By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

Hajj: Antidote for the malignancy of American materialism

September 10, 2017

“There is no crime America will not commit in order to maintain its political, cultural, and military domination of those parts of the world where it predominates.” —Imam Khomeini to Hajj pilgrims, September 12, 1980

Muslims of the world, whether Sunni or Shi’a, can attest to the veracity of Imam Khomeini’s words of nearly a half century ago. Since those prescient words were uttered by the Founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States, under the rubric of fighting terrorism, has shed blood and spread chaos in the Muslim world, the likes of which had not been seen since the times of the crusades.

Among the crimes committed by the Washington regime are supporting a sanguinary 8-year-long war upon Iran, backing a brutal occupation of the Palestinian homeland by its Zionist collaborator, invading the sovereign nation of Iraq and subjecting its people to unimaginable humiliation and death, laying waste to Afghanistan while coopting a rebellion and turning it into a proxy war against the former Soviet Union, instigating and funding a terrorist campaign aimed at the legitimate government of Syria, and providing military and logistic support for the vicious Saudi war against the people of Yemen.  These are but a few crimes from a long list of outrages.

Beyond these unconscionable criminal carnages perpetrated by the Potomac plutocrats, who, hand-in-hand with their Zionist accomplices, have turned the Middle East into a cauldron of chaotic conflict, lies the crime of exporting the seductive but contagious cancer of American materialism. If not for Islam and the valiant resistance of Muslims, this malignancy would metathesize unabated, spreading its infectious ideology to societies around the world.  The same can be said for Washington’s illegal and immoral policies of instigating sectarian violence and rebellion to destabilize legitimate governments in the Islamic countries.

This two-pronged assault on the Islamic world, materialism and destabilization, was mentioned by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, in his annual Hajj message for 2017. “On the one hand, the magic of materialism is busy beguiling and annihilating by using advanced instruments,” the Leader noted, “and on the other hand, the policies of the system of domination are instigating sedition and fueling the fire of discord among Muslims and turning Islamic countries into a hell of insecurity and disagreement.”

What about this magical magnetism of American materialism and how, like a stealth weapon, can it ultimately destroy a society? “Materialism is, amongst all nations, a dangerous disease of the human mind; but it is more especially to be dreaded amongst a democratic people, because it readily amalgamates with that vice which is most familiar to the heart under such circumstances,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic work, Democracy in America.  

Tocqueville went on to explain that democracy unchecked has the potential to push its adherents towards ever higher levels of self-gratification, which “soon disposes men to believe that all is matter only.”  In other words, people in a western-style democracy, unrestrained by the oversight of a religious scholar and fellow clerics, are irresistibly compelled by their appetites to embrace materialism. But then a destructive feedback loop acting upon the members of society is created by materialism itself, as Tocqueville noted, which “hurries them back with mad impatience to these same delights: such is the fatal circle within which democratic nations are driven round.” Like so many rats on a treadmill, those afflicted with this “dangerous disease” work rabidly to acquire more and more material possessions, which, in turn, only makes them desire even more.

Research into the nature of materialism appears to suggest that developing nations are particularly susceptible to its pernicious pull. “Recent analyses of globalism suggest that consumer culture is spreading from the West to other parts of the world,” researchers Giiliz Ger and Russell W. Belk wrote in 1994.  Disturbingly enough, they observed that “consumers of even the so-called Third World seem to be starting to want luxury consumer goods similar to those of the West, even before they have adequate nutrition.” 

Consequently, one of the most menacingly effective means of achieving total economic domination, which is the aim of western capitalism, is by promoting conspicuous consumption. Bombarded incessantly by advertising from the corporate media, the unsuspecting inhabitants of the Global South are persuaded into believing the consumptive lifestyle of the west is better for them. Ger and Belk highlight this point by stating “consumers in less economically developed nations try to imitate the more extravagant consumption of consumers from more economically developed nations with whom they come in contact.” Once someone is hooked on American materialism, it seems, there is no turning back from economic enslavement.

Obviously detrimental to the society in the targeted country, the imitation of conspicuous consumption is obscenely profitable for U.S. multinational corporations, which benefit from the Washington regime’s predatory policies of imposing corrosive corporate capitalism on developing nations under the façade of fostering economic growth. For example, the International Monetary Fund, essentially an appendage of Washington, has some 3,000 employees who dictate economic terms to 1.5 billion people in the developing nations.

So rather than creating “the opportunities impoverished households need to raise their living standards,” as the U.S. Agency for International Development insists is one of their areas of focus, Washington’s underlying goal is the perpetuation of profits for U.S. multinational corporations. However, as William Lazonick, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, has pointed out in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, “Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity,” an observation all too clear even to most Americans.

According to Belk, materialism has three dimensions: possessiveness (owning rather than renting or borrowing), nongenerosity (unwillingness to share with others), and envy (coveting the possessions of others).  One need only look to the current occupant of the Oval Office, the tangerine toupee-topped tweeter, to see all of these obnoxious characteristics in their most extreme form.  Here is a vulgar man so enmeshed in materialism that he could not resist seeking his own cravings for self-aggrandizement while posing in front of TV cameras against a backdrop of devastation caused by hurricane Harvey, and thereby marginalizing the misery of his fellow citizens.  As the Leader remarked, Trump “is showing the truth about America.”

As Ayatollah Khamenei has pointed out in his 2017 Hajj message, the way for Muslims to combat this pernicious, western-produced pandemic of materialism is by participating in the annual Hajj pilgrimage. “Hajj can be a cure for both of these grave maladies that the Islamic Ummah is suffering from,” the Leader stated.  “It can purge hearts of impurities and enlighten them with the light of piety and understanding,” he continued. Additionally the Hajj “can open eyes to the bitter realities of the world of Islam,” according to the Leader, undoubtedly a reference to the U.S.-induced catastrophes currently proliferating across the Middle East.

How does the Hajj serve as an antidote to materialism?  By tackling the three dimensions of materialism mentioned above—possessiveness, nongenerosity and envy—separately during the Hajj with appropriate rituals.  Firstly, envy is dashed by the plain, unstitched, two-piece white cloth garments worn by all pilgrims, thus making the rich indistinguishable from the poor. The Hajj garments, which resemble the burial shrouds placed upon the dead, force the pilgrims from the material world of envy and any other disobedience into the realm of submission to Allah.

Next, possessiveness is countered by circumambulating the Ka’aba, a simple mud and stone building, which has none of the glitter of the material possessions promised by western capitalism, yet attracts millions of pilgrims each year from around the world. By circumambulating the Ka’aba, the pilgrim demonstrates a desire only for Allah and nothing else.  

And lastly, nongenerosity is nullified by the sacrifices of animals made by the pilgrims on Eid, a portion of the meat of which is donated to the poor and indigent.  When making the sacrifice, the pilgrim should intend to “cut off the throat of greed,” for as Imam Ali (AS) said, “Love of the world engenders greed.”

The Prophet (S) and the Imams of Ahl ul-Bayt (AS) have been fighting materialism since the advent of Islam.  Intending to disparage the Hajj, one materialist named Ibn Abi’l-Aujaa asked Imam Sadiq (AS), “Until when will you work on this threshing-floor, seek refuge from this stone, worship this house of mud and stone, and go around it like frightened camels?”  The Imam (AS) replied, “Whomever Allah causes to go astray and to be blind in heart will find the truth bitter and will have the Satan as guardian and lord, and will be damned to perdition from which there is no return.”

It is clear that Allah has caused the leaders of the United States to go astray and be blind in their hearts, as evidenced by their crimes, which they continue to commit in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. One of these many crimes is promulgating materialism, and as Ayatollah Khamenei has indicated in his address, the Hajj is the antidote.  As Imam Ali (AS) said, “The Hajj is the jihad of every weak person.”  May we Muslims merit joining this jihad, and thereby eradicate the malignancy of American materialism.

YAW/YAW

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