The Pandemic of Covid 19 has created mayhem all over the globe, bringing everything to standstill. One of the unfortunate effects has been that the Muslim Ummah has not been able to perform Hajj as usual, and it has been restricted to locals of Saudi Arabia only; that too restricted to a little trickle. But to rejuvenate and revitalize the memory and ethos of Hajj, I feel it my duty to write some lines with regard to its purpose and objective.
The Hajj of Muslims is not simply a visit to the holy places as pilgrimages is understood in other traditions; nor is it a participation in a mere ritual. The Hajj timing is absolutely fixed, and it can not be performed except the eighth, ninth and tenth days of the last month of the Muslim year (Dhul-Hajja). It is a binding upon the Muslims to perform it on the prescribed days and time. If any Muslim makes journey to Ka’ba except these days, it will not be called a Hajj.
The Hajj is performed by millions of Muslims of the world every year. It is indeed a unique act in Islam with unlimited benefits and advantages. The benefits of the Hajj as mentioned in the “Holy Quran” are indefinite, unlimited and general which can not be classified. They are not limited to one area but are related to matters of both this world and the next also. Allah says in the Holy Quran
“The months for the Hajj are well known. If anyone undertakes that duty during them, let there be neither obscenity, nor wickedness nor wrangling during the Hajj. And whatever good you do, Allah knows it. Take provision with you for journey, but the best of provision is righteous conduct. So fear me, you who are wise” (Surah Al-Baqr, Verse-197).
The pilgrim in Mecca has no thought for who or what he or she has left behind, because one has the sole purpose of humbling himself before Allah, his Creator, and to attain the spiritual connection with his Lord, forget about all worldly interests and commitments. He is for that period of time totally committed to Allah.
Perhaps the most significant point regarding the Pilgrimage is that all women are dressed alike, and all men are dressed alike. They are all clad in a particular type of attire called Ihram. King or peasant, rich or poor, black or white, there is no distinction. There is no distinction of race, color, class and rank during the Hajj.
The Holy Quran commands that the Hajj be made during the well known month and it is a duty faithful owe to Allah. The command is clear, direct and plain and explicit about the advantages or benefits of pilgrimage. The Hajj brings in a Muslim a change which is purely spiritual and religious. It purifies his soul and spirit and makes him dear before Allah. It changes the future for the next world and keeps him away from evil intentions and actions. Moreover, the Hajj revives Islamic traditions and revives the faith and belief for the Muslims in Allah, Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and the Holy Quran. It is an occasion of supreme joy for the Muslims because Allah calls them to His House. Those who are called are fortunate. Their all sins are washed and they have a kind of rebirth and their religious and spiritual faith is regenerated and rejuvenated. They find solace, peace and experience divine power and influence. It gives them a chance to retreat and uphold their religious duties and obey Allah as their ancestors have done in the past. It reminds them that they have to spread light and follow the path shown by Prophet Abraham (AS) and Prophet Mohammed (SAW). It gives them also a choice to forget about the past blunders and re-start their lives with piety, grace, and work for the fraternity and unity. It also signifies that Allah bestows upon His kindness, provides an opportunity to change their lives and win His blessings.
The Hajj has unlimited benefits for the life hereafter which can not be understood and explained. It is believed that between one Umbra and another, all sins are redeemed, while the reward for the blessed Hajj is nothing short of paradise (Janat). The Hajj does not only have benefits for the next world but for this world also. During the Hajj, the Muslims of the world get in touch with each other and get better acquainted with conditions, news and affairs from near and far. They pledge and enter into agreements and assist one another in their religious and worldly matters. They cooperate with each other and pledge to become one. They understand each other's conditions in their countries and avow to eradicate the sufferings of the Muslims in their countries. They also at times have an understanding for the commerce after their religious duties. The occasion of Hajj serves as a major unifying influence in Islam and the most effective common bond among the diverse peoples. The socializing influence of such a gathering of the brotherhood of Muslims from the four corners of the world is hard to estimate.
The central focus of the Hajj is Ka’ba which is Qibla for all the Muslims of the world towards which they bow and pray. The Ka’ba itself is a symbol of unity and fraternity for the Muslims even though they live in divergent corners of the world. It is believed that Ka’ba was first constructed by Adam (AS) and in the end Hazarat Ibrahim (AS) along with his son Hazrat Ismaiel (AS) rebuilt it. The Quran says nothing about the remote origin of the Ka’ba but it is explicit on the subject of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) as the re-builder of Allah’s Sacred House. Once the building of Ka’ba was completed, Allah ordered Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) to make public proclamation of the pilgrimage to be performed there. Allah says in the Holy Quran,
“Announce to the people the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every deep and distinct highway that they may witness the benefits and recollect the names of Allah in the well known days (ayyam ma’lumat) over the sacrificial animal.” (AL-HAJJ verse 26-27)
The Quran also says, “And remember Abraham raised the foundations of the House, yes and Ismail too (saying) accept this from us, for indeed You are on All hearing and All knowing” (Al-Baqr verse 125-127).
The Quran is our most certain testimony to the significance of the Hajj. Our beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW) taught us the importance of the Hajj in our lives. He followed the religion of Prophet Abraham (AS) and extended it to us. He was concerned not only with reforming the beliefs, ways of life and practices of his people but also brought Islam and made it a great religion for us to follow. But do we follow it now in the right perspective? We observe that every year millions of people make pilgrimage to Ka’ba and learn and practice the true spirit of Islam. The Muslims from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Jordan, Kashmir, America, England, Spain, Africa, Burma, Arab Emirates, etc are seen in Mecca on the occasion of the Hajj. It is a great scene to watch that all Muslims, black and white, rich and poor, Arab and Non-Arab are together and there is a scene of fraternity everywhere. They forget that they are from different countries, religions, cultures and belong to different colors. They demonstrate oneness and promise to be united for the cause of Islam. They pray for the uplift of Islam and determine to help, to put an end to the sufferings of the Muslims in particular and the people in general everywhere in the world.
But it is observed that after the return from Allah’s House to the respective countries or places, the cause and the spirit of the Hajj fades. Some of them may be changed in their personal acts but it is observed that their approach to the sufferings of the people remains unchanged. The unchanged behavior and approach of the Muslims is responsible for the division of their Ummah in the world. Our beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW) earned hostilities for our sake, the most dangerous path he tread for our sake and all for our sake. He (SAW) sacrificed everything for the establishment of the just system and then created a new era of history, prepared a great nation, brought forth new worlds of thought and knowledge, and put us above every civilization. We have one Allah, one Prophet (SAW), and one religion; it becomes our moral duty to understand the purpose and objective of the Hajj.
The Real Sacrifice
Prophet Ismail (AS) was the eldest son of the Prophet Abraham (AS). Hajar or Hagar, an Egyptian princess and one of the wives of Abraham delivered him.
It is believed that Allah Commanded Abraham (Ibrahim) to leave his wife Hajar and his child son Ismail in Hejaz, deep south in the desert of Arabia where the city of Makah exists today. The place of Makkah was an uninhabited and barren piece of land those times. Abraham as a submissive and devoted worshipper of Allah obeyed and accomplished the Command of the Creator and the Maker of the Universe by taking and leaving the child Ishmael, and the mother, in the desert of Arabia. Due to scorching and sweltering heat the child felt parched and thirsty and the mother taking pity upon the innocent child roamed and ran here and there to find out any spot or source of water. She ran several times between the two hills (al-Safa and al-Marwa), trying to find water, and some help. She could not find out water. However, the child Ishmael, while wailing, suddenly, scuffed the soil with his heels and by the will of Allah, a spring of fresh water gushed out. This spring runs with boundless fresh water to this day, and is treated as holy water (better known as Zum Zum) by pilgrims to Makah. The act of running between the two hills by Hajar, the mother of Ishmael got converted into a significant and remarkable occurrence that Allah reckoned it as a compulsory component of the Hajj ritual for all times to come.
Ismail grew up and could now share the responsibilities and works of his father Abraham who had been commanded to visit and find out his family now. After re-union with his family, Abraham saw in a dream or vision, that he sacrificed his only son to please Allah. On seeing the same dream on three successive nights, he informed his son Ismail about it. As a devoted and submissive son, Ismail requested his father to sacrifice him to please Allah to submit before His Will and Test.
"Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I have seen in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what thy view is!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one of the steadfast!"
Finding his son submissive, Abraham took him to Mina, laid him on the ground, and tied his arms and legs with a cord. As he placed his knife on the throat of his son, the Archangel Jibril or Gabriel (AS) appeared and announced that the trial of their ultimate submission to Allah was accepted. Just then, by the Grace of Allah, a heavenly, healthy and beautiful ram appeared there to be sacrificed in place of Ismail. Abraham was given the happy tiding that Allah was pleased with them, and their position would be elevated. This act of the supreme sacrifice of Abraham and his son Ismail became an essential part of the Hajj for all times, and is celebrated in the form of Eid al-Adha.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.