I became interested in the Hajj or pilgrimage a long time ago when considering the psychological disposition of someone who travels to a cult shrine to spend time, money, and energy venerating what is essence is a 'cube' set up by Muhammad in his home town to attract wealth, devotion and pious compliance. A smart idea by Muhammad premised on eons of similar pagan journeys by Arabs to the shrine of 360 idols and various deities including El-Lah or the moon idol of northern Arabia. Though a clever and profitable idea, I am not sure that the same words apply to the votaries and disciples of his cult [to use Churchill's depiction]. Do the Moslems who journey to Mecca even know much about the Kabaa cube, Muhammad's real life story, the rise of political Islam, and the butchery which established its mandate ? I doubt that few do.
One of the problems with Islam is the lack of introspection. The Hajj is a case in point. I find it remarkable that Moslems from the world over journey to Mecca enriching the Arabs yet with very few knowing what they are doing and why. The Hajj originally was a fertility procession which included rubbing the 'sacred' black rock against female genitalia in order to enrich her fertility. The word has since taken on a devotional meaning and is a pillar of the Moslem theology. But its history is very old and quite pagan indeed. Consider the rather juvenile action of throwing rocks at little devils, supposedly derived from Abraham's non-journey with Ishmael to Mecca in which he warded off Satan [Contrary to Moslem myth Abraham never journeyed south of the Sinai]. Throwing rocks can take on different meanings. It might illustrate an action used to ward off evil spirits. But as well, in the modern context for the modern Moslem 'Islamist' or radical, the rock throwing might also be aimed at non-Moslem devils and evil.
There is no mention in the canonical texts of the popular belief that the ceremonies involve the 'stoning of Satan'. Nevertheless the belief is held universally throughout the Muslim world, and is said to account for the violence with which many pilgrims attack the pillars. Ali Shariati, the Iranian radical, gives the ceremony an unabashed revolutionary symbolism: These pebbles will be used as your weapons to kill your enemy . . . What does the pebble represent? It represents a bullet ... If you hit one less than the recommended number, you are not considered a soldier nor is your Hajj valid . (Islam in the World, Malise Ruthven, 1984, p 28-48)
Yes the paganism's of the Hajj are rather odd indeed and it is very queer that they persist in the 21rst century. I would have expected that such aspects of a modern 'theology' would long ago have been amended if not expunged by a rational cult organisation. It was Muhammad's political compromise to include the popular Hajj and festivals [excluding the sex orgies which were commmon], within Islamic liturgy which improbably still survive today and have taken on a universal meaning for Moslems concerned with personal piety, and individual weakness. It is worth noting as well that Muhammad's popularity soared [according to historian John Gilchrist] post this concession. Well known historian Malise Ruthven investigated the pagan nature of the moon idol cult and its 'Hajj' [emphasis de moi]:
Just as the Quran did not suddenly appear out of nowhere in a strange and incomprehensible language, but was assembled from existing verbal materials, so the central ritual of Islam, the Hajj, was arranged out of existing cultic practices. The actions themselves were almost unchanged, but their meaning was transformed to fit a new, vastly expanded, cosmic vision. The result was a religious and ideological tour de force. By abolishing the intercalary month, Muhammad freed the rituals from their seasonal connections: from now on the Hajj could fall at any time of the year, for the cosmic deity to whom all the rituals were to be addressed was the same God in autumn and spring, summer and winter. Similarly, the sanctuaries associated with particular localities were not abolished, but included within a set of rituals covering the whole area. 'The whole of 'Arafat is a place for standing, the whole of Muzdalifa is a place for stopping, the whole of Mina is a place for sacrifice,' the Prophet is related to have said on the Farewell Pilgrimage. Similar effects were achieved by subtly adjusting the timing of the ancient ceremonies. Ancient taboos associated with the rituals were deliberately violated to demonstrate the impotence of the pagan gods and the inefficacy of the rituals when dedicated to them. But the forms of the rituals were preserved because the Prophet was fully aware of the importance they held for his people. Beyond that, he knew that the rituals formed part of a universal language composed of bodily movements as well as verbal utterances, by means of which human beings express their deepest needs and apprehensions. The remarkable expansion of Islam, especially in the Far East and tropical Africa, long after its initial political and military impetus had exhausted itself, was in no small measure due to the ease with which it absorbed local cults and then directed them towards the broader social and cosmological purpose of the monotheistic vision. (Malise Ruthven, Islam in the World, 1984, p 28-48)
Islam is thus not uncreated, but mutable. Christianity spread initially because it appealed to urban Jews who recognized the message of St. Paul and responded to the easier, more relaxed, less severe and time-consuming theology of Christ worship. Christianity like the Roman empire, was the great multi-cultural absorber of ideas, cults, pagan rituals and local variations. Gentiles and all races were welcomed, as were the superstitions and rituals of all cults. Just submerge the specific into the universal and immanent theology of Christian fellowship. That was all that the Christian church asked. This flexibility allowed both Islam and Christianity to be viewed by converts as a modified, simplified and in many ways superior extension of past practices and spiritual programs.
The pagan nature of Islam with its various demands and rituals would make it fungible as it conquered and developed. But the pre-Muhammad antecedents of the Hubal-El Lah cult cannot be denied. Islam is not a monotheistic faith in the sense that Christianity is. It is a polytheistic concept, with the greatest polytheist power the dialectic El-lah embodying the only universal free-will which exists in the world. Only El-lah controls all actions, activities, thoughts, movements, deeds and all natural processes. You read because he wills it. You die because he has decreed it. The wind blows because he wants it to. Animals die of drought and famine because he ordains it. The social construct of Islam is one of a totality of control, embodied by the totality of submission to the El-Lah or ilah's universalist power. This paganism demarcates the human and his lack of free-will from the material-natural world, managed by the one great idol or deity, ilah. This is a vastly different concept than Christianity. The Hajj is a simple expression of this fact:
Pilgrimage had been performed to certain temples of the moon gods, with rituals similar in many details to those of the pre-Islamic and Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Minor deities of agriculture and irrigation had been known, especially in Saba', as well as house gods and genies. The tribe Amir had practiced a semi-monotheistic religion-that of Dhii-Samdwi (Lord of Heavens). They worshipped no other god, although they paid homage to the gods of other communities in which they occasionally found themselves. The god's name resembles that of the "Lord of Heaven and Earth" of the monotheistic religion that emerged in the 5th century, but it is not known whether the latter developed from it." (Enc. Britannia, History of Arabia - p. 1045, 1979)
The above is important. The ilah or Al-Lah thing no more created the Hajj than I created gravity. It had existed pre-Muhammad for centuries. Its rites had special meaning regarding sex, sensuousness and fertility – a prime concern amongst Bedouin tribes who needed to produce males to both war, and plunder for the benefit of the unit. What is even more curious of course, is the complete lack of awareness of these historical facts, and a complete disregard for analyzing and investigating what they mean in the development of the Islamic cult, and the impact on its devotees in today's modern world. Moslems would do themselves and the Infidels a big favor, if they started to investigate the real historical antecedents of their cult; and amend their cult's rituals, theologies and practices. You can't fix what you don't know is broken.