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An Upside-Down History of the World [Japanese]
[Chapter 3] The Origins of Monotheism

Part 1: A Human Hypothesis
32 Allah’s Final Judgment

The Kaaba. The Hajj or “pilgrimage” is the final act of the Five Pillars of Islam. Pilgrims travel to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) to perform a series of rituals, including, if possible, walking around the Kaaba and kissing the black stone seven times each.

illustrator/Masato Kumagai

Known as the Hajj or “pilgrimage,” the final act of the Five Pillars of Islam is a spiritual journey that, according to Muslims, should ideally be taken during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar.

The ultimate destination, known as the Kaaba, lies in present-day Saudi Arabia, in the city of Mecca. It is around the Kaaba, the ritual entails, that each pilgrim must walk seven times, beginning each circuit with a kissing or touching of the holy Black Stone. When approaching the Kaaba is simply not possible, a simple gesture suffices.

The stone itself measures about 30 centimeters in diameter and 150 centimeters high, forming the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba. Islamic tradition identifies the Kaaba as the very spot where God dropped his stone long ago to instruct Adam and Eve of a suitable location for a sacrificial altar.

Muslims also believe the Black Stone was lost during the great flood, when God wiped out all humanity except Noah and his family. The story continues that the Angel Gabriel then supposedly revealed the stone’s whereabouts to Abraham, who ordered his son, Ishmael, to build a sanctuary (the Kaaba) to enshrine the stone.

According to The Life of Muhammad, even the stone was a source of conflict.

The incident began, it states, when the Black Stone was temporarily moved from the Kaaba to another location during repair work. When it came time to return the stone to its original home, a dispute erupted among various Islamic tribes. A bloody battle over who was to return the Black Stone to its original position was about to begin. But Muhammad had a solution.

When he came to them and they informed him of the matter he said, ‘Give me a cloak,’ and when it was brought to him he took the black stone and put it inside it and said that each tribe should take hold of an end of the cloak and they should lift it together. They did this so that when they got it into position he placed it with his own hand, and then building went on above it.

(Alfred Guillaume, trans., The Life of Muhammad[London: Oxford University Press, 1955])

The Life of Muhammad also credits Muhammad as first person to have made the journey around the Kaaba seven times, seven kisses included. And since the pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars, all able Muslims are expected to, at least once in their lives, fulfill the obligation of the Hajj. Of course, those Muslims who do not have the physical or monetary means to do so are exempt, and it’s what separates this pillar of faith from the other four (declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting). Still, only those who have successfully completed the Hajj receive the honorific title of Hajji.

Allah’s Last Judgment

Christians believe the Last Judgment will take place at the end of the world, when, they believe, Christ will physically reappear (the Second Coming), and the dead will be resurrected and brought, together with the living, before God for judgment. Whether a soul is sent to heaven or hell depends on the seriousness of his or her sins. Islam has the same myth, only Allah is judge.

[It will be said], ‘This is the Day of Decision, which you used to deny. [Angels], gather together those who did wrong, and others like them, as well as whatever they worshipped beside God, lead them all to the path of Hell, and halt them for questioning: “Why do you not support each other now?” ’––no indeed!

(M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, trans., The Quran [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004] Ranged in Rows: 21-23)

For those lucky enough to be favored by God, Islam’s heaven awaits.

For these will be the ones brought nearest to God in Gardens of Bliss: many from the past and a few from later generations. On couches of well-woven cloth they will sit facing each other; everlasting youths will go round among them with glasses, flagons, and cups of a pure drink that causes no headache or intoxication; [there will be] any fruit they choose; the meat of any bird they like; and beautiful companions like hidden pearls: a reward for what they used to do.

(That Which Is Coming: 13-23)

Incidentally, here, “later generations” is a reference to those who lived during the age of Muhammad. And one is permitted to drink as much heavenly wine as one wants because it is perfection created by God. Drinking the “imperfect”, man-made alcohol is, not surprisingly, unacceptable.

※The Islamic calendar is a purely lunar calendar. The waxing and waning of the moon (the approximately 29.5 days it takes for the moon to transition from a new moon, to a full moon, and back again to a new moon) is considered one month. But, as everyone now knows, it takes the earth 365 days to orbit the sun. Long ago, people thought that the sun revolved around the earth, and that the time it took for a planet to revolve around another had no impact on the length of a given day. But using this purely lunar calendar has an interesting result (29.5 x 12 = 354. 365 - 354 = 11), that is, purely lunar calendars have shifting seasons and lose about eleven days per year. The calendar that tries to adjust for this by making April spring and August summer (of course, in the Northern Hemisphere) is the Lunisolar calendar. By the time the missing eleven days make up a single month, which is about every three years, the calendar corrects this by creating a thirteen-month year.