Beyond rituals: The Ultimate Goals and Intents of Hajj II

Emigrating to Allah

One may look at Hajj as a physical-spiritual journey to Allah, 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 his/her determination to freeing one’s self from wrong and bad, and to engaging afresh into a new life that is centered around the love of Allah and obedience to Him. Indeed, Hajj, as one Muslim sage puts it, …is a long journey; but one of returning, not of going. The pilgrim is not going to Makkah. He is returning to his source; Allah is the Source of Everything.

Another way of understanding this statement is possible if we realize that Hajjs ultimate benefit and impact is felt in the returning part of the journeythe lightness that every pilgrim feels and the happiness that overtakes him/her at the moment of finishing all the rites and getting prepared to go back home. In that sense and for this reason, the scholars put much emphasis on what happens after Hajj and how a pilgrim handles his relationship with Allah after it.

Muslims go to Hajj in response to Allah’s Call for them, through Prophet Ibraheem  (Abraham) that they immigrate (physically and spiritually) to His House. Allah Says (what means): {And proclaim to the people Hajj [the pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.} [Quran 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 Punishmenta concept that the Quran refers to as fleeing (evil as well as anything that takes one away from leading a pious life). Allah Says (what means): {So flee to Allah. Indeed, I (the Messenger ) am to you from Him a clear warner.} [Quran 51:50]
Unfortunately, the idea of “fleeing or separation from sin” deeply implied in Hajj rituals escapes the minds of many pilgrims. If a pilgrim really grasps the immigration concept implicit in the acts of Hajj, he will distance himself from disobedience. The Messenger of Allah said: Indeed, the true immigrant is one who immigrates from (leave) sin. [Ibn Hibban] Thus, missing out on this great concept of separation the Hajj implies prevents one from achieving the optimal benefits and possibilities embedded in this great act of worship. Pilgrims must keep that in mind.

Self-struggle creates motivation
Hajj motivates one to struggle in the Path of Allah, bolsters his ability to see it through and creates willingness in one to take obedience of Allah to the next level. While in Hajj, a Muslim endures, 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  as an act of Jihad: …The Jihad of the old, the weak and women is Hajj and Umrah.” [An-Nasai, Al-Bayhaqi and At-Tabarani]

Moreover, Allah guarantees full reward for the pilgrim just as He does for the one who fights in His Way. The Prophet said: Three people are guaranteed full reward by Allah: one who steps out of his home heading for the Mosque; one who goes out in an expedition to propagate or defend Allah’s Word; and one who goes for Hajj. [Ahmad]
The purification (of the soul) one is to gain from this struggle with his/her self 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.

The goal is unity
Muslims, from Adam to the end of time, belong to a single brotherhood (Ummah). They are bound together by the concept of Tawheed (Monotheism). In Hajj, this concept of Tawheed-based solidarity is translated into deeds as Muslims from a wide range of backgrounds stand united in one place, worshipping one God, undivided by race, color, language or nationality. The Quran teaches in many verses that all human beings descended from a single ancestor, that none has an intrinsic right of superiority over another, whatever his race or his nation or his social standing. Also, this concept of unity and equality is highlighted in many Prophetic narrations like the one narrated by Jabir  who reported that the Prophet addressed his followers, on the second day of the Days of Tashreeq (the 11th, 12th, 13th days of the month of Thul-Hijjah), saying: “O people! Indeed, you have one Lord (Allah) and one father (Adam). No Arab is superior over a non-Arab, or a non-Arab over an Arab; and no white is superior over a non-white or a non-white over a white. Superiority is by righteousness and piety [alone].” Then the Prophet asked: “Did I convey the message to you?” “Yes indeed O Messenger of Allah,” answered the mass. “Then let those who are present (i.e., listeners) convey my words to those who are not,” concluded the Prophet  [Ahmad and Bayhaqi]
We will definitely miss the gist of our Prophet’s preaching about the oneness, equality, and brotherliness of all Muslims if we discriminate against one another; if, in our dealings with one another, allow ourselves to be swayed by considerations of ethnicity, social standing or national backgrounds; or if we cut ourselves off from the Ummah (Muslim Nation), become cocooned in the den of our personal concerns and wallow in stoicism and indifference when all sorts of sufferings, injustices, and aggressions are heaped on the heads of our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Submitting to Allah: Going all the Way
A Muslim is, by definition, one that honors the Religion of Allah and places it before anything else. He or she never allows contradicting human’s views to take precedence over Allah’s Commands. A Muslim sees the Sharee’ah (Islamic Law) as infallible; accepts and submits to all of its dictations even when it is hard to grasp the Divine Wisdom in them. Even though most of the Sharee’ah is understood and its rationality is appreciated, there are certain aspects of it (matters of strict rituals) that are intended to be less clear than thosewith at least one of their purposes being to differentiate those who believe from those who don’t. If something is factually established as part of the Sharee’ah, it should be glorified and applied. This position is so clearly reflected throughout the rituals of Hajj, but more explicitly, in the act of kissing Al-Hajar Al-Aswad (The Black Stone). As we know the Black Stone is just a stone and is incapable of benefiting or harming anybody; but because the Messenger of Allah used to kiss it whenever he circled the Ka’bah, Muslims toe his line and kiss it too. This understanding is best illustrated by the statement of Caliph Umar ibn Al- Khattab who said addressing the Black Stone, “By Allah! I know that you are just a stone that is incapable of benefiting or harming; and had I not seen the Prophet kiss you, I would not have kissed you.” [Al-Bukhari]
Commenting on Umar’s statement, Ibn Hajar said in his Fath Al-Bari: “Umar’s statement and action with regard to the ritual of kissing the Black Stone is a guiding principle in the issue of following the Prophet’s legal commands even when their rationale escapes our understanding.” A major part of the intent of this kind of rituals in Islam is to indicate and establish the meaning and extent of submission in being a Muslim.

Parting Ways with Polytheists
A standard feature of Islam that is very clearly and unquestionably demonstrated in the Quran and the Sunnah is the obligation that Muslims should part ways with polytheists. Allah Says (what means): {There has already been for you an excellent pattern in Ibraheem (Abraham) and those with him, when they said to their people: Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah Alone…} [Quran 60:4]
The Hajj rituals display and consolidate this notion of Muslims’ disassociation from concepts, practices and ways of disbelievers. We learn from the Prophets biography that his actions and attitude in Arafah and Muzdalifah were dissimilar from those of the polytheists in these two places in Pre-Islamic era. It is indeed a significant lesson concerning the Muslim’s attitude towards the actions, attitudes, and rituals of polytheists and idol-worshippers. Anyone who emulates the polytheists and adopts their ethics, conduct, appearance or lifestyle has indeed failed to appreciate the Prophet’s teachings in this regard.

Humility before Allah
Modesty, not inspired by fear or inferiority complex, is a preeminent component in the Muslim’s character. That is so because the Sharee’ah loathes arrogance, condemns the arrogant and warns them of awful consequences on the Day of Recompense as shown in this Prophetic narration: “Paradise is out of reach of anyone with a grain of arrogance in his heart.” [Muslim]
Pilgrims in Hajj, especially on the Day of Arafah, the central event of Hajj, appear so like one another that all seem brothers. The motley throng reflects the equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah, symbolizing the idea that there is no difference between a prince and a pauper when everyone is dressed equally. All pilgrims stand together invocating and glorifying Allah. They have one powerful goal in mind and firm focus: to plead to the Almighty to forgive their sins and to bless them with the Straight Path for the remainder of their lives. Their total immersion in the imposing ambience of Hajj, frees them to focus on perfecting their Hajj instead of obsessing about superficial considerations and concerns. The Prophet’s utterance of Talbiyah (saying `Labbayka Allahumma labbayk’) reflects this atmosphere of modesty and humbleness before Allah. Anas narrated that the Prophet used to say in his Talbiyah invocation: “Here I am at Your service, O Lord. Here I’m, offering Hajj in sincerity and true servitude.” [Al-Bazzar]

Purifying the Soul
Muslims are obligated to tend to and take good care of their souls by purifying and ridding them of abominable qualities like miserliness and selfishness, to name only two. They are urged to give the poor their lot from the charity money and are promised an abundant reward for doing so. And even though going to Hajj is a major financial burden and Hajj’s goals seem to be focusing on matters far from charitable giving, the Sunnah encourages the pilgrims to give in charity as much as they can. And because pilgrims, particularly indigent ones, are often in need of provisions like food and water, Allah urges the visitors of His House to be liberal with their food (i.e. sacrificial animals). Allah Says (what means): {So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor} [Quran 22:28] He Almighty teaches them that that will help them acquire piety, which is the ultimate and real purpose behind the act of spending for the Sake of Allah. Allah Says (what means): {their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you…} [Quran 22:37] The Prophet stressed the significance of giving in charity, especially during Hajj, by saying: “The reward for charity given in Hajj excels seven hundred times the reward for charity given in a different setting.” [Ahmad and At-Tabarani]
Giving in charity is essential to purifying one’s soul and it is more so when the giving is done at a time of need and when financial burden is heaviest; but if one is to gain more control on himself and loosen the grip of materialism on it, giving in charity in Hajj is an effective and major step toward that.

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