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Ḥajj (Pilgrimage)
Mohamed Helal 248

Ḥajj (Pilgrimage)

Pilgrimage[1]

     Hajj is an act of worship that Muslims know and practice. It was originally enjoined by the Prophet Abraham (PBUH)). Following Abraham, the Arabs used to perform pilgrimage. When Islam rose, it ordained Hajj as an act of worship until the Day of Judgment. Observances of Hajj starts with Ihram, a state of consecration, and continues into attending Mount Arafat, then going to Al-Mash’ar Al-Haram, sacrificing an animal in Mina, throwing stones three times, making Ifadah circumambulation, hastening between Safa and Marwa, etc. Hajj has its rules and rulings that are explicated in detail in books of jurisprudence.

     Hajj, as an act of worship, is depicted as a spiritual journey in which a pilgrim leaves her/his household, hometown, property and children. During this journey, a pilgrim endures the bitterness of being separated from family, withstands the difficulties of travel, and tolerates the hardship of moving from one place to another. The difficulty of Hajj is also represented in one’s being deprived of many habitual things such as varieties of clothes, ornament, and perfumes that one is accustomed to.

     A male pilgrim leaves all these things and wears a simple attire to cover certain parts of the body. He joins all Muslims, irrespective of their social status, to constitute a single community that is equal by virtue of being servants to God in a way that uproots all differences in race, financial status, or social class. Finally, Hajj is highlighted through “devotion” which is evident in most of its observances, such as circumambulation, hastened walk, kissing the Black Stone, attending Mount Arafat, etc. Such observances are devotional acts that signify absolute submission to God’s commandments and ignoring anything that might only appeal to reason or the soul. Total devotion to pure worshipping is obvious in Hajj. In addition, Hajj embodies a significant social aspect as it is a world conference in which all participants join one another on equal footing to declare worship to One God.

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What is the wisdom behind Hajj (pilgrimage)? Why do we circumambulate the Ka‘bah, which is only made of stones?[2]

     I heard one of the preachers say, “Allah entrusted us to do acts which are realized by reason, so we obeyed, and entrusted us to do those which do not sound reasonable to test our obedience.” I said to him that this is a tenuous argument because the rituals of Hajj already have wisdom consistent with reason. I have already explained this wisdom in another book. There is no problem, however, to repeat it here.

     Nations usually take much interest in their memories and they are associated with long-term psychological and social feelings; the Christians did with the tomb of Christ and the Jews with the so-called “Wailing Wall”. Why should it be surprising for Muslims to be associated with their holy places, in a way that seems to be closer to reason and beyond illusion?

     The Kabah refers to Al-Baytu l-Ḥarām (the Holy House) that was built for worshipping Allah alone and performing prayers for Him. Thus, Abraham when he was setting it up, he was told,

“And purify My House for the circumambulators, and the upright ones, and (the ones) oft-bowing down (and) prostrating themselves (in prayer).” (Qur’ān, 22:26)

     It is the first mosque built in the world for Monotheism, worshipping Allah, the Lord of all creatures, alone and renouncing the worship of other false gods.

     Are not these primary rights? Among the most important rights is setting up every mosque in the world based on Islamic Monotheism to share the aim of the Holy Mosque. Among these important rights is also to visit this Mosque, which has become deeply entrenched in the Muslims’ life to the extent of being their Qiblah in life (prayer) and after death (direction at the burial). [3]

     These meanings are implied in the Holy Qur’ān when speaking about the Ka‘bah:

“Surely the first Home laid down for the humankind was indeed at Bakkah, (Another name of Mecca), a blessed (place) and guidance to the worlds.” (Qur’ān, 3: 96)

Allah Almighty also says,

“Therein are supremely evident signs: the Station of Abraham.” (Qur’ān, 3: 97)

     Yet, He says,

“We have already seen the turning about of your face to the heaven; so We will indeed definitely turn you towards a Qiblah that shall satisfy you. So turn your face towards the Inviolable Mosque; and wherever you are, then turn your faces towards it.” (Qur’ān, 2: 144)

     For this reason, masses of Muslims from the East and the West perform ţawāf (circumambulation) and see that Mosque to which direction they pray with respect and appreciation. The pilgrims say during ţawāf, “There is no true Allah except Allah. He is One and He has no partner with Him. His is the sovereignty and His is the praise, and He is Omnipotent.” They say also, "Subḥān-Allāh” (Allah is free from imperfection), Al-Ḥamdu lillāh (all praise is due to Allah), La ˀilāha ˀill Allāh (There is no true Allah except Allah) and Allāhu ˀAkbar (Allah is the Greatest).”

     In fact, Muslims do not worship the House (the Holy Mosque), but worship Allah, the Lord of the Mosque. Besides, ţawāf, as agreed by scholars, must be done with ţahārah (ritual purity) along with sincerity to Allah. Anyone who claims that the Kabah or some of it can bring a benefit or ward off a harm (as Allah does) is not a Muslim. It is up to the Lord of this House to assign a path for visiting His House. If He assigns the ţawāf to be seven times, this is not any surprising. Logically speaking, in the world, there are several etiquettes for receptions and exhibitions!

     Another important wisdom behind ţawāf is that by doing it the Muslim nation, which amounts to one billion,[4] shows that such practice is in response to the warm call invoked by Prophets Abraham and Ismael who set up this House. They called Allah to make them and their progeny submitters to Him. Thus, Muslims, as an extension to this warm call, illustrate great surrender to Allah and worship to Him alone to the Day of Judgment:

“Our Lord, and make us (both) Muslims (i.e. surrendered) to You, and of our offspring a nation submitted to You, and show us our rituals and relent towards us.” (Qur’ān, 2: 128)

     These two noble Apostles also called on Allah to send a prophet from this nation who teaches and reads the verses of true revelation; thus it was the final Prophet, Muḩammad, who came with the great message after long centuries.

     Are there historical memories more precious than these ones? If Muslims do not go to the Holy Mosque (for pilgrimage) where their history began, to which place else should they go for pilgrimage!? If they are not to visit the House in which case Prophet Muḩammad (pbuh) was the real hidden answer to the responded blessed call invoked by the Prophets building it, where else should they go for pilgrimage!?

     In spite of being built of stone not gold or wood, this has nothing to do with the Kabah’s great value, i.e. the great deep significance.

     Abraham was a great Prophet; he was equal in greatness to a whole nation! He loved Allah deeply and was thrown in Fire by those whom he called to worshipping Allah alone. Besides, he argued with the kings and masses to make the truth clear and supreme. He also travelled to call to the worship of Allah until he reached Mecca to build a stronghold of Monotheism. While building it, he called Allah to make among his progeny a nation, which raises the banner of truth and protects it. Therefore, is it strange on the part of Muslims to visit this Mosque, saying words of tawḥīd (monotheism) while circulating around the Kabah set up by their father!?

The late father, Prophet Abraham, called on generations to visit the House of Allah, and adhere strongly to the doctrine according to which it was built it. The call found fertile grounds in the hearts of thousands of people and they responded coming from remote places saying, “Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am! You have no partner; here I am. Verily, all praise and blessings are Yours, and all sovereignty, You have no partner”.

     How can all those monotheist people be charged of idolatry?! Many people, and even some Muslim pilgrims, are ignorant of the great meanings related to Hajj. Looking at the Mas‛ā (way between the two mounts of Aş-Şafa and Al-Marwah in Mecca), I saw many people going between Aş-Şafa and Al-Marwah mountains and wondered, "Such a rite between those two mounts was enacted to strengthen the doctrine of tawakkul (i.e. complete reliance on Allah). Do all people practicing such a great rite realize this significance?

     At early times, those places formed a desert empty of people. Prophet Abraham, conforming to Allah's command, came and left his wife and her suckling baby there, saying to the baby's mother, ‘I will leave you here!’ Hājar asked, “Will you leave us here where there is no tree, water, food, or people?!” He said, “Yes.” She asked, “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He replied, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us.”

     A critical situation overtook her; the water and food ran out. The mother went to and fro between the two mountains searching for water for the baby lest he dies. After some time, the angel Gabriel descended and caused the well of Zamzam to gush forth. Birds circled in air over the water and people came to inhabit the place! Hājar's full trust in Allah saved and brought good to her. The combatants and the oppressed should have full trust in Allah, whatever the means possible might be, if they seek their salvation. Muslims were defeated in many battles. They were eligible to win them had they relied fully on Allah. Do pilgrims in Sa‛y know the reality of trust and recall the incident of Hājar’s, Ishmael's mother, jogging between the two mounts?

     History tells that the devil disagreed with Abraham as regards to leaving his family in the desolate valley, saying to him: How will you carry out an order which destroys your family?! Is it because Allah ordered you?! Abraham threw him with stones taken from the ground. This incident gave rise to the act of throwing the pebbles (ramiyu l-jimār). Hajj rites strengthen a Muslim’s passions towards their Lord, religion, the past and the present. They unify Muslims around the world and dress them in one equal uniform. No difference is there between kings and common people. Racial discrimination has no place. They all stand on one ground called Mount ‘Arafah proclaiming the phrases of tawḥīd (Monotheism) and takbīr (Allah is the greatest), glorifying Allah only and making sincere supplication. Seeing their humility and sincerity, Allah grants them His bounty.

     From a spiritual perspective, Hajj renews emotions and, socially, it is a great chance for Muslims to receive inclusive guidance. To realize this, one has to refer to the Hajj as performed by early Muslim in the 9th and 10th years after Hegira. In the 9th year of Hegira, while listening to Hajj sermon, pilgrims learned that they should renounce their treaties with those violating treaties with them and should be strict with them. In the 9th year after Hegira, the Prophet (Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) delivered his sermon in his Farwell Hajj. He addressed the human dealings and public ethics. Would contemporary Muslim pilgrims receive good guidance nowadays in Hajj?!


[1] Prof. Aḥmad Muḥammad Aṭ-Ṭayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, “Essential Features of Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 128.

[2] Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 66.

[3] The reference here is to the fact that when a Muslim dies, he is directed to the when buried. “The Ka‘bah is your Qiblah, alive or dead,” is a ḥadīth narrated by ‘Umayr ibn Qatada al-Laythiyy. Al-Albany deemed this Ḥadīth to be “Hasan” (i.e. a good one). See Al-Albany, Irwāˀu l-Ghalīl, no. 748.

[4] This statistics is according to the publication date of the original book in Arabic in 1983. In a study issued in January 2011, the number of Muslims was 1.62 billion Muslims.

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