#27 January 29, 2006.

Dear Friends,
We will gather together for our Badaliya Prayer on Sunday, January 29, 2006 from 3pm-4:30pm  in the small chapel in St. Paul's Parish Center. Please join us in person or in spirit as we pray for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land.

I am aware that the close of the annual Muslim pilgrimage called the Hajj took place this month ending on January 10th with a sacrificial feast that is called Eid-al Adha. You may have heard the tragic news that took place in Saudi Arabia at Mecca during those early days in January when a hotel housing pilgrims collapsed and later more than 300 pilgrims were crushed by the crowds near the end of one of the closing rituals.

Remaining true to Massignon who was aware of the sacred days in every religious tradition, especially the three Abrahamic faiths, and prayed with them and for them, I hold these innocent victims out to you for your prayers for them, their families and friends, and for all those who completed the Hajj which is experienced only once in a lifetime.

In our time we may not be as connected to the idea of a spiritual pilgrimage as we are to the idea of a spiritual retreat for some days or even a week or more. The annual Hajj is a unique kind of pilgrimage and has a series of ritual enactments that lend themselves to the reflections of many who have explored their mysteries and spiritual significance for the pilgrims. One of those authors is a 20th century Iranian scholar, Dr. Ali Shariati, who held a doctorate of Sociology & Islamic History from the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. He was a professor at Mashad University in Iran. His book called "Hajj" is posted on the following website:   http://www.shariati.org/
Once you enter the sight, click on the link called "Books" on the left side, and you will see it under "Hajj (Pilgrimage)"

The Hajj was started by the great prophet Abraham who is said to have re-built the Kaaba in Mecca with his son Ishmael as a symbolic universal house of God. It is a building in the shape of a six-sided cube and it is around this monument that the pilgrims circle seven times during the Hajj. It was here that Islam was born when the Prophet Mohammad cleared the hundreds of idols worshipped by the different tribes of Arabia and claimed the Kaaba for Islam and restored it as the House of the One God of Abraham.

Shariati invites his readers to think about the multiple spiritual meanings behind each ritual and takes us on this pilgrimage or journey towards God in a way that heightens and transforms just as it constantly reminds us of who we are individually and collectively, and of our responsibilities in every aspect of our every day lives as persons of God.

I would like to invite the members of the Badaliya to reflect on your own experience of a pilgrimage or a spiritual retreat that was significant for you and the ways that it has affected your life since then.

The Muslim and Christian shared pilgrimage that Massignon initiated out of an ancient annual pilgrimage at the chapel of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in Brittany, France comes to mind as a witness to our hope for interfaith reconciliation.Here are some excerpts from Shariati:

At Miqat, regardless of your race or tribe, you must doff all the covers you wore in your daily life. Wrap yourself in two pieces of cloth. One covers your shoulders and the other
goes around your waist. No special style or material is used. It is made of
very plain and simple fabric. Everyone is wearing the same outfit (Ihram).
No distinctions in appearance are visible.

The caravans from all over the world that are traveling to Hajj will
congregate at Miqat. They will meet at the same time and at the same place!

On his way to Allah, man is not just "to be" but he is "to become" what he
should be!

Hajj is also a movement. Man decides to return, and turn toward Allah. All of his egos
and selfish tendencies are buried at Miqat (Zu-halifa). He witnesses his own
dead body and visits his own grave. Man is reminded of the final goal of his
life. He experiences death at Miqat and resurrection after which he must
continue his mission in the desert between Miqat and Miad.

The scene is like the day of judgment. From one horizon to the other, a
"flood of whites" appears. All the people are wearing the Kafan. No one
can be recognized. The bodies were left in Miqat and the souls are
motivated here. Neither names, races, nor social status make a difference in this great
combination. An atmosphere of genuine unity prevails. It is a human show
of Allah's unity.In this desert all the nations and groups merge into one tribe. They
face one Kaaba.

The Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) who was the oldest and most rebellious man of
history, may be visualized. Denying all the idols on earth, he greatly
loved and obeyed Allah alone. With his own hands, he built the Kaaba. This
structure symbolizes Allah in the world.

The building is very simple. Black rocks of "Ajoon" are laid on top of each
other. There is no design or decoration involved. Its name, Kaabah, means a
"cube" in terms of architectural design - but why a "cube"?

>Why is it so simple lacking color and ornamentation? It is because Almighty
Allah has no "shape", no color and none is similar to Him. No pattern or
visualization of Allah that man imagines can represent Him. Being
omnipotent and omnipresent, Allah is "absolute".

Having six sides, the appropriate structure is a cube!
It encompasses all directions and simultaneously their sum symbolizes no direction!
The original symbol of this is the Kaaba! Now you can see the "absolute",
the one who has no direction - Allah! He is everywhere.

Kaaba is only a cornerstone, a sign to show the road.

May these few words lead us forward together in Badaliya.

Peace to you.