The Experience of Hajj

If you have not yet been for the Holy Journey or are planning on performing it for the very first time, your mind is likely brimming with questions and pleasant anxiety as to what kind of experience to expect. You have also likely heard stories from those of your friends and family who have told you about everything from the spectacle that is the Blessed Ka’bah to the chaos which typically ensues are part of the journey. I have had the Blessing from Allah to be able to perform Hajj twice, and I have been inspired each time in different ways.

The reality is that no matter how much information you try to draw or try to get acclaimed to the journey beforehand, you will simply have to undergo it to really understand what Hajj is about. You will figure the “process” and “itinerary” part – that’s easy. I just want to share some overall guidance which I kept thinking that I would share with others while I was on my Hajj journey.

I can testify that Hajj is yet another one of the Blessed Signs of Allah, nothing short of the signs which He mentions in the Holy Quran. Hajj is a struggle, it is a formidable exercise in patience, it brings physical discomfort and it literally takes you out of your comfort zone. It is like life itself: where all the challenges and tests which Allah periodically sends our way to test our will and faith in Him and Him Only. You will go through abundant instances throughout your entire journey which will make you question “Why?” You will encounter chaos and confusion several steps of the way. Despite all of this, the central thing you need to remember is “My singular goal is to gain Allah’s forgiveness and His Ultimate Consent with me when I leave here”. And to achieve this, you will have to cut through a LOT of clutter and have to endeavor it head on with nerves of steel and an unlimited supply of endurance.

You will encounter people from a spectrum of differing cultures and you will observe each one of them undergoing their experience the way their background and culture would have molded them to undergo it – and it will not be in sync with how you would expect yourself to act. Be patient – understand from where they are coming from. All said, each Hajji has been drawn there for the same purpose – to gain the consent of their Sustainer – He who brought each of them into the world and has prepared nourishment for each of them for everyday of their lives and knows more about each of them than they know about themselves. This is what unites all the Hajjis – no matter what else comes in the way.

If you get the chance, pray each Salah in Masjid-e-Haram, especially the Fajr prayer. While in prayer, try to catch a glimpse of how the mass of people converge towards the Ka’bah in prostration. In between the takbeers of the Salah, when there is pin drop silence despite the throngs of people by your side in the perimeter, try to remember that ages ago it was right here where the Prophet Ibrahim (RTA) seeked Allah’s Help and His Forgiveness; and it was here where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) returned victorious after decades of aggression only by the Will and Guidance of Allah, forgiving his prosecutors.

I think the real reward of Hajj – the one I think every Hajji talks about upon their return – is the sense of achievement which comes after they get done with the journey – simply because the journey itself is such a challenge. It’s exactly the same sense of achievement and lightness of the soul one experiences after breaking their fast, or praying the Fajr prayer, or going out of their way to help someone in need. My only advice to you is – no matter what happens during your Blessed Journey – even if extremely unpleasant – just remember, it is nothing but an opportunity directly from Allah for you to prove that nothing will deter you from gaining His Ultimate Consent – and InshAllah start life anew upon your return.

Posted in Hajj | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Hajj – A Comprehensive Worship!

There are five basic pillars of Islam, five primary obligations and acts of worship which constitute the foundation of a Muslim’s life. These are:

  • Shahadah
  • Salat
  • Zakat
  • Sawm (Fast)
  • Hajj

First let us understand, in short,  what does these pillars stand for.

Shahadah, which the most important of all, is the declaration of faith by a Muslim.”There is no God worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger”, a Muslim has to say it verbally and admit it by heart. Shahadah means admission of the supremacy of Allah SWT, accepting the fact that He is only one and there is no other creation which can possess the powers and wisdom that Allah SWT has. Another obligatory part of Shahadah is to recognize Muhammad (PBUH) as the last messenger of Allah.

Salat means the obligatory prayers or Namaz which Muslims have to pray five times a day. It is also a very significant part of a Muslim’s life because it serves as a direct connection between him/her and Allah SWT. Salat is said to be a “conversation between a Muslim and Allah”. It means that five times, each day, a Muslim gets to talk with his Creator, during which he praises Him and admits that his own status is nothing but  Allah Almighty’s slave and follower.

Then comes Zakat or the Charitable giving which is also made compulsory over Muslims who fall under the category of Sahib e Nasab (those who can afford to pay Zakat, according to Shariah). This act of worship is the acceptance of the fact that all our wealth and money belongs to Allah SWT. The word Zakat means “purification”. When a Muslim pays Zakat while following the orders of Allah SWT, setting aside a portion of his wealth for the needy Muslims, his/her possessions are hence purified.

Sawm or Fasting is another very important act of worship. Every year, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the world fast daily for 30 days, for the sake of Allah SWT. From dawn to dusk every day, a Muslim with sawm doesn’t eat or drink anything and does not to indulge into any activity, which has been strictly prohibited by Allah SWT. For this, a fasting Muslim will be greatly rewarded. Aside from the health advantages which fast has on body, Sawm is also a method of self purification. When a Muslim cuts himself from the worldly aspects of life for the duration that he is fasting, it induces in him self control, which continues to be helpful in his life even after Ramadan ends. Also when a Muslim refrains from eating and drinking during fast, he gets to sympathize with those who are poor and cannot afford to have food.

Then there is Hajj, the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Makkah, from 8th to 12th Dhu al-Hijjah, to perform certain religious rituals in accordance to the method prescribed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH).  It is obligatory for every physically and financially able Muslim to perform Hajj at least once in his/ her lifetime.

Now why do we say that Hajj is the most comprehensive act of worship? Are the rest of above mentioned Ibadahs not comprehensive. Yes they are, but Hajj is the only form of worship which amalgamates the spirits of all the other pillars. How? Here is the answer.

From the moment a person intends to perform Hajj, he is admitting to the supremacy of Allah SWT by following His orders. Hajj is not an easy expedition, it involves a lot of obstacles, both financial and physical. When a Muslim, living anywhere in the world, decides to go on this spiritual journey, he/she is ready to leave the worldly comforts and face the hardships involved, only because Allah SWT has ordered him to do so. A true Muslim accepts the oneness and wisdom of Allah SWT wholeheartedly and he/she is willing to do anything for His sake, even if it means to take out time from his busy life, leave the coziness of his home and go to Makkah Saudi Arabia for carrying out the rites of Hajj, according to the Sunnah of Muhammad (PBUH). Following the teachings of Prophet(PBUH) while performing Hajj, is also a reinforcement of a Muslim’s belief in Muhammad being the prophet of Allah SWT.

It is obligatory for every Muslim to say prayers five times a day. When a person is on Hajj, he tries his level best to pray as much Nawafils as he can, aside from the obligatory Salat. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:

“The closest position a person can be from Allah is at the time of Sujood (prostration); hence increase your dua.”

Isn’t this what every Pilgrim hopes for? As much proximity to Allah SWT as possible!

Today, Muslims are spread all over the world. Going on Hajj requires financial stability and physical strength. The money needed to perform Hajj is not a small amount. Willingness of a Muslim to spend a considerable proportion of his money on Hajj arrangements, is the exact same spirit that Zakat promotes, i.e. spending money for Allah’s sake.

The state of Ihraam forbids a Pilgrim to wear fragrance, have a shave or haircut, cutting of nails and indulge in sexual activity. So although fasting is not a part of Hajj, but Hajj does incorporate the aspect of self control, which is the soul of Sawm.

Abu Huraira narrated that Prophet (PBUH) said “Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins, then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as he were born an new.” (Sahih Bukhari)

Hajj involves a continuous physical and spiritual struggle. That’s why, it is also referred to as Jihad (struggle) in Islam. A Hadith refers to Jihad as: “The best Jihad (struggle) is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, the Mighty and Majestic”

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also said

“The best Jihad ( for women) is Hajj Mabrur” (Sahih Bukhari)

Isn’t it amazing how Hajj beautifully amalgamates the zest of all the obligatory principles of Islam into a single act of worship? No doubt, Allah has set the reward of a Maqbool (accepted) Hajj as nothing less than Jannah!

For updates and news, follow Hajj Explorer on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Hajj, Umrah | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Connection with the Kaba

My breath was taken away as I stared in awe. The Ka’bah in all its glory loomed in front of me. I beheld every detail, the shimmering of the gold letters emblazoned on the Ka’bah that shone like a sun, the seemingly endless wave of people, in a circle of tranquility , the Hajr- ul- Aswad or the black stone which came down from the heavens itself, lay sparkling in its splendid silver mantle , and here I was amidst it all, a holy shrine which would never be desecrated. As I looked on, a wondrous feeling enveloped me, a sort of spiritual belonging , an unbelievable ecstasy. I was standing at the most sacred house of Allah in two simple clothes, at a place where centuries of believers had been, and would go in the future… the Haram in the holy city of Makkah.

I had been speechless ever since I entered the Haram, such was the beauty of it, but when I beheld the Kabah tears came to my eyes and a serenity surrounded me. I joined the sea of believers from all over the world, and we stood unified circling around the Ka’bah. It felt so natural, and so lost in my emotions and prayers was I that I did not experience the sensation of walking but rather as such of floating in the Heavens near the throne of Allah. I could have  been circling for an eternity had I not had other obligations such as completing the Sa’ee, that is, walking from the mount Safaa to Marwa, as the wife of Ibrahim (p) had done, to find water for Ismaeel (p). I regretfully broke away from the ranks, which still rotated around the Ka’bah in perfect order and unity.

As I regretfully left the ranks, I headed toward the footsteps of Ibrahim (p), and prayed two rakaats next to them. I felt very honored and inspired to be standing next to something so ancient and sacred. Soon I headed for the two mounts, but  thoughts of the Ka’bah still filled my heart and mind, and threatened to overwhelm me. When I saw the distance between the two mounts, I realized what a task it was for Hajar (r) to go back and forth between them, her actions were a sentiment of hope, perseverance, and above all an unnerving determination.

There was a well of the holy water Zamzam near the mounts, as I drank, I thought of how this water came to be, and I tried to connect with memories of the Earth long forgotten.  A vivid and resplendent image appeared in my head, the thirst, the heat, running for many minutes, the seemingly daunting prospective of failure – but never giving up and above all asking Allah for help. I imagined the moment of awesome power when suddenly Allah gave his command, and a spring gurgled forth, an eternal promise never to be broken, a spring that would last forever…such were the ancient memories of the earth which I could feel so strongly. When I came out of my trance I noticed with mild surprise that I was instinctively walking back and forth of the mounts Safaa and Marwa.

After I finished the  seven obligatory rounds, I finally I completed the last part of the Umrah, the shaving of the head, for many months it would be a symbol of pride and humility. I will always remember the feeling of unity with Muslims all over the world, of spiritual bonding with my lord.

I hope and I pray that Allah may accept my journey, and give me another chance to visit the Ka’bah, and may he forgive my sins, and grant me Jannah.

~Ameen

Posted in Hajj, Umrah | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Types of Hajj

Hajj is a rejuvenating journey, a ritual which cleanses the heart of a believer from all sins. Its blessings and rewards are endless. When a Pilgrim goes to Makkah to perform this beautiful act of worship, he/she is a guest at the house of Allah SWT, Subhan’Allah!

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said:

“Those who perform the Hajj and those who perform the Umrah are people who have come to visit Allah. If they supplicate Him He will respond to them, and if they ask Him for forgiveness He will forgive them.” (Tirmidhi 2536 and Ibn Majah)

There are a prescribed set of compulsory rituals that have to be performed in order to accomplish Hajj. While the basic Manasiks (rituals) of Hajj remain the same, there are a few variations on how to perform these rites, which categorizes Hajj into three types:

  • Hajj al-Ifrad
  • Hajj al-Qiran
  • Hajj al-Tamattu’

Hajj al-Ifrad:

Ifrad means “Isolation”. The pilgrim performing Hajj al-Ifrad is called Mufrid. In this type of Hajj, the Mufrid enters into the state of Ihram at Meeqat with the intention of performing only Hajj. In other words, he/she does not perform Umrah. Mufrid should say:

“Labbayk Allahumma labbayka bi Hajj” or “Labbayka Hajjan”
“O Allah! I answer Your call to perform Hajj.”

The pilgrim remains in the state of Ihram till he has carried out all the rituals of Hajj, upto the Farewell Tawaf (Tawaf e Wida). It is not obligatory for Mufrid to slaughter the hadi (sacrificial animal).

Hajj al-Qiran:

Qiran means “conjoining”. In this type of Hajj, the Pilgrim (called Qarin in this case) goes into the state of Ihram, at Meeqat, with the intention of performing both Umrah and Hajj. He/She performs Umrah (Tawaf and Sa’i) and maintains Ihram till all the rituals of Hajj are performed. In other words, a Qarin is not allowed to abandon the state of Ihram after carrying out Umrah. The pilgrim should say:

“Labbayk Allahumma labbayka bi Hajjin wa Umrah”

“O Allah! I answer Your call to perform Hajj and Umrah”

 It is obligatory for Qarin to offer the sacrifice of animal in the name of Allah SWT.

Hajj al-Tamattu:

Tamattu‘ means “to resort to ease and comfort”. It is the easiest and the most abundantly performed type of Hajj. The Pilgrims carry out both Hajj and Umrah but with separate Ihram each, which means that there is a relaxation of Ihram between Hajj and Umrah. The pilgrim performing Hajj al-Tamattu is called Mutamatti’.

In this type of Hajj, the pilgrim or Mutamatti’ first goes into the state of Ihram at Meeqat with the intention of performing only Umrah. He/She should say:

“Labbayk Allahumma labbayka bi Umrah” or “Labbayka ‘Umratan”
“O Allah! I answer Your call to perform Umrah.”

 The Mutamatti’ performs the Tawaf, prays two Rak’ahs at Maqaam e Ibrahim, drinks Zamzam, carries out Sa’i and then gets the hair cut or shaved. This ends his/her Umrah and the Mutamatti comes out of the state of Ihram. Now he can continue wearing his normal clothes and the restrictions of Ihram does not apply.

Then on the day of Tarwiyah, that is the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrim again enters into the state of Ihram, this time with the intention of Hajj, saying:

“Labbayk Allahumma labbayka bi Hajj” or “Labbayka Hajjan”
“O Allah! I answer Your call to perform Hajj.”

 The pilgrim then performs all the rituals of Hajj and then comes out of the state of Ihram. Slaughtering of hadi is mandatory in Hajj al-Tamattu‘. Allah SWT says in the Quran:

“If any one wishes to continue the Umrah on to the Hajj, he must make an offering such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the Hajj and seven days on his return, making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Mosque, and fear Allah, and know that Allah, is strict in punishment.” [2:196]

For those who set out for Hajj way before the Day of Tarwiyah (8 Dhu al-Hijjah), Tamattu’ is the most practical form of Hajj to carry out; while for those who arrive at Makkah close to the Day of Tarwiyah, both Qiran and Ifrad can be easily consummated. It must be clear, however, that all the three above mentioned ways to perform Hajj are perfectly acceptable in Islam; it is merely a matter of preference, convenience and choice.

Which one is the best way to perform Hajj? There is a difference of opinion among scholars on it. According to some, Tamattu’ and Qiran are better and should be preferred since both of these are more demanding and require more effort from the pilgrim. While some scholars are of the view that Ifrad is the best form of Hajj since it allows the pilgrim to carry out Hajj rituals with full involvement, focus and concentration. However it should be remembered that it’s not the type of Hajj which should matter, the reward and acceptance of Hajj lies in the intention, zest and devotion with which Hajj rituals are performed.

As Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:

“Verily, all actions are but driven by intention and for everyone is what he intended.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Rest, Allah SWT knows the Best!

For updates and news, follow Hajj Explorer on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Tips For Choosing a Hajj Package

 

Hajj –which purifies man of all sins- is a very sacred journey whose spiritual aspect can be overshadowed when faced with logistical troubles. Therefore choosing the “perfect” hajj package is crucial to allow you to focus on the spiritual aspect of the journey wholeheartedly.

Following are some aspects that should be considered when choosing a hajj package:

1. Choosing an agency registered with the Ministry of Hajj rather than a sub-agent increase your chances of a smooth journey. Registered agencies are more likely to be aware of the latest rules and regulations of processing visas, can contact Ministry of Hajj to resolve a problem, are accountable to Ministry if pilgrims file a complaint and are more resourceful in making airline, hotel and transportation arrangement. They are also cheaper because travel arrangement in Saudi Arabia can only be done by authorized agencies. Sub agents have to buy services from these agencies and therefore sell the package at a mark up price.

2. Despite all the advantages of licensed agents mentioned above, you can choose a sub agent if you have heard good things about them. All Authorized agents may not provide a good service while some sub agents may be very professional. Therefore one should choose a hajj package provider based on referrals.

3. Company of a knowledgeable and experienced guide in your group is necessary. No matter how much information you have accumulated from books and lectures, you may face questions, you had not anticipated before. It is also important to know if the travel agency seeks advice from their guide. For logistical ease, some agents may plan departure to Arafat and Muzdalifah before the time recommended by shariah. Choosing an agency that plans the trip under the guidance of a reputable imam can mitigate risks of taking shortcuts or going against Sunnah.

4. Be sure to check that the Imam will perform the hajj with the pilgrims of the package you have selected. It may be difficult to contact the Imam if he is staying in a different hotel, travelling in a different bus or living in a different tent in Mina from yours. This problem is especially common with agencies that provide large variety of packages under the guidance of one or two Imams only.

5. Having a female guide would be of additional benefit for sisters performing pilgrimage.

6. It is useful to check if the travel agency has a full time employee in US and Saudi Arabia. The more an agency relies on outside resources, the more likely it is to suffer from mismanagement. Also the longer an agency has been providing Hajj services, the better equipped it is to provide a streamlined service.

7. Most Hajj packages advertise price with fare from New York to Jeddah. If you live elsewhere, be sure to include the cost of domestic air fare to New York when choosing a package. Also add the cost of Hajj fees and Zabiha to get an estimate of the exact amount you will be spending per person.

8. Accommodation in a convenient location can be very useful. Hotel close to the Haram and Masjid – e- Nabwi is more important than the number of stars of a hotel as it would reduce travel time, conserve energy for performing ibaadah and save time by not having to stand in long lines to perform wudhu or use restrooms. It may be better in cases to share your room with 4 people in a hotel close to haram rather than sharing room with one other person but at a greater distance from the haram. Moreover hotels are categorized as per Saudi Government ratings which are different from the American standards of rating hotels.

9. Do not worry too much if a hajj package does not offer meals in Makkah and Madina. There are plenty of options around haram to eat and drink in between prayer times, but may take up a lot of your time waiting in a line. Hotel buffets could be a time saver or a big distraction, as often people may spend a lot of time socializing too much. It is however good to receive food in Mina and Arafat as options will be limited. If you are performing Hajj with family it may however be convenient to choose a package that offers meals throughout the trip.

10. Choosing hajj packages that land in Madina first, can save time spent in immigration lines. Pilgrims landing in Jeddah can experience 14 – 18 hours in immigration before leaving for Makkah. However choosing package where pilgrims land in Jeddah opens up many more flight options and may therefore be cheaper. Same is true for leaving Saudia Arab. Madinah as a port of entry or exit could save a lot of time.

11. Ask the agent about the location of the tent in Mina. VIP Tents are mostly (if not all) located at a short walking distance from Jamarat. However regular tents in the North American Camp can be as far as a 50 minute walk to Jamarat one way. In fact some tents are not even pitched in Mina. They are located beyond huge sign boards that say “Mina ends here”!

12. Hajj packages promising access to private apartments during stay in Mina is a plus. Tents in Mina are small with just enough space for people to sleep. Pilgrims can thus leave their luggage in their rooms during their stay in Mina. It also opens up the option to use the bathrooms and showers of the room rather than the ones set up in Mina camp.

13. Hajj packages that offer free shuttle service from Mina to Haram can help you save money. Taxi fares increase exponentially during Mina days. Lured by the profits, a number of people come from other cities to work as taxi drivers and may even get lost while trying to drive pilgrims to Haram. Buses though cheaper take a long time to arrive. Therefore a shuttle service provided by your agent would prove to be quick and free.

14. Most hajj packages give out SIM cards. This could be a time saver too. Otherwise you may have to wait in lines to get a SIM card.

Considering these logistical issues while choosing the perfect hajj package will hopefully reduce your worldly worries of performing hajj and allow you to concentrate on your ibaadah to your heart’s content. 

Posted in Hajj | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Hajj Rituals – Their Origin and Background

The literal meaning of word Hajj is “to set out” or “to make pilgrimage”. In Shariah, Hajj refers to the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Makkah to perform certain religious rites in accordance with the teachings and methods prescribed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Hajj occurs during the last month of Islamic calendar, from 8th to 12th Dhu al-Hijjah.

The origin of Hajj dates back to 2000 BC and many of the Hajj rites come directly from the life of Hazrat Ibrahim/Abraham (AS).  For example, the rite of Sa’i  when Muslim pilgrims run/walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times is the re-enactment of Hajra’s distressed search for water for her infant son, Ismail (AS), when both of them were deserted by Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) in a barren valley on the orders of Allah SWT. Hajra was the second wife of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS). To quench her son’s thirst, Hajra ran back and forth between Safa and Marwa to find water. It is said that the angel Jibril (Gabriel), on Allah’s order, touched down to earth and created a spring of fresh water for the baby. This spring, called Zamzam, still runs in Makkah.

Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) was a very righteous and pious man. Although his father, Aazar, was a well known idol sculptor and a polytheist, Ibrahim (AS) denied his father’s religion and believed in the oneness of God. He was chosen as a prophet and dedicated his whole life to Allah SWT. He was given the title of “Khalilullah” (friend of Allah).

His son Ismail (AS), like his father, was strong in faith. Allah SWT tested their loyalty when He ordered Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his beloved young son, Ismail (AS), in the name of Allah. SubhanAllah, look at the level of faith and belief of the father and son, when Ibrahim (AS) told his son about what he dreamt, Ismail (AS) was immediately willing to follow Allah’s orders.  However Allah SWT placed a ram instead of Ismail (AS), since the notion all the way was to assess the allegiance of Ibrahim (AS).  Allah felicitated Ibrahim as He says in the Quran [37:104-105]:

“We called to him, ‘O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.’Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.”

To commemorate this great sacrifice and the readiness to carry out Allah’s bidding, Muslims all over the world celebrate “Eid Al-Adha” at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Allah SWT ordained Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) to build the Ka’aba –the house of Allah, along with his son, Ismail (AS) as Allah mentions in the Quran:

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate.”  [Surah al-Hajj : 26-27]

It is around this Ka’aba that the pilgrims perform the ritual of Tawaf, which involves circling the Ka’aba  seven times in counter-clockwise direction .

After performing Tawaf, Muslims go to the Station of Ibrahim (Maqam e Ibrahim) to pray two nafl prayer rakahs, and then drink water from the sacred Well of Zamzam, before proceeding to the next ritual of the Hajj, the S’ai. Station of Ibrahim is the name of the stone on which Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS) stood while building the Ka’aba. It was one of the miracles of Ibrahim (AS) that this stone became soft and his feet sank into it, forming an impression on it which can still be seen, SubhanAllah!

Ramy al-Jamrat” (Stoning of the Satan), another obligatory ritual of Hajj, also relates to an important event in Ibrahim (AS) life. Pilgrims perform Ramy al-Jamrat by casting stones at three pillars. These three pillars are said to be located at the three locations where Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) was tempted by Satan when he was going to sacrifice his son, Ismail (AS), as demanded by Allah SWT. The pilgrims must hit each pillar at least seven times with the pebbles they have picked up in Muzdalifah. The notion behind this rite is to show defiance of the Devil/Satan.

On the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, pilgrims make their way atop the hill, Mount Arafat or otherwise known as ‘Jabal Al Rahmah’, the hill of forgiveness. Pilgrims gather on the plain of Arafat and engage themselves in Zikr, prayers and Quran recitation. This is known as “Wuquf” and considered as the highlight of Hajj. The significance of Mount Arafat is that it is the site where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) delivered his famous Farewell Sermon (Khutbah Hajjatul Wida) to the Muslims who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his life. It was on Jabal al Rahmah where Adam and Hawa (Eve) were reunited and forgiven by Almighty Allah and it is on this same plain where all humans will gather in front of Allah SWT on the Day of Judgment.

Each and every rite of Hajj has a history and a lesson associated with it, as stated in this blog. Knowing the accounts behind these rituals will enable the pilgrims to perform Hajj with a heightened level of zeal and earnestness, insha’Allah.

For updates and news, follow Hajj Explorer on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hajj: An Unforgettable Journey

“Labbayka-Allahummma labbayk, Labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal-Hamda wanni’mata laka wal-Mulk, laa shareeka lak!”

Hearing these words of Allah’s remembrance every year reminds us of Hajj, one of the five major pillars of Islam. Hajj is enjoined on every sane adult Muslim having the physical strength and financial ability to do so.

Allaah mentions in Quran: “And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka‘bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allaah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence) ; and whoever disbelieves [i.e. denies Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), then he is a disbeliever of Allaah], then Allaah stands not in need of any of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists)”

[Aal ‘Imraan 3:97]

 

Islam is built on various forms of worship some of which require physical strength such as Salah and some require financial strength as in the case of Zakah. Hajj on the other hand is a combination of physical and financial strength. Hajj allows Muslims to unite in the name of Allah destroying any boundaries of wealth, race, or gender. It is a means of gathering everyone on the same plains at the same time with only one intention of pleasing Allah. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) narrated: “Whoever performs Hajj to this house – Kabah- and does not commit any obscenity and wrongdoing, he, or she, will come out as the day he, or she, was born – pure and free from sins. “(Bukhari & Muslim). The practice of Hajj dates back to our Prophet Ibraheem and it is a combination of rituals performed by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and our Muslim ancestors. It commemorates the sacrifice of Ibraheem and Ismaeel (AS) along with the hardships faced by Hajar (AS) during Sa’ai between Safa and Marwah.

 

Hajj teaches us the concept of Tawakkal or complete reliance on Allah. In the state of Ihram, a person is only covered by two pieces of cloth, which is similar to a shroud used to wrap a corpse for burial. No matter how much wealth we leave behind coming in to Hajj, as we enter the state of Ihram, we are left with nothing except with our trust and belief in Allah alone. Similarly sleeping on the plains of Muzdalifah under an open sky forces us to understand how life is all in the hands of Allah. We lay there helpless and equal to others just as we will be resurrected on the day of judgment. It teaches us self control and patience allowing us to accept others as they are and be thankful to Allah for all His blessings on us. The Day of Arafah unites all Muslims together to stand in front of one God and pray for His mercy and guidance. It reminds us of the one and only Almighty in control of our lives and livelihoods as we stand in the heat of sun praying to Him alone knowing no one in this world can rid us of our misery except Him.

 

Hajj is incumbent on every able Muslim as it allows us to renew our faith in Allah. It enables us to remember our duties as Muslims and is enjoined as a blessing from Allah for allowing us to ask for forgiveness and guidance. It teaches us discipline and patience along with uniting us as one Ummah spreading equality between people from all corners of the world.

Allah mentions in Quran: “And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj)”[al-Hajj 22:27]

 

How true this statement of our lord Allah is!

Posted in Hajj | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Hajj- What does it Symbolize?

Hajj is among the five pillars of Islam that lay the foundations of a Muslim’s  life. It is incumbent upon every mentally, physically and financially able Muslim to perform Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime.

Allah says in the Quran: “Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses.” [Surah Aal-e-Imran: 97]

Hajj is a beautiful act of worship, a ritual that symbolizes complete submission to Allah SWT.  There is an immense wisdom and purpose behind Hajj.  Hajj is a very comprehensive form of worship, it is the culmination of all the remaining pillars of Islam. The main purpose of Hajj is the obedience of Almighty Allah, to acknowledge that everything we own is a blessing that He bestowed upon us, so we should not attach our hearts to the worldly possessions and  hence devote ourselves completely to the one and only, Allah, as He SWT says in the Quran:

 “And (remember) when We showed Ibrahim(AS) the site of the House (saying): ‘Associate not anything with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand up (for prayer), and those who bow and make prostration (in prayer).” [Surah al-Hajj : 26-27]

The grandeur of this journey can only be understood when one realizes who he/she is going to visit:  The house of Allah SWT on this earth, SubhanAllah!

Right  from the beginning, Hajj serves as a connotation for the journey of the Hereafter. Before embarking on this holy pilgrimage, the Muslim pilgrims (or Hajis) have to wear Ihram, which is the dress code for Hajj. There is no particular restriction for women, they can wear any modest clothing which maintains their Hijab, provided it is not made of silk. For men, it consists of two un-sewn pieces of white cloth, sounds familiar? Yes, Ihram is symbolic to Muslim’s burial garb or “Kafan”! When a Muslim dies, his/her body is wrapped in white shroud (kafan) before it is sent to the final resting place, the grave. Kafan, thus, symbolizes the beginning of our last journey, which starts right after a person dies. In the same way, when a Pilgrim wears Ihram, he is being reminded of his ultimate journey of Hereafter. When he removes his stitched clothing to dress into Ihram, as per the orders of Almighty Allah, he is abandoning his material desires and attachments, hence, acquiring a state of humbleness, humility and submission to his only Lord.

Allah is the most Merciful, no doubt, He is Ar-Rahmaan  and  Ar-Raheem. It is one of His innumerable blessings that He allows us to experience the symbolic state of afterlife, giving us a chance to change our lives and revert our hearts while we still can. When all Muslim pilgrims gather at the land of Arafah during Hajj, it serves as a reminder of the promised Day of Judgment, when all human beings will be standing at the same place, on the same ground, in front of Allah SWT, waiting for their final destiny, to reap what they sowed.

Hajj is a great bounty of Allah SWT. It allows the pilgrims to indulge in the showers of mercy bestowed upon them by Almighty Allah, when they perform Hajj with the purest intentions and complete adherence to the prescribed virtues and values. The Prophet SAW said:

“There is no ritual parallel to an approved Hajj, and there is no reward for it less than Paradise. A pilgrim becomes (so pure) like a newborn baby. Once the pilgrims complete their rituals, they will be told: ‘You’ve built a construction then do not destroy it. Your past is forgiven, then take care of your future.’”

Yes, pure like a new born baby, Allah-o-Akbar!

Hajj beautifully exemplifies the equality of all human beings in front of Allah SWT. When Muslims from all over the world, despite the differences in their social status, race, gender, color and ethnicity, perform Hajj wearing the same dress, following the same rules and regulations, saying the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, it demonstrates the most profound message of Islam, the concept of equality of mankind. The only preference in the eyes of Allah is piety. The Quran states in Verse (49:13):

” O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)

The annual convention of Muslims in Makkah during Hajj also depicts the unity of Muslim Ummah to rest of the world. When Muslims of different nationalities and races assemble at one place and get a chance to socialize with each other, it inculcates and reinforces the emotions of brotherhood, good will and harmony among them, which make Pilgrims more tolerant and compassionate towards each other. Hence the enthralling journey of Hajj not only cleanses Muslims spiritually  but also serves to bring the Ummah together, uniting them in a strong bond which is founded on the principles of Islam, as Allah revealed in the Quran:

“The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” [Al-Hujjurat, 49:10]

To make the Hajj acceptable or “maqbool”, purification of heart and an effort to elevate it to a state that is admissible by Allah SWT, is obligatory. Knowing the true purpose, spirit and significance of Hajj, awareness that Allah is constantly watching over us and the fear of accountability will help us in preparing for this mesmerizing journey of a lifetime insha’Allah!

For updates and news, follow Hajj Explorer on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Hajj | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Hajj, simply put is the journey of a life time

Hajj, simply put is the journey of a life time. It is a journey completely unique in its preparations, its motions, its emotions and its rewards. As with the matters of the deen, the most important aspect is the niyyat. Another important thing is to be in the sacred lands with a restless soul, one which is eager to find internal peace. The sweetness of Hajj really lies in the spiritual awakening of the heart and soul.

As Hajj season approaches, we listen to a lot of khateebs and lectures stating the dynamics and the rituals (manasiks) of Hajj. While perfecting the manasik of Hajj is the tangible goal each Haji should have, there is another, intangible, and in many ways a deeper, goal the Pilgrims need to aim for.

As mentioned above, the reward of an accepted Hajj is unique. If you think about it, the reward for an accepted Hajj, Jannah, is the ultimate goal every human has. The other reward of Hajj is that all our sins are wiped off, and we are given a clean slate.

Wait….What? All sins wiped off? Why? Well, the wisdom of Allah (SwT) is way beyond our logic, but we should try to analyze the key aspects of Hajj and narrow it down to some of the essentials. The goal being, if successful in even coming close to what it is that gave us the clean slate, we may just have the blessed recipe of Jannah. Imagine that! Imagine, you can bring Hajj back with you and keep with you for the rest of your lives.

Posted in Hajj | Leave a comment