Haj – A Sacred Journey

For the last 14 centuries devote Muslims from all parts of the globe have been sailing across the oceans spanning the forests and deserts climbing lofty hills and sailing above the clouds to assemble at the meeting point of the thickly populated continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. The Ka’ba, which stands in the middle of the courtyard of the grand and spacious Mosque known as Al-Masjidul Haram in Makkah, is according the Al-Quran, the first house of worship erected on the face of this earth under divine guidance for the worship of God.
The First House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (Makkah); full of blessing and of guidance for all nations.
(Al-Quran – 3 : 96)

Allah has bestowed a very special status on Makkah in which is housed the Ka’ba which is generally known as Baithullah or House of Allah. It is called the House of Allah not in the sense that Allah dwells there, but it only denotes the honourific title which Allah himself has

given to this place.

Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail who both have an important place in the Islamic historical and spiritual tradition came to the valley of Makkah at the commandment of God. He was subjected to many trials by Allah in order to test his faith and conviction and Prophet Ibrahim completely submitted to the will of God and faced all these trials with a strong faith and courage, fighting against the temptations of Satanic inspirations. The acts performed by Prophet Ibrahim to prove his faith have been made eternal by Islam through the institution of Haj. The ceremonies related to Haj such as circumambulation (Tawaf) around Ka’ba, the running between the two hillocks known Safa and Marwa, staying at Arafa, Stoning at Jamarat and the sacrifice    which a pilgrim performs, generate in his heart the spirit of faith and submission as was present in the life of Prophet Ibrahim.

Prophet Ibrahim was commanded by Allah to reconstruct this house of Allah on the old foundation and dedicate it to his worship. Al-Quran mentions the prayer of Prophet Ibrahim after accomplishing this sacred task.

And remember Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundation of the house (with this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept this service from us for thou art the All-Hearing the All-Knowing”.

“Our Lord! Make of us Muslims, bowing to thy (will) and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to thy (will); and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in mercy) for thou art the Most-Forgiving and Most Merciful”.
(Al-Quran – 2 : 127-128)

When the construction of the House was completed a voice came from the Great Beyond;
“And proclaim unto mankind the duty of pilgrimage. They will come to the on foot and (mounted) on every camel, lean (on account of journeys) through deep and distant mountain highways”
(Al-Quran – 22 : 27)

Since this proclamation which was made many millennium ago the people have been converging on Makkah from all corners of the world with rare enthusiasm and reverence, and to this day it draws people from all over the world like a magnet.  The Haj is an annual congregation in which Muslims from all the parts of the world participate. They assemble in one place with a definite aim and objective, faith and conviction with devotion and dedication. From Haj they draw fresh strength and gain new inspiration. Allah has made the blessed city of Makkah, which one may call the spiritual capital of Islam, the center of Haj. The pilgrimage to Makkah in a way is a journey of individual self-renewal inspired by piety and devotion to God.

The circumambulation (Tawaf) around Ka’ba together with the performance of some other rites is called the Haj and it was ordained as one of the fundamental duties of Islam in the 9th year of Prophet Muhammad’s migration

.It is an important religious obligation of Islam upon every Muslim who is physically able to undertake the journey to the sacred city of Makkah for the performance of pilgrimage and financially capable to afford it.

The circumambulation (Tawaf) around Ka’ba symbolizes that a Muslim’s total life and activities are centered on Allah and total submission to his will and seeking his pleasure and gives meaning and purpose to his life and existence. Haj also signifies the transient nature of this worldly existence which really speaking for a Muslim is a preparation for the eternal life of the hereafter.

One of the main objectives of Haj is total submission to the will of Allah, which is symbolically expressed and practically manifested in all the rituals related to Haj. When the pilgrims approached the Sacred House of Allah they give utterance to the following prayer:
Oh Allah! Add honour and greatness to this House. Oh Lord! You are the peace, and from You peace emanates and prevails. Provide us Oh Lord with the greetings of peace.

Thus peace with the creator and the creation is an important feature of Haj. It is performed in one of the Sacred Months in which war is forbidden and is performed within the sacred precincts in which it is forbidden to shed blood or to cause harm to any living beings and even the cutting of trees are prohibited.

Apart from its religious importance Haj has deep social significance. It is an institution the creates a deep feeling of brotherhood and a sense fraternity among the Muslims who assemble there, all clad in unsown sheets of plain cloths without any distinctions of casts, colour, class, social status and nationality. It is indeed a practical demonstration of Islam’s concept of brotherhood and unity of mankind.

Malcolm X, the Afro American who after embracing the Islamic faith assumed the name Malik As Shabbaz portrays in the following words his unique experience of feeling of brotherhood and fraternity, which he experienced

during his Haj pilgrimage;
“There were thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. They were of all colours, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the sane ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white………… During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) – while praying to the same God with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were bluest of the blue, whose hair was blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the “white Muslims” I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same – brothers.
(From the Autobiography of Malcolm X, New York, 1964)

Haj provides an opportunity for the Muslims who come there from different countries and nationalities, an ideal spiritual climate to renew their faith and re-affirm their pledge to Allah. Ka’ba may be compared to a physical heart in a man’s body, which purifies the blood and ensures the health of a person. In every single moment at least a single individual is performing circumambulation around the ka’ba as the heart pulsates every seconds in a man’s body. Ka’ba, which is the heart of the Muslim world, draws believers of Islam from all corners of the world and send them back in a state of moral refinement and spiritual elevation.

“Whatever the adverse world conditions may take”, says Seyed Abul A’la Maudoodi a renowned Islamic thinker of contemporary times, “and however bad the times may become these will not affect Ka’ba which has been placed in the body of the Islamic world just like a heart in a man’s body. As long as the heartthrobs a man cannot die, thou he may be unable to move due to illness exactly in the same manner thus the heart of the Muslim world draw blood from its far-off veins and circulates the blood back into each and every vein.”

Moulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, an eminent Islamic scholar explains the regenerating spirits of this annual pilgrimage on the wider Islamic world stretching from Morocco to China in the following words:
“ The Muslims live under different conditions in different parts of the world. They passed through diverse phases of existence like activity and stagnation, affluence and want, peace and turmoil and easy and difficulty. Sometimes, they are plagued with problems relating to culture and civilization and sometimes, political and material considerations put them on trial. But whatever the circumstances, the need is always there for the spark of faith in them to be stirred, the sentiment of love to be aroused and the lesson of unity and self-scarifies to be imparted. God has made the Haj a springtime in which the evergreen tree of the Ummat sends forth-new blossoms and the universal fraternity of Islam reasserts itself.
(Seyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, The Four Pillars of Islam, Islamabad, 1991, p. 274)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *