When I was a student of the Qur’an over ten years ago, I had not yet set foot on the soil of Arabia. Therefore, any mention of Hajj would make me extremely wistful about one day making this sacred journey and setting eyes on the Ka’bah.
The sentiments of some sisters, though, would baffle me: “I did Hajj back when I had little knowledge of the rituals; just going along with the crowd, performing the rites without spirit. I want to do it again after having studied the Qur’an.”
Alhamdulillah I performed Hajj after years of praying to Allah (SWT) for this honour. The peculiar thing about Hajj is that most of it involves staying outside Makkah in makeshift accommodation shared with strangers. Hence, Hajj imparts invaluable lessons in brotherhood/sisterhood and fortitude as the pilgrim overcomes physical challenges and sacrifices personal desires.
Staying in Mina
“The pilgrimage is (in) the well known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness, nor abuse, nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage.
And whatsoever good you do Allah knows it. So make provision for yourselves (hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding.” (Al-Baqara:197)
As this verse clearly shows, fighting and lewdness are forbidden during Hajj, with the best ‘luggage’ to take along on the journey being piety and consciousness of Allah (SWT).
Hajj spans five days, which commence on 8th Dhul Hijjah when all pilgrims go to stay in Mina, a “tented” city outside Makkah. Living in a tent shared with other pilgrims, having little privacy, and having to go out of your accommodation to use the public lavatories, teaches even the most uptight person communal sharing and sacrifice.
Exclusive supplications in Arafah
On the morning of the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, pilgrims depart to Arafah, an open plain populated with tents, where they stay until the call to Maghrib prayer.
“..when you press on in multitude from Arafah, remember Allah by the sacred monument. Remember Him as He has guided you, although before you were of those astray”. (Al-Baqarah:198)
After the combined Dhuhr and Asr prayer, pilgrims engage in deep, reflective supplication to Allah (SWT). They beseech Him I for His forgiveness, preferably near a mount in the plain called Jabal Al-Rahmah, where the Prophet (SAW) engaged in exclusive du’a. On this day, the 9th of Dhul Hijjah,
in the time between Asr and Maghrib, forgiveness for sincere repentance of a pilgrim is guaranteed.
“Then hasten onward from the place whence the multitude hastens onward, and ask forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Al- Baqarah:199)
As soon as the call to Maghrib prayer sounds, the pilgrims set off for the plain of Muzdalifah where they spend the night until Fajr, continuing to seek Allah’s (SWT) forgiveness as they depart.
This journey is one of submission, not logic, otherwise pilgrims would have prayed Maghrib prayer before departing.
The remaining days in Mina
“And when you have completed your devotions, then remember Allah as you remember your fathers or with a more lively remembrance.” (Al- Baqarah:200)
Before the advent of Islam, Arabs used to discuss their bygone forefathers’ good deeds during the annual pilgrimage. Here, Allah (SWT) commands pilgrims to remember Him (SWT) even more so, if possible, during their remaining stay in Mina i.e. until the 12th or 13th of Dhul Hijjah.
“Remember Allah through the appointed days. Then whoso hastens (his departure) by two days, it is no sin for him, and whoso delays, it is no sin for him; that is for him who wards off (evil). Be careful of your duty to Allah, and know that unto Him you will be gathered.” (Al-Baqarah:203)
Idle talk, gossip, discussing other people in the Hajj group, recounting personal anecdotes and narratives to pass the time, should hence be avoided. Allah’s (SWT) remembrance should reign supreme.
The Sacrifice, Tawaf and Sa’ee
“That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the be”ast of cattle that He has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.” (Al-Hajj:28)
After returning to Mina from Muzdalifah on the 9th of Dhul Hujjah, the pilgrims’ animals are sacrificed, after which they bathe (the men shave their heads), change into normal clothes and exit the sacred state of ihram.
“Then let them make an end of their unkemptness and pay their vows and circumambulate the ancient House.” (Al-Hajj:29)
The bathing, shaving of the head and sacrifice all signify a “re-birth” of sorts of the newly forgiven Muslim pilgrim. Why circumambulate a stone structure? Again, to submit to Allah (SWT), since we believe that the stone Ka’bah itself holds no power to benefit or cause us loss, but it enables the Ummah to unite when they circumambulate it and face it for every prayer.
The last remaining pillar of Hajj: a tawaf called Al-Ifadah followed by a sa’ee between mounts Safaa and Marwa, is thus performed. When doing sa’ee, a pilgrim should remember Hajr (RA) and her efforts for her son Prophet Isma’il (AS), to which the sa’ee is a lasting tribute till the end of mankind.
For every night until the 12th or 13th of Dhul Hijjah they now spend in Mina, pilgrims have to stone the three Jamarah pillars – another rite that invokes the steadfastness Prophet Ibrahim u showed when Iblees tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son Isma’il according to Allah’s (SWT) command.
The rites and rituals of Hajj embody and emulate the worship and sacrifice our forefathers Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his family performed hundreds of years ago. The different actions test a pilgrim’s submission to Allah’s (SWT) commands and quell his base desires.
The spirit of the entire journey is piety, as denoted by the verse below that mentions the animal sacrifice, a yearly ritual that the entire Muslim Ummah performs along with the pilgrims in Arabia during the sacred days of Dhul Hijjah,
“It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” [Al-Hajj:37]
Sadaf Farooqi hopes to be granted the supreme honour of performing Hajj once again someday.