Sunday, December 10, 2006

Hajj: Ethics and Significance

There is much wisdom behind Hajj that Almighty Allah prepares man to have the perfect form of servitude to Him. There are many acts of Hajj whose significance man cannot conceive by his limited intellectual powers. However, Muslims are taught to accept these acts and fulfills them out of his obedience and surrender to Almighty Allah.

During the period of the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj, to the time of returning home we can judge what great effects are produced in the heart and mind of man. There are questions which may arise, such as are we required to do the Tawaf, the Circumambulation around Ka’abah? Why should it be in 7 rounds, not 3 or 5? What is the significance of throwing pebbles at the Jammarat? And why 7 pebbles in particular? Why staying at or standing on ‘Arafah? And many more!
All these endless questions may intrigue one’s mind, but the clear fact is that their answers are beyond man’s limited faculty, and only what he is required to say is: I hear and obey Your Command, O Allah! Yours is to order and mine is to obey”!
The process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, sacrifice of several worldly affairs as well as sacrifice of many carnal desires and pleasures; and all this is simply for the sake of Allah, with no selfish end. Then, together with piety and virtuousness, the incessant remembrance of Allah and the longing and love of Him pervade the mind of the pilgrim, leaving a firm impression on him which lasts for years to come.
On reaching the sacred land the pilgrim should witnesses at every step the relics of those who sacrificed everything they owned in servitude and obedience to Allah. They fought against the disbelievers, suffered torture, were forced to migrate from their land, went through unbearable hardship and tribulations, but ultimately elevated the Word of Allah and did not rest content till they subdued every false power that wanted man to become subservient to entities other than Allah.
Hajj is the sign of the universality of this Divine message. Islam emphasis on the very principle of equality between all people. All people come from all parts of the globe celebrating the praises of the One true God, no colors, races, regional borders. All barriers are removed and all pilgrims are molten in one brotherhood that gathers their hearts and strengthens their bonds and sense of belonging to one religion. It makes it clear that people are as equal as the comb teeth.
The Prophet SAW declares:
“O people! Your Lord is one, your father is one. You are all sons of Adam and Adam is created from dust”.

In prayer, a person may wear his own traditional costumes and thus may be distinguished. In Hajj, all people put on two pieces of white cloth called ihram that resembles a shroud. This is the highest form of equality.In Hajj, man enters into a state of total sanctity that prevents him from violating the life or the safety of any human being.
Hajj is, above all, a revolution against all usual matters. A person who travels for Hajj may be traveling out of his country for the first time. Moreover, he experiences a life that is simple but happy. All these are among the benefits of Hajj about which we are told in the Qur’an. In the Hereafter, the benefit is greater; it is Paradise.
The Prophet SAW says:
“He who performs Hajj and avoids sin and vice in it, will return as sin free as the day his mother bore him.”
In another Hadith, the Prophet SAW declares:
“An accepted Hajj is rewarded with nothing more than Paradise.”

Shedding more light on the ethics and significance of Hajj, Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi says in his book Mukhtasar Minhaj Al-Qasidin: One who intends to perform Hajj should first make Tawbah [repentance] to Allah, settle his debts, prepare sufficient provision for his journey and for his family until his return, give back trusts to their rightful owners, and meet his expenses by lawful means. He is recommended to accompany righteous men to help each other in their journey. If there is a group of people going out for Hajj, they should choose one of them to be their leader during their journey so as to set their affairs in order.

The pilgrim should stick to the Islamic good manners in all aspects, ask righteous people to make Du’a, supplications to Allah for him, and say the authentic Prophetic supplications that the Prophet SAW is reported to have said on his journey and making Hajj. One should get well-acquainted with the fact that there is no way of drawing to Allah SWT except by divesting oneself of desires, abstaining from pleasures, confining oneself to necessities and devoting oneself exclusively to Allah, in every moment and rest.

Allah says: “For Hajj are the months well-known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj and whatever good ye do, [be sure] Allah knoweth it. And take a provision [with you] for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, O ye that are wise!” [Al-Baqarah 2:197]

It was for this reason that the ascetics of previous religions used to isolate themselves from the people, retiring to mountain caves and preferring solitude to the company of others, in quest of intimacy with Allah SWT.
Hajj is decreed by Allah to be the ascetic act of the Muslim Ummah. The pilgrim is recommended to free his minds from all businesses except the obedience of Allah, Most High. He should be shabbily dressed, and disheveled, keeping away from adornment or inclining to things that excite vainglory and rivalry.

Here, Jabir narrated that the Prophet SAW said:

"Allah SWT, boasts before the angels about the pilgrims, saying, 'Look at My servants; they came to Me, disheveled and dusty, from every deep ravine. I make you witness that I have forgiven them.'" (Ibn Khayzamah)

Allah has honored His House, sanctified it, and made it a visiting-place.Every action and pillar pertinent to Hajj comprises a lesson or an admonition to people of sound mind.When the pilgrim feels himself impelled to take a lot, seeking enough provision to last him the whole journey without spoiling or going bad before he reaches his destination, the journey to the Hereafter is much longer and that the provision for it is true piety.
On putting off his normal clothes and wearing the clothes of Ihram, he should recall the shroud in which he will be wrapped for burial.
As the pilgrim utters the words of Talbiyah, he should bear in mind that this signifies a response to the summons of Allah, SWT, as it is stated in the Qur'an:

“And proclaim the pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways” [Al-Hajj 21: 27].

On entering the Haram (the Sacred Precinct), he should be filled with hope of being spared the Punishment of Allah, and on beholding the Ka'abah, the pilgrim should be conscious in his heart of the majesty of the House, venerating it with such intensity that he seems to anticipate beholding the Lord of the House. He, further, should express his gratitude to Allah, for bringing him to this high degree, and for including him in the company of those who draw near to Him.

A lesson in courage and determination, which a devotee of Allah can draw from these clear signs and sacred relics, can hardly be available from any other source. Through theTawaf, the rehearsal of a Mujahid's life consisting of the rituals of Hajj, which are combined with Prayer, fasting and Zakah, you will realize that these processes constitute a training or some big task which Islam wants Muslims to execute. For this reason, Hajj has been made compulsory for those who have paid all their debts and are capable of undertaking the journey to the Ka'abah so that, as far as possible, Muslims in the largest possible number remain equipped at every period after having fully gone through this training.

One should not suppose that the purpose of it is the physical circumambulation of the House. It is not a body rotating around another physical body. The true purpose is the circling of the heart around remembrance of the Lord of the House, making Allah (God) the center of his life. The heart should reach a point when consciousness begins with Allah alone and ends with Him alone, just as the circumambulation starts from a point around the House and ends at that same point.
On touching the Black Stone, the pilgrim should believe that he is pledging allegiance to Allah, and vowing obedience to Him. He, also, has to make his resolve to be loyal to his oath, for the wrath of Allah is the traitor's due.
Infront of the Al-Multazam, the pilgrim’s intention should be to draw close in love and yearning to the House and the Lord of the House, seeking grace through the contact and hoping for immunity from the Hell-Fire. At the same time, his intention should be earnestly to seek forgiveness and to beg for mercy, just as one who has sinned against another will cling to his clothes while imploring his pardon, demonstrating that he has no refuge or recourse except to his forgiveness.
Going between Safa and Marwah, the pilgrim should recall how he will oscillate between the two scales of the Balance at the site of Resurrection. Also, he demonstrates devotion to duty and hopes to be viewed with compassion, just like who enters the presence of a king and leaves without knowing whether the sovereign has decided to accept or to reject him. He keeps going back across the courtyard time after time, hoping to receive mercy the second time if not the first.
On standing at ‘Arafah, the pilgrim should - when he beholds the thronging crowds, hears the loud voices speaking in many tongues, and sees the various groups following their Imams through the ritual observances - recall the site of Resurrection, the gathering of the communities with their Prophets and leaders, each community following its Prophet, aspiring after the intercession, all wavering with equal uncertainty between rejection and acceptance.
As for throwing the pebbles, the pilgrim's purpose in this should be obedience to the Divine command, to demonstrate submissiveness and servitude and readiness to comply without any obvious rational of psychological justification.
When the pilgrim's eyes behold the wall of Madinah, he should remember that this is the town which Allah, Most High, chose for His Prophet SAW that he made it the goal of his migration, that this was his home. He should further envisage the footprints of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, as he went about the city and recall how he used to go about its streets, picturing to yourself his humility and his graceful gait.
On visiting Allah's Messenger, the pilgrim should feel in his heart his tremendous dignity and realize that he is aware of his presence, of his visit, and that he is receiving his greeting. The pilgrim, also, should imagine the noble form of the Prophet Muhammad SAW.All the aforementioned points serve as ethics to which every pilgrim should pay attention on embarking on this noble and lifetime journey.

The Immense Reward of Hajj.

Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet SAW said:
"The performance of one 'Umrah and another expiates and blots out all the sins committed in between, and Hajj Mabrur (Hajj performed typically according to the rules of the Qur'an and Sunnah) has no reward but Paradise." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
Ibn Juraij reports on the authority of Jabir that the Prophet SAW said:

"This House of Allah,the Ka'abah is the pillar of Islam; so whosoever heads for it with the intention of performing Hajj or 'Umrah is under Allah's Protection. If he should die,during this journey, he will be admitted to Paradise, and if he should return home safely, he will return with reward and gain."

Abu Hurairah reports that the Prophet SAW said:
"Whoever performs Hajj solely for Allah's Sake and, in the course of it, abstains from obscenity and disobedience, returns after Hajj as immaculate as a child just born." (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

‘Amr Ibn Al-'Aas narrates: "When Allah guided me to Islam, I went to the Prophet SAW and said to him:

'O Messenger of Allah! Stretch out your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.' The Prophet SAW stretched out his hand to me, but I withdrew my hand,

The Prophet asked, 'O ‘Amr! What is the matter with you?' I said: 'I would like to stipulate a condition!' The Prophet asked, 'What is that condition you want to stipulate?' 'It is that all my past sins be forgiven,' I said.

The Prophet SAW said:

'O ‘Amr! Do you not know that embracing Islam removes all the sins committed before it; that Hijrah (migration in Allah's Cause) wipes off all sins; and that performing Hajj blots out all one's past sins!"'

‘Abdullah Ibn Mas narrates that the Prophet SAW said:

"Alternate between Hajj and `Umrah, for these two remove poverty and obliterate sins just as the blacksmith's bellows removes all impurities from metals like iron, gold and silver. The reward for Hajj Mabrur (Hajj performed typically according to the rules of the Qur'an and Sunnah) is nothing short of Paradise." (An-Nasaa'i & Tirmidzi)

© Exerpted with modification, from Ibn Qudamah Al-Maqdisi's Mukhtasar Minhaj Al-Qasidin, by Dar Al-Manarah for Translation, Egypt, 2001. [Islamonline]


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