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The journey of a lifetime

Publishing Date : 21 August, 2018

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM



Over this past week Muslims from across the world have converged on the Holy City of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia in order to fulfil the Hajj (Pilgrimage). Every year there are between two and three million people who undertake this sacred journey. Hajj is performed during the period from the 8th through the 13th of Dhul Hijjah (the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar).


The Hajj has been ordained by Allah Almighty in the Quran: “Pilgrimage to the House (of Allah) is a duty which men owe to Allah, (that is) those who can afford the journey; but if they deny faith, Allah stands not in need (of the services) of any of His creatures”. (Quran 3: 97). Performing the Hajj is the spiritual high point of a Muslims life. It also brings about on a Muslim the assurance that he has performed the fifth pillar of Islam by following in the footsteps of both Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon them them) but also the realisation that he is part of an Ummah (the nation of Islam) that is more than one billion strong and spread across the globe.


Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and is a major if not the most significant expression of Islamic faith and unity. Undertaking the Hajj (Pilgrimage) at least once in a life time is a duty for all Muslims who are financially and physically capable to make the journey to Makkah.  The emphasis on financial ability is meant to ensure that a one takes care of his family that he may leave behind and has also sufficient means for the actual journey. The requirement that one must be healthy and physically capable of undertaking the Hajj is intended to exempt those who cannot endure the rigors of travel.


Undertaking Hajj is not meant for any personal ends rather it is undertaken with the sole intention of pleasing Allah and the fulfilment of the duty prescribed by Him. ‘And complete the Hajj in the service of Allah’ (Quran 2: 196). The love of our Creator is heightened as one starts preparing for the pilgrimage journey. With the heart longing to reach that goal, we try to become purer in intention, thought and deed. We repent for past sins, seek forgiveness from people whom we might have wronged, and all that is necessary to get the prayers of blessings from others so as not to undertake Hajj burdened with injustices that may have be done to fellow human beings.


Hajj is one of the greatest deeds that a Muslim can accomplish in his or her lifetime and is something that every Muslim dreams of undertaking. The journey of Hajj is different in nature to any other journeys that we would normally undertake, for a holiday, sight-seeing etc. because the entire journey forms an act of worship. It is not meant for any personal ends but rather it is undertaken solely to seek the Grace of the Almighty and the fulfilment of the duty prescribed to us by Him. Nobody can be prepared to undertake this journey until and unless he has true and deep love of his Creator in his heart, as well as fear of Him, and is convinced that Allah wants him to do what he is doing.


The Almighty commanded Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to build the structure of the Holy Kaabah in Mecca. He fulfilled the command and when he had completed building, Allah told him to call the people (mankind) to observe pilgrimage to it. Abraham (pbuh) pleaded “O Allah! How shall my voice reach all the people (all over the world)? Allah told him that his duty was to make the call and it was Allah Almighty who would make it reach the people. Abraham (pbuh) then climbed Mount Arafah and called out in as loud a voice as he could, “O people! Verily Allah has prescribed upon you the Hajj, so perform the Hajj”. Allah Almighty records this in the Qur’an “And proclaim the Hajj among mankind. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean mount (or some mode of transport) through deep and distant mountain high-ways...” (Quran 22: 27)

To this day, each year, millions upon millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of The Almighty made through His Great Messenger and Prophet – Abraham (pbuh). Haj is a turning point in the spiritual development of a believer because it is full of submission and universal prayer, where we shed our normal dress and every pilgrim wears the same unstitched pieces of cloth - male pilgrims wear two white seamless pieces of cloth. This dress called the ‘ihram’ reminds us of the burial shroud that Muslims are buried in. This demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind. The only preference in the eyes of Allah is piety as stated in the Quran: "The best amongst you in the eyes of Allah is most righteous."


Among the rites of Hajj include circling the Ka’ba seven times, chanting prayers and asking Allah for forgiveness. ‘Our Lord give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the fire……….celebrate the praises of Allah during the appointed days’ (Quran: 2: 201 – 203)


An interesting aspect of this occasion is that the Hajj is a demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. All pilgrims are required to wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth during the Haj. The white cloth is symbolic of innocence, piety and cleanliness of body and soul. There is no distinction whatsoever between the poor and the rich, the young and the old, regardless of colour, race, nationality and language all similarly dressed, gather together at the same place and at the same time, for the same purpose - a practical demonstration of equality, brotherhood and unity. Hajj is, most definitely, the largest single gathering of people in one place, at one time, for one purpose – to show their allegiance to Allah.


Hajj brings into focus and makes people realise our daily evil misdeeds and mistakes, which are as a result of either our weakness of faith, lack of consciousness of God Almighty and the general neglect of His commands and the way of life taught by His Messengers. A Muslim does not earn an acceptable Pilgrimage except by casting away our sinful behaviour.


While falling into sin is prohibited at all times, Allah gives a specific order to the pilgrims to abstain from all forms of wrong doing and sins. “Hajj is (during) well known months, so whoever has decided to undertake the Hajj therein, there shall be (for him) no obscenity and no transgression and no disputing during Hajj”. (Quran 2: 197). This verse emphasises the sacredness of the occasion and greatness of the place.


The performance of Hajj (in the correct prescribed manner) washes away all the sins of a person. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not indulge in any obscenity or transgression he returns (free from all sins) as the day his mother bore him.” There are many blessings in the performing of Hajj; in the Holy Quran where Allah Almighty instructs Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to invite mankind to come to Hajj, He summarises the matter by declaring: “So that they may witness the numerous benefits for themselves”. (Quran 22: 28). 


Hence, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it. Going for Hajj entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures and all this simply for the sake of Allah Almighty, with no worldly or selfish motive. Thus the entire journey constitutes an act of worship.

To be continued……

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