The Essence of Hajj

The significance of Ĥajj as a pillar of Islam is quite evident from the reward this act of worship brings to its performer. As has been reported from Allaah’s Messenger ŝall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the person performing the Ĥajj is forgiven and purified as if he is a newborn baby. Although its importance and formalities are generally known and talked about, its essence, spirit and its impact on a performer’s behaviour and personality is not generally understood or remembered.  

The point we should ponder over is why Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta‘aala and his messenger granted Ĥajj so much importance. Is it performance of certain rites and rituals, the special dress worn, and visitation of certain place that make it the most rewarding act of worship? Or, like other acts or worship in Islam, is it the changes that Ĥajj makes in the performer’s personality, attitude and outlook that make Ĥajj so special?  The other point to reflect upon is that why is Ĥajj expected to produce significant changes in the personality, attitude and outlook of a person? Is there anything magical in the rites and rituals of the Ĥajj that produce the changes or is it the constant conscious effort on the part of performer that brings about the desired changes?

The reality is that unless a person performs every step of the Ĥajj immersed in and imbued with the spirit that each action represents, he/she will not fully realize the promised benefits of Ĥajj. Ĥajj is, in fact, an intensive training in a holistic, wholehearted, willing and enthusiastic obedience and submission to Allaah SWT. This training is provided by making the believer simulate acts of love, dedication and obedience performed by Ibraaheem and his family. Allaah SWT has presented them as a model Muslim family. Ĥajj activities actually make a person walk in the footsteps of that family, simulating the extraordinary acts of devotion they performed for the love of Allaah SWT. This provides a Muslim proper perspective as to how devoted and submissive to Allaah SWT a Muslim should be.

This process of consciously immersing oneself in the spirit of Ĥajj starts with the intention.  As soon as you make an intention to perform Ĥajj, you should start reviewing your lifestyle in the light of the lifestyle of Ibraaheem, Ismaa’eel and Haajirah ‘alayhimussalaam and ask yourself: Do you submit to Allaah without reservation or hesitation as they did? Are you willing to sacrifice your most precious and cherished possessions, habits, preferences and desires for the sake of Allaah as Ibraaheem did? Can you, like them, obey Allaah without asking questions or without understanding why Allaah want us to do certain things? Can you jump into dangers and difficulties willingly and enthusiastically for the sake of Islam as Ibraaheem did? Is pleasure of Allaah and supremacy of Islam the most important goals in your life as it was in their lives? Do the commands of Allaah, needs of Ummah and the call of Islam take precedence in your life over all your interests, needs and aspirations as they did in their lives? If your answer to any of these questions is not a resounding yes, you should start identifying where you need improvement and how you are going to get there.

When you start for Ĥajj from your home, think of it as the beginning of a transformation process and not just a trip to sacred places. Start with a sincere repentance with a firm intention to change yourself to the desired level of commitment to Islam. Form specific mental images about how your attitude, personality and outlook will be changing from your current state towards the Ibraaheemic style and level as you proceed from home towards Ĥaram (Makkah). As you move through various stages in your journey, see your paradigm shifting with each step. When you remove your clothes and take a shower to put Ihraam on, visualize ridding yourself of all the old habits and behaviour patterns that are not the best from the Islamic point of view and cleansing yourself from intentions and attitudes that are un-Islamic in nature and practice.  When you put your Ihraam on, think of a new birth and a new beginning – start of a new life more like that of Ibraaheem and Ismaa‘eel.

While performing each rite of Ĥajj, keep the spirit of the rite and act of Ibraaheem that it simulates in your mind and feel the transformation of your attitude and personality accordingly.  For example, when you arrive in Makkah and cool your eyes with the sight of the Holy Ka’bah and pray to Allaah to increase its status and its sanctity, remember the purpose for which it was built. Remind yourself of how it was going to be the centre of the Islamic movement to invite the whole of humanity to the worship of Allaah and obedience to Allaah through Islam and to make Allaah’s law and Islamic way of life the dominant and supreme way of life in this world. Dedicate yourself to that cause as Ibraaheem and his family did.

When performing Ŧawaaf (circumambulation), feel the passionate, ardent love of Allaah making you go round in humility in front of His Greatness, also thinking at the same time that all your life in this world will be Allaah-centred, revolving around Him, His Love and His Pleasure. When running between Ŝafaa and Marwah, see yourself running and striving throughout your life for the religion of Allaah to establish it as the supreme, dominant way of life, while hoping that Allaah accepts your efforts and rewards you with the success of the Islamic mission in this world and with His Pleasure in the Hereafter; and while at the same time being concerned that you may not be doing enough to achieve your goals or to earn Allaah’s Pleasure and Mercy.

Standing in ‘Arafaat, you should feel the majestic presence of Allaah in Whose audience you are standing as a humble slave. Preserve that feeling of Allaah’s presence to stay in your consciousness throughout your remaining life. Your sacrifice should indicate your readiness, willingness and enthusiasm to sacrifice your most cherished possessions for the sake of Allaah. And throwing pebbles (Ramy) at Jumuraat should signify that whatever little means you have, you are going to devote all you have in opposing and rejecting all the un-Islamic theories and isms and secular lifestyle that the Shayaateen of the world try to preach among Muslims or impose on them.

It is this kind of Ĥajj that makes you pure and sin-free as if you are a newborn baby. If Ĥajj is not performed with that kind of spirit, its intended benefits will not be realized. An example from our elders will illustrate this point.

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