Jamal SaidThe Ultimate Spiritual Journey

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe. May peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, the last of the Prophets and messengers, and upon his family and companions.

The image of millions of Muslim pilgrims performing Hajj is always one of the most overwhelming sights mankind ever witnesses.

Hajj is one of the best forms of worship and the most sublime of deeds because it is one of the pillars of Islam that Allah revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him). A servant's religion is incomplete without it. It is a form of worship only acceptable when one devotes it to Allah alone, with a desire for the Hereafter.

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam which every Muslim, who is able to afford it, must make at least once in his lifetime. In the Qur'an, much is said about the Hajj (which literally means "setting out towards" a place, in this case Mecca), and it is made obligatory in these verses: "Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God, - those who can afford the journey." Surah 3:97

"And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways." Surah 22:27

Ibn ‘Abbaas, said, “When Allah commanded Prophet Ibraheem to proclaim Hajj among people, he said: ‘My Lord, how can I convey the message to the people as my voice cannot reach them?’ Allah said, ‘You call; it is Our duty to make it reach (everyone)!’ So, he stood in his position and said, ‘O you people! Your Lord has chosen a House, so perform pilgrimage to it.’ It was said that the mountains became leveled and his voice reached all parts of the earth and all that are in the wombs and loins of men were made to hear the call and everything that heard it, responded. So those for whom Allah has decreed to perform Hajj till the Day of Judgment responded saying, ‘Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk (Here I am at your service, O Allah, here I am).’ ”

In the Hadith, the pilgrimage is also made incumbent on every Muslim. Ibn 'Abbas reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: "Islam does not allow for failure to perform the Hajj" (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 2, p.454). The Hajj can only be performed properly on the eighth, ninth and tenth days of Thul-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim year.

Hajj is a pillar of Islam in which Allah has combined all types of ‘Ibaadah (worship). It comprises the testimony that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger; as well as prayer, spending in the way of Allah; fasting (for those who cannot afford to pay for the sacrificial animal); enjoining good and forbidding evil, (characteristics of) patience, perseverance, mercy and abstention from forbidden things.

Hajj is one of the greatest signs of Allah that Muhammad sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam has come with. It is in reality the religion of truth, for no human power can gather pilgrims every year from all parts of the world; (pilgrims) with hearts full of yearning and love, who experience difficulties yet rejoice at leaving their homes and families, feeling that the hours of performing Hajj are the greatest of their lives and spending generously for this purpose. Indeed, it is only Allah who can bring about such a situation. He says, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass – That they may witness (i.e., attend) benefits for themselves and mention the Name of Allah on known (i.e., specific) days over what He has provided for them of (sacrificial) animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor.” (Al-Hajj: 27-28)

Hajj is like a short intensive course in which the basic teachings of Islam are presented to a worldwide gathering of Muslims. The instructions in this course, however, are not given through lectures but through symbols and rituals. Every pilgrim learns the basic message of Islam.

The message has three parts:

1) A relationship with God built through surrender to His will and prayer and other ways of remembering Him (dhikr).

2) Love and brotherhood among people manifested in acts of sacrifice for the benefit of others.

3) Struggle, which is of two types: struggle to fulfill basic material and psychological needs of at least oneself and one's family, and struggle against all forms of evil.

A Muslim who intends to perform Hajj must make sure, before departing for Hajj that his family is provided for during the period he is away for the Hajj. He should pay off his debt and seek forgiveness from fellow human beings whom he might have harmed in the past. He should be diligent in observing Salat (five daily prayers) and Sawm (fasting) in the month of Ramadan as well as carrying out other religious obligations. He must shun all arrogance and exhibit a character of modesty and humbleness. He must not use unlawfully acquired money or unlawful means to perform Hajj. He should seek sincere repentance from Allah of all his past sins. In short, one should depart for Hajj just like one would wish to depart from this world.

When setting out for the pilgrimage, one of the first things that Muslims do is to shed all indications of their personal wealth and class distinction by wearing simple white garments called Ihram. The purpose of the Ihram clothing is to ensure that all worldly differences between mankind are eradicated. It trains the pilgrims to consider themselves equal beforeAllah with only piety and good deeds as measures of their true wealth. The ihram is a symbol of simplicity, purity and equality, and it signifies that the pilgrim is in a state of worship.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is an ultimate spiritual journey that is an honor for Muslims. It is the most important pilgrimage they will ever make, and it brings them closer to Allah. Hajj is a spiritual and selfless exhibit of devotion that Muslims are honored to make.

Sh. Jamal Said