The Hajj As Worship And Education
Hajj - A Definition
Literally, Hall refers to the intention of visiting a place. The Holy Qur'an transfers the meaning of Hajj from its lexical general meaning to a traditionally specific meaning which denotes the annual pilgrimage to the Holy Ka'ba in Mecca, one of the religious duties of Islam.
The great annual gathering called Hajj, is a collection of rites and ceremonies, offered by Muslims, who are bound to carry out religious duties, in a specific place and during a specific time set by Islam, similar to the way the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) did.
Hajj is so called because the Muslim who performs it goes to Mecca, the Sacred House, at the start of Dhul-Hijjah (the eleventh month of the Muslim calendar) and visits other sacred places like Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah to offer his devotions.
Islam states specific dates, time and place for offering such devotions. Failing to heed them renders them unacceptable by Allah.
Ihram (donning the pilgrim's robes) begins in a certain place. Tawaf (the ceremonial circumambulation of the Ka'ba) is done in a specific place. Sa y (walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah) is done in a certain place. Wuquf (remaining in certain places during Hajj) is performed in specific places. Likewise, Rainy al-Jamarat (casting stones at the symbolic Satans) is done at specific sites and passing some nights is also a rite done in a certain place...etc.
As place has its significance and lawful position in this worship, date and time, also, have importance and impact as a prominent factor that renders this worship correct. Therefore, the most important of the devotions connected to this great duty are offered at specific times. Staying in Arafat, for example, takes place on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah. Passing the night at Muzdalifah is on the night of 10th (eve of Eid al-Adh hah): Yawm An-Nahr (the day in which animals are sacrificed) is the 10th day which is also the day of Eid. And spending the night at Mina is on the 11th and the 12th nights, of Dhul-Hijjah...all of them are related firmly to specific times.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE FATHER OF THE PROPHETS:
The Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) continued his long journey across Babylonia, Syria and Arabia. He folded up long periods of time, while crossing plains, hills, valleys, rivers and deserts to arrive eventually in the promised land of Mekkah al-Mukarramah. To this place, he brought with the pioneers of faith and life; his wife Hajar and his eldest son lshmael (a.s.).
The land of peace was the last station of the journey of Ibrahim (a.s.). Ibrahim (a.s.) examines the deserts and mountains of Mecca, as if looking for a new great event that will come into being on this particular land. Ibrahim's great heart resorts to silence to cover his secret and fate. Ibrahim (a.s.) raises his head, and stretches his hands towards the heavens. He humbly says:
"0 our Lord! Surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley un-productive of fruit near Your Sacred House, our Lord! That they may keep up prayer; therefore, make the hearts of some people yearn towards them and provide them with fruits; happily they may be grateful."
Holy Qur'an (14:37)
With these words Ibrahim (a.s.) bids adieu to his wife and child and returns to Palestine to his first wife Sarah. Hajar finds refuge in silence, Ishmael turns about. She clambers up and down the two hillocks of Safa and Marwah. He gets desperately thirsty. Hajar (Hagger) runs up the nearby hill in search of water. She seeks water but in vain and in her desperation climbs up another hill. He kicks the desert's sands with his small feet. On his withered lips, there is thirst and dryness. Deep in his heart there is love and faith. In his eyes is the great hope of the future
which gives the good news of the rising of an Ummah that will grow in the barren valley the tree of faith and life. For some precious drops of water, the baby beats the ground with his feet, and caresses the sands with his fingers with the serenity of the prophets and the love of the saints, as if stroking the breast of the earth - the dear mother - so it may pour on his lips drops of water. The helpless mother watches in deep anguish.
Behold, the earth's heart relents affectionately to her great son. It responds to his wish as he responds to the call of Allah. The ground splits a little, and suddenly a spring flows to extinguish the thirst of the earth. This is a sign foretelling the greatness of this great baby. Hajar is seized by astonishment. Is it true or a mirage? She slowly approaches the water and dips her hand into it and gives a handful to Ishmael.
Mother and son Ishmael stay near the spring of Zamzam. Ishmael joyfully plays around it, in the land of the Divine Messages, soon to rebuild in this very land with his father, the Ka'ba, to which the hearts of the monotheists have always longed for. A place visited by its lovers.
Years pass and Ibrahim (a.s.) returns to meet Ishmael, to write a new chapter of the history of faith on the sacred land. He, with the aid of his son, embarks on the building of a house for worship. He continues the construction. He raises the foundations of the house, little by little the house, symbolic of monotheism in the heart of barren Arabia, is built. The Ka'ba is raised, where the souls circumambulate around it:
"And when We assigned to Ibrahim the place of the House, saying: Do not associate with Me anything, wad purify My House for those who circumambulate wad the standing wad the bowing wad the prostrating. And proclaim to the mankind (the duty of) pilgrimage; they shall come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path".
Holy Qur'an (22:28-27)
Ibrahim (a.s.) and his son complete the construction of the house
"And when Ibrahim wad Ishmael raised the foundations of the House:
Our Lord! Accept from us; surely You are All-Hearing: All-Knowing, Our Lord! And make us both submissive to You and (raise) from our offspring a nation submitting to You and show us our ways of devotion wad turn to us (mercifully), surely You are the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful".
Holy Qur'an (21:127-128)
The House of Allah became a symbol of faith, a place of worship and glorification of Allah, a place to which people journey, a place of sanctity and security to the guests of Allah.
Ibrahim (a.s.) was looking after the House. In it he was humbly worshipping and glorifying Allah, and holding it in high esteem. He deeply felt the glory of this sublime symbol and waited for its great role in humanity's life.
This stony House was Allah's. It was a simple humble House floating on a sea of sand amidst waves of mountains and scattered hills, surrounded by bareness on every side. Could any one think that house set up in the middle of the desert, out of touch with the spring and people, could ever be so inhabited and highly glorified? Yes...
"And your Lord creates wad chooses whom He wills."
Holy Qur'an (28:68)
It was not long before glory shaded the land of stones and sand. The bare valleys of Mecca became a valley of fertility and abundance.
And why not? Was it not the land chosen by Allah to be the center of Ibrahim's message, the caller of the faith, and the roving messenger who was fascinated by the message of monotheism, and escaped the injustice of the tyrants to the justice of Allah, and from the nonsense of idol-worship to the religious wisdom of righteousness?
Was it not the land that deeply believed in Ibrahim's goals when the fertile valleys of Babylonia and Syria turned him down?
Was it not the land that would enrich the soul with faith, and make the whole earth prosperous with civilization?
Allah had chosen it for Ibrahim (a.s.) to put the Ka'ba in its heart and prepare a place for worship.
Was it not the land Allah willed to be a secure sanctuary and a house of peace?
Yes, indeed it was!
Allah willed that, within a short time the stark valley was clothed in a verdant vest. It was rapidly inhabited by the hearts of lovers and became crowded with worshippers. The valley echoed with the resounding call and Allah wanted this to be, so He ordered Ibrahim (a.s.):
"And proclaim to mankind (the duty of) pilgrimage; they will come to you on foot wad on every Lean camel, coming from every remote path".
Holy Qur'an (22:27)
Ibrahim (a.s.) called mankind and the faithful's hearts responded. The caravans of the (pilgrims) compete generation after generation - to perform Hajj (pilgrimage). The voice of Ibrahim (a.s.) is still powerfully echoing in the ease of men, wafted on the waves of air: A perpetual call, a lovely voice, to which the souls anxiously and eagerly listen, and the hearts zealously hover towards. That is the call of our father lbrahim (a.s.) still ringing in the hearts of the uniteranians, when they are still responding to it humbly:
Labbaika .Allahumma labbaik
Labbaika La sharika laka labbaik
Innal hamda wan ni'mata laka wal mulk
La sharika laka
(Here I am, my Lord here I am.)
(Here I am, You have no partner, here I am.)
(Praise, grace and the kingdom is for You.)
(You have no painter.)
Therefore, Hajj became a religious duty since the Father of the Prophets Ibrahim (a.s.) voiced the monotheists' call over two milleniums later, when mankind had almost forgotten Ibrahim's toil, and had plunged in idol worship, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) the direct descendant of Ibrahim and Ishmael renewed the call of Islam, of which Hajj is a main pillar. The Ka'ba is its direction. The Glorious Our'an calls on all Muslims:
"...it is the duty of mankind towards Allah to make the pilgrimage to the House, whoever aim afford die way there, and whoever disbelieves surely Allah is Self- Sufficient above any need of the beings. "
Holy Qur'an (3:97)
A narrative from the household of the Prophet (s.a.w.) says:
"In the period between the prophethood of Jesus and Muhammad, the Ka' ba complained to Allah, the Exalted saying: 0 my Lord! Why my visitors have dwindled? Why my worshippers have decreased? Allah, the Most High replied that: I shall send down a new light for the people who will eagerly long to you as the cattle yearn for their young ones2. This is a clear reference to Ibrahim and Ishmael's illustrious descendants Prophet Muhammad and his ummah who revived the great socio-political-religious gathering at the Ka' ba, called Hajj."
Imam Mi (a.s.) says:
"(Allah) has made Hajj to His Sacred House incumbent upon you, by making it (Ka'ba) the Qibla for humankind. People gather around it (to satisfy their longing for faith and religion), as animals gather around (a watering place to satisfy their thirst) and as pigeons flock towards a place of refuge. Allah, the Exalted has made Hajj a sign of their humbleness to His greatness, and their submission to His mightiness. Allah chose from His servants obedient ones who respond to His call believe in His word. They follow in the footsteps of His messenger, and imitate His angels who circumambulate around His throne."3
THE PEACEFUL JOURNEY TO THE SECURE LAND
"And when Ibrahim said: My Lord! Make this city secure, wad sai'e me wad my sons from worshipping idols."
Holy Qur'an (14:35)
Allah made a secure land for the people, and a place for peace. Its remembrance fills people with security and calm. Its rites widely spread on earth peace and deep respect for life. Within man the incentives for vice and aggression diminish, and also those impulses which call him to unjustly shed blood and transgress the limits set by Allah. It was so heinous a behaviour that the angels wondered before the creation of man: How can man be qualified to be the viceroy of Allah on earth when he makes mischief on earth and sheds blood.
"Will You place on it one who will corrupt therein and shed blood, while we extol Your glory wad sanctify You?"
Holy Qur'an (2:30)
Is it not sufficient for him to be doomed to death and nonexistence that he holds such criminal tendencies?
Is it not fair that he who celebrates the praise of Allah and extols His holiness is qualified to inhabit the earth, respect life, and Allah's will and wisdom?
For the purpose of completely wiping this crime off the face of the earth and obliviating it, Islam plants in the Muslim who performs Hajj an inclination to call for security and peace. Its growth inculcates in him the percept of the holiness of life, so that he perceives that nobody deserves
to live except he who respects life. Those who humbly celebrate the praise of Allah, who know Him are qualified to inhabit the earth..
The pilgrim finds the rites of Hajj an enlightenment urging him to respect life, practiced and deeply felt in the secure land of Mecca; the land of security and peace. So, Allah has made the Sacred House and the sacred city (Mecca) a pilgrimage for people, and a secure place towards which the fearing souls resort. Near it, the hearts that have lost the delectation of life find refuge.
Not only worldly fears dissipate in the Sacred House, but sins are also shed. It is the place where one repents returning to his Creator, winning His remission. In the Qur'an, many verses emphasize the security and sanctity of the Sacred House. Words like "security and "haram are repeatedly mentioned, to show man the value of his life Thus man is disillusioned from fear, his greatest complex, and the misadventure that follows him everywhere:
"So let them serve the Lord of this House, Who feeds them against hunger and gives them security against fear".
Holy Qur'an (106:3-4)
"And when Ibrahim said: My Lord, make this city secure, and save me and my sons from worshipping idols."
Holy Qur'an (14:35)
"Therein are clear signs - the station of Ibrahim, and whoever enters it is secure."
Holy Qur'an (3:97)
"And We made the House (the Ka'ba in Mecca) a resort and a sanctuary for the people.."
Holy Qur'an (2:125)
"I swear by the fig and olive, And mount Sinai. And this city made secure."
Holy Qur'an (95:1-3)
"I am commanded only that I should serve the Lord of this city: Who has made it sacred, and His are all things, and I am commanded that I should be the first of those who submit."
Holy Qur'an (27:91)
"Allah has made the Ka'ba, the Sacred House, as livelihood for people, and the sacred month."
Holy Qur'an (5:97)
"And forbidden to you is the game of the land, so long as you are on pilgrimage."
Holy Qur'an (5:96)
"0 you who believe, violate not Allah's rites, nor the sacred month."
Holy Qur'an (5:2)
The above cited texts are by no means the only ones referring to the security, peace, holiness and respect of life, rather, these are only a few of the Qur'anic verse mentioning the holiness of the Sacred House (Ka'ba), the sacred land (Mecca), and the sacred month (the pilgrimage month). They emphasize forbiddance of such aspects of Hajj as the killing of animals or hunting them, cutting trees or shrubs growing in the sanctum sanctorum, killing any living thing, including pests like insects and reptiles, as long as they are on pilgrimage. By so doing, Islam aims at implanting within man respect of security, love of peace, and save him from mischief, crime and the shedding of blood.
Hajj is genuinely a peaceful trip to the city of security and peace. It is a journey through which the pilgrim feels the value of security in himself and the community. Thus, he becomes aware of the Omnipresence of his Creator Who made this sacred place a secure one. In it, his self feels calm. He could seek refuge Allah's wrath by hoping for His remission, feeling His ever-close mercy, and entering under His protection. The pilgrim returns ready to repent, and plans a new phase of his life.
How beautiful is the discernment of this truth by Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) when he addresses the pilgrims by saying:
"And move into Allah's security, His shade and protection, His help to you to attain your goal of entering the sanctuary, and entering the House while deeply knowing the greatness of its owner; His Highness and Omnipotence."4
HAJJ AS WORSHIP
Hajj is a bodily and spiritual journey. It is man's migration towards Allah's grace and pleasure.
It is the abandonment of one's relatives, wealth, and wordily comforts, and enduring a host of difficulties, troubles and hardships for the Creator's sake.
"And proclaim among people the pilgrimage; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path."
Holy Qur'an (22:27)
Hajj is a form of a worship, to which several factors intertwine.
Physical and material, spiritual and emotional. Hajj, therefore, is a physical and material form of worship in which the worshipper gives of himself both physically and materially and endures hardships and troubles in the way of Allah, demonstrating his pure pristine servitude to Allah and his independence from any power other than Him. This pure goal of Hajj is the goal of any worship in Islam that is to be for the sake of Allah alone, regardless of any existing power other than Him. It is the utmost goal of man's worship. Man's conscience completely awakens and man is rendered, purified and cleansed of all evil and vice, provided sincerity of intention is involved.
For this aim, Hajj is ordained and the Holy Our'an regards it as Allah's right over His servants:
"…it is the duly of mankind towards Allah to make the pilgrimage to the House, whoever can afford the way there;..."
Holy Qur'an (3:97)
Hajj is a main pillar of religion, and a mainstay of faith. Traditions and texts reported from the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his pure progeny (a.s.), refer to the significance of Hajj. It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said:
"Prayer was not ordained, Hajj and Tawaf were not made incumbent on the faithful, and rites were not conveyed to man, but to remember Allah."
And he (s.a.w.) also said:
"The people who perform the Hajj and Ummrah are the guests of Allah. Allah grants them whatever they ask Him, accepts their prayers, and compensates them for their expenditures."
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said:
"So long as the Ka' ba is secure, so is the religion" 5
And he (a.s.) also said:
"If one should leave off Hajj, when he is capable of performing it, with no legitimate excuse, then he has neglected an Islamic rite." 6
Islam gives Hajj primary attention. It goes to the point of granting the Islamic state the authority of sending a number of Muslims to Mecca, even if it is done by force, should all of them decline to perform it. It is a bid to keep Islam's religious rites fresh and dynamic. In case the pilgrims are unable to attend the journey, the Islamic state is responsible to pay for traveling expenses to Mecca for performing this congregational worship.
Imam Ja'far bin Muhammad al-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said:
"Should all the people abandon Hajj, the governor is authorized to oblige them to perform it. Should they give up performing pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the governor is authorized to order them to do so, if they are penniless, he should pay them from the treasury."7
It was reported from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.):
"If anyone of you had amounts of gold as huge as Abu-Qubais (a mountain in Arabia) and spent it in the way of Allah, its reward would never be equal to the reward of Hajj (from Allah), A dirham (an Arabic currency denomination) disbursed by the pilgrim is worth 2000 dirhams in the way of Allah."
He (a.s.) is also reported to have said:
"Hajj is the jihad (holy struggle for the sake of Allah) of the weak."
He (a.s.) further said:
"He who is not prevented from the Hajj by an obvious necessity, a tyrannical ruler or a disease which confines him (or her) at home and dies without having performed the Hajj, might as well die a Jew or a Christian."
VALUES AND MEANINGS IN HAJJ'S RITES
Hajj is a collection of rites and observances. It is a number of actions and recitations. They are all combined to be performed within a certain time and place, the result is worship, and an enlightening action conducive to the building up of the Muslim character. It effectively rebuilds the personality, corrects its course in life, and focuses its direction toward Allah.
Hajj, in its general formula of certain devotions and prayers recited by the pilgrim, inspires the soul with spiritually sublime feelings. The pilgrim then realizes the grandeur of his undertaking and the greatness of humbleness and servitude to Allah. It inculcates into the soul the highest of morals, and leads it to righteousness, and benign behaviour.
Every action, word, and prayer during Hajj is a symbol that inspires the soul with a vivid feeling and encompasses a secret and an objective.
Ihram (donning the pilgrim's garb). Talbiyah (the saying of labbaika Alahumma labbaik), Tawaf (circumambulation), Sa'y (walking to and fro between the hills of Safa and Marwah), Wuquf (staying at Arafat)...etc, all of these are meaningful actions and feelings with deep meanings that the pilgrim experiences spiritually.
Hence, the genuine value of Hajj, and its reforming effects on the soul and behaviour does not lie in mechanically routine practice, devoid of any meaning or value beyond what is seen, but in the awareness of the pilgrim and his spiritual and ideological awareness of every action he practices, every call he makes and in every prayer he reiterates. Otherwise, the pilgrim is not but a tourist, idly wandering around a historic place. He achieves none of the goals of Hajj and his soul remains untouched.
How deep was the awareness of the pious to the implications and goals of Hajj! How excellent was their depiction of Hajj, because they lived it a deeply effective truth within themselves, and a symbolic language expressing their deep feelings.
Let us take an exemplary picture for this deep understanding of the implications of Hajj. Herein Imam Ali bin al-Husain (al-Sajjad) (a.s.) describes Hajj, discloses its symbolic implications, and the inspirational meaning of each devotional rite (deed) during Hajj. The reader will understand from the explanation of the Imam that such rites are designed to accommodate the aims of Islam and demonstrate its goals in symbolic and exact way. The pilgrim practices these rites within the greatest gathering of people assembled for worshipping and standing under the shadow of the greatness of Allah, the Almighty.
It is reported that when Imam Zain al-Abideen (a.s.) returned from Hajj, he was welcomed back by al-Shibli. The Imam asked Shibli, 0, Shibli, have you performed the Hajj?"
And Shibli replied."Yes, 0 Holy Imam."
The Imam asked, When you were about to remove your clothes and wear the Ihram, what was your intention during those exciting moments? Did you avoid absolutely all the things that must be avoided and that which is inferior to Almighty Allah?"
Shibli replied: "No."
He then asked, Did you say Labbaik' with full knowledge and great respect? Did you hear the command of Allah and obey as Ibrahim did?"
He replied, "No."
Imam: While you were in Arafat, standing so close to Almighty Allah, did you have a chance to know Him? Were you not eager to grasp a bit of knowledge?'
Imam: When you entered the Ka'ba, as the people of the cave' had done, did you deny your self-centeredness? Did you fear the punishment of the Hereafter?'
Imam then asked him, When you shot the idols, did you think of them as evil? Did you then avoid all wrong deeds?"
"When you offered the sacrifice, did you feed a hungry person or an orphan? Did you first think of Allah? Did you then kill your selfishness?"
"When you stood in Ibrahim' s position, did you rely absolutely on Allah sincerely and with strong faith?"
"While you circumambulated and made the Tawaf of the Ka' ba, were you reminded of all the angels who constantly circumambulate this world?"
"During your Sa'y, while you were running between Safa and Marwah, were you sanctified and purified?"
"Now that you have returned from Mecca, are you homesick for the Ka' ba ? Did you bury yourself' there? Are you impatient to return?"
Shibli replied, "No. Of whatever you have asked me so far, I have understood nothing!"
Then the Imam said, "0 friend, you have not performed the Hajj! And you have not obeyed Allah! You went to Mecca and visited the Ku' ba, but when you decide to return to Hajj again, by to do as I have instructed you"8