The Spirituality of Hajj
By Ustadh Mohibur Rahman
A man once came to visit Junaid al-Baghdadi who asked him where he had come from. The man replied that he had just returned from Hajj. Junaid said to him, “From the time you left your home did you also leave behind all wrong action?” “No,” he replied. “Then you never really left at all. At every stop you made on the way, did you also advance another stage on the path to Allah?” “No,” was the reply. “Then you did not really make the journey. When you put on your ihram at the miqat, did you discard the attributes of selfhood as you took off your ordinary clothes?” “No.” “Then you did not really take on ihram. When you did tawaf of the Kaʿabah, did you witness the beauty of Allah in the abode of purification?” “No, I did not,” said the man. “Then you did not really do tawaf. When you did saʿi between Ṣafa and Marwah did you reach the rank of ṣafa (purity) and muruwwah (virtue)?” “No.” “Then you did not really do saʿi. When you went out to Mina did your desires cease?” No, they did not.” “Then you never really went to Minā. When you stood on ʿArafah did you experience even a single moment of ma’rifa (direct knowledge) of Allah?” “No.” “Then you did not really stand on ʿArafah. When you stayed the night at Muzdalifah did you renounce your love of this world?” “No, I did not.” “Then you did not really stay at Muzdalifah. When you stoned the Jamrah, did you cast away from yourself everything that stands between you and your Lord.” “No.” “Then you did not really do the stoning. When you made your sacrifice, did you offer up your lower self to Allah?” “Then you did not really make a sacrifice and the truth is that you have not properly performed Hajj at all. Return and do the hajj again in the manner I have described so that you may finally truly attain to the status (maqam) of Ibrahim (AS).”
Allah says in the Qur’an regarding Hajj, “So that they may witness the benefits for them and may mention the name of Allah, on specified days, over the livestock” (22:28).
And also Allah says, “As for those who honour Allah’s sacred rites will have good rewards from his Lord” (22:30).
The ‘benefits’ mentioned in the verses are both worldly and religious (spiritual). With regards to the religious benefits, the one who goes for Hajj earns the pleasure of Allah, and returns with all his sins forgiven. He also earns immense reward which is not attainable anywhere else than in these places. One prayer in al-Masjid al-Haram, for example, is equal to a hundred thousand prayers elsewhere, likewise tawaf and saʿi cannot be done anywhere except in the Haram.
The verses above also highlight one of the most significant factors of Hajj, which is the attaining of taqwa, and how the attainment of taqwa is far greater than any other act performed during the course of the Hajj.
Other benefits include the opportunity to visit the city of the Prophet (SAW) and his sacred mausoleum.
Spiritual effects on a person
There are countless virtues of the rites of Hajj, and much wisdom behind them. Whoever is blessed with the correct understanding of them is blessed with much goodness. For example:
- When a person travels to carry out the rituals of Hajj, he is reminded of his journey to Allah and the Hereafter. When he travels, he leaves behind his dear friends, wife, children and homeland, likewise is the journey of the hereafter.
- The one who goes on this journey equips himself with enough provision to help him reach the sacred land, so let him remember that for his journey to Allah, he needs to have sufficient provisions to help him get there safely.
- When the pilgrim puts on the two garments of his ihram (in which case he is called a muhrim), he cannot help but be reminded of the shroud in which he will be wrapped after he dies. This prompts one to give up disobedience and sin. Just as he has given up his regular clothing for Hajj, likewise he has to give up sin.
- When one says “Labbayk Allahumma labbayk” at the miqat (station of entering ihram), he means that he has responded to his Lord, so how can he insist on still sinning and not respond to Allah’s call to give it up?
- When one gives up haram things while he is a muhrim, and keeps himself busy with the talbiyah and dhikr, this shows him how the Muslim should be any other day.
- When one enters the Sacred House of Allah, which has been made as a safe haven for mankind, he remembers the sanctuary of the Day of Resurrection, which no one can reach without striving hard and making a resolute effort. The greatest thing that keeps a person safe on the Day of Resurrection is tawhid (monotheism) and avoiding shirk (associating others with Allah).
- Kissing of the Black Stone, which is the first ritual to be undertaken, teaches the visitor to honour the sunnah and not to oppose the laws of Allah with his weak reasoning. He recognises that there is wisdom and goodness behind the laws and rituals which Allah has prescribed for mankind, and he trains himself to submit himself totally Allah.
- When one does tawaf, he is reminded of our father Ibrahim (AS), who built the House to be a place of sanctuary for mankind and a place of safety. He called them to perform pilgrimage to this House, as did the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
- When one drinks the water of Zamzam, he is reminded of the blessing which Allah has bestowed upon mankind in the form of this blessed water, from which millions of people have drunk throughout time, but it has never dried up.
- When one performs saʿi, he is reminded of the trial that afflicted Hajar (RH), the mother of Isma’il (AS) and the wife of Ibrahim (AS); when she ran back and forth between al-Safa’ and al-Marwah, searching for water which would save her from what she was suffering, and especially so that she could give her little son, Isma’il (AS), water to drink. Since this woman was patient in the face of this adversity and turned to her Lord. This teaches man that whatever the need maybe, we should turn to Allah.
- The wuquf (standing) in ʿArafah reminds the pilgrim of the groups of people on the Day of Gathering. If the pilgrim feels exhausted from being in a crowd of thousands, how will it be to be amongst the whole mankind, barefooted, naked, uncircumcised, standing for fifty thousand years?
- When one throws the pebbles at the Jamarat, the Muslim is physically denouncing the satan and following the sunnah of the Isma’il (AS) and the Prophet Muḥammad (SAW), while training oneself to obey Allah unquestioningly. Even if he does not understand the reason and wisdom behind this throwing (ramy), and cannot make the connection between rulings and their purpose, this is a demonstration of complete submission (ʿubudiyyah) to Allah.
- When one slaughters his sacrifice (hady), one is reminded of the great event when our father Ibrahim (AS) submitted to the command of Allah to sacrifice his only son Isma’il (AS), after he had grown up and become a help to him. One is also reminded that there is no room for emotions which go against the commands and prohibitions of Allah.
- When one comes out of ihram and all that had been forbidden once again becomes permissible, this teaches one about the result of patience and that after hardship there is ease.
- When one has finished performing all the rituals of Hajj as they were prescribed by Allah and in the manner that Allah loves, one can hope that Allah will forgive all the sins, as the Prophet (SAW) promised in the hadith, “Whoever does Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not have sexual relations (with one’s wife), commit sin, or dispute unjustly (during the Hajj), will come back like the day his mother gave birth to him.” This presents one an opportunity to start a new page in his life, free of sin.
- When one comes back to his spouse and children, and experiences the joy of meeting them again, this reminds him of the greater joy of meeting them in Paradise. This also teaches him that the greatest loss is losing oneself and one’s family on the Day of Resurrection, as Allah says, “The losers are those who will lose themselves and their families on the Day of Resurrection. Verily, that will be a manifest loss!”