By Shaykh Abdool Rahman Khan
As the month of Zul-Hijjah dawns upon the Muslim Ummah, millions of Muslims, from almost every nook and corner of the globe, swoop down on Makkah for the annual pilgrimage or Hajj.
They come to fulfill one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Narrated Ibn Umar (RA) who said that “The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:
“Islam is built upon five (pillars): testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (SAS) is the Messenger of Allah, establishing regular prayer, paying Zakaah, Hajj and fasting Ramadan.” [Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]
They come from all walks of life to answer the command from Allah SWT:
And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj). (Surah Hajj verse 27).
They come from all ethnicities and social status of life to commemorate and celebrate the ultimate sacrifice and establishment of Tawheed or Belief in The Oneness of Allah SWT by two of mankind’s greatest leaders; Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Muhammad (SAS).
As so many ethnicities and colors converge in one place that one cannot help but to reflect on the verse:
And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge. (30:22)
Here the true humanity in all its diversities gather together at Makkah, Mina, Arafah, Muzdalifah saying and doing the same rites of Hajj while:
- Their languages are different
- Their cultures are different
- Their colors are different
- Their attitudes are different
- Their social and intellectual levels are different
Yet they spend almost one week being together and worshipping together because at the end of all their outward differences comes the fact that:
- Their Lord is One, Allah SWT
- Their Book is one, The Qur’an
- Their Qiblah is one, The Ka’bah
- Their Messenger is one, Muhammad SAS
- Their end is what they are all seeking; The Pleasure of Allah SWT and then Jannatul Firdous is one
- And when the call of Allahu Akbar- Allah is The Greatest is heard they all respond immediately.
This is the power one experiences as one undertakes the Pilgrimage to Makkah. It is this power that has transformed the lives of many Muslims as it did to Malik Shabaaz or Malcolm X. This is the power that goes beyond the rituals and rites of Hajj that make him start a movement of opening the minds to a larger brotherhood establishing true Islam till he met his martyrdom.
One expects if the Pilgrims can come together in spite of their differences to do the same thing at Hajj then what prevents them from uniting when they return from Hajj. Our Muslim Ummah needs to reflect on this!
Hajj is about Submission
Hajj is all about submission to Allah SWT amidst trials while doing simple acts of worship or refraining from simple acts like not cutting the nails or refraining from using perfume or stitched clothing for men. Or simple act like stoning the Jamaraat (places of Satan) or even picking up pebbles at Muzdalifah (a place between Mina and Arafah) or shaving the hair, doing Tawaaf are all simple acts of worship yet to do them takes lots of energy and each one is highly symbolic.
They all cause us to bow down and glorify to Allah SWT The One and Only God that is to be worshipped and whose commands are to be followed.
In a similar manner Prophet Ibrahim(AS) and Prophet Ismail(AS) raised a simple building; The Ka’bah for the worship and surrendering to One God. Allah SWT mentions in 2/127-8
Allah SWT says:
And mention when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the walls of the House, they prayed, “Lord, accept this service from us; You are All-Hearing and All-Knowing. Lord, make us Your Muslims (submissive servants) and also raise from our offspring a community which should be Muslim (submissive to Your Will). Show us the ways of Your worship and forbear our shortcomings: You are Forgiving and Merciful.”’ (2:127-8)
Now for Some Reflections of Hajj
There is a lot of symbolism in Hajj and not just simply outward rituals. Too often the majority of pilgrims try to accomplish Hajj rituals to the very minute details while neglecting the spiritual goals. If this happens the pilgrim returns without the full impact of Hajj blessings. Then falling back into former ways is very easy. As for the one who reflects on the rituals and what they signify in his life truly find the greater realization of Hajj.
Now let’s begin some of Hajj reflections and symbolism:
- Journeying to Hajj: We are all on a journey; a journey back to Allah SWT. While Hajj is once in a lifetime that is required similarly life is is just one return to Allah SWT. Like Hajj which is a one-time obligation and we try to do our best and so is life, a one-time opportunity that we have to make the best of. Very often a person leaves behind his family and friends as he embarks on his journey to Hajj. In a similar manner he exits this life leaving behind family and friend and goes on alone.
Then when we go on a journey what do we take with us? We take some provisions depends on the length of the journey. The longer the journey the more provision is required. Regarding our provision for Hajj, Allah says
“…And take provision, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah…” (Al-Baqarah: 197)
Generally a journey is strenuous even in modern times when the means of transportation has been greatly improved. But at the end of that tiring journey comes your destination and relaxation. Reaching Makkah itself brings joy and relief. Allah SWT says:
“Have We not established for them a secure sanctuary (Makkah), to which are brought fruits of all-kinds, a provision from Ourselves, but most of men know not.” [Soorah 28: 57]
Or like Hajj which is filled with challenging acts of Ibaadah but then when it is completed the Pilgrim returns home with a peace in his heart and free from sins like the day his mother has given birth to him.
Similarly, our journey back to Allah SWT is not so simple. Life, death and beyond are also very tough. But if one endures the hardship of life and keep his eyes fixed on his goal, he will have Paradise to dwell in with peace and tranquility by Allah SWT’s mercy.
- Putting on the two garments of Ihram is a strong reminder of the final pieces of unstitched garments as one is shrouded with when he is placed in his grave. Another symbolic message is the simplicity and equality and nothingness of the two pieces of Ihram. We do not need gold and silver to meet our Lord. We all stand equal in front of Him. There is no difference of rich and poor, all stand in front of their Lord in submission and humility.
We don’t need to show who has better clothes as Allah SWT does not look at our clothes and our faces. He looks at our hearts and our actions.
- The Meeqat or the place where the pilgrim assumes a state of Ihram is also symbolic. As the pilgrim stands at the meeqat he is reminded of another meeqat that is sure to come soon. It is the meeqat (appointed meeting) on the Day of Resurrection. Allah SWT says: “Say (O Muhammad SAS): Verily, those of old, and those of later times will surely be gathered together for an appointed Meeting (Meeqat) of a known Day.” [56: 49-50]
- Just as how Makkah is a sanctuary and security from any harm so is Jannah. But in order to get there, it requires the full establishment of Tawheed in Allah and freedom from Shirk and Kufr as He SWT defines: “They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice (shirk) – those will have security, and they are (rightly) guided.” (Al-An’aam: 82)
- Kissing the Black Stone is no more than a Sunnah of Rasoolullah SAS. It is unfortunate that many pilgrims violate the sanctity of the Ka’bah and do Muharrmaat (forbidden acts) while performing this act of Sunnah. It tells us how many Muslims spend time and energy while violating the rights of others. In so doing they ignore the major aspects of life which is not to bring about chaos and not to harm others.
- Tawaaf or circumambulation of the Ka’bah is a fundamental part of Hajj. It is a reminder that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Prophet Ismail (AS) built this humble modest house for no other purpose than establishing the Oneness of Allah SWT. Then after a while people forgot its purpose and began placing idols at the Ka’bah. They committed the most heinous crime of Shirk.
Then came Rasoolullah SAS who took almost 21 years of his 23 years of Prophethood to erase the idols from the hearts of people before erasing it from the Ka’bah. So in order to rightfully do Tawaaf around the Ka’bah Muslims need to do Tawaaf deep down in our souls and cleanse it of any idols therein and then truly submit to Allah SWT. This also reminds us that we are quick in removing idols in our environment but how often do we address the idols in our hearts?
- The Zamzam water is nothing but a miracle from Allah SWT and reward for putting your trust in Allah SWT. Haajar (AS) and her baby son Ismail (AS) were left alone at the Ka’bah with little or no food or water. There was hardly any worldly means to survive. But they had what a greater means to survive; Tawakkul or trust in Allah SWT. As she ran back and forth from Safa and Marwa in search of water she heard a thump on the ground and lo and behold water began to gush forth. She then put some stones around the water to stop it from flowing and she said: Zamzam which mean “Stop! Stop! This well was covered up by Jurhum tribes and later restored by Abdul Muttalib. From then on until this day the well flows supplying millions of pilgrims and providing them with the holy water to take back to their homes. The Prophet (SAS)is reported to have said, “The water of Zamzam is for whatever it is drunk for.”(Ibn Maajah & Ahmad)
Today we have so much to eat and drink at Makkah, with so many comforts and we still complain and complain and we forget what Makkah was at the time when Prophet Ibrahim (AS) brought his family and left them there. As pilgrims so desperately want to drink the Zam Zam water so it will be on the Day of Judgment when people are thirsty and they will want to drink from the fountain of Rasoolullah SAS.
- The highlight of Hajj is the standing in ‘Arafah. There is no doubt that standing at Arafat is the closest one gets as a microscopic view of what standing on the Day of Judgment would be like. Literally each person will be for himself or herself. It is how Qiyaamah will look like standing and begging the Allah’s mercy.
- The 10th day pelting the Jamaraat is a reminder that when we go through with our Ibaadaat Shaitaan comes to tempt us to hold back. He puts all kinds of desires in our hearts how not to go forward but like Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Prophet Ismail (AS) and Haajar (AS) they ignored his whisperings and proceeded till they fulfilled the commands of Allah SWT and submitted to Him sincerely.
Beyond the rituals of Hajj is the story of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) who after conquering his ego and submitted to Allah SWT became Khaleelullah. Allah SWT says:
And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to; and he is a Muhsin (doer of good). And follows the religion of Ibrahim (Abraham) Hanifa (purely and sincerely). And Allah did take Ibrahim (Abraham) as a Khalil (a close friend). (4/125)
So as we are now in the season of Hajj let us make sure we have the right understanding though which we will stand more firm in our Deen.