Malcom X—the lessons of Haj


Millions of Muslims perform Haj every year. They come with a past to cleanse, present to enlighten and future to pray for. They return with all that, and more: The knowledge, the experience, the findings — the lessons.

No matter how much you expect, how often you perform, and how far and deep you are prepared, Haj would always surprise you with more than you thought ever possible.

I talked about my experiences, then read about others’. Here is one that I read and wrote about before, but still remember after every Haj, as a lesson that changes much more, and many more than the learner.

When civil rights leader Malcolm X came for Haj in the early 1960s, he was impressed most with one phenomenon: Islam is truly a global religion. It is ethnic and color blind. Millions of people, from all over the world, came together to answer one call, and pray to one God.

He talked in his “Autobiography of Malcolm X,” published shortly after his death, about his experience living in a tent with Muslims having different skin colors — yellow, dark, black ... and yes, white!

In Makkah, Malcolm X learned to make peace with his fellow humans, especially the “white man.” He returned to America a different man, changed his name to "Malik Shabazz,” established the Sunni “Muslim Mosque Inc.,” and the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

No longer Malik believed that Elijah Mohammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, is a prophet, and that the “white man” is inherently devil. He disavowed racism, saying, "I realized racism isn't just a black and white problem. It has brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.”

He admitted: “I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all [Black] Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.”

It cost him more! In a nation torn by racial conflicts, Malcolm X eventually paid with his life for this change of track! In February 1965, shortly after repudiating the Nation of Islam, he was assassinated by three of its members.

His legacy continues todate. The alternation of track affected millions of Muslims in America and beyond. Makkah was the beginning of a long journey that took him and his followers to a more tolerant, open and enlightened future.

Every year, we have millions of potential Malcolm Xs looking for answers and seeking peace. They leave an earthly life for a heavenly one. In their most sensitive moments, when very much receptive to guidance and change, they need cool sheikhs — those who speak of love, peace and care. In such spiritual time, the last thing they need is a voice of division, hate and argumentation.

Politics call for all the above and should be left behind. Hajis are here not as representatives of their governments, or defenders of their policies. They come here only as Muslims, answering Allah’s call and performing their sacred duties. Their allegiance, in the House of God, must be limited to Him. Other earthly affiliations and associations should not interfere. Certainly, not in the purest moments of one’s life.

If there is a time in life where we should reflect, mediate and be closer to Allah and all His creations, it is there, where everything has started, when Abraham built the House of God in the most sacred place on Earth — Makkah. We should use this precious time to preach unity, tolerance and peace. The Muslim Ummah and humanity needs that, desperately.

The story of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz is inspiring in many ways, to generations of Muslims in America and the world. We need to study it, as well as, similar experiences, in order to learn the true meaning of Haj — a soul-searching journey that brings the best in us, for all of us.

I pray for those who haven’t had the opportunity, yet, to perform Haj and that Allah expedite their wishes. I also wish that those who have already experienced the journey of their life to share its lessons with us. We have a lot to learn ... and so much to share.

– Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi