21 اكتوبر, 2017 - 1 Safar 1439

Hajj: A God Given Gift to Muslims

Hajj: A God Given Gift to Muslims

The Prophet (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) stated that Islam is built upon 5 pillars, the testimony of faith, the prayer, the alms, fasting the month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to the House of God. The pilgrimage to the House of God, in Mecca, is a pillar that leaves a lasting effect upon the believer. In some countries in West Africa such as Senegal, a person will be known as Al Hajji (one who has gone upon the sacred pilgrimage) for the rest of their life until it becomes part of their legal name upon documents. This God given ritual serves a purpose of bringing us closer to our Creator and comes with the added reward of forgiveness. This article will briefly attempt to highlight the history of Hajj and its birth, and the divine benefits of going upon this blessed journey.

The history of Hajj begins with the father of the Abrahamic Traditions, Abraham (God’s peace and blessings be upon him). Hajar, the second wife of Abraham bore the Prophet a child whom they named Ishmael, and this child went on to become the forefather of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings upon them both). At a young age, Ishmael traveled with his mother and father to the land of Mecca to where the Prophet Abraham left his wife and child there at the behest of God.

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:
When Abraham had differences with his wife, because of her jealousy of Hajar, Ishmael's mother, he took Ishmael and his mother and went away. They had a water-skin with them containing some water; Ishmael's mother used to drink water from the water-skin so that her milk would increase for her child. When Abraham reached Mecca, he made her sit under a tree and afterwards returned home. Ishmael's mother followed him, and when they reached Kada', she called him from behind, 'O Abraham! To whom are you leaving us?' He replied, '(I am leaving you) to God's (care).' She said, 'I am satisfied to be with God.'

In this place began some of the rites of the pilgrimage, specifically that of the running between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa. Hajar was left between these two hills as she ran out of water and began to search between them, running from hill to hill in search of something to quench the thirst of her and her child. It was after this running back and forth that she found an angel digging with his heel at a place in the sand. When she approached it she found water, this water became the well of Zam Zam. As time progressed, Hajar and Ishmael inherited Zam Zam and when a later tribe came to the area, they (Hajar and Ishmael) were established as leaders. Abraham eventually came back with a task from God to rebuild the structure that had once stood during the time of Adam, a place to serve as a sacred location for people to worship God, “And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing” (Quran 2:127). God honored the Prophets Abraham and his son Ishmael with this task, Abraham became the one known as the friend of God, and from the lineage of Ishmael came the final and last Prophet, Muhammad (may God’s peace and blessings be upon them all).

Why do we do it?

Throughout the Quran we are told of the excellent path of the Prophet Abraham. A man who, throughout his life, was tested by God continuously and as such reached a rank that none before attained, “And who is better in religion than one who submits himself to God while being a doer of good and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And God took Abraham as an intimate friend” (Quran 4:125). God throughout the Quran reminds the reader that the foundation of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism is ultimately the path of Abraham, which is that of Islam. When one wishes to discover the inner reality of coming closer to the Divine, then they need to look at the life of the Prophet Abraham, a man who lived a life of sacrifice and devotion to God.

So why do we make the pilgrimage? One of the reasons is because it is how we respond to the call of Abraham, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass -” (Quran 22:27). Of course, it is clear that for many this journey will be difficult, some may not have the funds to ever go upon the pilgrimage or have the health, and for them there is forgiveness and an excuse as God does not give a task more than one can bear. However, for others we must learn the concept of sacrifice, the concept of giving up everything for the sake of God. None of us may sacrifice in the same way as Hajar. She was left all alone in the desert with her infant child. We will not be ordered by God to sacrifice our child like Abraham was. We may not be thrown into a fire for our belief in Islam. We may not go to people after people to declare the truth of God or have to build a place of worship for the Divine. However, we can sacrifice some of our livelihood, and travel to remind ourselves not only of the sacrifice made by those before us, but also of the sacrifice we too need to make to also be of those deserving of the title of Muslim.

This journey, like most rituals, has a metaphysical reality, and in our postmodern world we often become shortsighted and forget them. We forget that the angels accompany the one who journeys to a place of worship, what then of one who journeys to the greatest place of worship on Earth? The pilgrimage is not, and was never meant to be easy, and in fact, most things that carry immense benefit are very difficult to attain. But God has shown us what it takes to become His friend, to become of the friends of God, and part of attaining that rank is to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, the first friend of God, and his path was one of sacrifice. God says, “When his Lord said to him, "Submit", he said "I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds" (Quran 2:131).

The path of Abraham was also one of reclamation, “And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing” (Quran 2:127). Just as he and his son reclaimed the foundation left by Adam and rebuilt upon it, sometimes our lives are left destroyed and we too must rebuild upon the foundation which God gave us and to ask Him to accept from us. We too must be of those that purify the various idols that have filled our hearts just as God called upon Abraham to cleanse the idols of the Kaaba, “"Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]" (Quran 2:125).

There are an abundance of lessons to be derived from the life of the Prophet Abraham, lessons that are difficult to attain in a world moving further and further away from the metaphysical heart/soul and more and more concerned with the aorta, arteries and other physical aspects of the body. This journey re-centers us; Tt brings us back to the center of what some say is the center of the world. Like fruits that wish to bear fruit, we reconnect ourselves to the spiritual roots of our spiritual father Abraham and, by doing so, to the rope of God to which if held tightly to, we will never be lost.

We should pray as the Prophet Abraham and his son prayed, “Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful” (Quran 2:128). We pray that by going upon this pilgrimage, despite the sacrifices and hardships, despite the society around us turning away from rituals such as these, we pray that this act of submission and this test be one that causes us to be counted amongst the Muslims. We pray that we are included with those who submit to the will of God and, as such, achieve a state of paradise in our hearts until God admits us in the Paradise that He has prepared for us in the life to come.

Abu Hurairah (may God be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of God (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Whoever performs Hajj (pilgrimage) and does not have sexual relations [with their spouse], nor commits sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then they will return from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which their mother gave birth to them."

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].