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The Importance of Shā‘āir Allāh
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

The word sha’air is the plural of sha’eerah and implies certain objects which indicate and symbolically represent certain realities. In religious parlance, it implies those manifestations of the Sharī’ah which have been fixed by Allah and His Prophet (sws) as emblems to create an understanding of certain realities by symbolically representing them. The real aim is to effectively convey the realities for which they stand, but since they have been fixed by Allah and His Prophet (sws), they also are rendered sacred by virtue of their relationship with the respective realities they symbolize. For example, slaughtering animals for sacrifice is a sha’eerah. It expresses the essence of Islam which is that a person should consign himself to the Almighty and expend the dearest of things in His cause. The Prophet Abraham gave a practical demonstration of this spirit by offering the sacrifice of his dear son. This spirit has been eternally symbolized in the sacrifice of animals to constantly remind people of the essence of Islam.

Likewise, the Hijrah-i-Aswad is a sha’eerah. Since the time of the Prophet Abraham touching or kissing it symbolizes a renewal of a person’s pledge to worship and obey the Almighty. Certain traditions also qualify it as Yameen-ul-laah (the hand of Allah) which positively indicates that when a person touches it, he, in reality, places his hand in the hand of Allah and renews his covenant with Allah and when he kisses it, he, in fact, expresses love and obedience for the Almighty.

Similarly, the Jamaraat is also a sha’eerah. When the pilgrims pelt stones at these marked places, this actually symbolizes their readiness and determination to fight against the adverseries of the Baitullaah and Islam, whether they may be among men or the progeny of Iblees.

The Baitullaah is another sha’eerah and perhaps it is the greatest one. The whole Muslim Ummah turns towards it during prayers and as such it is the focal point of Tauheed and Salaat. By building our mosques in the direction of Baitullaah and as indeed while circumambulating it, we actually give expression to the belief that we are the obedient servants and devotees of the Almighty, for whose worship this House was actually built.

The Hills of Safaa and Marwah too are among the sha’aair-ul-laah. It is generally believed that they have been fixed as sha’aair because Hadhrat Hajrah had made frantic efforts to find water for her son, Ismael, while running between these hills. However, my teacher, Imam Farahi, tends to believe that the real reason for these hills to be regarded among the sha’aair is that at Marwah the Prophet Abraham, while obeying the Almighty, had prostrated his son Ismael in order to sacrifice him. It is to give eternal commemoration to this extraordinary spirit of submission to the Almighty, that these hills, according to him, have been regarded as sha’aair-ul-laah.

However, certain aspects about these sha’aair should always remain in consideration:

(1) These sha’aair have been fixed by Allah and His Prophet (sws) and no one whatsoever has the right to insert new entries in the list or discard the existing ones. Whenever people on their own have tried to tamper with the contents of this divinely ordained list, this interferance, history bears witness, has always resulted in horrible forms of polytheism and religious innovation (bid’at)

(2) Allah and His Prophet (sws) have also, once and for all, determined the manner in which these sha’aair should be reverred and paid respect to. The reality which a sha’eerah symbolizes is best and solely expressed by the manner ordained by the Almighty in which it should be paid respect to. Any deviation in this regard not only deprives a person of this reality, it also opens the door to polytheism and religious innovation. As an example, suppose that the manner in which the Hijrah-i-Aswad should be reverred has been set forth by Islam as kissing it or, kissing the hands after touching it or pointing towards it in a certain manner---during the circumambulation (tawaaf) of the Holy Ka’ba. Now if a person does not restrict himself to the prescribed forms of reverence, and shows over enthusiasm in this regard by kneeling in front of it, or by making offerings to it, or showering flowers over it, or indulging in other such activities, then he would be led away from the reality this sha’eerah represents and would also get involved in polytheism and religious innovation.

(3) The real significance of these sha’aair are the realities for which they stand and as objects only serve to embody them. It is essential, therefore, to always keep these realities alive and fresh in the minds of the people. If persistent efforts are not made in this regard, the result is that the real spirit which they embody begins to disappear and their own physical form becomes the real focus of attention. This finally transforms a religion into a mere observance of rites and rituals.

(Translated from Islahi’s “Tadabbur-i-Qur’ān”)


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