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The Blessings of Hajj
Dr Rizwan Haider


Hajj, unlike all other religious practices, carries the potential of complete spiritual transformation for anyone. One comes across many living examples of this transformation phenomenon. Sometimes it happens almost accidentally as one is overawed by the sheer grandeur of the place and this, in itself is no small blessing. But if one actually knows the rules of the game before embarking upon this expedition it is almost certain that one will achieve all what the occasion is basically meant for. It brings one so close to the Creator that confusions cease to exist and fallacies in one's attitude begin to surface, one after the other, giving one an opportunity of rectification before it is all over. The rituals of Hajj continually remind him of his Lord, and His doctrines, until he, through a process of gradual self-resurrection, finds himself at a very high moral conduct. This is precisely what the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

Abū Hurayrah narrates: If someone performs Hajj during which he abstained completely from lewd talk and did not indulge into any act of disobedience of Allah, he will be rid of all his sins and become as pure as he was on the day he was born. (Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Hajj)

A second ‘Umrah will nullify all the sins committed since the first one and for Hajj-i-Mabrūr (a Hajj completely unadulterated by acts of disobedience) the reward is none other than the Paradise itself. (Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Hajj)

Hajj primarily is an attempt by a pilgrim to revitalize the contract the he carries with his Creator. As we so often witness in our daily lives, the bustling world and our feeble spirits both tend to rust this contract but occasionally some incident, usually catastrophic, sends back a harsh reminder and one is compelled to wake up from sleep. Ashamed though, one kneels before the Lord, surrenders everything, makes plain and simple confessions, regrets and begs for pardon. This is the time of renewal of the contract, a blessing not offered to all. But quite uniquely, Hajj is one occasion where one gears up for this renewal on one's own motivation, not under the influence of a calamity. The mere will to undertake the journey reflects a person’s earnest desire to seek his Lord’s attention and pleasure, and if He responds by offering him an invitation, this in itself is half acceptance. One presents one's self in His court as a hapless runaway who has finally realized that his distance from the Master was ever decreasing even though he was running in the opposite direction. He is thoroughly aware of his deeds and is desperate to tender an unconditional apology before it is too late. He now knows that without Allah on his side, he will be doomed and to avert that disaster of the Final Day he is there to renew the forgotten contract.

When he actually gets there and touches or raises his hand towards the Hajr-i-Aswad in pursuance of the Sunnah he should realize that his hand is actually extended to hold that of God's, like we all do to make a solemn pledge. This would mean that this is no ordinary promise, and needs to be kept in spite of all worldly resistance. The demands may be unbelievably daunting but fear of Almighty's displeasure will serve as a just companion. Preferences will have to be reset and “my own wish and my own choice” will have to make way for God's pleasure and His commandments. The lighthouse in this context is the unassailable standard set by Abraham (sws) when he offered his only son for sacrifice in the name of Allah on the faintest of indications. And one can only realize the magnitude of Abraham’s devotion if one is blessed with children, not to speak of a son who was granted in old age through earnest prayers. The gesture was superhuman yet from a frail human, and must have been one of the bases of Lord’s statement to the angels “I know what you do not” when they had objected to man's creation. The gesture was so highly appreciated by God that He labeled Abraham “The Muslim” and rewarded him with a chain of Prophets in his generations who would continue to practice his sacrifice though symbolically. Muslims, hence, have been directed to revive this tradition every year as long as the world lives. They do it by sacrificing animals on the occasion of Hajj after returning from ‘Arafāt. Those who can not make it to this place symbolize the act by sacrificing animals wherever they are. This on the one hand reminds them of the philosophy of “absolute surrender” and on the other their will to get to Makkah to achieve it in the most ideal way. Not to be overlooked, however, is the fact that the essence of animal slaughter is presenting one's own self for sacrifice in the name of Allah which He, very graciously, has eased for His people. We can, indeed, never match this with any act of gratitude. He created animals to serve the human race but their sacrifice for this cause, no doubt, is the best service that they can offer to mankind.

It is not uncommon to come across people who regard animal sacrifice in general, and during Hajj in particular, as an unproductive exercise. They have various objections to this and are not short of logic apparently. But what they tend to overlook is their vulnerability to mundane economics; they simply underestimate the treasure of spiritual escalation that an individual goes through during such a gesture, just as cuddling a child all night long does not cost money but it leaves indelible imprints of affection on the little one's mind and hence generates a bond between two souls that no amount of money could.

One extremely moving experience during Hajj is the sense of unity and affection that one develops with fellow Muslims from all over the world. They, in spite of their diversities in language, dress, culture and even religious matters share the same motivation, circumambulating the House of their Lord, wearing the same apparel, chanting the same slogan (Labbayk, Allāhumma Labbayk) and above all, sharing a common goal: their Lord's pleasure. Differences are forgotten and brotherhood reigns. Rights are surrendered but duties performed and those too with a feeling of gratitude --. Some very simple results of what Islam can do if practiced.


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