Muslims pray at the Grand Mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in their holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia.- Reuters

Today, close to two billion Muslims celebrate Hari Raya Aidiladha, or the festival of sacrifice, in commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s (pbuh) test of faith by God.

The patriach of the People of the Book was commanded by God to sacrifice his son, Ismail (pbuh), but because of the strength of his faith, his son was spared and replaced with a ram. To this day, Muslims around the world celebrate Aidiladha, or Hari Raya Haji, here by sacrificing a camel, cow, goat or sheep and sharing it with kin and kind.

This day of sacrifice also coincides with the symbolic stoning of the devil at Mina, near Makkah by more than two million Muslim pilgrims, 30,200 of whom are Malaysians.

The haj is a special journey. To Muslims, we make a few journeys. The first is our journey from the heavens to here, when our common father Adam (pbuh) and mother Hawa (pbuh), or Eve to the People of the Book, landed on Earth. The last will be when the soul makes the journey of return after we breathe our last. In between are the special journeys of big and small haj. All the journeys are in fulfilment of our primordial covenant with God.

Al-Hassan bin Talal of Jordan drives home the point of the covenant in his Op-ed piece today titled “The Best Jihad”. When we journey to the house of God — the Kaabah — we perform an act of renewal to return to the original self, which inked the covenant, though the self is but a semblance of the primordial one.

Renewal is necessary because the world has sullied us with sins. Look around us, how we conduct ourselves. Do we not walk this Earth like we own it? Whose Earth is it, anyway? Do we not dispossess others who have a better claim? The history of the world is a narrative of one Palestine or another. Or, of late, a Kashmir even.

Human life has become so cheap that the powerful pummel it out of the weak body. Even the fragile infant is material for the machine gun, from the Middle East to the Middle Kingdom.

Rousseau’s free men are in chains everywhere. The Frenchman’s “right of the strongest” is reducing the Earth to rubble. We saw this in Iraq. We see this in Palestine, Syria, Myanmar and elsewhere, where the meek live in misery.

This way of thinking has no place in the 21st-century world.

Hubris fell so many before us, even the powerful pharoah Firaun. But the swagger of other modern-day Firauns continues unabated. Because, in the language of Muslim scholar Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, we have failed to recognise the proper place of God in the order of being and existence.

We humans have a duty, not only to ourselves, but to humanity. The millions of pilgrims who circle the Kaabah are but a slice of the humanity.

There are billions more outside to whom our responsibility must extend. We must guard their lives as we would ours. And they ours.

This is our primordial promise. When we make the special journey of the big haj, we renew it.

The New Straits Times, which is on its own journey of renewal, wishes its readers Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha.

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