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!