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April 23, 2014 | Jumada Al-Thani 22, 1435
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IslamiCity > Articles > Hajj: Going Beyond the Rituals
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Some might say: "Why does Hajj, which is obligatory only once in one's lifetime, occupy such a supreme rank among the rituals of Islam?" Posing this question does not imply rejection of Allah's blessings. Rather, it stems from the desire to know the reasons behind Hajj's consequential status, in order to make this knowledge a motivation to perform Hajj and do it in the best way possible.

Hajj: Going Beyond the Rituals
10/3/2013 - Religious Social - Article Ref: AJ1011-4354
Number of comments: 1
Opinion Summary: Agree:1  Disagree:0  Neutral:0
By: Al-Jumuah Staff
Al Jumuah* - Vol 22-12

The proceeding verses and ahadeeth describe the tremendous blessings and remarkable rewards Allah bestows upon those who answer His call to perform Hajj and offer it the way it should be offered-a Hajj mabroor-an accepted Hajj.

Some might say: "Why does Hajj, which is obligatory only once in one's lifetime, occupy such a supreme rank among the rituals of Islam?" Posing this question does not imply rejection of Allah's blessings. Rather, it stems from the desire to know the reasons behind Hajj's consequential status, in order to make this knowledge a motivation to perform Hajj and do it in the best way possible.

Lets us begin by considering the hadeeth quoted in the beginning of this writing, which entails that Hajj comprises the following four elements:

  • First, the worship referred to in the hadeeth is Hajj,
  • Second, the aim of Hajj is seeking Allah's pleasure by way of utter sincerity, a condition necessary for the validity of all acts of worship,
  • Third, the invalidators of Hajj are engaging in sexual acts and committing serious disobedience, and 
  • Fourth, the reward for Hajj is forgiveness of all sins.
1. Putting the Ihram (white cloth)  in Miqat ("a stated place" before entering Makkah). 2. Circling the Ka'bah. 3. Stay in Mina. 4. Stay in Arafat. 5. Sleep overnight in Muzdalifah. 6. Stoning the pillars. 7. Go back to Makkah, circling the Ka'bah.

What is Hajj?

Lexically, 'hajj' in Arabic denotes having intention to do something or achieve a goal. It also means a journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose. In the legal sense, Hajj refers to pilgrimage to the House of Allah, the Ka'bah, in a specific bodily and mental state, and within a specific time frame to perform specific rituals. As such, Hajj is a broad and extensive form of worship that requires one to put together and manage his financial, physical, mental and emotional resources for an extended period of time in which one has to perform a large number of deeds of varying religious weights-prerequisites, obligatory and recommended acts-which require of one a reasonable knowledge of what, how, and where to do each one of these particular acts. Those who have been to Hajj or studied it attest to how intricate performing Hajj can be.

Yet, performing the Hajj rituals in accordance with the Shari'ah is not of much concern in the discussions that follow. Instead, our focus will be the other aspects of Hajj, alluded to in the aforementioned verses and ahadeeth. We seek to shed light on some of the significant concepts and meanings Hajj epitomizes, meanings to which many pilgrims are, unfortunately, either oblivious or indifferent, a fact succinctly depicted in the story of the man who remarked out loud as he saw the massive crowds of pilgrims sweeping through the valley of Muzdalifah: "My God! Look at the number of pilgrims!" A wise man who happened to be standing beside him replied: "No. The passengers are many, but the pilgrims are few."

On the face of it, Hajj rituals may seem to be mostly physical and financial in nature, but when we deeply consider what is being carried out, in any of Hajj's various stages, we realize that it is these other meanings and objectives (so-called maqasid or ultimate goals and intents of Shari'ah) that are being emphasized to the pilgrims, not the rituals themselves. It is true such maqasid as well as the spiritual dimension are essential to all types of worship in Islam, but the variety of the acts forming Hajj worship and the magnitude of the maqasid and the meanings implicit in them are of a far more impressive measure-and so too their spiritual impact-than any other Islamic form of worship. Here is a brief discussion of some of these maqasid.

The Maqasid of Hajj: Going Beyond the Rituals

Ihram: The Return to Origin

Ihram is the first pillar of Hajj and probably the most powerful form of Islamic worship a Muslim can ever experience. It is a time when one consciously declares intention to begin the Hajj rites. Thus Ihram is an act through which the pilgrim acknowledges the sacredness and reverence of the worship of Hajj, God's House (Ka'bah) and the Sanctuary (Haram) surrounding it, which one does by not passing the miqat way mark, which establishes the worshipful precincts of the Ka'bah without being in the state of Ihram. All pilgrims of all social, racial and economic backgrounds remove all apparent signs of their differences by donning the same two pieces of simple, white cloth. Moreover, every pilgrim declares the same intention and utters the same words of submission to Allah, the One God, known as the talbiyah. Each one asserts out loud: "Labbaika allahumma labbaik" Ever at jour service, O Allah! Ever at your service! This they proclaim in response to Allah's Call pronounced by Abraham, alayhes salam, to humankind to submit to Allah and come in pilgrimage to Allah's House and Sacred place.

Every pilgrim is to avoid all that is not of concern to one, give up many desires, permitted and prohibited, diminish all causes of division and schism, magnify equality and fairness, and sanctify life and the rights of others, Muslims and non-Muslims. These are some of the main dimensions the acts of Ihram seek to emphasize. In this sense, Ihram not only symbolizes but helps pilgrims actually embody a return to fitrah, the original state of goodness: Loving God, loathing all that He forbade, and being in a state of submission to His Commandments and Will.

Emigrating to Allah

One may look at Hajj as a physical-spiritual journey to God, because in essence, a pilgrim parts with his loved ones, wealth, and work and heads to the Sacred Places hoping for Allah's reward and forgiveness. Hajj is also a way of commitment in which one demonstrates one's determination to free oneself from wrong and bad, and to engage life afresh in a new existence, as it were, centered on Allah's love and obedience. Indeed, Hajj, as one Muslim sage has so aptly stated it, is "a long journey, but of returning, not going. The pilgrim is not going to Makkah. He is returning to his source, Allah, the Source of Everything."

Another way of understanding this statement is possible if we realize that Hajj's ultimate benefit and impact is in the return home-the lightness that every pilgrim feels and the happiness that overtakes one at the moment of finishing all the rites and getting prepared to go back to family and loved ones. In this sense and for this reason, the scholars put much emphasize on what happens after Hajj and how a pilgrim handles his relationship with Allah thereafter.

Muslims go to Hajj in response to Allah's call to them, through Prophet Abraham, to immigrate (physically and spiritually) to His House. Allah says: "And proclaim among people the Pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of lean beast, coming from every remote path" [22:27]. Answering Allah's call, Muslims emerge from every corner of the world, "fleeing" to Allah, turning to Him and taking refuge in Him from disbelief and disobedience, thereby escaping His punishment-a concept which the Qur'an refers to as fleeing (evil as well as anything that takes one away from leading a pious life): .. .so flee to Allah, indeed, I am a great Warner to you (from Him)..." [51:50].

Unfortunately, the idea of "fleeing" or separation from sin, which Hajj deeply implies in its rituals, escapes the minds of many pilgrims. If a pilgrim really grasps the immigration concept implicit in the acts of Hajj, he or she will distance him- or herself from disobedience like the east is from the west. For the hadeeth has is it that ". ..indeed, the true immigrant is one who 'immigrates' from sin" (Ibn Hibban).Thus, missing out on this great concept of separation that the Hajj implies prevents one from achieving the optimal benefits and possibilities embedded in this incredible act of worship. Pilgrims must keep this in mind.

Self-Struggle Creates Motivation

Hajj motivates one to struggle in the path of Allah, bolsters one's ability to see it through, and creates willingness in one to take obedience of Allah to the next level. While in Hajj, a Muslim is to endure, graciously, all the difficulties the trip to the Sacred Places involves to please his Lord. And since that entails a lot of patience and steadfastness, the Hajj was described by the Prophet, sal-lallahu alayhe wa sallam, as an act of jihad, "...the jihad of the old, the weak, and women is Hajj and Umrah" (Targeeb and Tarheeb).

Moreover, Allah guarantees full reward for the pilgrim. The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, said: "Three people are guaranteed full reward by Allah: one who steps out of his home heading for the masjid; one who goes out in an expedition to propagate or defend Allah's word; and one who goes for Hajj" (Ahmad). The tazkiyah one is to gain from this struggle with his or herself and this guarantee from the Lord of the Worlds are great motivations for Muslims to take Hajj seriously and expect a major enrichment in their relationship with Allah upon returning from it.

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