What is Hajj and who is a Haji?
Prof. Dr. Gholam Ali Afrooz,
Emeritus Professor and Dean,
Faculty of Psychology and Education,
University of Tehran, Iran
A psycho-educational perspective of Hajj
“Therein are clear signs – the station of Abraham, and whosoever enters it is in security. It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there. As for the unbeliever, God is All-sufficient needing no beings.” The House of Imran 3:97
Here I am, O Lord, at Your service, Here I am declaring that no associate do You have and I’m at your service, The kingdom, the praise, and the blessing are all Yours, No associate do You have and I’m at Your service.
Given the deeply and reflecting more inclusively on the philosophy of existence, hypothetical principles of religious values, and all the ‘must’ and ‘must not’ articles of a belief system, one arrives at the fact that the Creator of the reviving world and Controller of the world of living has created mankind for a purpose. All programmes and methods of an individual exaltation of self and deliverance of this noblest of all creatures who is worthy of being His viceroyalty on earth in this transitory life, are destined to be balanced on man’s innate disposition and his nature.
In other words, in a worldview scope of Islam and Quranic culture, all ‘religiously devised must and must not’ articles are squarely balanced on the innate disposition, reason, and on sound judgment of the one with whom the power of reason and thinking; and the competence of discernment and choice are entrusted.
In an overview, we come to realize that the overall collection of religious ‘must’ and ‘creditable’ items (compulsories and desirables) or ‘must not’, ‘incredible’ (forbidden and unapproved), \'halal\' or \'haram\' (permitted or unacceptable) and \'dos and don\'ts\' enjoy clear reasonable principles and value criteria. Whatever they could mean, whether actually or potentially, in the long or short run, overtly or covertly, and individually or collectively, they may prove to be a threat to the health and desirable wellbeing of man or may put his exalted intellectual, mental, and social development in jeopardy as forbidden.
In other words, what is harmful to one\'s health or mental, psychological and social life is termed as forbidden or haram and what is beneficial to one\'s body, mind and social behaviour approved or (halal). In principle, therefore, all broadminded and wise people should avoid them. Conversely, it is incumbent on all discerned and insightful individuals to be bound to what may pave their way for a better physical, intellectual, mental, moral or social development of man. The expanse of religious obligations and recommendations is as such that everyone, according to his capacity and capability, can enjoy an everlasting success when threading the escalating path of perfection to achieve deliverance.
For example, when closely examining the overall governing principles and criteria of what are termed as \'religiously forbidden\' such as those of the consumption of alcoholic drinks and pork , and abusing of narcotic drugs or moral and behavioural ills, i.e., telling lies, back biting, accusing, theft, cheating when trading, performing acts of perfidy, atrocity, injustice, and so on, we come to realize that all such issues fall within the category that are somehow considered as ills of general health of the public and threats to intellectual, mental, and social development of people, one way or another.
On the other hand, when fully considering the rational criteria we are but to confirm that all the ‘must’ articles and Islamic recommendations only seem to prepare the ground for general development and exaltation of the man himself in his individual, family, and social life. Abiding by these principles would guarantee mental health, flourishing of personality, general physical health, and exaltation of human community. Telling the truth, truthfulness, impartiality, justice, being anti-atrocity and defending of the oppressed, chastity, nobility, avoiding vulnerability, the winning of hearts and trying to maintain peace and harmony, paying the one fifth of all the revenues and alms to secure the needs of the needy, are of the compulsory affairs.
So are accountability, and rectifying the affairs of oppressed and the deprived, paying respects to parents and showing civility towards children, accumulating knowledge and fighting illiteracy and ignorance, being cooperative and offering helping hands, etc. All those who are endowed with wisdom and thoughts can but persist on condour and necessity of their manifestations in the individual and social life of man. According to the Prophet of God, “Religion is reason and reason religion.” This means that a reasonable person is certainly religious and definitely wise.
A reasonable person is the one whose personal and social life is squarely balanced on standards of reason, wisdom, development, and exaltation. One may enjoy a very high intelligence quotient but on many an occasion, fail to show a reasonable mode of behaviour. For instance, the smoking of specialists in medical knowledge who are fully aware of the dangers of smoking of tobacco to human health is not a reasonable code of conduct. Intelligence is a means and reasons a proper use of the intelligence. When one fails to follow his logical beliefs cannot be demonstrating a thoughtful and sagacious mode of behaviour: “O you believers, wherefore do you say what you do not?” Or, “Will you bid others to piety, and forget yourselves…”
Islam is a religion of truth, logic, and rationality. Beliefs, thoughts, Islamic ‘must’ and ‘must not’ issues, together with Quranic teachings are as such that they act as charters for an objective and exalted lifestyle over all eras and generations for the informed, discern, insightful, and percipient people.
In the process of globalization and internationalization, what can be as the most exalted culture and the most superior value standards to respond in profundity to all the innate and rational needs of people within the existence of man are non other than Islam and Quranic teachings. This is so because, Islam as a universal school of thought, carries the most everlasting value standards. Internationalization, on the pivot of global economic sovereignty, cannot maintain a perpetual and established meaning. In this uncertain process, the only creed, culture, thought, and logic that can hold triumphantly the perceptional, mental, and cultural lead of the human being within the world community, is the searching and rich Islamic culture as well as Quranic teachings. This is so because predomination of Islamic culture over the world can only be translated into the sovereignty of all values and beauties, and, naturally, all the long outstanding undeclared answers.
Today, more than any other time, all the world community whether youngsters or adults, adolescents or the young, men or women especially families, need serenity of mind, mental security, and the achievement of a lasting prosperity. Prerequisites to the serenity and security of mind to experience the true prosperousness remain reverting to reconsideration of divine values, which are based on intrinsic needs while satisfying innate dispositions of man, and endemic recognition and reasonable individualism of mankind. There are many a man who being incarcerated with passions do not benefit from their insight, power of thinking, and the strength of their rationality.
There are untold numbers of people who although enjoying rationality, in their individual and social life, rarely act reasonably or rationally: they have eyes but they cannot read the simplest writings on the wall and lack the required insight; they have ears but seldom notice the warnings to reflect upon. According to the Holy Quran, “We have created for Hell many jinn and men; they have hearts, but understand not with them; they have eyes, but perceive not with them; they have ears, but they hear not with them. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those – they are heedless.”
These all boil down to the fact that, those that are endowed with reason and rationalism; thought and insight seem to reflect more upon divine values. They find religious teachings and Quranic necessities as prime bonds of serenity of mind as well as the means for their mundane and other worldly prosperity.
With this in mind, reflecting and abiding by divine values would lead one to the peak of oneness, unity and monotheism; freedom and broad-mindedness; and sincerity and serenity of heart.
With this connotation, the most beautiful manifestation and crystallization of all exalted divine values could obviously be seen in the behaviour of monotheists, those who speak with God, and those who rise to the call of blessing Muhammad and his House.
This is of the most exalted line of thoughts and some behavioural gratitude and a means of being worthy and capable of offering acknowledgement and thankfulness to the thresholds of the munificent Creator. It is considered as the fullest respond to the highest need of mankind – the need for self-flourishing and perfectionism.
This refiner of self, harmonizing element of Creator and the created, and the perpetual innate and mental need of man is a programme devoid of historical and geographical limits. It provides a chance to all learned human beings, the broadminded and godly people whom in the vast expanse of the world, at the identified time, when due to their feelings of need, stand on the platform of ascension to heaven and raise the melody of broadmindedness. They praise the merciful and compassionate God with an aim to thread the road to perfectionism.
This process is both a prerequisite to performing prayer as it is a remarkable and admirable prelude to every godly pivoted and approved thought and deed.
It is a divinely refinement, an existential, mental, and spiritual freshness, which throws light on one’s path and objectives.
Ablution is not just a means of bodily cleanliness but a physical and spiritually related purification as it is for a transformation of mind and spirit. It is to clean all sensual pollution, as it is to be relieved from all forms of mundane attachments to qualify for heavenly exaltation and ascension. The instance we intend, in the process of performing ablution, to wash the face as a fa?ade of our social personality, our thought and deed signify the fact that we wish to remove all signs of ingratitude and incorrectness off our face and socially assumed outside appearance.
Had we have been nursing impious approaches in our social wheeling and dealings; if we have uttered unjust and unfair words and if we have annoyed anyone with the impression of our face we, thus, exempt and glorify our social fa?ade of all incorrectness and impious acts. When we cleanse our hands and make them pleasant with the water when performing ablution, deep down, we are declaring that we would never be enslaved with ungodly powers. This is because hand is the symbol of power and God the Almighty. Should we, even for an instant, employ the minutest part of our power or capability in the service of incorrectness or ungodly means to perpetrate an injustice or encroach upon others’ rights, with performing the ablution we decide to distant ourselves from such thoughts and capabilities. Hence, repenting from our heart’s core we prostrate ourselves before our idol to invoke with pleasantly clean raised hands.
When we wipe the head with the wet tip of our finger we insinuate believing the mind and thought to be the main source of all deeds. O Lord, if meanwhile, some unjust and impious thoughts find their way into our head, with wiping our head, we wish to cleanse all incorrect imaginations, carnal desires, self-pivoting and idolatry thoughts off our imaginative faculty and our power centre of conception and thoughts. We bow our heads at His majestic presence and touch the ground with our forehead, which carries no passion but Your thoughts in prostration.
At last, by wiping the top part of our feet, we connote that, O Lord; we repent neglecting our true self in the process of our individual and social life that made us fall short of the path of truth, truthfulness, and the straight path of worshipping. We regret to have forgotten our true aims and aspirations hence becoming entwined with passions of self-interest, helplessness, negligence, blunder, and distress. We are thus declaring openly that, we would not be moving unless in the way of truth to earn Your satisfaction, and never, for a minute, disregard our objectives any more, because You are the aim and the aspiration.
This is another educational programme that prepares the ground for a desirable existential, mental, and social development of man. It is incumbent upon all pious and healthy people, wherever he or she may be, to participate in this public programme in the holy month of Ramadan, together and unanimous with other Muslims. The holy month of Ramadan is a divine camp, a school of self-readjustment and self-cultivation, the breaking of all existential, mental, and social habits with a will to arrive at the peak of salvation with self-determination and effort.
It is a programme for an individual transformation. It is an objective and effective move in the way of removing destitution, to maintain justice, health, and exaltation within the community.
As a shinning educational obligatory guideline with its reformatory aims in its various dimensions, the act of fasting serves to provide a chance wherein the bed of human existence similar to that of nature, upon a year of indulging in every form of benefits, faces a transformation – an opportunity for the growth of more blessed blossoms of life.
It is in this light that fasting is termed as a natural need to disinfect the body and soul in order to level man’s bed of growth and exaltation.
In comparison with the two other educational programme, i.e., “Prayer” and “Fasting”, this is accompanied by two restrictions of time and place. In other words, one cannot turn into a Haji on every day or month or at any place by observing hajj rituals.
Throughout the educational and cultivation programme of hajj, we come across a historical and geographical unity. To this effect, similar to fasting but instead of one whole month, it is performed at a certain time and within a few days.
Unlike prayer and fasting, hajj is performed only at a certain location at a Holy Land, at the place of rendezvous of monotheism, and at a secure environment and historical resting-place.
Hajj is a purification of self in the ocean of existence. It is fighting idolatry to purify self and wash under the blessed divine rain, body and sole.
Hajj is unfastening of the chains of alignment to be relived from egotism and distinctions to exercise and experience a monotheistic life.
Prayer and fasting are compulsory affairs for all God-seeking believers and those who thread the path of truth but hajj is compulsory only to those who can afford the pilgrimage. In the divine system, everyone who can be present in the massive seminar of hajj and easily afford the expenses of this travel, it is his duty to pilgrim to the secure house and depart from his true self towards the munificent God.
The truth of the matter is that, those who enjoy a higher wealth and financial ability in their individual and social life are more likely to be in jeopardy of falling prey to behavioural ills and they are more prone to social misdemeanour.
In other words, if wealth and financial abilities are devoid of purification and cultivation attributes, they can turn to rebellion and revolting. A wealthy individual carries a higher responsibility. The one who is endowed with a higher proportion of divine bounty, enjoying more physical power, refinement of thought, and extraordinary financial means, should be prepared to carry a higher level of responsibility. Through the cultivation of self and innate pleasantness in playing his individual and social role, he should try to acquire higher levels of successes.
Hence, hajj is an obligatory issue to every wealthy person lest this financial prosperity and the resulting social status may lead him to pomposity, arrogance, haughtiness, rebellion, and revolting. It is a comprehensive programme to remove all signs of personality ills to stand up against evil incentives. If hajj rituals are carefully scrutinized from the outset to the end, it can be well understood that hajj is a purification of self of all mental ills and social misdemeanor. It serves to flourish a personality characteristically trustworthy secure from any form of corruption. The one who performs his hajj rituals enthusiastically is humble, quiet, in control of his carnal and social temptations. He can do without any avariciousness, excessiveness. He has no desire for pomposity and arrogance. He is pious, and broadminded; and he is clement and trusting both at home and in community, because such should be the one who has made his hajj pilgrimage as a Haji.
Therefore, the one who contemplates on the divinely pilgrimage of hajj, he feels that, he is making an otherworldly immigration. He feels he should relieve himself from mundane attachments in order to free himself from all anxieties and worries resulting from some social ties and some individual wheeling and dealings. He, then, surely starts his monotheistic pilgrimage with a serene heart. To this effect, he visits this or that person, his relatives and friends, neighbours and his hometown acquaintances, and his colleagues and fellow workers, to ask forgiveness for any wrong that he might have done. He apologizes for any unbecoming behaviour that he might have had in different circumstances on various occasions or whatever ills he might have said in their back unwittingly. By doing so, he washes away all traces of discontent.
He also tries to pay, all his religious and financial dues, to maintain a clear balance on both counts in addition to his moral and social obligations, to put at the disposal of his family or his executor. This is because the pilgrimage of hajj cannot be accepted as an act of worship by disregarding the past and present, or irrespective of a full reconsideration of all acts of religiously lawful or unlawful affairs, or paying no heed whether people being pleased or displeased with oneself. The attribute of turning into a Haji cannot easily be attached as an ornament to the personality of a traveler of the land of revelation. To turn into a Haji means being endowed with attributes such as moral accomplishments and human values away from ethical vices and distancing oneself from all human enslavement.
One has to tolerate many forms of inconvenience and troubles in order to be endowed with the attribute of being a Haji – to immigrate from one’s self to unite with God. One should be able to put to the blaze of love and pleasantness all impurities. One should make empty the heart of all ungodly issues to plant the seeds of love of the beloved therein. Body and the soul should be purified and ceremonially bathed in the divine blessings. With dressing up in the sign of distinction in everything white to become indistinct, one should resist all temptations, innate desires and carnal attractions, putting one’s interests first, and seeking easy-going attributes. Steadfastly and resolutely with a sincere intention and a holy incentive, one should not let off his efforts in the arenas of truthfulness, pleasantness, and compassion, to sacrifice all.
By starting his hajj pilgrimage one begins to be honoured with the station of being a Haji to carry within himself the glorified sign of value.
One knows that, “Man shall be a clear proof against himself,” so do others. All psychologists and psychiatrists share the view that the most significant personality harms, the most important moral ills, and the most flourishing ground for man’s misbehaviors and his behavioral aberration at all times and places, have their roots embedded deeply in certain characteristics, mental complexes, and letting loose of some carnal tendencies.
Munificent God, the Portrayer of man, the Knower of all that rulings governing man’s innate egocentricity, characteristics, and inherent needs wants the man, in his process of turning into a Haji and in a grand test, make a good spring cleaning of his heart. Sitting for this examination, one should prove to be capable of overwhelmingly ruling all his intrinsic temptations, outside influence, and all that hinder the growth and exaltation of his personality.
It is in this light that in the process of turning into a Haji to be secure against all mental and social vulnerabilities, when wearing the oblivious white ritual consecration robe of distinction to join in with its clarity to get away from obfuscation of mind, one thus exercises and experiences the means of coping with and struggling against the harms of a balanced and exalted personality. The one who wishes to become a Haji should:
• Avoid childish pomposity, selfishness and ego-centered thoughts and modes of behaviour,
• Avoid impatiently seeking self-comforts and self spoiling attitudes,
• Avoid applying self-injury or hurting other creatures,
• Avoid aggressive behaviors, invasion, or any acts of aggression aiming at a perfect and well-developed personality,
• Avoid relieving oneself by pursuing sexual temptations, or carnal desires,
• Avoid boasting, seeking supremacy, and assuming self-aggrandizement,
• Avoid pretense, deceit, belittling, or abusing in words as in action.
These are so because the domination of these attributes in the individual and social life is of the main ills of growth and of the major harms to the personality of man.
Only through sufficiently exercising in the fields of removing signs of harms of the growth; predominating over his carnal temptations and their social influence; experiencing brotherhood, equality, pleasantness, purity, and compassion to sacrifice all; an objective and godly-pivoted life; fighting rebellious Satans of self and the foes of spiritualism; and abhorring and denouncing idolaters, tyrants, and contemporary false deities, a Haji may be ready to sacrifice his dearest existence.
Sacrificing is the most splendid phase of the grand process of hajj pilgrimage.
Now, to turn into a true Haji; to arrive at the high station of Abraham; and to join the line of those who truly call ‘There is no God but Allah’ and to declare ‘Here, I am’ from the heart’s core, similar to Abraham, one should sacrifice his Ismail. This should be carried out as signs of purification of one’s existence; predominance over all carnal temptations, mental and social influences; and polishing the body and soul in sincerity and monotheism.
At the end of a lifelong expectation; a century of struggle, suffering, hardship, and toil, was a handsome, moral, and dear young boy for Abraham. At a touching scene of test, despite all his attachments, he was about to break off all relevant links and roots of fondness, there came down a call that, O Abraham, you have passed the test, and that instead of your Ismail, you may sacrifice a sheep.
One should offer in a platter, and with sincerity, the entire of what one possesses, i.e., his capital, children, spouse, station, honour, job, reputation, excessiveness, and his egotism, etc.
Now that one intends to turn into a Haji to acquire the highest honour and station in a Muslim community with the relevant Islamic significance, one should first look at and think of his own Ismail, most sincerely and most honestly. One should be able to sacrifice his Ismail, in whatever form it might be – a sheep or a camel or whatever – in the slaughtering house of love thus sacrificing all.
When coming out a winner in this grand test, similar to all noble servants of God – quietly and lightly as a butterfly – he does now play a new role in carrying out a new mission in his own land and among his own people.
His behavior and his disposition are as such that as if he was reborn. His heart palpitates for God and none other. He speaks nothing but the truth; he seeks none other than the Truth; and he threads on no path but the straight path. The people, whether young or old and men or women, do expect and love to see and experience all exalted Quranic values and a model of Islamic honourable personality in his disposition as in his individual and social modes of behavior.
Haji connotes the symbol of resistance against the tumults and rebellions of passions; the true interpretation of honesty and truthfulness; the manifestation of forgive and forget in sacrificing all; the crystallization of affability, love, rationality; and the representation of pleasantness and compassion.