspect of this occasion is that the Hajj is a demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. The pilgrims wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth during the Hajj, whereby each male pilgrim wears two white seamless pieces of cloth. The white cloth is symbolic of innocence, piety and cleanliness of body and soul. This white cloth shows that there is no distinction whatsoever between the poor and the rich, the young and the old, colour, race, nationality and language they gather together at the same place and at the same time, for the same purpose. Hajj is, most definitely, the largest single gathering of people in one place, at one time, for one purpose – to show their allegiance to Allah.

Hajj brings into focus and makes people realise our daily evil misdeeds and mistakes, which are as a result of either our weakness of faith, lack of consciousness of God Almighty and the general neglect of His commands and the way of life taught by His Messengers. A Muslim does not earn an acceptable Pilgrimage except by casting away our sinful behaviour.

While falling into sin is prohibited at all times, Allah gives a specific order to the pilgrims to abstain from all forms of wrong doing and sins. “Hajj is (during) well known months, so whoever has decided to undertake the Hajj therein, there shall be (for him) no obscenity and no transgression and no disputing during Hajj”. (Quran 2: 197). This verse emphasises the sacredness of the occasion and greatness of the place.

When performed in the correct prescribed manner it washes away all the sins of a person. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not indulge in any obscenity or transgression he returns (free from all sins) as the day his mother bore him.”
To mark the end of the Hajj, Muslims celebrate the day of Eid-ul-Adha, the Day of Sacrifice. This is to commemorate the sacrifice offered by the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) when he, in pursuance to a command of Allah conveyed to him in a dream, in which he was asked to slaughter his son, Ismail.

He actually prepared to slaughter his beloved son, Ismail, in pursuance of that dream. But the Almighty, after testing his total submission, sent down a sheep and saved his son from the fate of slaughter. Those who have undertaken the Hajj and also those who have remained at home will slaughter an animal. It is from that incident that the sacrifice of an animal became an obligatory duty to be performed by every Muslim who has the means to do it. The meat is distributed to family, friends and to the poor.

"It is not their meat, nor their blood that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him. Indeed He has subjected them (animals) to you so that you may glorify Allah for guiding you, and give glad tidings to those who excel in good." (Quran-22:37) There are many blessings of Hajj; in the Holy Quran where Allah Almighty instructs Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to invite mankind to come to Hajj, He summarises the matter by declaring: “So that they may witness the numerous benefits for themselves”. (Quran 22: 28).

Hence, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it. From the time of deciding and preparing to go for Hajj to the time of returning home, a tremendous impact is made on the hearts and minds of pilgrims. Going for Hajj entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures and all this simply for the sake of Allah Almighty, with no worldly or selfish motive. Thus the entire journey constitutes an act of worship.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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