What can Islamic Finance learn from Hajj?

Everything in Islam is related; the different pillars all have connections. There are patterns within Islam that appear the more you observe and the more you ponder. Allah’s guidance is immaculately congruent and meticulously complete. Focused and unbiased reflections on nature and the Qur’an can only lead one to profess the artistry and beauty of Allah’s magnificence. The Qur’an has clear instructions, beneficial prohibitions, and meaningful, multi-dimensional wisdom throughout. Every injunction has overlaps or parallels with other injunctions in the body of the law. Islamic Finance, which stems from Fiqh al-Mu’amalat, has several lessons and parallels that can be drawn from matters of purity, Salah, Zakat, Fasting, Nikah, etc. The key is unlocking and discovering these hidden pearls.

This article explores five meanings that Islamic Finance can learn from Hajj – a foundational pillar of Islam that unites the global Islamic community in one time and space in the remembrance of Allah.

1. The Standing in Arafat

One of the integrals of Hajj is the standing in the plain of Arafat. This is performed from noon until sunset. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stood continuously crying and supplicating to Allah with the believers. To this day, Muslims follow in the prophetic practice, donned in two white sheets, spread across this plain, and beseech Allah for forgiveness and acceptance.

This standing teaches us that closeness to Allah is not gained through riches and wealth; for all of creation is equal in the sight of Allah. The only thing which gives you acceptance in the presence of Allah is faith and good deeds.

Islamic Finance learns that equality of opportunity is integral. Everyone has a right and should be given an opportunity. Islam does not warrant a gap between the rich and the poor, and in fact, sees it as detrimental to the overall health of the society.

2. Sequence in actions

Hajj is very systematic. Each action has a specific time, place, and execution. For example, Tawaf al-Ziyara cannot take place before its designated time. Pelting of the pillars takes place in specific days with a specific quantity of pebbles. The sequence in pelting is also ritually taught to us.

Sequencing makes a difference, and this sequencing makes a meaningful difference in Islamic Finance. A Murabaha must be sequentially correct for Sharia compliance. It is not just formalities. There is a ritual meaning to the sequencing and real purpose behind each leg of the sequence in Islamic Finance.

3. Pelting

Another ritual practice in Hajj is the pelting of the three pillars. This takes place in Mina from the 10th of Dhul Hijja. The pelting symbolises the need for man to repel the devil and his traps. The pelting of the stones visually reminds man that you need to repel and not give in to that which is harmful.

Islamic Finance learns that ultimately, there are economic practices which are from the devil and that need to be pelted by the economy. The devil has laid his traps even within the economy. It is on this account Allah has prohibited us from dealing with Riba, transacting with Gharar, gambling, contracting against Shariah principles as these methods take us closer to the devil and his gang. The outcomes are dark and hellish, on earth as well as literally in the next life.

4. Tawaf

Tawaf al-Ziyara is another integral of Hajj. It is a requirement for the validity of Hajj to go around the Ka’ba seven times. This is a worship and has several lessons. It teaches us that there is only one pivot that makes the entire universe function, and that is Allah. The entire cosmos sings the praise of Allah in unison just as mankind walks around this sacred House in unison. The system of Allah has a perfect balance.

Tawaf teaches Islamic Finance that just as bodies circulate the Ka’bah for the sake of Allah, wealth should circulate in the economy and society for the ultimate purpose to recognise Him. That is what Islam is all about; it cannot be that “Islamic” finance has any other ultimate goal. Islam is a sum of its parts, and Islamic Finance is part of Islam.

5. Sa’i

Another ritual of Hajj is the Sa’i, which refers to the to-and-fro walk between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa. It reminds believers of the struggle that the mother of Ismail (alayhis salam) encountered whilst looking for food and water for her child.

The lesson for Islamic Finance and for everyone here is that we should strive to seek sustenance and excellence. Just as the she ran in a barren desert in the sweltering heat with a conviction of finding something for her child, we too should work hard with full conviction that Allah will make the Islamic economy gush forth.