What the message of Haj conveys


Muslims from across the globe are gathering in Makkah for the start of the Haj ritual in the following days, and it must be understood that the ritual that they are about to embark on is not simply one of donning an Ihram and perfunctorily going through the motions.

Haj in its most basic meaning is an act “to continuously strive to reach one’s goal.” It is the last of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are a declaration of faith in one God and in Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the five daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan. Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation only for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake such an arduous journey.

While all the great religions state that humans are more than mere physical creatures in that we possess an essence beyond the material world, in Islam Haj summarizes this spiritual journey toward this essence.

Haj is unquestionably the most demanding of all Islamic rituals, and the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Whoever performs Haj to this house – Kaaba - and does not commit any obscenity and wrongdoing, he, or she, will come out as the day he, or she, was born - pure and free from sins.”

Its importance within our religion has been noted by the late Egyptian scholar Sheikh Sayyid Sabiq who stated in his book Fiqh-us-Sunnah: “Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The performance of Umrah is expiation for the sins committed between it and the previous ones. And the reward for Haj Mabrur (pilgrimage accepted by Allah) is nothing but Paradise.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Book 27, hadith no. 1)

During these days of worship, one can honestly expect many benefits, such as the opportunity to correct one’s faults, to sincerely atone for one’s worldly sins and make up for any shortcomings or wrongdoings of one’s past. Deeply engrossed in prayers, pilgrims will pray for Allah’s mercy.

One of the apparent observations of Haj is the conglomeration of millions of Muslims rising above geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic and social barriers converging in unison in Makkah, which is a tribute to the universality of the Haj.

As reported by an Islamic scholar, the rituals, the experiences of Haj can be overwhelming. “Imagine yourself stepping on the same land where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) used to step and going through valleys and mountains wherein he used to receive the divine revelation.

“It gives you another perspective of how much he and his Companions did suffer in order to get this message communicated to us in its most perfect and purest form. It happens a lot that we hear about things but when we see them with our own eyes, it places us in a different atmosphere.

“When you go to the mountain of Hira, you realize that this is the same place where the Prophet (pbuh) used to seclude himself from the whole world for one month every year. It is the place that witnessed the revelation of the first words of the Holy Qur’an and the appearance of the archangel Gabriel.

“When you move in the Sacred Mosque of Makkah and remember Abraham and his son Ishmael, you can feel the true meanings of sacrifice and how a father left his newborn with his weak mother in that barren piece of land.”

Yes, dear Hajis, this is your moment. It is your time and opportunity to dedicate yourself to the true meaning of Islam, a religion of peace. Shun the temptations that have been denied you in our Holy Book, and resist the calls of those who exhort violence and mayhem.

In an era where Islam is being vilified by sinister forces, it is essential that you carry back the messages of Haj and convey them to those near and dear to you.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena