Seeking Liberation in Mecca

October 14th, 2012   Submitted by Davi Barker

By this time tomorrow I will be on a flight to Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula. I am performing the Hajj pilgrimage to the Kaaba, which is for many a once in a life time opportunity. The Kaaba, which is also called Bayt al-Allah or House of God, is the direction of prayer for all Muslims around the world. Every year 3 million Muslims or more perform the pilgrimage there to circumambulate the cubic building. Some of the rites performed on the journey are reenactments of historical events, but others (and I’d argue the more important) are outward expressions of an inward journey taken by the heart.

The pilgrimage predates Muhammad’s life in the 7th century, in fact the original foundation of the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham. At the beginning of Muhammad’s life the Kaaba was visited by the Christians, Jews and Pagans among the Arabs. Muhammad merely reconsecrated it as a place of worship for the God of Abraham. Some sources even suggest that Abraham reconstructed the temple built by Adam.

The history of the structure is difficult to confirm outside Islamic sources. The ancient Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, described the Caaba as “a temple… which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians.” But he said nothing about their practices or beliefs at that time. Those who visited it in Muhammad’s time thought of it as the navel of the world, or the Axis Mundi. What the Vikings would have called Yggdrasil, the World Tree. It is the point of connection between Earth and the heavenly realms. The point of ascension where the sacred intersects with the secular.

Not coincidentally, it has also historically been a center of trade, as it is to this day. Among the many reforms that Muhammad made was to abolish the taxes that the Meccans imposed on pilgrims. Sadly, this tradition has been lost. In fact, the Saudi regime demands quite a bit from pilgrims today.

Bayt al-Allah is not the only name by which the Kaaba is known. It’s also known as Bayt al-Atiq, which is usually translated as “The Ancient House.” It may come as a surprise to many, both Muslim and non-Muslim, that Bayt al-Atiq used to be commonly translated as “The House of Liberation.” The pilgrimage was seen as a journey to personal freedom, both from whatever weaknesses or falsehood plagued the heart, and also whatever earthly master or intermediary would impose themselves between the pilgrim and their Lord… as the Saudi regime does today.

To me, this meaning is central to my mission. To me, for whom the State itself is an earthly master imposing itself upon me, a false god, the Kaaba is a single point of personal liberation inside the authoritarian and tyrannical hellstorm of Statism that is the Saudi regime. Like the tranquility of the eye within the chaos and violence of a hurricane.

One of the stations along this journey is Mount Arafat, which is a small granite hill east of Mecca. This is the place where Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon at the end of his life. This station of Hajj is a place of repentance, forgiveness and mercy, but its name carries a much deeper meaning. Arafa literally means “to know” as in the Prophetic saying Man arafa nafsahu, arafa Rabbahu or “To know thyself is to know thy Lord.” Mount Arafat is not merely a place of begging forgiveness. It is a place of rigorous self-examination. A place to admit to ourselves that which we conceal and deny in an effort to overcome our deficiencies. Mount Arafat, and the entire pilgrimage for that matter, is fundamentally a journey of the True self’s liberation from the false self.

The State, and all masters and intermediaries begin as weaknesses and falsehoods in the human heart. So, we must confront and overcome them internally before we confront them in the world, and once we do we can become an unstoppable instrument of positive change.

So, I’ll see you all again in two weeks with stories.

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14 Responses to “Seeking Liberation in Mecca”

  1. Paul TNo Gravatar says:

    Tell me, Davi Barker, with whom you circumnavigate around the Cube, and I will tell you who you are.

  2. RobNo Gravatar says:

    Islam is no friend of anarchists. Ive spent over two years of my life in the middle east and I am continually perplexed by the amount of people who say they love freedom but turn around and embrace Islam as some kind of liberty minded belief system. If anything, it is the least freedom oriented religion.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Davi is on a spiritual journey as well as a philosophical one. He may not be succeeding in converting anarchists to Islam, but he seems to be doing a great job bringing Muslims over to anarchism.

      • Paul TNo Gravatar says:

        Perhaps it follows that Davi is undermining Islam. On the other hand, it’s likely already true that the people whom he brings over to anarchism are already not sympathetic to fundamentalist sects of Islam, of which Wahhabism is just one. So he would be purifying Islam, or Muhammadanism, as I think it fair to call the religion, just as it’s fair to call the NSDAP, Hitlerism.

        It’s also possibly true that he makes his recruits to anarchism more likely to commit apostasy. (And it’s not clear that one can be both an anarchist and a Muslim but doublemindedly.) If so, his efforts would tend to make Islam appear nastier than it appears at present, for the proportion of extremely despotic Muslims would tend to be increased by his efforts, provided, for example, that he does not convert more people to Islam than he leads away from it and that his converts to Islam are very little despotic.

        To Rob: Perhaps what those Muslims mean by freedom is “freedom for me, but subjugation for others, esp. if they aren’t Muslims.” Let’s look for signs that most Muslims live according to the religion of coercing others to live for the benefit of aggressors. Let’s look also for signs that the lifestyle choice is consistent with the character, mentality, and behavior of Muhammad. Surely Koran 9:29 was written with in mind the aforementioned religion, coercing others to live at the expense of aggressors. This reminds me now of a guide to zakat that was published a few years ago by The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. The CIOGC’s zakat committee, you see, is not alone among Chicagolands Muslims in a desire to establish an Islamic state. Perhaps Davi would be interested in a mission to get to the bottom of the CIOGC’s statism.

        Another interesting research project would be to investigate the possibilities (1) that the predilection for despotism observed among too many Muslims is a feature of those Muslims’ characters and mentalities more poweful than their Islamic faith and (2) that Islam does not so much tend to make a heart despotic as it tends to help despots to act in concert with one another in ways that make them more powerful than they should be.

        Whatever the truth about these two hypotheses may be, I think that we should refrain for some time from leaping to the conclusion that Davi Barker is naive about Islam. In fact, what does he hide beneath a simple, white garment? Is it something to bring about the end of Muhammadanism?

  3. BertNo Gravatar says:

    It is a shame that I, as a not muslim, are not allowed to enter mecca. What freedom?

    • Paul TNo Gravatar says:

      But could it not be true that all of Mecca is private property? Let’s assume for just a moment, that it is. Now, what right would you have to enter without an invitiation from someone with authority to grant permission to enter?

      Granted, it’s likely true that the people who control Mecca do not recognize the whole city as private property. Yet I think you’ve neglected entirely the possibility, as well as other possibilities, that would contradict what appears to be on your part an assumption, namely, that you should be free to go to Mecca on your own terms and to move about as you see fit.

      • BertNo Gravatar says:

        But is it private property? In that case you are completely right. But now I am stopped at the city limits because being a christian (well, in fact I have no religion, but to admit that in SA is very dangerous).

        • Paul TNo Gravatar says:

          Should you be using a cover story, it might help to know what’s in Canon 1752 of Codex Iuris Canonici about “the supreme law in the Church”. See also Unam Sanctam, a papal bull, esp. for its parts about who is alleged to have the right to control temporal swords. And then not claim to be a Catholic. I presume that someone in SA, too, understands the RCC well enough.

          #1752 is the last canon of Book VII in the Code of Canon Law, which is not for the whole of the RCC but for Ecclesia Latina only.

          • BertNo Gravatar says:

            Well, I don’t want to dive as deep as that in any religion. Religion is no friend of freedom at all, unless you keep it for yourself, in my opinion.
            I hope Davi will come back save and sound

  4. Paul TNo Gravatar says:

    I was raised by Catholics who had shallow understandings of what they’d gotten theirselves into when they were still young. Such shallowness among followers of a religion seems to be the rule no matter what the religion happens to be, as I have discovered through interactions with socialists, America’s Constitutionalists, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and many more than one “Buddhist”. So, I doubt very much that the worst problems in religious activity are religious doctrines, although in many cases those doctrines are themselves evil.

    More serious problems in religion are the tendency of religion to help bad people to act in concert with one another and the tendency of followers to become blind to alternatives once the rudiments of a particular religion are imprinted upon their thinking. Once implanted, the believer holds those rudiments as if they were part of his or her identity. So it’s no mystery why it’s so difficult to disabuse a person of a religion. To try to do so without offering a substitute is tantamount to depriving that person of existence, esp. for a lower class believer, poor or not. Please remember this the next time that you sneer at religion which, by the way, you will need if you hope for the religions of aggressors to be smothered.

    Of course, what do we mean by ‘religion’? Is it the assertion and acceptance by several people of some [gasp!] dogma? Is it something more, or something else entirely? Theists, for example, often define religion as something inherently theistic, but socialists show every day that these theists are wrong. Further, you can make a religion of hostility to traditional religions such as Islam and socialism, you know. Or you could incorporate such hostility into a religion that is larger than mere hostility to other religions. 😉

    Not every religion can be true, of course. It MUST be the case that some religions are false. This strikes me as a feature of a natural law of existence that could never be changed. False religion is evil, and it should be condemned as such, even if it contains within it some components that are true and good. I suspect that most theists believe something roughly like this already, although many would deny the implied limits upon the powers of their god. (And few make much effort to discover what is good and true about others’ religions.) Socialists, too, believe something like this, as many demonstrate with histrionics, temper tantrums, verbal abuse, or murderous rampages. Even the multiculties believe, although they frequently contradict their beliefs with their mouths.

    I too hope that Davi returns safe and sound. It will be interesting to read about his Hajj experience.

    • macsnafuNo Gravatar says:

      Religions do have their good points, such as a code of morals, support and enrichment of the community, and such. However, as far as I know, all religions have their own creation myths, and as such, all religions must be considered false, not just most of them.

      Nonetheless, as long as they’re not violating the NAP, people are welcome to believe any myths that they want. Or at least, if not welcomed, it should be tolerated.

  5. MAMNo Gravatar says:

    I am not a fan of Islam.