I have not been in this mosque (Bellville South) for a long time. It is quite nice to be back here [2006] with all of you again. In any case, all revealed religions have their origins with Allah Almighty. And so, for example, when we talk about Islam, we say that Islam is a Divine Religion because Allah has sent that religion to us. This means that all the practices of Islam and all its teachings are sacred because of their origin. And so, for example, the Jumu’ah, the taking of wudu’, facing the qiblah, the delivering of the khutbah, all these things are sacred because they come from Allah. Thus, if we say that Islam is sacred then all its practices are sacred. When a thing is sacred, one gives it maximum regard, maximum respect, maximum honour.  When anything is sacred, one handles it with great care because by handling it with great care, by treating it with respect, one shows respect to Allah Almighty and one shows respect to His Messenger ().

Now, I want to explain to you a few things to show how we are destroying the sacred in Islam, but let me first take you to Makkah. Many of you would know that the area around Makkah is called the Haram. This means that it is sacred. This Haram has a boundary. It is called a miqat. Those of you who have been on haj or who study haj would know what I am talking about. So the sacred territory of Makkah has a boundary and the area outside that we refer to as the Hil. If anyone wants to pass from the Hil to the Haram, from what is not holy to what is holy, they can only do that with what is called a nusuk, such as the umrah, for example. When we decide to do that, we must also place ourselves in a state of holiness. We cannot take what is not sacred into what is sacred. We cannot do that. How does one place oneself in a state of holiness? We do this every day. When we decide to pray, we take wudu, face the qiblah, niyyah and say:

اللهُ أَكْبَرُ

(Allahu akbar: Allah is the Greatest). That Allahu akbar is called the Takbiratul ihram, the takbir (the words Allahu akbar, Allah is the Greatest) to put oneself in a state of holiness. Through that takbir we put ourselves in a sacred state in order to pray to Allah Almighty. We cannot just make salah without special preparations. We must place ourselves in a state of holiness for that purpose.

Now let us get back to the miqat, the boundary of the holy area of Makkah. To enter the sacred area we must put ourselves into ihram, a holy state. We pray two rakahs sunnah (a voluntary prayer), make niyyah and then we say:

لَبَّيْكَ اللّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ , لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الْحِمْدَ وَ النِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَ الْمُلْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ

(Labbayk, Allahumma labbayk. Labbayk, la sharika lakka labbayk. Innal hamda, wan ni’mata, laka wal mulk, la sharika lak: O Allah!  I am here at Thy service. O Allah! I am here at Thy service. I am here at Thy service. Thou hast no partner. All praise, all blessings and grace and all the sovereignty are Thine. Thou hast no partner). These are holy words, sacred words, most honoured words. Where do these words come from? Allah had ordered Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son, Nabi Ismail (a.s.) to build the Ka’bah. When they had finished, Allah sent a message to Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) to call people to come there to honour Him and His House. Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) was worried about this because his voice could only travel a few metres. Allah sent a message with Jibril (a.s.) that he should call and Allah will see to it that the message reaches those whom He wants to come and visit His House. This Divine Invitation travelled and lodged in the hearts of all those believers whom Allah had invited. Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) called but the call in fact came from Allah. Let me repeat that. This call, this invitation to come there, although Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) said it, the invitation was a Divine Call from Allah. So when the pilgrims come there at the miqat and they say Labbayk allahumma laka labayk, they are saying: “O Allah, I am here. I am answering Thy call. Thou hast called me. I am responding to Thy invitation.” Why am I saying this? Sometimes when we listen to the radio, we hear Labbayk allahumma labbayk … buy our aeroplane tickets. This sacred thing, this holy response to Allah is being used by travel agents to sell aeroplane tickets. What is going on with us?

There is even worse than that. Use is also made of the tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka’bah) to sell aeroplane tickets to Jeddah. What is the tawaf? What is it? Allah Almighty told Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son to build the Ka’bah, His Holy House. The place where it stands is the most sacred place in Makkah. If this is so, then it is the most sacred place on earth.  If it is the most sacred place on earth then it is the most sacred place in the universe, in the cosmos. There is no place more sacred in the universe, in the cosmos, than the place where the Ka’bah is. Allah said to Nabi Ibrahim (a.s.) to invite His servants to come there and make tawaf around His House, and say, amongst other things:

سُبْحَانَ اللهِ وَ الْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ وَ لاَ إِلٰهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَ اللهُ أَكْبَرُ وَ لاَ حَوْلَ وَ لاَ قُوَّةَ إِلاَّ بِاللهِ الْعَلِيِّ الْعَظِيْم

(Subhanallah wal  hamdu lillah wa la ilaha illallah wallahu akbar wa la hawla wa la quwwatta ila billahil aliyyil adhim: Glory to Allah. All praises be to Allah. There is no god other than Allah. Allah is the Greatest. There is no power or strength except with Allah, the Most High, the Most Powerful). We must go there to declare His Glory, declare His Greatness, declare that all praises be for Him, declare that there is no power or strength except with Allah, the Most High, the Most Mighty. We must declare it there. How dare we use this to sell aeroplane tickets? How dare we do that? Is Islam going in exactly the same way that Christianity has done?  You know we used to poke fun at Christianity because we used to say their Christmas is such a major business hype. And now? What do we say now? There is this massive commercialization of some of the most holy and sacred symbols of Islam by commercial enterprises. How dare people use the talbiyah to sell tickets? How dare they use an invitation from Allah to the believers to sell such tickets? How dare they do that? Have they no shame? And we think that we are not answerable to Allah with regard to these matters?  We think it’s alright.

But that is not all. All of you know that in Ramadan we are supposed to be involved with fasting, giving sadaqat, and reciting Qur’an. Ramadan has become a major business hype. You know that. You know all the shops, all the bazaars, all the hypermarkets use this month to sell their commodities, and this month is the month of the Qur’an. Nowhere have I seen any shop reminding Muslims of their religious responsibilities in this month, no! It is buy this, buy that, buy this, buy that, selling goods. Businesses take advantage of the holiness of Ramadan to sell their commodities. My word! And Eid? It is supposed to be a day for remembering Allah Almighty, and for community closeness. This day is another business hype, and large numbers of Muslims pour into shopping centres in response to the call of commerce. The call of Allah is quietly forgotten.

All these things are not only happening here. Anybody who’s been to Makkah will tell you that the commercialization around the haj has gone totally out of hand there. In fact, if one comes out of the Masjidul Haram in Makkah one walks straight into shops in the very grounds of this holy mosque. In the very grounds, not outside the grounds. So if one puts one’s foot outside the door of the mosque, one can put one’s foot right into a shop. This is in Makkah, the holiest place in the universe. That is why the pilgrims get themselves involved in so much buying over there. Everything is directed at taking the money out of the pockets of the pilgrims by selling them all kinds of goods. They are treated like tourists not pilgrims. And that is why they come home with piles of bags or they freight the bags home.

What is in fact happening? What is in fact happening? The ibadah of the haj is used to sell commodities. If you want to sell a brooch the word “Allah” is engraved on it and then it is sold, or the word “Muhammad” is engraved on it. If one wants to sell drinking glasses one puts the words “Allah” and “Muhammad” on them, and then people buy. You want to sell spoons, engrave

بِسْمِ اللهِ

(Bismillah: In the Name of Allah) on them, and then they will sell. And so, what has been happening? I’m sorry I have to talk to you like this today but we have to start thinking about this. I was just as involved as many of you were. I’m not making as if I’m innocent. I also used to fall for the business tricks over there and bring home piles of stuff.

What is happening to our religion? Is our religion sacred or is it not sacred? Are these matters permissible or are they not permissible? Are we allowed to commercialize our religious activities and in the process take the holiness out of them? Go to shops in the grounds of the Masjidul-Haram and see how Qur’anic verses, and the Holy Names of Allah and the holy name of Nabi Muhammad () are used to sell commodities. We are doing the same here.

If you want to make money, go to religion. There you can make money. That is why some of the great religious leaders in the United States of America can own their own jets. They are so well off because religion has become a commodity which they sell, and we are doing exactly the same here. We sell our religion for rands. The issuing of halal certificates has become a million rand enterprise. Why is it that we have turned what is halal and haram into a major business? And I’m not exaggerating. Why have we done this? And nothing is ever said about this. No one has ever said anything. Is it permissible for us to use the rules and regulations in Islam in order to coin money? Is it permissible? Or is it not permissible? Is this what Nabi Muhammad () taught? Did he teach it to us like that? Did he say that? Is it part of his teaching? Is it part of God’s teaching that it must be like that? What are we doing to a sacred religion when it becomes a profitable business?

The haj is now called an “industry”. My word! What a vulgar description of an ibadah! This is because it has to do with profits, with the making of money. You know that. What is going on? Why is it that today most Muslims will never be able to reach Makkah. It is too expensive. Has anybody thought that this is a major crime against Islam, for an ibadah to be out of the reach of people because of the need to make profits? Why is it that today an average person, will never be able to reach Makkah? Whereas previously even relatively poor people could go, now it is out of their reach. They will never be able to go. They will not be able to afford it. My wife read to me the other day in the newspaper, a return ticket from Cape Town to Manchester, a bit further than London, is R4 000. A return ticket from here to Jeddah is anything up to R14 000. Why the massive differences in price? Why if I want to go to Manchester it is R4 000 a return? Why if I want to go for haj, to tawaf the Baytullah, and to call labayk to my Lord, I will be unable to do so because the prices are out of my reach? They say: “Go, go away. We do not want you.” Am I speaking the truth to you or am I lying to you? Am I speaking the truth to you or am I lying to you? Have we pushed the large majority of Muslims away from the haj because we want to make massive profits? People talk of packages of R30 000, R40 000, R50 000 and even R90 000. This is a major, major disgrace.

If there are any poor people in the mosque, you won’t stand a chance, sorry for that, of getting over there. Not a chance. Unless somebody gives you the money or you inherit some money. Never will you be able to go put your head in sujud in the Haram of Makkah because others want to make large profits. Never will you be able to do that. Never will you be able to go stand in the Masjid of Madinah, in front of the grave of Nabi Muhammad () and say:

السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ يَا رَسُوْلَ اللهِ

(Assalamu alayka, Ya Rasullallah). They say that you are too poor. And those who save, I’m sorry. In five years time by the time you have the money, the prices will be doubled. You will have to start saving all over again.

What is our problem? What is going on here with us? They call the haj an “industry”. They talk about “big bucks”. You know what “big bucks” are? They talk about that. Is the haj sacred or not? Is the tawaf sacred or not? Some of you will never be able to smell the air of Makkah. You can forget all about that. Forget all about that because profits have to be made. I know there is nothing that most of you can do about it but at least you can see what we are doing about Islam. And we have to start asking ourselves: “Is what we are doing what Allah wants from us? Is He satisfied with what we are doing and what we are doing to His Divine Invitation, to His Call for people to come there?” And why has this whole thing become such a racket? Every single pilgrim that I went to greet during the last two nights, every single one of them, did not know when he or she was leaving. These people are so traumatized. Should it be like that? Should people going to Makkah be traumatized in this way?

We must ask Allah, for He is the One that changes conditions, to help us with regard to this and He must guide us on His path so that we obey His regulations, not for profit, but for His sake. And we must say: “O my Lord, I am doing this for Thy sake. Please help us look after Thy sacred religion.” We ask for all of these with the blessings of Suratul Fatihah

And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.

Selected Talks by Yusuf da Costa [Published 2008]

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