CC ISSUE: OCT 2011 Last updated: Sep 29, 2011
Journey of Hajj: An experience of a lifetime
While the days and nights of Ramadan still linger in the recent memory of the believer, he now begins to anticipate the days to come, the days of hajj. Hajj is an obligation upon every believer who has the means to perform it. “The hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no other reward other than paradise” (Al Bukhari and Muslim).
And so it is, literally, the journey of a lifetime. The believer embarks on his journey leaving all behind him. Symbolically, the believer initiates the prayer, holding his hands up and pushing away the world as he seeks the audience of his Creator. During hajj, he physically separates himself from all that is familiar in the pursuit of the favor of His Lord.
Upon arriving in Mecca, the believer is greeted with the salutation, “Welcome, to the guests of the Rahman.” This marks the rebirth of the soul and mind, and the enlightenment of the spirit.
The sacred house, the first place of worship raised up by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, remains the focal point of every Muslim’s prayer. It is easy for the believer to get swallowed up in the majesty of the sanctuary, but the glory of the great mosque must not distract the believer from the noble call that led him here: his faith in one God.
Upon arrival in Mecca, it is the overwhelming numbers of people, with their diversity in languages, cultures and customs who have converged on this holy city commonly confirming this faith in willing submission to the one God. It is impossible to escape the parable of the Quranic verses coming to life. The scene of that day when humanity will stand for judgment; the solemnity of the scene vividly played out, men, women, young and old, dressed in a sea of white, indistinguishable from one another in class or wealth, all beseeching.
It is a public display of faith, no inhibitions, no hiding behind title and station, simple humility. Believers are communally bowing in humble reverence to the Lord of the House, the Lord of the Worlds, the center at the heart of all that exists. The soul is awake now, standing at attention: “Here I am, oh Lord.”
Now the believer moves on to Safa and Marwa, retracing the footsteps of Hajar, who willing accepted God’s command. “She asked, then trusted, then accepted, and by doing so she traced the steps of the profound ‘active acceptance’ of God’s will: to question with one’s mind, to understand with one’s intelligence and to submit with one’s heart” (Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet, pg. 4). As she raced back and forth between the mountains, she commanded herself, “Be still. Listen.” The spring of zamzam emerged, reminding the believer in his time of grief and strife must let himself be still; let his soul be still in the confusion of all that surrounds him. This leads the believer to Arafat, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Hajj is Arafat.” (Ahmad).
While the rights of the sacred mosque are outward, Arafat is inward, a day of reflection, a day of supplication, a day to suffice a lifetime.
Again, parables of a life unchecked are visible. Many a believer is seduced away on this day, squandering these precious hours, distracted still by the outward, ignoring the inward plea for salvation and stillness. The believer is vigilant in his worship, determined not to let the debris of life steal away that which he has come to collect. After the grueling overhaul of the soul, the believer rests, as did the Prophet (PBUH) regaining his strength, in order to face the enemy that awaits him, to break his resolve. As did Ibrahim, resisting and overcoming his demon, fully submitting and most of all trusting in the will of Allah. It is here where we wane , here that we falter, in our deepest most hidden fears, does he feed, causing us to doubt, causing us to stumble, but it is here where we are able to subdue our opponent in, not in the arrogance of strength but in the humility of repentance. It is limitless grace and mercy, for a creation of limitless transgression.
Throughout the days of hajj, it is the struggle and victory of Ibrahim that is rehearsed and celebrated. Ibrahim, haneef; it is he who named you Muslims, it was he who prayed for a messenger from amongst yourselves, it is he who is forever linked in the hearts and minds of the believer, throughout the five daily prayers, cementing the bond of messengers and message as one, from the one God. May Allah accept the hajj of all the pilgrims who set out seeking the favor and forgiveness of their Lord, past, present and future. Ameen.