Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah is a special journey; a journey like no other one. Hajj, which means to make a resolve to visit a holy place, in this case the Ka’aba in Makkah, is one of the pillars and fundaments of Islam. It is the worship of a lifetime, the seal of consummation, the completion of surrender and the ultimate act of ibaadah (worship) in the deen of Allah (way of Allah). The duty of pilgrimage is a sacred duty that man owes to his Creator- Allah; because Allah Himself commanded it.
Allah informs us that
“the first House of worship appointed foe men was that of Bakka: full of blessing and guidance for all the worlds” (Q3:96).
Then He commands men to visit this holiest of all holy places:
“Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures” (Q3:97).
Hence; so important is the hajj that Allah has described failure to perform it, if you have the means to do so, as kufr (unbelief- literally to cover the grace of Allah).
Hajj is the perfection of religion and the pinnacle of the acts of ibaadah. This is so because the whole bug process of truly preparing for the hajj heightens your observance of the other four pillars of Islam. Only a true and sincere iman (faith) in Allah can encourage one to make the trip; this resolve heightens the consciousness with which believers now worship Allah in our daily salaat and the fasting in the month of' Ramadan. As he saves for hajj, his holdings reach the minimum level on which zakaat (alms-giving) becomes due and the journey to hajj completes the circle of faith.
Undoubtedly, the hajj is a puzzle to unbelievers who continue to manufacture several tales about the Ka'abah and the rites of hajj;' but some believers also wonder within themselves as to the significance of this journey to Makkah. To such 'doubters', the specific acts of worship engaged during the pilgrimage are actions to which the soul does not readily conform and the significance of' which is not easily grasped by the mind. "Why take a trip to Makka"; such doubters wonder, "to run around a stone house (tawaj), run back and forth between two hills (sa’y), stay on the plains of Arafat (wuquj) for no specific act and throwing pebbles at three stationary pillars (rami jimar)”?
yet, this was the journey that transformed Malcom X - a fiery black racist who had believed that Allah was black and that non-blacks came from the devil from the brotherhood of blacks to the brotherhood of all men and from a perverted 'Muslim' to a-true Muslim-submitting to Allah. Imam Abu Hanifah, it is reported, was unsure which pillar of Islam was more excellent; but once he had performed the hajj, he had no hesitation in declaring the pilgrimage as the most excellent of all (Mawdudi). Islam is incomplete without this journey to the House of Allah as exemplified by the life of Rasulullah (PBUH).
After years of believing, performing salaat, fasting, paying zakaat and engaging in jihad, the completion and the perfection of faith occurred only after he made this journey to Makkah. On Friday; the 9th of Dhul Hijja 10 A.H on the plains of Arafat; during the Farewell Pilgrimage - the only hajj performed by the Prophet (PBUH) - Allah revealed these famous words to him:
“..This day have I perfected your religion for you, and completed My favour upon you and have chosen Islam as your religion." (Muslim).
What then sets this journey apart from all others?
Usually journeys are made for the gains of business or for the pleasure of enjoyment. In both cases, you leave your house, separate from loved ones, sacrifice your regular enjoyment and spend money for your own sake. There is no question of sacrifice for any higher or sublime purpose. The hajj is 'different because it is not for any personal end; it-is undertaken solely for Allah and in fulfilment of the duty prescribed by Him (Q3:97). Hence the true pilgrim undertakes the journey out of utmost love and fear of Allah, a strong sense of duty to Him, a 'readiness to respond to His summons and the willingness to sacrifice material comforts and wealth for Allah's sake. These inner qualities are sufficient to make the hajj a strong act of faith; but there are still more.
The hajj represents a perfect demonstration of homage and obedience which is why the Prophet (PBUH) rated it above other acts of worship saying: "Doubly at Your service ('Labbbayk") through a pilgrimage in truth, devotion and homage" (Daraqutni). As the pilgrim begins his preparation for the hajj with the sole intention of' pleasing Allah, his thoughts and deeds become purer, past sins are repented, previous wrong deeds are corrected and the heart is filled with the longing to reach the goal without the burden of inequity, When he exchanges his colourful clothes for the ihram, pride, vanity and other soul impurities will accordingly be exchanged for humility, submission and peace. Soon after, he shouts his talbiya (the cry of response) to the call of Allah saying; "Here I am before you, O Allah.."
As he walks round the Ka'abah, his heart is informed that the tawaf is true only when the pilgrim's heart is constantly drawn to Allah, the Lord of the House. The sa'y (running) between Safa and Marwa represents to him the going back and forth of a servant for the pleasure of his Lord: Finally just by-standing on the plain 'of Arafat in submission to Allah, the pilgrim's past sins are forgiven. It is said that when Allah forgives a sin for one servant on that day, He forgives it for everyone there who is guilty of it; this is in answer to the prayer of the Prophet (PBUH) that:
" O Allah, forgive the pilgrim and those for whom the pilgrim seeks forgiveness!" (al- Hakim).
THE GOAL OF THE JOURNEY
It is for these individual gains that renew the self that the hajj is the best- deed of faith. Abu Huraira (RA) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) was asked: "Which is the best deed?" he said, "Belief in Allah and His Messengers". He was then asked "which is the next (in goodness)? And he said: “A blessed hajj" (hajj mabrur)" (Bukhari), Hence, he equated not performing the hajj to unbelief: "He who dies without having performed the pilgrimage (though he possessed the means), let him die a Jew or a Christian as he wishes ", (Tirmidhi).
Still the hajj has immense benefits for the society at large.
After the euphoria of Ramadan, the world of Islam comes alive again because of the millions of people that set out for hajj from every corner of the globe. Their growth in piety and enthusiasm improves the moral state of the immediate society around them. The different faces, colours, languages and sizes all clad in simple ihram that perform the tawaf is an annual inspiring spectacle of unity. They utter the same words and they are members of the same army of one single King-Allah - engaged in a" great movement for peace; in an atmosphere of love, friendship and brotherhood. Even the Sacred Mosque offers a pious example to all human beings:
"...the Sacred Mosque which we have made (open) to (all) men- equal is the dweller there and the visitor ....." (Q22:25)
The hajj is like a treasure for Islam and Muslims; sadly, Muslims today mostly treat this diamond as if it were a stone. The heritage of hajj provides an opportunity for a global Islamic movement and unity above race, colour and nationality; yet we are still divided and disunited. In our immediate environment, thousands of Muslims can afford the pilgrimage but they refuse to go on the journey. Can they not see that the prayers of the foremost pilgrim (Ibrahim PBUH) have been answered for eternity? Do they not know that the pilgrimage is a return to innocence and purity for
"he who performs hajj avoiding indecent and immoral behaviour emerges from his sins like a new born babe" (Bukhari)?
Are they not aware that the hajj is a sure journey to salvation because
"for a blessed pilgrimage there is no reward but Paradise" (Muslim)?