I believe in Allah and my faith is firm insha Allah. I know that Islam is built on five pillars; so I express my faith with daily salaat amd I fast in the month of Ramadan. I've never really been able to save so that I could pay zakaat or perform hajj? Hajj? I have always accepted it as an act of faith but never have I been able to come to rational terms with it. When I watch the tawaf and standing at Arafat on TV, I love the spectacle but I could not fathom the spiritual benefit of the pilgrimage.
If there was any spiritual benefit, I reasoned, it has not manifested in many of the Alhajis and Alhajas that I know. Rather, I have only seen vanity in them. The 'gold' tooth, the cap' and other 'Makkah wears that I know are actually made in China or Taiwan.
Then there is the nagging feeling that the hajj is an ingenious way to ensure prosperity for Saudi Arabia! Imagine two million pilgrims from all over the world with hard currency to spend and the Saudis will smile to the bank with a minimum of $3 billion - not bad for a ten days job!
Well hajj is part of my faith so there is really nothing I could do about it, but alhamdulillah, Allah Himself has said:
"pilgrimage there is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey" (Q3 vs97)
I can actually do without hajj, and truly other 'more compelling' needs made sure I never had enough money to spare for it. That was until my heckling Xtian friend challenged me with the question: "Can you be born again and be free of sin in your religion?"
Sure, there's the istigfar, a daily seek for forgiveness from Allah; and fasting in Ramadan, I know, washes away one's sins from the previous Ramadan particularly when you worship with a pure motive of faith on the Night of Power (Laylatul Qadr). Still I searched for an answer that is point specific. And alas I found it! The Prophet said:
"If anyone performs the pilgrimage for Allah’s sake without talking immodestly or acting wickedly, he will return (free from his sin) as on the day his mother bore him" (Abu Dawud).
Later, I will get in touch with my evangelist friend but right now regrets and guilt fill my heart. Imagine the disservice I have done to myself by not making the hajj a priority. Why should I wait any longer to enjoy the boon of Allah -His Forgiveness and Mercy? I know I can make the trip with the steadfast commitment of saving N10, 000 per month. What is more, my pillars of faith will be complete for my savings would have reached the nisab, (qualifying minimum) for zakaat by Ramadan and then I'll join the pilgrim's train. Come we are all in this together, join me and let's make a firm resolve to be on the next hajj trip - insha Allah!!!