ISLAM NEWSROOM SPECIAL FEATURE - ABOUT HAJJ & UMMRAH: Hard or Easy?
Is it a long, hard, difficult and costly trip?
Or is it a . .
Beautiful, once in-a-lifetime journey of faith to come closer to Almighty God Allah?
Each of us determines our own path, our own way and our own destination in this life by our intentions, actions and feelings all along the way.
What About Hajj (pilgrimage)? Is it any different from any other journey?
If fact, scholars tell us Hajj is a concentrated version of our entire life: A JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME
Regardless of how you view it, the success (or failure) of Hajj depends heavily on how we act and react to our circumstances and surroundings all along the way.
The 5th pillar of Islam, the pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in Arabia is an obligation on every believer - once in their lifetime, when Allah opens the way. All Muslims must make this journey, if possible - as soon as possible.
It is a physical, mental and spiritual journey all at the same time. The Muslim dons his physical garb (ihram) at the same time he makes his mental intention and spiritual commitment to his Creator, Allah.
Allah tells us about Hajj in basic terms in Quran:
"Hajj is in well-known months, so whoever has made hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is to be for him no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during hajj.
And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And revere Me, O you of understanding."
[Surah Baqarah 2:197]
Focus on the words: "no disobedience" and "no disputing" in Hajj.
This immediately let's us know for sure, there will be opportunities for us to disobey and dispute (may Allah keep us away from all disobedience and disputing, ameen).
If there is one single word in English that sums up what Hajj is all about - it is "sacrifice".
Read about the sacrifice of Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon him and his famil, the tests of sacrifice of Ismail, his son and how Allah blessed them -- [click here for tafsir - a deep explanation]
We learn in Quran of the sacrifices made by Ibrahim, his wife and his son Ismael. We are reminded from the sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, about his and his companions suffering and sacrifices for years to bring the message of worship for One God to the people - and their own pilgrimages to the House of Allah.
Leaving home, family, job and security for the over crowded unknown in a distant land, far away from anything we know in today's world, almost like a journey into former times. Giving up the luxury of comfortable furniture, usual food & drink, personal privacy, even ordinary clothing, even waiting in long lines for the toilet - are all a part of the physical sacrifices.
Mental sacrifices can be even more severe, in dealing with other people from other lands, other traditions and other customs. Patience is an important part of the Muslim everyday life - but how much more when patience is tried to the limits? Waiting in lines for visas, customs, busses, rooms, tents, food and sometimes after long waits - not getting what is hoped for.
Sacrificing of our hearts and minds - something seldom considered on a regular basis, suddenly becomes a part of every movement, every thought and every prayer.
Some could ask us, "Why?"
Why do this to yourself? Why put up with all the difficulties, the challenges, the hardships and sacrifices? And the money!!
What is the reason? Where is the benefit?
Our reason - IS THE BENEFIT.
Through the personal sacrifice of giving up things of this life in order to please our Lord, by following His Commandments, we seek the ultimate benefit of nothing less than - PARADISE itself.
Benefits in this life? Obviously, we are working and sacrificing for something that benefits our mental, emotional and personal beings - brotherhood. The unity of coming together for the sake of our mutual love and affection for our Lord, His prophet, peace be upon him, and for each other.
Allah says (the meaning) in the Holy Quran -
"And proclaim to all humans the hajj. They will come toward you on foot and on every thin camel, they will come from every deep and wide mountain highway (for pilgrimage)
[Surah Hajj 22:27]
Unity is one of the featured keys of the Hajj. All Muslims, regardless of nationality, race, lineage or school of thought - all coming together for the once in a lifetime journey - for Allah.
Just as the body is tasked and put through movements it may never experience again, so is the mind and the spirit challenged in the Hajj.
Care of those around you becomes habit forming and you know there are those about you who do care for you as well.
The obligation to cleanse our souls, minds and bodies from impurities extends to removing the hatred, dislike and arrogance we might ordinarily feel toward strangers or people of distant lands.
SALAM (peace) is another important part of Hajj.
Not just "Salam alaykum" (peace be upon you) as a greeting. But a feeling you exhibit and you see from others. More than just returning a smile or a nod.
The feeling inside, deep down in the heart - knowing these are your brothers, your sisters, your mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.
You feel the true brotherhood for mankind coming from our father, Adam, peace be upon him.
Allah reminds us in chapter 3 of the Quran:
"O you who believe, revere your Lord as it is His Right to be revered and don't die except in a state of surrender, submission, obedience, sincerity and peace with him (Muslim). And hold firmly, all of you, to the rope of Allah (Islam) and do not be divided. Remember the favor of Allah for you - when once you were enemies and He joined your hearts together and became, by His favor - brothers. And you were on the edge of a firey pit, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes clear for you His ayat (proofs, verses) that you be guided"
[Surah Al-Imran 3:102-103]
The importance of "Doing It Together - ALL TOGETHER" - That is a real sacrifice in Hajj -- and in everyday life!
At the same time, it is the blessing of Hajj, knowing there are so many who share your beliefs, your feelings, your inner desires and your hopes and fears - most of all, your hunger for Jennah and to be with our prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Nu'man bin Bashir (may Allah have mercy on him) says, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"The believers in their mutual kindness, mercy and sympathy (for each other) are just like one body. Whenever one of the limbs suffers, the whole of the body responds to it with wakefulness and fever"
[Recorded by Bukhari & Muslim and also in Riyadh Us Salaheen]
While some pilgrims may be more wrapped up in desire to finish all the rituals and complete their hajj as quick as possible, most others share concerns over the collective achievement for a successful hajj, even when it means individual sacrifices.
These are the ones who have understood, appreicated and achieved the real benefits of hajj.
There is no room in acceptable Hajj for hatred, fighting, bloodshed and killing, just as there is no room for this in Islam, especially amongst the believers.
Jews, Christians, mega media of the west are not really responsible for the fires of war and widely spread devastation throughout our Muslim lands today . . .
Allah tells us who the real enemy is - And what his plan is, as well:
"O you who believe, enter into Islam perfectly (and completely) and do not follow the footsteps of shayton (devil). Certainly, he is your enemy most clear."
[Surah Baqarah 2:208]
Hajj is at the top level of spiritual sacrifice, keeping steadfast, persevering to achieve all the rituals while at the same time doing so in peace and being serene within oneself and with others.
And all the while, reaching deeper into the heart to be able to reach higher in our connection with our Creator and Sustainer - The Merciful, The Especially Merciful - Allah.
Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
‘Umrah is expiation of sins committed (from one to the next). And reward of Hajj Mabrur (accepted by Allah) is nothing less than Paradise”
May Allah bring us together in Hajj for His sake, and into Paradise to live therein Forever, ameen.
Hajj Mabrur yaa hujjaj! (Allah accept from all you pilgrims, ameen)