International Icons speak on Hajj and Islam
For centuries, millions of Muslims have travelled to Makkah from every corner of the globe for the annual Hajj pilgrimage - the largest annual global gathering.
American civil rights activist Malcolm X made the pilgrimage in 1964. He wrote about the way that Hajj had demonstrated a unity he had not thought was possible in his autobiography, published in 1965:
“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white. America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held.”
In 2012, Bollywood star Aamir Khan made the Hajj pilgrimage from Mumbai with his mother, describing the experience to a reporter as: “Probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s very difficult to describe in words. The first time that you see the Kabaa and the whole experience of you know so many people from different parts of the world, speaking different languages. People of different colors, different creeds, different backgrounds, different societies, are all converging for this one thing, you know. It’s quite a fascinating sight. And certainly, it’s a once in a life6me experience.”
These perspectives reflect the key Islamic value of unity, reflected through the Hajj pilgrimage that brings the pilgrims together as one. This is one of the many universal values that Islam shares with the world.
Prolific English Writer H.G. Wells also noted the universal values of compassion and tolerance upon which Islam is based: “The Islamic teachings have left great traditions for equitable and gentle dealings and behavior, and inspire people with nobility and tolerance. These are human teachings of the highest order and at the same time practicable…Islam is replete with gentleness, courtesy, and fraternity.”
In a statement made on February 7, 1980 addressing American relations with Islamic nations, then US President Jimmy Carter highlighted these shared values:
“I have been struck, personally and in my experience as President, by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests.”