Rabbi Allen S. Maller
Very few Jews realize that for more than 1.000 years, while the Ka’ba in Makka built by Abraham and Ishmael was polluted by idols, Jerusalem’s First and Second Temple–Bait ul Muqaddas/Beit HaMiqdash stood, and the Jewish festival of Hag Sukkot was celebrated as a Hajj, a pilgrimage festival. In Biblical times the Hebrew word Hag was pronounced Hajj. The word Hajj literally means ‘to set out for a place’.
The Torah declares, “Celebrate Hajj Sukkot for seven days after you have harvested the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.
For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Hajj of Matzah, the Hajj of Weeks, and the Hajj of Sukkot. (Deuteronomy 16:13-16)
The Hajj of Sukkot was chosen by Prophet Solomon to dedicate the First Temple in Jerusalem. (1Kings 8; 2). Hajj Sukkot was so important during the centuries when Solomon’s Temple stood that it was often called simply “the Hajj” (1 Kings 8:3; 8:65; 12:62; 2 Chronicles 5:3; 7:8) perhaps because of the very large numbers of Jews who came up to the Temple in Jerusalem,
On each of the first six days of Sukkot it was traditional to circle the Temple alter while reciting psalms. On the seventh day of Sukkot the custom was to circle the Temple alter seven times. As the Oral Torah says: “It was customary to make one procession around the altar on each day of Sukkot, and seven on the seventh day.” (Mishnah Sukkah 4:5).
The ritual slaughter of Qurbani (Korban in Hebrew) Halal/Kosher animals toward the end of all the ritual reenactments comes to teach everyone that: “Their flesh and their blood do not reach Allah, but the devotion from you reaches Him.” (Quran 22:37). This is the same basic understanding that the Hebrew Prophets and the Rabbis gave to the offerings in the Temple of Solomon.
Thus we can understand why “Prophet Muhammad was once asked by his Companions: “O Prophet of Allah! What is this qurbani?” He replied, “It is the Sunnah of your father Ibrahim.”
Each seventh day circle in the Jerusalem Temple was done in honor of a prophet; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. Muslims will see some similarities and many differences between the Jewish Hajj and the Islamic Hajj.
With the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, the pilgrimage aspect of the week long harvest festival began a gradual decline in the spiritual consciousness of the Jewish People. Most of the many thousands of Jews from foreign lands outside the Land of Israel; and the tens of thousands of Jews from all over the Land of Israel outside the city of Jerusalem; who used to came each year to celebrate the week of Sukkot in Jerusalem at Bait ul-Muqaddas, the furthest sanctuary; ceased coming.
Two generations later, after a second major Jewish revolt (132-135 CE) in the land of Israel, the Romans rebuilt Jerusalem as a pagan city filled with idols, That stopped all Jews from coming to the ruined site of the Jerusalem Temple–Bait ul Muqaddas/Beit HaMiqdash.
Today the overwhelming majority of Jews outside the Land of Israel live in Protestant countries where pilgrimage plays little or no role in religious life. Thus, it is very hard for most Jews to feel the tremendous spiritual uplift that can occur to pilgrims on the long path to, and amidst the mass tumult of, a uniquely holy and sacred place.
Only a rare outside observer can experience even a small fraction of the spiritual feelings of those who belong to a pilgrimage tradition. One such observer, Mark Twain, wrote: “It is wonderful, the power of a faith that can make multitudes upon multitudes of old, weak, young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining.”
For Muslims, the Furthest Sanctuary is located in Jerusalem. “Glory to He Who carried His servant by night, from the Holy Sanctuary to the Furthest Sanctuary, the precincts of which We have blessed. so that We might show him some of Our signs. Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Qur’an 17:1)
It is significant that the area of the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple was the site of Prophet Muhammad’s ascension—miraj– up to the heavens. The two holy sites of Makka and Jerusalem work together like a pair of lungs breathing and recycling the spiritual holiness of the One God throughout the world.
First there was the Ka’ba built by Abraham and Ishmael, which was some centuries later polluted by the introduction of idols. The people of Arabia totally abandoned the teachings of their forefather and leader Prophet Ibrahim.
The House that Abraham had made pure for the worship of Allah alone, had been totally desecrated by the pagans and the rites which Ibrahim had established there were completely distorted by the pagan Arabs. This sad state of affairs in Arabia continued for nearly two and a half thousand years.
But then, exactly 500 years after the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. the time came for the supplication of Prophet Ibrahim to be answered: “Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them your aayaat (verses) and instruct them in the book and the Wisdom and sanctify them.” (Qur’an 2:129) and Prophet Muhammad was born.
The Temple of Solomon had been destroyed by the Babylonians. It was then rebuilt only to again be destroyed some centuries later by the Romans, who would later pollute that whole site with a Roman city with buildings and streets filled with idols,
The destruction of the Furthest Sanctuary center of monotheistic pilgrimage in Jerusalem by the pagan Romans was then, five and a half centuries afterward, overcome by Prophet Muhammad’s ascension—miraj up to the heavens, and the soon to be realized removal by Prophet Muhammad of 300+ idols from the paganized Ka’ba in Makka.
Once the Ka’ba was purified again, there was no need for a Third temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem, which has remained a holy city for Jews and Christians even without the Temple and its animal offerings, for almost 1,950 years.
The Prophet Zechariah envisioned a future time when God will help us to establish worldwide peace and justice. Then people from all the nations in the world will travel to Makka and Jerusalem to worship God.
Each year during Hajj Sukkot, Jerusalem will welcome Jews, Christians, Muslims and all other people, including those whose (ancestors) were previously Israel’s enemies: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem, will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate Hajj Sukkot.” (Zechariah 14:16)
And the Ka’ba will continue to welcome all Muslims who answer the call: “Call upon the people for Hajj. They will come to you on their bare feet or riding any weak camel and they come to you from every far desert. (Qur’an 22:27).
Then God willing, the words of Prophet Isaiah will be fulfilled: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together.
“In that day Israel will be the third, together with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19: 23-25)
Please God, may it happen soon.
Rabbi Maller’s website is: rabbimaller.com. A collection of 31 articles by Rabbi Maller about Jewish-Muslim connections, previously published on Islamic web sites, has just come out in paperback. Entitled “Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms” it is available for $15 on Amazon.