Monday, November 15, 2010

On another subject

This blog will return to its core themes in a little while but, first, there is an interesting little tale. Yesterday I was taking part in a news/cultural discussion programme on the BBC Russian Service and one item was about the forthcoming Hajj, there being rather a large number of Muslims in Russia most of whom are not fighting the Russian troops or blowing up trains. (In parenthesis, let me just point out that the Russian scorched earth policy against the Chechens has not been a huge success. But more of that another time.)

Young Muslims in Moscow were interviewed and a number of them said that they would like to go on the Hajj but had no money. One or two assured the interviewer that they were ready to do it as it ought to be done, that is on foot and did not think there were any difficulties or dangers attached to that. Comments of that kind made me wonder whether Russian schools have followed the British example and stopped teaching geography.

One young man proudly announced that he had been and had used (as he kept repeating) his mother and his aunt, that is, borrowed money from them. The Imam of Moscow's oldest mosque was unimpressed. You are not supposed to borrow money to go on the Hajj but earn it by legitimate labour. What if you were to die during the Hajj (not an impossible suggestion even now, though the Imam mentioned that as something that happened only in the past)? You would die with your debt unpaid and that, he explained firmly, is against Islam's teaching.

Furthermore, one cannot simply abandon one's family and leave them in poverty in order to go on the Hajj. So what of the people who cannot afford to do this? Is it not one of the Five Pillars of Islam? It is, yes, but there are all sorts of practical considerations that make the requirement merely to strive to go on the Hajj. Reminded me of Henry IV's vow to go to Jerusalem as a penance for deposing Richard II and having him murdered. Alas, he dies satisfied because he is in one of the royal chambers, which is named Jerusalem.

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