Hajj: A Unique Form of Worship

“And the people owe this duty to God that whoever has the means to journey to His house should make a pilgrimage to it. And whoever refuses to obey this command should know that God needs no favours from anyone in the world.” (Ale-Imran: 97)

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“And the people owe this duty to God that whoever has the means to journey to His house should make a pilgrimage to it. And whoever refuses to obey this command should know that God needs no favours from anyone in the world.” (Ale-Imran: 97)
To fulfil the obligatory worship of Hajj, at least once in their lifetime, millions of Muslims from all corners of the world converge towards the centre of Islamic monotheism – the Ka’bah, chanting Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (Here I came, O Lord, here I came), and thus proclaiming the oneness of Allah. From centuries Muslims are drawn this way towards the House of Allah every year. One wonders why Allah made this worship obligatory on His servants – a worship involving hardships of journey over such long distances, great monetary sacrifices and even greater management techniques, to accommodate an influx of millions of people in a small area with provision of facilities for their movement to and fro to various venues, all within a couple of days.
Our dilemma is resolved when we contemplate on the nature of this form of worship. Hajj, we realise is a comprehensive worship incorporating elements of many different forms of worship. It begins with the declaration of Shahadah – there is no God but Allah and ends in a flurry of hectic activities resonating Jihad.
It is unique and important because no other act of worship can wash off a person’s sins and make him as pure as a new born. In a hadith related in Muslim and Bukhari, the Holy Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) is reported to have said, “Any man who comes here to perform Hajj in the House of Allah and keeps away from immoral and sexual affairs and has not indulged in ungodly acts returns in that state of purity and innocence in which he was born from the womb of his mother.”
Hajj is also a manifestation of a Muslim’s love for Allah. One who has not developed this love for Allah would never undertake the hardships of performing the Hajj. If such a person, under social pressures sets forth on this pilgrimage then too he returns unreformed and uncleansed.
Worship can either be physical – that which is performed with our body, like Saum (fasting) and Salah, or monetary that which entails spending money, like Zakat. The former do not require us to spend any money but our physical body is involved in these acts of worship. Zakat on the other hand demands no physical effort but is through the assets we possess. Hajj is a combination of both. We need to put in our resources as well as great physical effort too. Both the physical and the material resources are not just in meagre amounts but in a substantially large measure. The risk to one’s life too is ever present in this pilgrimage. In fact this worship demands supreme sacrifice and the ones who undertake this re-affirm their faith in the Qur’anic ayah “Allah has bought your wealth and life in return for Jannah.”
The essence of fasting is to abstain from desires – for food and for sensual pleasures, but only for a period of 12 to 14 hours. This abstinence is present in Hajj too. Even though the haji is not required to shun food and drink, he must keep from all aromatic eatables like beetles, tobacco, aniseed (saunf) and cardamom (elaichi) till he is in Ihram. Hence Hajj incorporates the essence of fasting as well. Salah is a purely physical worship and in Hajj the elements of physical worship are in abundance – the Tawaf, the Saii, the stoning of the Jamarats, all these require great physical effort.
Besides the elements from the regular forms of worship Hajj includes some of the ideas of Hijrah (migration) too. This sensation has reduced in the present times due to faster means of transport but if we visualise Hajj 50 years ago when it took pilgrims more than six months to travel to Makkah and back we realise that the overtones of migration were more than evident. Pilgrims left their homeland and their loved ones for the long excursion, uncertain of their return. Natural calamities such as storms and shipwrecks along with attacks from pirates threatened their lives just as desert storms and bandits posed a danger to travellers by land. Pilgrimage to Makkah was the only long and hazardous journey undertaken by people in those days. Living and working in far off lands was un-heard of. Hence a person going for Hajj experienced the sensation of migration much more acutely. Today this is felt to a much lesser degree but the stay in Mina – without the usual amenities of life or the night in Muzdalifa – under the open skies do bring in some of the hardships of migration, a migration undertaken to please Allah the Exalted.
Jihad is considered the most supreme act in Islam. Once the women lamented to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) that they were not allowed to participate in this duty and earn Allah’s pleasure. The Messenger said, “Your jihad is Hajj.” Hence a woman undertaking Hajj earns the reward of jihad but in Hajj, both men and women experience the hardships and the strict discipline of being part of an army. Continuously for five days of Hajj every one marches in tune, performing each of the rites of Hajj with utmost discipline and precision. One is ever on the move with no time to waste. Each day has its own set of activities. The Haji moves from one point to another with clock work precision and punctuality. He has no time to relax and while away in meaningless activities. Hence the elements of jihad too are present in Hajj.
Since Hajj is such a strenuous worship and comprises the essence of all the forms of worship, its reward too is unparalleled. May Allah accept the efforts of all our brothers and sisters who have had the honour of undertaking this supreme act. (Ameen)