Brothers in Islam! What are the blessings of Hajj?
One may describe them in great detail. But, in the Qur’an, where Allah instructs Ibrahim to invite people to come for Hajj, it is said:
So that they may witness things that are of benefit to them (al-Hajj 22: 28).
Hence, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it.
Imam Abu Hanifah, it is narrated, was unsure which act of worship was more excellent among the various ones laid down by Islam. But once he had performed Hajj, he had no hesitation in declaring that Hajj was the most excellent of all.
Still, I shall now try to give you, briefly, some idea of its blessings.
We usually think of journeys as of two kinds: those made for business and those made for pleasure. In both cases, it is to fulfill your worldly desires and benefit yourselves that you leave your homes, separate from families, spend money – all is done for your own sake.
But the journey of Hajj is quite different in nature. This is not meant for any personal end. It is undertaken solely for Allah and the fulfillment of the duty prescribed by Allah.
Nobody can be prepared to undertake this journey until and unless he has love of Allah in his heart as well as fear of Him, and is convinced that Allah wants him to do what he is doing.
That you are willing to bear the privations arising from separation from your family, to incur great expenses on a journey that will bring no material rewards and to suffer any loss of business or job, all are signs of certain inner qualities:
that you love and fear Allah more than anything, that you have a strong sense of duty to Him, that you are willing to respond to His summons and ready to sacrifice your material comforts in His cause.
You will find that your love of God heightens as you start preparing for your pilgrimage journey, with the sole intention of pleasing Allah. With your heart longing to reach your goal, you become purer in thought and deed. You repent for past sins, seek forgiveness from people whom you might have wronged, and try to render your due to others where necessary so as not to go to God’s court burdened with injustices that you may have done to your fellow beings.
In general, the inclination for doing good intensifies and abhorrence for doing evil increases.
After leaving home, the closer you get to the House of God, the more intense becomes your desire to do good. You become careful so that you harm nobody, while you try to render whatever service or help you can to others. You avoid abuse, indecency, dishonesty, squabbles, and bickering because you are proceeding on the path of God.
Thus your entire journey constitutes an act of worship. How then, can you do wrong? This journey, in contrast to every other, is a continuing course through which a Muslim attains a progressive purification of the self.
On this journey, then, you are pilgrims to God. Isn’t this a blessing?
When the pilgrim reaches a certain point in his journey on the way to Makkah, he must put on Ihram, the mendicant-like clothes consisting of two unsewn sheets of cloth and a pair of sandals.
What does putting on Ihram symbolize?
Whatever your position in the world, before God you must come as a beggar and destitute, as in outward appearance so in the depths of your heart. Take off your colorful clothes; put on simple ones. Do not wear socks. Keep your heads bare. Do not use any perfume, nor comb your hair. Do not use any kind of adornment. Stop sexual relations with your wives, refrain even from any gestures which may arouse eagerness for, and be a reminder of, these relations. Do not hunt, and do not help anyone you see hunting.
Adopting such outward postures will influence your inner lives also. You will develop an ascetic attitude. Pride and vanity will disappear. Humility and peace of mind will grow.
The impurities that have sullied your souls due to indulgence in worldly pleasures will be removed and a feeling of godliness will dominate both your internal and external selves.
What a blessing that can be.
Soon after putting on Ihram the pilgrim utters certain words that he must repeat in a loud voice after every Prayer, when climbing a height and descending from it, when meeting other pilgrims and when getting up in the mornings. These words are:
Labbayk, Allaahumma labbayk, labbayk, laa shariika laka labbayk, inna ‘l-hamda wa ‘n-ni’mata laka wa ‘l-mulka laa shariika lak
“I am at Your service, O Allah, I am at Your service. You have no partner. I am at Your service. Praise and blessing belong to You, and the Kingdom. You have no partner.”
For more information about this dua, please read this article.
This, in fact, is an answer to that general proclamation which Ibrahim, as commanded by Allah, made more than four thousand years ago: O slaves of Allah! Come to the House of Allah. Come from every corner of the earth, either on foot or by transport. If you miss this story about prophet Ibrahim and Hajj, you can read it here.
Thus, with every cry of labbayk the pilgrim answers God’s summons; every time he answers His summons he becomes more closely knit with that movement which has been inviting to the true and genuine worship of the One God since the time of Ibrahim and Ismail. The distance in time of four and a half thousand years vanishes and it appears as if Ibrahim is here calling on behalf of Allah and the pilgrim is answering his call.
At every step, as the pilgrim, thus responding to Ibrahim, proceeds further and further, the yearning and longing get more and more intense. At every ascent and descent, the voice of Allah’s proclaimer rings in his ears and he goes on and on welcoming it with labbayk.
Every group of pilgrims appears to him like a message-bearer of his Lord; and, like a lover, on getting the message from his beloved, he cries out: ‘I am present, I am present.’ Every morning is a message from his Friend to which he has but one answer: ‘I am at Thy service.’
This recurrent cry of labbayk in conjunction with the ascetic dress of Ihram, the special nature of the journey and the feeling of getting nearer and nearer to the Ka’ba combine to produce in the pilgrim the feeling of being enveloped in Divine love; nothing of any importance any longer resides in his heart except the remembrance of his Friend.
Overwhelmed with the love of God, the pilgrim reaches Makka and immediately proceeds towards the sacred precincts to which he has been summoned. He kisses the ‘threshold’ of his Friend’s house. Then he goes round and round it, the focus of his faith, and the hub of his life. Every round he starts and ends by kissing His ‘doorstep’, symbolizing a renewal of his pledge of allegiance and loyalty and obedience to his Lord and Master.
After completing the seven rounds, he goes to the place where lies the stone on which Ibrahim stood, and called men to the House of God, called the Muqaam Ibrahim. He then offers two Rak’ahs of Prayer to thank God.
From Muqaam Ibrahim he proceeds to climb the hillock of Safaa’, from where he looks down at the Ka’ba and cries out:
Laa ilaaha ill ‘allaah wa laa na’budu illaaiyyaahu mukhlisina lahu ‘d-dina wa law kariha ‘l-kaafiruun.
There is no god but Allah. We worship none but Him, making exclusive for Him our submission; even though Kafirs may dislike it.
Then he hurriedly walks between Safaa’ and the other hillock, Marwah.
This act, which is called Sa ‘i, symbolizes that the pilgrim will be ceaselessly endeavoring to serve his Master and seek His pleasure. In the course of this Sa ‘i, he may say:
Allaahumma ista’milnii bii sunnati nabiyyika wa tawaffanii ‘ala millatihi wa a’idhni min mudillati ‘l-fitan.
Grant me to live, O God, the way as was Thy Prophet’s way, and to die on his path. Protect me from trials which lead astray.
Or he may say:
O Lord! Forgive me and have mercy on me and overlook all that You know I have done wrong. You art the Mightiest and the Noblest.
On completion of the Sa‘i, the pilgrims become like soldiers in the cause of Allah. Now they have to live a camp-like life for five or six days. For one day they will camp at Mina’, and the next day at ‘Arafat where they will hear their commander’s directives, too. Returning from ‘Arafat, they encamp for the night at Muzdalifah.
At daybreak, the pilgrims march back toward Mina’ and throw stones at the pillars which mark the place where the army of Abraha, the Christian king of Yemen, had reached in their effort to demolish the Ka’ba.
While throwing each stone, the soldiers in the cause of Allah say:
Allaahu Akbar, Rghman li ‘sh-shaytani wa hizbihii Allahummah asdiqan bi kitaabika wa ittibaa’an li sunnti nabiyyik
God is the Greatest, I throw these stones against Satan and his party, testifying to the truth of Thy Book, O God, and following the way of Thy Prophet.
By throwing these stones the pilgrim reaffirms his pledge: ‘O God! Like this, I will fight whosoever rises to destroy Your Din and subdue Your word, and thus I shall strive to make Your word supreme.
After throwing stones, animals are sacrificed. This sacrifice demonstrates the intention and resolve of the pilgrim to give his life in the way of God, whenever required.
After sacrifice, the pilgrims return to the Ka’ba just as a soldier, having performed his duty, returns triumphantly to his headquarters.
After performing another round of tawaaf and offering two rak’ahs of Prayer, Ihraam, the dress of consecration, is removed.
Whatever was especially prohibited (Haram) during the period of consecration now again becomes permissible (Halal) and the pilgrims’ lives resume their normal pattern.
They now come back to Mina’ and continue to camp there for another two or three days. The following day they again throw stones at the three pillars. These are Jamaraati and serve to remind them of the defeat and destruction of that elephant army which we have just referred to.
It was in the year of the birth of the Prophet, blessings, and peace be on him, that it invaded Makkah at the time of Hajj to demolish the House of Allah, but which, by the command of Allah, was destroyed by stones dropped by birds.
It is often said that this act of flinging stones is done in commemoration of the incident which happened to Ibrahim when he was about to sacrifice Ismail: Satan tried to tempt him, and he flung stones at him. It is also said that when a lamb was given to Ibrahim to sacrifice in place of Ismail, the lamb ran away and Ibrahim threw stones at it. But in no authentic Hadith have these incidents been narrated from the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him.
Allah knows best!
After finally throwing stones at these pillars on the third day, the pilgrims return to Makkah and perform seven circumambulations of the center of their Din. This is called tawaaf wadaa’ (tawaf for taking leave) and completing it means the completion of Hajj.
It is now easy to see that for two to three months, from the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj to the time of returning home, a tremendous impact is made on the hearts and minds of pilgrims. The process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures – and all this simply for the sake of Allah, with no worldly or selfish motive.
That’s why the entire process on how Hajj is performed, is a blessing.
Together with a life of sustained piety and virtuousness, the constant remembrance of God and the longing and love for Him in the pilgrim leave a mark on his heart which lasts for years.
The pilgrim witnesses at every step the imprints left by those who sacrificed everything of theirs in submission and obedience to Allah. They fought against the whole world, suffered hardships and tortures, were condemned to banishment, but ultimately did make the word of God supreme and did subdue the false powers which wanted man to submit to entities other than God.
The lesson in courage and determination, the impetus to strive in the way of God, which a devotee of God can draw from these clear signs and inspiring examples, can hardly be available from any other source.
The attachment developed with the focal point of his Din by walking round (tawaaf) the Ka’ba, and the training received to live a Mujahid’s life through the rites of Hajj (such as running from place to place and repeated departures and halts) are all great blessings indeed.
Combined with the Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving, and looked at as a whole, you will see that Hajj constitutes a preparation for the great task which Islam wants Muslims to do. This is why it has been made compulsory for all who have the money and the physical fitness for the journey to the Ka’ba. This ensures that in every stage, there are Muslims who have passed through this training.
The great blessings of spiritual and moral regeneration which Hajj imparts to each person are before you. But you cannot fully appreciate the blessings of Hajj unless you keep in view the fact that Muslims do not perform it individually:
Hundreds of thousands perform it communally during the time fixed for it. At one stroke Islam achieves not one or two but a thousand purposes.
The advantages of performing the Prayer singly are by no means small, but by making it conditional with congregation and by laying down the rule of lmamah (leadership in the Hajj) and by gathering huge congregations for the Friday and ‘Id Prayers, its benefits have been increased many times.
The observance of the Fasting individually is no doubt a major source of moral and spiritual training, but by prescribing that all Muslims must fast in the month of Ramadan those benefits have been greatly increased.
The Almsgiving, too, has many advantages even if dispensed individually, but with the establishment of a centralized Baytulmaal (exchequer of the Islamic state) for its collection and disbursement, its usefulness is increased beyond measure.
The same is true of Hajj. If everyone were to perform it singly, the effect on individual lives would still be great. But making it a collective act enhances its effectiveness to a point which gives it a new dimension altogether.
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