The Philosophy of Hajj

The literal meaning of the word Hajj is to make a resolve to visit a holy place. The origin of Hajj is rooted in the life of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be on him). Muslims, Jews and Christians all revere him and the Prophets Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) are all his descendants. Ibrahim…

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The literal meaning of the word Hajj is to make a resolve to visit a holy place. The origin of Hajj is rooted in the life of the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be on him). Muslims, Jews and Christians all revere him and the Prophets Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) are all his descendants. Ibrahim was born in Iraq over 4000 years ago in a priestly family. The society in his times was highly advanced in science, industry and agriculture. However they were steeped into idol worship, superstitions and witchcraft. The kings in collusion with the priests, kept the people in their servitude.
Prophet Ibrahim would always reflect on how the stone idols created by humans and the sun, moon and stars which seemed to be under control like slaves could be worshipped as gods. “When none of them is my creator, when neither my life nor death is in the hands of any of them, when none possesses the key to my means of sustenance or the fulfilment of my needs, why should I accept them as lords, surrender to them and obey them? Only that Being can be my Lord who created all things, but was Himself not created and in whose hands are the lives and deaths of all people,” wondered Prophet Ibrahim, and then decided and declared that henceforth he would never worship the deities which his people worshipped.
As soon as Prophet Ibrahim declared his conviction to worship the only one true God and reject all the man made deities, he was threatened and victimised. He answered their threats by destroying their idols to prove their powerlessness. His own father and relatives abandoned him and the government officials insisted on putting his case before the king who promptly ordered that Ibrahim be burnt alive. However Allah with His infinite power saved him and thus this noble soul who could have availed of the undisputed religious leadership of his people preferred the life of a destitute wanderer and set out with his wife Sara and nephew Lut to spread the message of Unity of God to the entire world.
After leaving his home in Iraq, Prophet Ibrahim traversed through Egypt, Palestine and the entire Arabia preaching the gospel of Unity of God. With no money and material possessions, his sole vocation was to bring people to the worship of the One God. In the last part of his life when he was almost eighty six, Allah blessed him with offspring. Prophet Ibrahim’s sole concern was to educate and train him to carry his mission and he prayed to Allah fervently to that effect.
Even after suffering so much for the sake of Allah, there still was to take place a final test to check whether Ibrahim’s love for his Lord was supreme and above all else. Before the birth of his second son, he was asked to sacrifice what was then his only child to God. When Ibrahim demonstrated that he was prepared to slaughter his son with his own hands for Allah’s sake, he was attested by Allah to be a true Muslim and installed as the leader of all mankind. Thereupon Prophet Ibrahim set about establishing permanent missions in different regions. He settled his nephew Lut in Sodom. The younger son Ishaq was settled in Palestine, which was between Syria and Egypt.
It was in Makkah that Ibrahim and his elder son Ismail built the Holy Ka’bah as the centre of the Islamic Movement on a site chosen by Allah Himself. The Ka’bah was not built merely to act as a mosque for worship, but its purpose was to act as the centre for spreading the universal movement of Islam, a worldwide gathering point of believers in the One God, to assemble and worship Allah in congregation and go back to their respective countries with the message of Islam. This assembly of believers was called Hajj and it gained such sanctity that even the Arab Bedouins who respected no law, did not dare to touch the murderer of their own father if found in the sacred precincts of the Ka’bah. Thus peace always reigned in the area of the Holy Ka’bah when all around were rampant plunder, murder, devastation, conflict and warfare.
Idol Worship and Corruption after Ibrahim’s demise
It is difficult to hazard a guess as to how long Ismail’s children continued on the straight path of the worship of the One God. But within a few centuries after the demise of Prophet Ibrahim, people had abandoned his teachings and gradually gone astray. Hundreds of idols were installed in the very Ka’bah built for the exclusive worship of One God. The Hajj too got corrupted and degenerated into an annual carnival. Poets and clowns used it to brag and boast about the bravery, renown, dignity, strength and generosity of their tribes. They sacrificed animals for extolling their names and smeared the walls of the Ka’bah with their blood and threw flesh at the doors of the Ka’bah in the belief that Allah needed it. Ibrahim had declared four months of the year as sacred and directed that no warfare be waged in those months. This restriction was not adhered to in letter and spirit and ways were invented to fudge these months for the sake of carrying on fighting whenever it suited them. Self imposed restrictions like setting out for the Hajj without food or provisions, avoiding business and trade, not speaking to others were invented and considered to be acts of piety.
This situation lasted for 2000 years. No prophet was born in Arabia during this long period nor did any genuine Prophetic teachings reach the people of Arabia. Finally the time arrived for the fulfilment of Prophet Ibrahim’s prayer in which he had asked Allah to send a Messenger from among them, convey revelation, teach them the Book and Wisdom and purify them. This perfect man was none other than Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (peace be upon him) the last and final prophet of Allah. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) paved the way for the renewal of Hajj in its proper form and put an end to the evil customs that had crept in since the time of Ignorance. All idols in the Ka’bah were smashed. All indecent acts, bragging and showing off, spattering of blood and flesh of sacrificial animals onto the walls of the Ka’bah, interchanging the months of Hajj to make fighting permissible was strictly prohibited and put to an end. Carrying provisions for Hajj journey was made obligatory and business and trade was permitted. Peace and security prevailed and the pilgrims were never molested en route.
[Adapted from Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi’s Khutbaat, to be continued]