Academic journal article Islam & Science

When the Barefoot Shepherds Outvie Each Other in the Construction of Tall Buildings

Academic journal article Islam & Science

When the Barefoot Shepherds Outvie Each Other in the Construction of Tall Buildings

Article excerpt

Those who last visited the House of Allah (bayt Allah) in Makka before 1980 may find the following first-hand account of a recent pilgrim unbelievable:

   Just returned from 'Umra, al-hamdu li'Llah. I wanted to combine the
   blessings of Ramadan with those of pilgrimage, but without doubt,
   this was the most difficult exercise I have ever done--even harder
   than the Hajj two years ago. It was absolute chaos in Makka. The
   noise of heavy machines breaking mountains to construct five-star
   hotels all around the Haram, the jostling crowds busy shopping on
   the roads leading to the House, the streets thronging with
   people--one could not move without pushing others out of the way.
   And when you finally enter the Haram, you see seventy-year-old men
   immersed in the small screens of their cell phones, their eyes
   glued to digital images. The new site of the Zam-zam well, now
   moved to the wall of the open courtyard to the right of the shrine
   of Ibrahim, upon him peace, presented a scene similar to food
   distribution chaos in a famine-struck country.

   There was no sign of serenity anywhere in the House: the corridors
   were full of noise, the maddening pace of construction, the
   overhanging cranes, the site of the new Clock Tower, the food
   courts outside the hotels which now surround the Haram with all
   their profanity ... how can one concentrate on worshipping the Lord
   of the House? And they are planning to increase this crowd to 5
   million! It was the 25th night of Ramadan, we had barely finished
   the long supplication after the tarawih prayer completing the
   recitation of the Qur'an, I knew it was time to close the external
   eyes and open the eyes of the heart--when suddenly the sky over the
   Haram was filled with a laser show projected from the Clock Tower!
   I wish I could scream ... the sky was lit up with lasers in all
   directions, arresting over two million human beings with their
   dangling beams. Their faces lifted up to the sky, the worshippers
   gathered in the Haram from all over the world were now mesmerized
   by the synthetic lights which swirled and danced and twisted and
   formed and reformed various shapes, as if mocking the believers
   with a brazenness no one could have imagined even a decade ago.

Now that profanity has reached the most sacred place on earth (the inviolable House, the Sanctified Precinct), and the rapid appearance of Signs makes it abundantly clear that a certain threshold has been crossed regarding the temporal flux hurling forth with such violence that even the inattentive are left wondering as the world crumbles around them, the question incessantly being asked by those who can feel the Hour as if it were just around the corner is: What is to be done at this eleventh hour?

To be sure, this is not the first time this question is being asked. The Companions themselves, "the best of all people" as the Prophet called them, were the first to sense the proximity of the Hour as the light of prophecy, which had provided a certain solace to their hearts, was lifted from among them. They felt an unmistakable sign and an unbearable anguish. Some time after the demise of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, Abu Bakr said to 'Umar, Allah be pleased with them both, "Take us to Umm Ayman so that we can visit her." Upon seeing them, Umm Ayman--whom the Prophet called "my mother after my own mother; the rest of my family" (Ibn Kathir, Sira 4:643; al-Qari, Sharh al-shifa' 1:172; al-Maqrizi, Imtac al-asrmc 6:340)--wept. They said to her, "Why do you cry? What Allah has for His Prophet is better." She replied, "I know that what Allah has for His Prophet is better, but I am crying because the revelation coming down from the sky has ceased." As they heard this, both Abu Bakr and 'Umar wept with her (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Jana'iz, dhikr wafatih wa dafnih salla Allah 'alayh wa sallam).

The Prophet himself had repeatedly warned the Companions that the Hour is drawing near. …

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