Last week 717 Muslims died during a stampede in Saudi Arabia during the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Mina. When I read about this I couldn’t help but wonder of the importance of such a pilgrimage and what would cause these people to trample others? If we look back over the years this is an reoccurring incident. In 1990 a stampede inside the Al-Ma’aisim tunnel leading out from Mecca towards Mina and the Plains of Arafat led to the deaths of 1,426 pilgrims. In 1994 a stampede killed at least 270 pilgrims, in 1998 at least 118 pilgrims were trampled to death and 180 injured in an incident on Jamarat Bridge. In 2001, 35 pilgrims were trampled to death in a stampede and in 2003 another 14 pilgrims’ were killed. While in 2004, 251 pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede and in 2006 at least 346 pilgrims were killed and 289 more were injured. When I look at these numbers it saddens me to think that each one of these numbers represent people who have died and went to hell.
In my studies I found out that this annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca known as Hajj, is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims. It must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult male Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah. During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’aba, runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha. Apart from being an obligatory religious duty, Hajj is seen to have a spiritual merit that provides the Muslims with an opportunity of self-renewal and also serves as a reminder of the Day of Judgment when Muslims believe people will stand before Allah. To every Muslim that was trampled last week and in the years past this is why they traveled thousands of miles to participate. It is of great importance that they fulfill the obligations of Allah in order to be saved.
I must tell you that I am thankful that I do not serve Allah, but a God of grace and mercy. A God whose love is not a response to our goodness, but in spite of our lack of goodness. A God who proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). But even more than dying for us, God the Son rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, and He offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by His grace through faith in Him. The apostle John wrote, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (1 John 4:10). His love for all people is unconditional.
The Qur’an teaches that Allah loves those he chooses to love and hates those he chooses to hate. It appears his love or hate is in response to human behavior. “Allah loves not those that do wrong,” says the Qur’an (Surah 3:140), neither does he love “him who is treacherous, sinful” (Surah 4:107). “Those who reject faith and do wrong – Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to anyway – Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein forever. And this to Allah is easy (4:168-169). We can also read in the Qur’an that Allah is not truly personal, knowable, or approachable. The Qur’an depicts him more judgmental than gracious and it is considered blasphemous to “presume” that one can know God or claim any sort of close, personal fellowship with Allah. The Qur’an also teaches that Allah did not, would not, and will not die for you, nor would he send anyone to die for you. In fact it says that there is no need for Allah to provide a sacrifice for sin because ignorance of Islam, not sin, is man’s problem and staying away from major sins will automatically result in one’s “small” sins being overlooked by Allah (4:31).
So as we consider what happened last week we see a people who have been deceived. A people that understood what it meant to submit to Allah as servants and if they didn’t perform this ritual while they were able, that Allah might judge against them. While we can respect their submission which is also a Biblical aspect of our relationship with God, it is incomplete. As Christians, through Jesus, we know that we move from being servants to becoming sons and daughters. So friends, please take some time today to pray for these men and women that they would have a full revelation of the true God and His loving character. Pray that they will also understand that God desires for everyone to know Him as children and not as slaves. Pray that they would get saved, pray that they will be convicted of sin and know true repentance. Pray that they would experience God’s total forgiveness and thus be able to forgive others. And also pray that they would know the assurance of salvation through Jesus, something Islam can never offer them!