JUNAID KHALEEL NURANI
Hajj is an important prayer in Islam. World Muslims gather in sacred place of MECCA annually for performing Hajj. Great part of Hajj is remembering of Prophet Abraham and His Family. Running of Hajara beevi wife of Prophet Ibrahim (A) and their son Ismail (A) between Safa and Marwa hills for seeking water, Stoning of Prophet Ibrahim to Satan who disturbed Prophet Ibrahim when he went to sacrifice His son Prophet Ismael (A) like this many significant moments in the life of Prophet Ibrahim are remembered by Muslim through Hajj. The book of Genesis chapter 21 and 22 describes these actions. Many verses in the Bible are indicates about Hajj. Following is one of the predictions about Hajj:
I know their thoughts and their deeds. I am coming to gather the people of all the nations. When they come together, they will see what my power can do (Isaiah 66:18)
David Benjamin Keldani says that: In this article, as the title shows, I shall try to give an exposition of the ancient Hebrew Cult of Stone, which they inherited from Abraham, their great progenitor, and to show that this Stone-Cult was instituted at Mecca by that Patriarch and his son Ishmael; in the land of Canaan by Isaac and Jacob; and in Moab and elsewhere by the other descendants of Abraham. By the term “Stone-Cult,” let it be understood, I do not mean stone-worship, which is idolatry; by it, I understand the worship of God at a specially consecrated stone meant for that purpose. In those days, when the chosen family were leading a nomadic and pastoral life, it had no settled habitation where to build a house, especially dedicated to the worship of God; they used to erect a particular stone around which they used to make a hajj; that is to say, to turn round seven times in the form of a dancing-ring. The word hajj might frighten the Christian readers and they might shrink at its sight because of its Arabic form and because of its being at present a Muslim religious performance. The word hajj is exactly identical meaning and etymology with the same in the Hebrew and other Semitic languages. The Hebrew verb hangtag is the same as the Arabic hajj, the difference being only in the pronunciation of the third letter of the Semitic alphabet game, which the Arabs pronounce as j. The Law of Moses uses this very word hangtag or hag hag (1) when it orders the festival ceremonies to be performed. The word signifies to compass a building, an altar or a stone by running round it at a regular and trained pace with the purpose of performing a religious festival of rejoicing and chanting. In the East, the Christians still practice what they call high either during their festival days or at weddings. Consequently, this word has nothing to do with pilgrimage, which is derived from the Italian Pellegrino, and this also from the Latin peregrines – meaning a “foreigner.”
Abraham during his sojourns frequently used to build an altar for worship and sacrifice at different places and on particular occasions. When Jacob was on his way to Padan Aram and saw the vision of that wonderful ladder, he erected a stone there, upon which he poured oil and called it Bethel, i.e. “The House of God”; and twenty years later he again visited that stone, upon which he poured oil and “pure wine,” as recorded in Genesis xxviii. 10-22; xxxv. A special stone was erected as a monument by Jacob and his father-in-law upon a heap of stones called Gilead in Hebrew, and Yaghar sahdutha by Laban in his Aramaic language, which means “a heap of witness.” But the proper noun they gave to the erected stone was Mispa (Gen. xxxi. 45-55), which I prefer to write in its exact Arabic form, Mischa, and this I do for the benefit of my Muslim readers.
Now, this Mischa became later on the most important place of worship, and a center of the national assemblies in the history of the people of Israel. It was here that Naphtha – a Jewish hero – made a vow “before the Lord,” and after beating the Ammonites, he is supposed to have offered his only daughter as a burnt offering (Judges xi). It was at Mischa that four hundred thousand swordsmen from the eleven tribes of Israel assembled and “swore before the Lord” to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin for an abominable crime committed by the Benjamites of Geba’ and succeeded (Judges xx. xxi.). At Mischa all the people were summoned by the Prophet Samuel, where they “swore before the Lord” to destroy all their
idols and images, and then were saved from the hands of the Philistines (I Sam. vii). It was here that the nation assembled and Saul was appointed the king over Israel (1 Sam. x). In short, every national question of the great moment was decided at this Mispha or at Bethel. It seems that these shrines were built upon high places or upon a raised platform, often called Ramoth, which signifies a “high place.” Even after the building of the gorgeous Temple of Solomon,
the Misphas were held in great reverence.
But, like the Ka’aba at Mecca, these Misphas were often filled with idols and images. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Chaldeans, the Mispha still maintained its sacred character as late as the time of the Maccabees during the reign of King Antiochus (l).
Now, what does the word Mispa mean? It is generally translated into a “watch-tower.” It belongs to that class of Semitic nouns – Asma Zarf – which take or drive their name from the thing that they enclose or contain. Mispa is the place or building which derives its name from sapha, an archaic word for “stone.” The usual word for stone in Hebrew is in, and in Arabic Hajar. The Syriac for stone is kipa. But safe or sapha seems to be common to them all for some particular object or person when designated as a “stone.” Hence the real meaning of Mispa is the locality or place in which a sapha or stone is set and fixed. It will be seen that when this name, Mispa, was first given to the stone erected upon a heap of stone blocks, there was no edifice built around it. It is the spot upon which a sapha rests, that is called Mispa.
Before explaining the signification of the noun sapha I have to tax again the patience of those of my readers who are not acquainted with the Hebrew. The Arabic language lacks the p sound in its alphabet just as much as do the Hebrew and other Semitic languages, in which the letter p, like g, is sometimes soft and is pronounced like f or ph. In English, as a rule, the Semitic and Greek words containing f sound are transliterated and written by the insertion of “ph” instead of “f,” e.g. Seraph, Mustapha, and Philosophy. It is in accordance with this rule
that I prefer to write this word sapha to safa.
(MUHAMMAD IN THE BIBLE, David Benjamin Keldani page: 14-16)