Hajj: The Unique JourneyJan 18, 2021 2021-04-01 8:59
Hajj: The Unique Journey
Hajj: The Unique Journey
One of the activities often undertaken by human beings across time has been travelling. Whilst some travel for pleasure or exploration, others cover vast distances for business or educational purposes. Many of us have pinpointed our favourites destinations around the world; those that have left a long lasting impressing and one that we often yearn to return. Yet of all such journeys in the history of mankind, one in particular emerges as a unique experience; the Pilgrimage of Hajj. For many returning hujjaj, the experience of the hajj is profound, and the yearning to return overwhelming.
Yet Hajj is described by some Scholars as a movement rather than a journey. This is because a journey eventually ceases, whilst a movement is an on-going process that continues. Indeed, Hajj is recognised as the movement from the self towards the Glory of The Almighty (swt), enriched in self-purification and cleansing. What makes Hajj unique is that despite the difficulties and the strenuous rituals, millions return year after year, in one of the greatest shows of unity and strength around the world.
The term ‘Hajj’ literally means intention to visit, and in Islam it denotes an obligatory action deemed necessary for anyone who is able to perform it once in a lifetime. However just like the other acts of worship, the holy Quran promises abundant rewards for the hajji, both in this world and the hereafter:
“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; That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed” (22:27-28)
The traditions reported from the Holy Prophet, Mohammad (sawws) and his infallible progeny (as) point to the idea that once a Muslim embarks on the journey of Hajj, they would eventually leave the holy lands with extensive benefits:
‘They (the hujjaj) do not pull up a step but a reward will be recorded for them, and will not put down a step but a sin will be deleted from their file. When their devotions come to an end it will be said to them: You’ve built a construction, now do not demolish it, you are excused about your past, so make sure you only do good deeds in your future”. Mostradak Al-Waseil, vol 8 p.37
Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (as) famously classified those retuning from the pilgrimage with the correct performance into there categories:
“The Hujjaj are divided into three groups. One set are freed from the fire of hell. Another set will leave pure like the state of being born from the mother’s womb, whilst the third group will have their property and family protected by The Almighty (swt)’. Tahtheeb Vol 5 p.21
Hajj is the only act of worship that an entire chapter of the Quran is named after. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that the chapter begins with a reference to the day of Judgement, describing its initiation as a great and devastating earthquake. This is no co-incidence, since Muslim scholars point to the idea that Hajj is referred to as the ‘minor resurrection. This is perhaps in reference to the concept that many will be struggling to fulfil their personal objectives without consideration for others. Indeed, the word meeqat is used in the holy Quran in reference to the Day of reckoning, and likewise the area in which the pilgrims initiate their ihram (the beginning of the hajj process) is also named meeqat (the designated place):
“Verily the Day of sorting out is the time appointed for all of them (meeqat)”. (44:40)
But what makes Hajj different of course is that it is a new beginning and a fresh dawn for Muslims to instigate a stronger relationship with their Creator. Hajj is seen as a training camp to strengthen the detachment from all worldly pleasures and desires, whilst increasing the resolve to change from within. It is a school of purification, whereby the “I’ becomes ‘We’, a recognition of the will of the human to crush all egoistic and self-centred feelings and submit entirely to Allah (swt). Indeed this Islamic pilgrimage is the embodiment of the goal to erase all types of national and racial discriminations. Every human being, irrespective of their background, creed, race or gender is seen and treated in the same manner. The scene of the millions of people, all wearing the ihram, circumabmulating around the Holy Kaba, moving from Arafat to Muzdalifah onto Mina, demonstrates the importance Islam places on equality and humility
It is also interesting to note that when the Imams of the Ahlulbayt (as) wanted to express the significance of a good deed, they would often compare it with Hajj. What else can be expected than when the invitation is from The All Merciful, to His Pure House, during His holy month. The hajji, acknowledging this special invitation, utters the words ‘labbayk, meaning ‘I am here in response’, anticipating to enter the endless ocean of The Almighty’s Compassion and Mercy.
Whilst circumabmulating the Sacred House of Allah, the believer would need to acknowledge that he/she is joined by the thousands of angels that do the same (at the bait al-ma’moor, perpendicular to the holy Kabaa). The appreciation that many Prophets of God circumambulated at the same place, some still buried in the vicinity, together with being in close proximity to the birthplace of the Commander of the Faithful inside the Kabaa should be enlightening. Indeed it is also between the location of the hajar e-aswad and maqam Ibrahim (as) where narrations point to the first place the holy 12th Imam, Imam Mehdi (atf), would first reappear. Therefore the hajji would go through some connection with the glorious Ahlulbayt (as).
With all this in mind, the psychological as well as physical preparation for hajj becomes crucial, so that the believer can maximise benefit from this spiritual journey. Whilst many feel the need to familiarize themselves with the seemingly daunting details of the Hajj rituals, very few leave time for reflection and pondering over the main objectives of this act of devotion. Hence getting acquainted with the philosophy of hajj, together with a plan of self-development and purification becomes essential for a successful experience.
This then makes the choice of an experienced and well-established hajj group all the more important. A well-regarded Hajj group would strive to provide the best of services and a relatively trouble-free journey, but would importantly provide the pilgrim with the energy and time needed to focus on realising the goals of hajj. Today, many hujjaj are distracted in providing suitable accommodation or transport for instance. Whilst hajj is certainly not short of challenges, choosing a well organised and disciplined group will undoubtedly minimize any possible difficulties.
Hajj is an institution for the development of the human being’s essential elements needed for the success in both worlds. It teaches us sincerity, patience, forbearance, modesty, self-control and taqwa amongst many other virtues.
May Allah (swt) grant all mo’mineen the opportunity to perform hajj this year and the forthcoming years Insha’Allah.