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“Hajj – The Pilgrimage of Life” By Rukiye Hamza

 

“All opinions are that of the author and not necessarily those of the website that it is published under.”

Hajj – the legendary once-in-a-lifetime experience of a Muslim – has always fascinated millions of pilgrims from all corners of the world.

No doubt, the nature of pilgrimage has changed fundamentally in the age of globalisation, high technology and social media. Having transformed from the classical pilgrimage on a camel experiencing the hardship and attrition of voyaging for several weeks through the desert over to the comfortable journey by aircraft reaching Mecca within some hours, lodging in a five stars hotel and sharing the pilgrimage digitally through live posts in social media. And yet, one essential thing has remained the same: The Kaaba, the House of God, and the deep fascination it exerts on millions of people.

On earth there is nothing equally to Hajj. On no place on this planet millions of people from all different cultures of the world and all walks of life gather voluntarily, in order to obey God’s will: To worship Him. Deeply fascinating as the Kaaba is the place where God is worshipped every day and night over the whole year. Many pilgrims are so captivated by the pilgrimage that they keep thinking of this experience a lifetime. Many even decide to come again. It certainly is a phenomenon. Having pilgrimaged to Mecca indeed changes a human being, spiritually. The experience of Hajj remains in the heart and mind of a pilgrim, because of its nature. Why? And what is the central idea of the Hajj?

The origins of the Hajj go back to Ismail, the infant son of the Prophet Ibrahim (called Abraham in the Old Testament) and his wife Hagar, who were straying in the desert of the Hejaz. Desperate because of the infant son Ismail close to death from thirst, Hager kept running back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa searching for water until the angel Jeebril (known as Gabriel in the Old Testament) touched down to earth and created the well of Zamzam with fresh water for the baby. Following God’s will, Ibrahim built a monument at the site of the well Zamzam known as the Kaaba. Deeply impressive is Prophet Ibrahim’s absolute devotion, faith and love for God, when obeying His will and preparing to sacrifice the most beloved in His honour, his son Ismail. How much are we willing to give up for the sake of God?

In the first official Hajj in 630, the Prophet Mohammed (pbh) led Muslims to the Kaaba destroying the idols of polytheism and devoting the site in the name of Allah. At this occasion Mohammed (pbh) also introduced the Hajj rituals still performed today by the pilgrims including circling the Kaaba, making Hager’s walk between Safa and Marwa, stoning the wall representing Satan that tempted Ibrahim to disobey God, slaughtering an animal in honour of the sacrifice that Prophet Ibrahim made and climbing the Mount of Arafat where Mohammed (pbh) made his last sermon before he died. Looking from outside, the Hajj might be perceived as a religious procedure containing ancient rituals. But the Hajj is much more for a believer for it envelops a spiritual highlight of a lifetime.

A Muslim never feels closer to God than in Mecca. Although God is omnipresent, it seems around that sacred black granite cube one feels the closest to God. When I pilgrimaged to Mecca, I was not quite aware of the things that were expecting me. I perceived the huge mass of people surrounding me as a challenge of modern age. The first week of my Hajj was the most exciting though, as I had the opportunity to see the Kaaba live for the first time in my life, the House of God, to whose direction I have always been praying to. That black cube, the Prophet Muhammad (pbh) lived close to. Never in my life, I was so overwhelmed and so much delighted. It felt surreal.

Hajj is a unique timeout. A lifetime experience that primarily addresses heart and soul. Circling the Kaaba (tawaf) lifts one to another level. Tawaf is such an emotional and intense experience that makes you forgot about your life, your beloved and even your children. This is the ultimate time and place to focus and devote yourself to God and your after-life. Thoughts that usually have no space and room in daily routine. A place to undergo spiritual transformation by sublimation. Here, all the differences between human beings disappear in front of God: social status, religion and ethnic background. Pilgrims unify themselves with the other believers by worshipping God in the same way and by purifying themselves from their sins.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, besides the profession of faith in God and Mohammed (pbh) as his prophet, prayer, fasting in the month of Ramadan and the giving of zakat (obligatory payment made once a year used for charity and religious purposes). The only worship made by physical strain and by financial means at once. The pilgrim is exposed to extreme heat, dust and millions of pilgrims. But beyond hardship and attrition the pilgrim experiences reward and great happiness by obeying God. A trip solely derived from love and faith. This is expressed by circling the Kaaba seven times counter clockwise: The pilgrim thereby directs his heart to God’s House. This ancient ritual reminds me of the planets of a solar system circling the sun. The wisdom behind the Hajj is obvious: Closeness to God can only be achieved by great effort. Pilgrims will confirm this statement by referring to the happiness and pleasure they felt – unlike any other thing in life – when obeying God’s will by pilgrimaging to His House.

“All opinions are that of the author and not necessarily those of the website that it is published under.”

 

1 commentaire ““Hajj – The Pilgrimage of Life” By Rukiye Hamza”

  1. Thank you to Rukiye for her concise description of the Hajj, which beautifully ties together the rituals with the intellectual and spiritual experience.

    I would like to take the opportunity to share some observations from my own performance of the Hajj (1987). Referring to Rukiye’s statement that the Hajj is a journey like no other, I agree totally. The mental and spiritual preparations are at least as important as the material ones, and in fact the latter are much more limited than those for other journeys, since one’s activities, and thus one’s needs, are very simple.

    The other way in which performing the Hajj is so special is that it is an intense personal experience for each individual. Even as the millions of pilgrims perform the same rituals in the same locations, the resonance in mind and spirit is exclusively one’s own. Even in the midst of such huge crowds, one feels that one is being looked after personally.

    Some people think that experiencing hardship in the journey to and fro, and in the performance of the rituals, is an essential part of the Hajj, and therefore it is undesirable to undertake it in comfort and convenience. My husband and I had decided, for our own reasons, to do just that, and I can testify that Allah ensured that there were trials and tribulations just the same. In fact it is these tests that serve as a tailor-made intensive course of personal education, and which are a vital part of the overall experience, ensuring that, by the grace of Allah, one grows as a Muslim and as a human being.

    During the course of the Hajj, one interacts with all sorts of people, from every station of life and from every corner of the world. In all this variety one observes the whole gamut of human personality and behaviour. Our own group, with whom we travelled and ate and slept, had a generous portion of people who were not only well-off, but were used to telling other people what to do. But the Hajj is indeed a great leveller, and it was clearly noticeable that, just like in any group of people, among them there were those who were a model of patience and kindness, and there were others who were less so.

    There are two positive memories in particular which I have carried all these years. Firstly, watching in admiration a middle aged pilgrim who was plainly not a wealthy man, and had only one leg. The other leg was represented by a very simple peg-leg (like the traditional pirates), which had been specially painted in glowing bright colours. When I saw him. He was performing the tawwaf with great fervour and considerable speed. I felt deeply ashamed of any complaints in my heart about the small difficulties I faced…

    The second was a simple but heart-warming interaction with fellow pilgrims. I was sitting next to a group of Turkish women in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, as we all waited for the ‘Asr prayer. They had noticed the Malaysian logo on my prayer-dress, and had also noticed that I did not look like a Malaysian (I am from the UK). The conversation was entirely in sign language, due to the absence of a common spoken language. One of the women pointed to the logo, then stroked her cheek and shook her head doubtfully. I replied, by stroking on my own face where a man’s moustache would be and said, “Malaysia”, earning a big smile of comprehension. She then gently touched my stomach and held up first one, then two, then three fingers, with an enquiring look on her face: how many children do you have? She also “asked” about my original family: where were they? Were they Muslims, too? Such a typically woman-to-woman conversation, but one that briefly brought us so close in sisterhood despite the fact that we were from different parts of the world.

    My most precious, and somewhat unexpected, experience during the Hajj was the first time I entered the Masjid al-Haram and set eyes on the Ka’bah. Tears suddenly streamed down my face – not tears of sorrow but tears of spiritual cleansing and an intense joy which I had never experienced before. More than two decades later our daughter went on the Hajj, and sent a whatsapp message describing exactly the same experience. Subhanallah!

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