Significance of Hajj and Sacrifice
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant quarter”. (Holy Quran
Every year during 5 days of the Islamic month of Zil-Hajj, Muslims from all over the world gather in the holy city of Makkah for performing Hajj, which is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is the largest regularly held gathering of humans on the planet.
This Quranic verse shows that Haj as an institution existed before the advent of Islam, from antiquity. When pilgrimage was proclaimed people came to it from every quarter, near and far, on foot and mounted on camels. From that time onwards, Haj has continued to be performed.
This Pilgrimage has been mentioned in the Holy Bible to the city of Baca (Makkah). Makkah has been named as Bakkah (close to Baca) once in the Holy Quran:
Mention of Makkah as ‘Bakkah’ in the Holy Quran:
“Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Bakkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.” (Holy Quran 3: 96)
Mention of Baca (Bakkah) in the Holy Bible:
The only change introduced into the features of Haj after Prophet Ibrahim seems to have been the removal of idols from the Ka’aba and other important places of Haj. Even in the Age of Ignorance, people used to come to Makkah in the days of Haj and make circumambulation (tawaf) of Ka’aba.
“In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; 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.” (Holy Quran 3: 97)
Therefore Almighty God has made it is compulsory for every Muslim to make at least one journey in their lifetime to Makkah for Hajj if they can afford it and if they are physically and mentally able. It surely is once in a life-time memorable journey, so much so that one wishes to go again and again every year! Many middle class Muslims save every penny they can to make this journey.
Every conscientious and pious Muslim cherishes this ambition of obtaining the blessings of Hajj at least once in his lifetime. The enthusiasm can be well judged from the unbelievable 6000km walk taken by a Muslim from Bosnia this year to reach the Holy City of Makkah!
But care also has been taken, in the last part of the verse, to warn that if Muslims whom Allah has blessed with the necessary means to perform the pilgrimage still fail to carry out the duty through sheer ingratitude then Allah does not stand in need of their pilgrimage. Allah, definitely, is not going to lose anything by their not performing Haj; the loss will be entirely theirs. They will forfeit His good grace.
Statistics are ever increasing, on the number of people who perform the pilgrimage every year, and this is an encouraging sign, but at the same time the very fact that large areas of the Muslim world are notorious citadels of unjust privilege and that internal and external strife and bloodshed of appalling dimensions takes place between different Muslim groups demonstrates that, in many cases, the observance of this fundamental duty is more an empty ritual, rather than a task performed in the spirit of ‘taqwa‘ in order to become better human beings in actual practice. In this column, we shall try to learn to find out what is so special about this special life time adventure, what is the significance and why it should never be taken just for the sake of travel and holidays!
Importance of Hajj from Sayings of the Holy Prophet
The prophet was once asked: ‘Which deed is the most superior?’ He replied: ‘Belief in God and His Messengers’. ‘After that?’ he was asked. ‘Jihad in His way’, was the answer. It was then asked: ‘After that’. He replied: ‘the Hajj offered with all its requirements’. (Bukhari, No: 25)
One who offers Hajj in His way and doesn’t speak obscene language, and doesn’t commit sins, will come back [purified] as he was at the time of his birth. (Bukhari, No: 1421)
The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “If any one possesses sufficient provision and transportation to take him to Allah’s House (Ka’bah) but still he does not perform Hajj (in his lifetime), it does not matter whether he dies as a Jew or Christian” (Tirmidhi)
One should not delay in performing Hajj once one becomes affording to do it. Ibn Abbas (R.A) said that The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “Whoever wants to go for Hajj, let him hasten to do it, because he may fall ill or some other problems may arise.” (Abu Dawood, 1732).
“The best jihad for you is Hajj Mabrur.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The pilgrim is a guest of Allah. Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “The one who fights for the sake of Allah and the pilgrim who goes for Hajj or Umrah are all guests of Allah. He called them and they responded; they ask of Him and He will give them.” (Ibn Maajah, 2893)
The Holy Prophet said: “The one who leaves his home for Hajj and dies in the way will keep gaining the reward of every year’s Hajj till the Doomsday. He will not be made to account for his doings on the Judgement Day and will be entered into heavens without reckoning”.
The Holy Prophet said “Near the time of Qiyamah the rich ones from amongst my Ummah will perform Hajj for the sake of travel and holidays; (Like having a holiday in Hejaz instead of one in London or Paris). The middle class will perform Hajj for commercial purposes, thereby transporting goods from here to there while bringing commercial goods from there to here; the ulama will perform Hajj for the sake of show and fame; (To outdo and surpass Maulana so and so, or any rival Sheikh who had performed five Hajj). The poor will perform Hajj for the purposes of begging.” (Kanzul Aamaal)
Hajj should be for Allah’s motive prompting this holy deed, neither should it be for the show of things, nor for personal fame. Many people proceed to Mecca for the sake of personal honor and show. Such people have indeed wasted whatever they have spent by way of wealth, health and energy. For them there shall be no reward.
Hajj is primarily a devotional institution, and as such forms the climax of a Muslim’s demonstration of devotion to Allah in ceremonial observance. Every ritual observed during Hajj is very symbolic and takes one through a spiritual journey as a remembrance of our Holy Prophet, Hazrat Ibrahim, Hazrat Ismail, and Hazrat Hajra (PBUT).
It distances him from the material world and engrosses him in a world of light, purity and spirituality, consequently causing those, who, in ordinary circumstances, find themselves to be weighed down by the burden of make-believe distinctions, ranks and honors, to suddenly feel light, easy and relaxed.
The Holy Prophet has emphasized the immense importance of Hajj in the task of spiritual reformation and transformation. But only those who perform it intelligently with full understanding can earn the spiritual benefits in full measure and become a Newborn Muslim!
A chance to become a Newborn Muslim
Just like daily prayers help us to revive our faith on a daily basis, Zakat helps us for renewing our faith on a regular basis, fasting helps us on once a year basis and finally Hajj helps us to become newborn Muslim on once in a life time basis, washing off all our previous sins and starting with a new beginning.
Amr ibn al-Aas (R.A) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H) said: “Hajj wipes out whatever (sins) came before it.” (Muslim, 121)
Subsequently, the performance of the other rituals of Hajj, one after the other, continually brings man closer to his Lord, strengthens his spiritual connection with Him, distances him from his gloomy and sinful past, and guides him towards a bright, luminous and pure future. And there are hundreds and thousands of cases where a person becomes totally changed after performing Hajj. One knows that one may never get another opportunity in his life and redeem oneself. Unfortunately most of us only take upon this spiritual journey at the end of our lives; if only perhaps it would be taken much earlier in our lives!
A lesson for total submission to God
During Hajj, one can seldom do anything on his own; one is totally submitted to God; from wearing the prescribed clothes of Ihraam, going to the prescribed places of Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat and Makkah at the right times in the right sequence, pelting stones at Satan at fixed times and days, and evening abstaining from any sort of intimate relations with one’s partner all train us for ultimate submission to God.
Discipline, Self Restraint and Taqwah
The restrictions of the state of Ihraam are very rigorous in terms of the way the pilgrim behaves with others, with himself, and with Allah and also in terms of using regular worldly things such as putting perfume, cutting one’s hair…etc. This makes Hajj a school of discipline, taqwah and self-control. A school, which can produce righteous, decent, honest and hardworking people as the five daily prayers and the fasting of Ramadan and the pillars of Islam do.
An Opportunity for Repentance
During Hajj, we are told to abstain from evil talk, obscene language and all types of sins. The major intention after being washed off our sins after performing Hajj and becoming a newborn Muslim is to mend our ways and continue to abstain from all types of sins afterwards as well. If such an intention is not made before and even after Hajj, then even the Hajj may not be truly accepted by God. After performing Hajj, it becomes much easier to make a commitment of abstaining from sins for the rest of ones life.
Firmness against Shaytan
Pelting the Shayateen (Satans) with stones as a ritual during Hajj helps one becomes strong and firm against the wishes of Satan. It thus helps in one’s continuous struggle against falsehood, negativity, evil, lies, crime, corruption etc. So much so that if faced with an open, enjoyful and mouth-watering opportunity towards committing evil by Satan, one attains the ability to resist to such tempting but wrong opportunities.
A Rehearsal for Meeting for With the Lord
When leaving for Hajj, one leaves almost everything behind: family including often wife and children, friends, and all ones wealth including ones belongings. It’s a similar situation to what one happens when one dies. So this blessed journey becomes a rehearsal for meeting with the Lord. Over there he will see so many people at one place, that he never saw before, all in similar clothing, a site that one will face on the day of Judgment.
Equality Among Muslims
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims, belonging to different nationalities and races, drawn from all walks of life, the rich and the poor, ‘the princes and the slaves’, the doctor and the mechanic, the ruled and the ruling all gather together in Hajj as EQUALS. They all wear the same clothes; recite the same phrases “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik”, are shoulder to shoulder in similar lines during Tawaf (circumambulating; walking around) the Holy Kaaba, while performing the Sai (brisk walk) between Saffa and Marwa and while peltering stones on the Satans, besides standing together at the five daily prayers.
‘The ideal of a league of human races has indeed been approached by Islam more nearly than any other religion; for the league of nations founded on the basis of Muhammad’s religion takes the principles of equality of all human races so seriously as to put other communities to shame’ says Islam’s hostile critic professor Snouck Hungronje!
Unity Among Muslims
Acts of worship in Islam enhance brotherhood and unity of Muslims; prayers, Zakat, fasting and finally culminating in the Hajj; all of these help but especially Hajj due to its large and diverse gathering of Muslims all over the world promotes peace, love and unity among the Muslim brothers and sisters.
It is an annual Muslim convention attended by Muslims from different horizons, colors, races, and tongue. They exchange ideas and news and celebrate their unity in faith and diversity in culture. The pilgrimage thus constitutes a most dramatic visual illustration of how belief in One Allah leads to a union of people from different parts of the world and of different ethnic communities into the ties of brotherhood.
For instance, the pilgrimage should inculcate a living conviction of true brotherhood, and, by the dress prescribed for the pilgrim, eradicate from the heart and mind of the pilgrim any false notions of superiority or unjust privilege between men, which is based on differences of social class, economic wealth, race or genealogy.
Preparation for the Ultimate Sacrifice
Muslims have to make big sacrifices for this tremendous life time spiritual journey; they have to sacrifice their money and for some time leave their family, friends, jobs and all other activities for the sake of Allah. Sacrificing a lamb or goat during Hajj teaches us to share and to give to the poor. It teaches us generosity, kindness, and the ability to share with others less fortunate.
This is all in preparation for the ultimate sacrifice: sacrifice of one’s soul for the sake of Allah and his Deen. One may face similar struggles as one faces during Hajj, including risking his life for the revival and especially the survival of the religion of Allah, Al-Islam.
Hajj is an effective factor in establishing unity amongst the ranks of the Muslims. It is an instrument to combat nationalistic and racial fanaticism, and oppose confinement (of the Muslims) within their geographical boundaries. Hajj is a means for eliminating the shackles of censorship and breaking the stranglehold of the oppressive leaderships prevalent in the Islamic nations.
Hajj is a tool for transferring news of political affairs of the Islamic nations from one corner of the globe to another, and finally, it is an effective means for breaking the fetters of captivity and colonialism, and liberating the Muslims.
And it is for this reason that, during the period when oppressive tyrants like those belonging to the Umayyad and the Abbasid dynasties ruled over the Islamic regions and kept every kind of interaction between the various segments of the Muslims under close scrutiny in order to crush any kind of liberty-seeking uprising, the advent of the season of Hajj was an opening towards freedom, interaction between various segments of the great Islamic society and discussion of various political issues. And it is on this basis of expounding the philosophy that lays behind every act of worship, that in connection with Hajj, it is stated that:
Allah has ordained (the rituals of) Hajj for the purpose of strengthening the religion
Again, it is not without reason that an eminent non-Muslim statesman has stated: Woe unto the Muslims if they do not perceive the meaning (and significance) of Hajj and woe unto their enemies if they (the Muslims) ever happen to perceive it.
It is also allowed in Hajj to make financial transactions as per a verse in the Holy Quran. Utilizing the great assembly of Hajj for strengthening the financial foundations of the Islamic nations is not only consistent with the spirit of Hajj but according to the Islamic traditions constitutes one of the philosophies for it, instead. What is the harm if the Muslims, in that great gathering, were to lay the foundations of a common and associated Islamic market, and pave the way for commercial transactions amongst themselves in a manner such that neither do their profits enter the pockets of their enemies nor does their economy become dependent upon the others; and if such is the case, not only is this not ‘craving for the world’ but rather, an act of worship and jihad (in the way of God).
In short, if this great act of worship were to be utilized correctly and perfectly by the Pilgrims of the House of God, at a time when they are active and their hearts are emotionally ready in that holy land, it would surely serve to untie the knots and solve the problems. This is only if they are to make use of this great opportunity for solving the various problems that plague the Islamic society by establishing various political, cultural and mercantile assemblies!