Introduction and Meaning:
Hajj literally means an effort.
It is the third of the religious duties of a Muslim.
It is obligatory to every (Muslim) adult, man or woman, to go once in his life time to Mecca to perform Hajj.
Those who do not possess the material means of travel are exempted from it.
The Holy Quran says “It is duty towards God, incumbent upon those who are able to go thither to visit His house.”
“And carry out the pilgrimage and the visit (to Ka’aba) for the sake of God.” (Al Baqarah:196)
“And when We assigned to Ibrahim the place of House, saying. Do not set up aught with He. And purify My House for those who make circuit ‘(Tawaf)’ and who stand to pray and who bow and prostrate themselves. And proclaim among men the pilgrimage.” (Al-Hajj:26-27)
Importance of Hajj/Benefits of Hajj:
The purpose of the pilgrimage is to go beyond the rituals so that Haj transforms individual and communal lives.
In one saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Haj has been termed as an opportunity for devoted individuals to start a new life by reflecting on their past and setting new goals for life.
When a haji puts on the ihram, he/she needs to avoid everything, except the thought of Allah.
Brotherhood is one of the important messages of Haj.
Slaughtering a lamb in memory of Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice symbolizes the slaughtering of the nafs — which means to control one’s worldly wishes and lusts.
When one stones the pillars symbolizing the devil in Mina, it is akin to purging the evils inside oneself and promising to avoid them. The sacrifice of animals and feeding the needy and orphans also symbolizes the killing of selfishness.
The ritual of the seven circumambulations, or tawaf, around the Kaaba should remind the pilgrim of the angels who constantly circumambulate the arsh, or divine throne. And the sa’y, or running between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa, means to sanctify and purify one’s life.
Hajj gives a very significant message to transform social and communal life by promoting the values of peace and harmony, brotherhood and equality.
Brotherhood is also one of the important messages of Haj. Millions of Muslims from around the world perform the pilgrimage together in a spirit of brotherhood and community.
Equality is another important message of Haj. During the pilgrimage there is no difference of race, geography and gender. Haj is obligatory for both males and females, who perform it together.
It is evident from Islamic teachings that any kind of killing and violence are prohibited on the premises of the Kaaba. This indicates respect for life on earth.
Hajj: A station of Commemorations: (Detailed Benefits of every Hajj ritual)
When we perform Hajj, we should relate the rituals to our forefathers and ancestors in faith: Ibraheem, Ismaeel, Haajar, and Muhammad (S) as well as the first generations of Muslims. In Hajj, we commemorate them as well as their sacrifice, sincerity, dedication and patience, which constitute the main elements of their legacy. We should not perform Hajj only physically, but spiritually as well. We should try to understand the meaning of every thing we do and see what lessons we can draw. The following points are some reflections on the pillars of Hajj and some other rituals:
– In the state of Ihram we wear for a couple of days a seamless garment, which is exactly like a shroud. It is a symbol of total renunciation of worldly life in order to get purified and to raise the soul to a high spiritual level of consciousness of Allah and the Eternal life. It makes the pilgrim humble, equal to others, and helpless as if it is the Day of resurrection.
The restrictions of the state of Ihraam are very rigorous in terms of the way the pilgrim behaves with others, with himself, and with Allah and also in terms of using regular worldly things such as putting perfume, cutting one’s hair…etc. This makes Hajj a school of discipline, taqwah and self-control. A school, which can produce righteous, decent, honest and hardworking people as the five daily prayers and the fasting of Ramadan and the pillars of Islam do.
– In Tawaaf – Circumambulating around Ka’bah- the pilgrims walk fast to commemorate the first generation of Muslims who came with the Messenger of Allah (S) to perform Hajj. When the Polytheists of Makkah started saying that the Prophet’s companions were sick because they were effected by the fever of Madinah, the Prophet (S) wanted to disappoint them and show the opposite. That is why men almost jog with short steps in the first three circumambulations and uncover their right shoulders during all the tawaaf.
We also imitate the angels who circumambulate around al-bayt al-Ma’amour – the filled house – above in the seven Heaven as reported in many authentic hadiths.
When we kiss the Black Stone, which was brought from Jannah, we remember the other life and pray to Allah that Paradise will be our abode. In the Hadith , the Prophet (S) said that when the Black Stone was brought from Jannah., it was very white, but it darkened and became black because of the sins of human beings. We kiss it because we saw the Prophet (S) doing it and it is simply an act of following. The stone cannot bring any benefit or harm to us. All the rituals, the pillars of Islam and our lives should be established by following the best. If we understand deeply the meaning of “I bear witness that Muhammad is the servant and Messenger of Allah” as following the pattern of the model chosen by God Almighty, we will certainly reach Jannah through the straight path, which is drawn by that model practically.
– In as-Safaa and al-Marwah we commemorate Haajar (Peace be upon her), the mother of Ismaeel (A) and the wife of Ibraheem (A). She performed Sa’y when she was looking for water for her son. After she relied on Allah and assured Ibraheem that Allah won’t leave them without help (he left with them some dates and water but soon it was finished after a couple of days…). She was certain that Allah would not forsake her and her son. In that remote place, water sprung out from under the feet of Ismaeel the baby. After the certitude she had, her strong faith in Allah, her sacrifice of searching for water by going back and forth between as-Safaa and al-Marwah, Allah answered her du’aa and blessed her with a water that run and never stopped in an arid and rocky land. She left a great legacy in sacrifice, piety, trust in Allah, and patience. Allah wants us to learn from her to the point that he made Sa’y between as-Safaa and al-Marwah one of the pillars of Hajj and Umrah. He says,
“Behold! As-Safa and al-Marwah are among the Symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeys his own impulse to Good, be sure that Allah is He Who recognizes and knows.” (2:158)
– In Arafaat we commemorate the Success of Muslims over the pagans of Makkah. It was the success of truth over falsehood. There, the Muslim remembers that truth always prevails no matter how long it takes for falsehood and delusion to last and deceive. ‘Arafaat is also the symbol of unity and solidarity because it is a pillar of Hajj that should be done by all the pilgrims in the same place and at the same time following the same way. The day of Arafah reminds us also of the Day of Judgement when we will all stand up waiting for the Just Judgement of Allah Almighty.
Arafaat is also another symbol of manifestation of Tawheed in terms of the unified collective standing of all the pilgrims at the same time in the same place. Moreover, when Prophet Muhammad (S) performed Hajj he stood on Arafaat as his forefather Ibraheem used to do instead of standing on Muzdalifah as the Quraish pagans used to do because they believed they should not go beyond al-Haram boundaries. This was also another example of the distortion of the religion of Ibraheem and Ismaeel(A).
– In the Stoning at al-Jamaraat, we commemorate Ibraaheem (A) and remember how strong and firm he was against Shaytan – our enemy since the time of Adam (A). We should remember how Satan does his utmost effort to distract us from doing what we’re supposed to do to become closer to Allah and to enter Paradise. Allah has told us that Satan is our enemy and that we should be constantly in this life in a state of war with him,
“Then We said: “O Adam! Verily, this – Satan – is an enemy to you and your wife: so let him not get you both out of the Garden, so that you are landed in misery.” (20:117)
“Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become companions of the Blazing Fire.” (35:6)
We also reflect on the great sacrifices and trials Ibraahem had to undergo such as offering his son Ismaael that he had to wait for his birth for many decades. In the middle of joy and happiness for becoming a father, Allah wanted to see how strong was his commitment to Him. He ordered him to offer the most valuable thing he had; his only son at that time. Ibraheem and Ismaeel did not fail in that very difficult test and earned the pleasure of Allah. Allah called this trial a great one when He said, “For this was obviously a great trial.”
“So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him, “O Abraham! You have already fulfilled the vision!” thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice” (37:103-07)
The most important thing we should keep in our minds is that Allah knows better than we do even if we sometimes think that a certain action is not clear to us or does not make a sense to us and why do we have to perform it. Of course Allah orders only what is good and just for us and all mankind. We should accept and submit to Allah. As a matter of fact, one of the meanings of Islam is acceptance.
In commemorating this, the pilgrim should think whether he, or she, is ready to offer the dearest thing to his, or her, heart for the sake of Allah. This religion cannot survive in the hearts of people without sacrifices, devotion, sincere love, commitment, and dedication. Allah (swt) says,
“By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, of a truth Allah knows it well.” (3:92)