Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz ibne Abdullah al-Sheikh, in his Haj sermon to two million odd pilgrims delivered at Masjid-e-Nimra at Arafat, forcefully and absolutely rebutted violence as having any place in Islam. In a clear message to those whose appropriation of the name of the religion has bought death, destruction and misery to many lands, including troubled areas in Pakistan, is a warning to any remaining apologists for violence being exercised in the name of religion. The mufti called upon Muslim countries to constitute an economic bloc of their own and to utilise their wealth for the acquisition of knowledge, in particular, technological. This is excellent advice, at a time when the more retrogressive the interpretation of religion, the more purist a version this is assumed to be. Islam preaches for every girl to be a Malala and for a Muslim to be recognised as one from whom no harm comes to anyone, be they Muslim or not.

Pakistan is celebrating Eidul Azha today, with the day marking the greatest event in the annual calendar of the Muslims, the Haj, one of the pillars of Islam constituting the pilgrimage to Makkah, for many the one and only time in their life. Eid is marked by those who remain at home, by the sacrifice of animals. The necessity of sacrifice often tends to be overlooked in the hurly-burly of preparations, which are usually complicated by the logistical difficulties of arranging a sacrifice. The Eid commemorates the Abrahamic Sacrifice, his readiness to sacrifice his son Ismail, and the animal sacrifice offered by so many million Muslims is in commemoration of the ram sent by the Almighty as a substitute for Ismail, after the father had shown his readiness to make the sacrifice, and the son had shown his willingness to be sacrificed.

There is a tradition of review of the affairs of the Ummah at this time, which dates back to the time that there was a single Caliph, who used this as an occasion for a sort of governors’ conference. This was very useful in an era when there was no means of communication faster than couriers on horseback, but now, even though there is a whole range of virtually instantaneous electronic means of communication, as there is no Caliph, let alone caliphal state, the various pilgrims who exchange experiences among themselves are the only means left of expressing Ummah unity. A review would show a troubled Ummah. The decades-old problems of the illegal occupations of Kashmir and Palestine persist, while Afghanistan faces an impending civil war after a decade of war, and threats to invade Iran abound. The situation in Syria is far from resolved, and there it seems that while its President Bashar Al-Assad is unable to suppress the rebellion against him, the rebels seem unable to oust him. The Muslim world has also to absorb the effects of their various failures to bring issues of import to the agenda of the UN. Within this context, Pakistan’s people are suffering from energy shortages, poor law and order, absolute confusion in the prevalence of conspiracy theory masquerading as drawing room foreign policy and general misgovernance. This is also certainly the last Eid before the coming general election, as well as for President Zardari in office, unless he is re-elected.

With two million participants in attendance, the Haj remains the largest pilgrimage in the world. But perhaps more important than the sheer numbers may well be the sheer variety of the lands from which the pilgrims have come. They do not just come from countries with Muslim majorities, but also those with minorities. And through this Eid, not only those who have not performed the Haj are motivated, but those who have, find their memories revived. However, there is a definite disconnect between such a large gathering, and the plight of Muslims the world over. The peaceful nature of the entire experience should show the world the real nature of the religion’s sublime teachings, and dispel the image of the Muslim as terrorist. Pakistan must be prepared to play its due role in the Muslim world, especially as it is a claimant to one illegally occupied territory, Kashmir. Whatever the results of the coming elections, it must keep in mind not only that it is among the most populous Muslim countries, but also its only nuclear power. At the same time, all Muslims, Pakistanis in particular, must obtain more education, so as to enable the Muslims to take an honourable place in the comity of nations, so that they can exercise true independence and live according to their traditions.

The sterling advice given by the Grand Mufti has to be heeded to acquire influence in world politics that the Muslim Ummah merits in view of its numerical strength as well as wealth and natural resources.