By Shaykh Abdur Rahman Khan
Millions of Muslims from every corner of the globe will converge in Makkah at the end of this month for Hajj, the annual pilgrimage. They come to commemorate and celebrate the extraordinary sacrifices made by two of mankind’s greatest leaders – Prophets Ibrahim and Muhammad ﷺ, upon them be peace, – for the establishment of tawheed, belief in the oneness of God.
The Hajjis, as they are often referred to, honor the symbols of Allah and glorify Him as they make tawaf and fulfill the other rituals of Hajj. Throughout the pilgrimage, it is ideal to engage in critical self-reflection and actively seek to improve one’s relationship with Allah.
The Meaning of Hajj
Linguistically Hajj is to take action towards an object of reverence, veneration, respect or honor.
According to the shari’ah definition, Hajj is the journey to Makkah during the designated month of Dhul-Hijjah in which a specific set of rituals are performed as an act of worship.
Allah states, “Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah.” [Sahih Intl 2:197]
The Best Time for Hajj
There is no better time than the present. In the Quran, Allah says, “And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way.” [Sahih Intl 3:97]
The Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him, said, “Hurry to perform Hajj as none of you knows what may happen to him.” [Bukhari]
Hajj may be performed as many times as one desires. However, it is obligatory only once in a lifetime. Abu Hurairah, radi Allahu ‘anhu, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that:
“The Messenger of Allah ﷺ gave a sermon and said: “O people, Allah has enjoined Hajj upon you so perform Hajj.” A man asked: “Is it every year, O Messenger of Allah?” He remained silent until the man had said it three times. Then he responded, “If I had said yes, it would have become a yearly obligation and you would not have been able to do it.” [Muslim]
The Virtues of Hajj
- The reward of Hajj is Paradise. The Prophet ﷺ said: “One Umrah until the next Umrah is expiation for what is between them. And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
- Hajj is considered a jihad for women. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked by ‘Aisha, radi Allahu ‘anha, may Allah be pleased with her, whether women are required to take part in battles. He replied, “Yes, but theirs is Hajj, an accepted pilgrimage.” ‘Aisha said, “I never stopped going for Hajj after I heard that from the Messenger of Allah.” [Bukhari]
- Those who go for Hajj are considered to be the guests of Allah. The Prophet ﷺ said, “The one who fights for the sake of Allah and the pilgrim who goes for Hajj or ‘Umrah are all guests of Allah. He called them and they responded. They ask of Him and He will give them.” [Ibn Majah]
- One who performs Hajj without harming others will leave with a clean slate. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever goes for Hajj with the intention solely for the sake of Allah, and does not indulge in any indecency or immoral act, and does not commit any disobedience, he will return as though the day he was brought into this world.” [Bukhari and Muslim]. In another incident, ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Hajj wipes out whatever (sins) came before it.” [Muslim]
Hajj and Submission
Hajj is ultimately about submission to Allah. Stoning the jamaraat, shaving, doing tawaaf – these are simple acts of worship yet they require energy, effort and submission. Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, alayhi musalam, and on them be peace, raised the Ka’bah in an act of worship and submission to Allah.
“And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing. Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” [Sahih Intl 2:127-128]
Hajj is an active and demanding form of worship. There are numerous tests of patience that an individual must go through. We are reminded of the difficulties of Haajar and Ismail, alayhi musalam, who were left in the barren valley of Makkah with nothing. Allah blessed them because of their patience and their trust in Him.
Highlights of Hajj
- Hajjis begin by doing tawaaf around the Ka’bah
- On the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah they go to Mina
- On the 9th day they go to Arafah then to Muzdalifah at night
- On the 10th day they return to Mina to pelt the shaytaan then go back to the Ka’bah
- On 11th and 12th/13th they return to Mina
- They finish at the Ka’bah
Reflections on Hajj
As the time for it approaches, it would be beneficial to move beyond the outward rituals and take a glimpse at the symbolism and spirituality laden in Hajj. Often Hajjis attempt to complete the rites in minute detail and neglect the spiritual underpinnings of the action. In this situation, one could return home without experiencing the blessings Hajj can offer.
Hajj is a microcosm of our life. In the same way that we undertake this once in a lifetime journey to Makkah for Allah’s sake, life too is a one-time opportunity to attain Allah’s pleasure and mercy. As a person leaves behind his/her family and friends when he/she embarks on Hajj, so too in death he/she exits this life and leaves them behind.
Despite modern conveniences, travelling is tiring. Arriving in Makkah and then completing the rites of Hajj is a physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting process. However, when completed, one returns home with peace in their heart and the hope that they are forgiven.
Similarly, our journey to Allah is not simple. We struggle in life and strive to overcome the innumerable hurdles that we encounter. However, if one endures the hardship and focuses on the goal, he/she will gain paradise and the pleasure of Allah, through His mercy.
Wearing the two unstitched garments of ihram is a strong reminder of the final pieces of unstitched cloth that will one day shroud our bodies in the grave. The stark simplicity of the two pieces of Ihram highlights the fact that we stand equal in front of our Lord in submission and humility.
As the pilgrim stands at the meeqat – meeting place – he/she is reminded of another meeqat that is sure to come soon – the meeqat on the Day of Resurrection.
In the way that Makkah is a sanctuary and a place of protection in this world, jannah is the place free from any worry, fear or pain in the hereafter.
Tawaaf, the circumambulation of the Ka’bah, is a fundamental part of Hajj. The Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, alayhi musalam, built this humble house for no purpose other than the establishment of the oneness of Allah. However, over time people forgot its purpose and began to place idols at the Ka’bah and worship them beside Allah.
Muhammad ﷺ spent 21 of the 23 years of Prophethood erasing idols from the hearts of people before demolishing them in the Ka’bah. To properly do tawaaf around the Ka’bah, it is essential that we do tawaaf deep in our souls and cleanse it of any idols that keep us away from complete submission to Allah.
One of the most important rites of Hajj is to stand in the plain of ‘Arafah. It is the closest conception of what it will be like to stand on the Day of Judgment – each person for him or herself.
Ultimately, Hajj provides a time for deep reflection about one’s spiritual state. Focusing beyond the rituals can transform an individual and provide an opportunity to nurture an enduring relationship with the Creator.