Calling Women to Perform Hajj
By Fariha Sikondari
This is not going to be an article giving detailed descriptions of the Hajj rituals; rather I thought I would describe performing Hajj from a female point of view with the aim of encouraging all Muslim women to undertake Hajj in the near future. I know so many women who, in my mind are ready to perform Hajj both mentally and financially, but for one reason or another they do not think themselves ready and so always say to me whenever I ask whether they will be going this year – “inshallah, I hope to go next year, pray for me to go” – but the sad fact is that next year never comes. There are always other priorities or reasons which can prevent women from doing Hajj and performing it much later in life than they had first intended, like caring for children, wanting to be settled in marriage, buying a house, buying a new car, not having a willing mahram to go with them, feeling daunted by performing a demanding pilgrimage and the list goes on.
In short, life gets in the way of performing Hajj and people envisage that there will be a more convenient time in the future when everything in life is going well and there will be less of life’s problems to deal with first. However, this ideal time for Hajj does not really exist and is really a figment of people’s imagination. Rather, providing you are financially able, the time is actually now. And even if you are not financially able, performing Umrah is a much cheaper alternative, which also acts as a good introduction to the challenges that will be faced during Hajj, and will also provide you with other benefits which I will describe below. Life’s problems will always exist, but they may actually become easier after performing Hajj and you may receive guidance on how better to deal with them from Allah, inshallah.
To be honest, I understood this standpoint even before I first performed Umrah in 2009 and maintained that when I performed Hajj two years later. I thought I was not ready to go and that only the very religious, truly practising people go to Makkah and I did not class myself as anywhere near this ideal Muslimah. I thought I would only get to perform my Hajj sometime in the future, the distant future, maybe when I was about 60 years old and mature enough to go. I thought that if I went to Hajj now then on my return I would have to be ‘perfect’ and try to live my life as sinless as possible, i.e. in a very restricted and strict manner, never missing a prayer, never saying a bad word. I think this is what many people fear- that after they have performed the Umrah/Hajj they would then have to give up their previous relatively carefree lifestyle and adopt a more regimented one.
The truth is that human beings are not designed to be perfect, so there is no point waiting for some time in the future when you think you may suddenly become a better person and be ready to perform pilgrimage. I am not saying that you won’t become a better person when you get older, only that performing Hajj is a chance to develop yourself and begin this process of transformation sooner. Also, the fact is that when you return you may miss a prayer, or do something else that you are aware is wrong, but this is ok as we know that Allah is merciful and is aware of your efforts of trying to become a better Muslim. I have not become the perfect Muslimah, after becoming a ‘Hajji’ but I think I have definitely noticed a change within myself.
The benefit of performing Hajj is akin to opening your eyes to a new world, one where you feel much closer to God than ever before, due to the fact that most of Hajj and Umrah is spent in the Holy Mosques praying directly to your creator in a place you know that your prayers will be answered, inshaAllah. For me, this was the most time I had spent in continuous worship, and I think this is the case for most people, as the actual nature of pilgrimage is devoting if not all your time, then most of your time to worship; be it in salaat, sitting waiting for salaat to begin in the Holy Mosques, performing tawaf/sayee, pelting stones at the jamarat, sleeping under the stars in Muzdalifah, performing wuquf at Arafat, reciting the talbiyah during your journeys; basically performing all the Hajj rituals and all your other activities while residing in the holy cities of Makkah and Madina.
In other words, without you even realising it, your iman is strengthened by spending quality time in these two sacred cities. On your return you will find that you have unconsciously changed a lot of your daily habits, rituals and thinking for the better. This is because during the pilgrimage, most of your time was not wasted on the usual time-wasting activities and so it is easy to see the benefits of adding these extra acts of worship into your life. Performing acts of worship to please God become easier and do not feel restrictive on your already busy life anymore, as you realise that all the blessings in your life have come from your Creator, so why would you not allocate time to show your gratitude to him. Changing your life for the better becomes a natural progression after performing pilgrimage as it gives you a different outlook on life. Performing pilgrimage is a truly spiritual and also very personal experience, which is different for everyone but will no doubt have a significant impact on your life. Pilgrimage is an opportunity to change yourself for the better in ways you previously did not expect, but ways that are definitely good for you.
I would urge anyone who has not already done so to perform their Hajj or Umrah as soon as possible, particularly women as they are the ones who typically postpone Hajj in the mistaken belief that there is always time in the future and there is nothing wrong with delaying their Hajj. On the contrary, as women are the backbone of society, performing their Hajj earlier or on time becomes even more important and would introduce a positive change within themselves which would have a knock-on effect on their families and communities, and also improve the state of the Ummah as a whole.
I could actually write a lot about the benefits of Hajj and the amount of knowledge you gain in a short space of time, and ultimately the way it strengthens your relationship with God; however my main aim of this article is to convey to you the message that in order to perform Hajj or Umrah you must first make it a priority in your life. Once you have made a concrete intention to perform Hajj or Umrah, Allah will make a way for you to go inshallah, and the obstacles that you previously perceived will seem insignificant as your desire to go intensifies. If you aim to do something in the way of Allah, then you will see that Allah will provide you from financial sources of which you previously unaware, as it is indeed Allah who provides all of your provisions. I understand that it is particularly harder for women due to child care commitments and the requirement for a willing mahram, but with sincere dua Allah can remove these obstacles, as he has power over all things, including the ability to change your circumstances for the better and making performing Hajj or Umrah a real possibility in your near future.