Importance of Hajj

Importance of Hajj

Hajj started with Ibraheem (Peace be upon him) who left his legacy both in the Hanifiyah, the pristine religion of Islam and in Hajj. The legacy of Ibraheem (A) was his millah, way, of true submission to Allah. He was the first one who used the word "Islam". He named anyone holding to the same faith as him a Muslim meaning the one that surrenders and submits to the will of the Creator, Allah. We read in Surat al-Hajj,

"And strive in His cause as you ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the way of your father Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and you are witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector, the best to protect and the Best to help!" (22:78)

His submission and total surrender to the Will of Allah is related to his establishment of Hajj. Even if Ibraheem (A) did not remain in Makkah to the end of his life, he laid the foundations of the Ka'bah in the middle of Makkah valley as well as the principles of Tawheed, genuine monotheism, in the heart of his son Ismaeel (A). The latter was also a prophet and a messenger of Allah, who kept the promise to preserve and guard Ka'bah as well as the Islamic faith. Later on, one of his descendents through Kedar - the second son of Ishmael as prophesied in Genesis 25:13 and a few other places - Muhammad (S), who was also a Hanif, rejected the idolatry and paganism brought to Makkah and called to the same faith as his forefathers Ibraheem (A) Ismaeel (A). He was chosen by Allah to be the last Messenger sent as Mercy to the world. He restored that legacy, Islam, and preserved the Ka'bah from the alien beliefs and practices. He reminded people of the religion of Ibraheem (S) and its tenets and called everyone to the religion of Ibraaheem (Peace be upon him).

The building of the Ka'bah was by Ibraaheem and his son Ismaeel (Peace be upon them). This house was named "Ka'bah" after its cubic shape. It is the center point for Muslims all over the world. When a Muslim wants to pray, he, or she, must face Qiblah - the direction towards Makkah. Hajj also cannot be performed except in Makkah and its vicinity. The al-Masjid al-Haraam, holy mosque, was the first mosque built in the world. It is today the most visited place on earth and that is why it is called al-Bayt al-'ateeq meaning the ancient house. One prayer in this mosque equals one hundred thousands prayers elsewhere as stated in a few authentic hadiths.

When Ibraaheem (A) finished the construction of Ka'bah, he called people to Hajj and prayed to Allah to bless Makkah and its vicinity and to make people come visit it until the Day of Judgement though it was remote and in the desert.

"Remember Abraham said: "O my Lord! Make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols. "O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind; he then who follows my (way) is of me, and he that disobeys me, but You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among people with love towards them, and feed them with Fruits: so that they may give thanks." (14:35-7)

Allah (swt) always relates the story of Hajj and Ibraheem to Tawheed and Islam, which is the way of Ibraheem, Muhammad, and all the prophets (Peace be upon them).

"Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety. And take the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in Prayer). And remember Abraham said: "My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its People with fruits' such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yes), and such as reject Faith, for a while will I grant them their Pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire, an evil destination (indeed)!" And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. "Our Lord! Make of us Muslims bowing to Your Will); and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Your (Will); and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. "Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Your Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them: for You are the Exalted in Might, the Most Wise." And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly? Him We chose and rendered pure in this world: and he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the Righteous. Behold! His Lord said to him: "Bow (your will to Me):" he said: "I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe." And this was the Legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; "O my sons! Allah has chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the state of submission (to Allah)" (2:125-32)

And talking about the first call to Hajj, Allah (swt) says,

"Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among people; they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways. That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days Appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House. Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honors the sacred rites of Allah, for him it is good in the sight of his Lord" (22:26-30)

As we see here, Hajj was practiced before Prophet Muhammad (S) came, but the latter removed the false worshipped idols and ended all pagan beliefs and practices, which had changed gradually the way of Ibraheem and Ismaeel (A) as well as the Ka'bah's sanctity. Many rituals were innovated by people over time, but Prophet Muhammad (S) showed his companions with every detail how to perform the best pilgrimage. He (S) said,

"O people! Learn from me the way how to perform your Hajj rituals for I do not know if I will be able to make Hajj next year or not." [Muslim, An-Nassaa'i, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad].
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)

Lessons and Reflections:

- Hajj is an act of Worship - not tourism or promenade - which requires a physical and spiritual preparation.
- It is a station of renewing Iman as many other stations where sins are wiped out by forgiveness and where faith, trust, and love of Allah, His Messengers, and the believers increase. The pilgrim gets purified and comes out of his sins like a newborn baby.
- It is a school of training for Taqwah - consciousness of one's duties towards Allah -, good character and discipline like in the other schools of the pillars of Islam.
- It is a manifestation of brotherhood, equality and Unity. The Muslims are like different branches but from one tree. In Hajj, we learn how to develop the Spirit of Unity.
- It is an annual Muslim convention attended by Muslims from different horizons, colors, races, and tongues… They exchange ideas and news and celebrate their unity in faith and diversity in culture. They meet in their center-point Makkah (Qiblah). Muslims always have to have a center-point and should be constantly focused on their noble goals.


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