By Narges Moaddel
Many of us have heard the word Hajj and know that it is the fifth pillar of Islam. Ask people what kind of experience it is and you”ll hear a wide variety of responses such as spiritual, beautiful, difficult, crowded, etc. What does Hajj mean? Hajj literally means “to set out for a place” (islamicity.com). It”s a trip where one sets out do get closer to Allah.
In Hajj you”re tracing the footsteps of Abraham. The rituals in Hajj are almost entirely about the life of Ibrahim (as). In Surah As-Saffat, Allah (swt) mentions the immense sacrifices of Ibrahim (as). Verse 84 of that Surah is an encapsulation of the life of Ibrahim (as) and the Hajj experience at large. That is, to purify the heart from any worldly attachment and to fill it with love for Allah (swt). Allah (swt) also mentions the recompense of Ibrahim (as) in verse 109 and that is that for all of eternity Ibrahim (as) will be in a state of peace. This parallel to Hajj is further strengthened by the Hadith of the Prophet (s) in that the reward of an accepted Hajj is jannah.?
When a pilgrim sets out for hajj, they enter the state of Ehram. Meaning they wear the white shrouds, representing their death clothes, and abstains from many things such as putting any perfume or using scented shampoo. Men can”t wear stitched clothes. When you are becoming muhrim you are in your death bed. You put on death clothes or your kafan on. You say labayk! You are now dead!? Maryam Moaddel claims. When a hajji starts out towards the journey they keep on saying labayk? meaning they are responding to Allah”s invitation.
The first act one does when stepping into Masjid Al-Haraam is tawaaf. Tawaaf means circulating the Kaaba seven times. When performing this act, one is immersed in full tawheed. A person realizes that many times in their life they have been circulating different things, themselves, money, position, their job, etc. and with tawaaf they realize that their life needs to be circulating around their creator, Allah (swt). In that state one see”s everybody as one, with one goal, one clothing , and one Lord.
The Ka”ba itself is such a peaceful site. Many come back saying how much bigger it is in real life then what it seems from the pictures. Reciting the Quran there is highly recommended especially since it”s the location were Angel Jibrael (Gabriel) brought the revelation of the Quran. Also Masjid Al-Haram is a place of peace which nobody can even harm the insects or animals that enter. Some report how animals such as cats have came in and people just act nicely to them. Many say that you can see birds also circulating the ka”aba.
Afterwards the pilgrims head for Saei, which are the two mountains of Safa and Marwah. This is the place that Hajar, the wife of Ibrahim, went running back and forth searching for water for her son. Eventually the spring of Zamzam emerged under the feet of her son. Muslims walk between the two mountains seven times. After performing that act Muslims do taqsir, meaning that they either cut or clip off some of their nail or hair. This act can symbolizes the constant state of movement one needs in their life and how a muslim should never remain like a swamp; in other words their faith and each day of their life should be changing day by day. Maryam Moaddel recalls: You are Hajar, you are looking for your Zamzam. Your Zamzam is Allah. Thirst is getting to you. This is a different type of thirst were it hits your heart not the throat. Everywhere you look you see your Zamzam, so you go toward it but you find it only was an, image or a sign of Him. His signs are ever present were ever you look, the sky, the moon, the stars… all are signs of His presence. Finally you give up after walking 7 times back and forth. . You find that all along this ZamZam was closer to you then your jugular vain. Howa Makom Aynama kontaom. He is with you, wherever you are. You find that He was close to you and you were far from Him. You had to shorten this distance with your sayih. Finally you reach Him, the only one that can make you happy, the one that can help you the most, the one that you can trust the most.?
The parts mentioned previously are the parts a person performs if they are performing Hajj Umrah. If one sets off for Hajj Wajib, after these parts they also go to Muzdalafeh, Arafaat, and Mina. The Hajjis head for Arafaat, which is on the bottom of Mount Arafaat. In Muzdalafeh based on the sect you follow you stay a certain portion of the night.
There are no tents or shade so it is a barren ground filled with hajjis. Then the hajjis head for Mina, which they stay for three days and do the jamarat. In Jamarat hajjis hit 7 stones at each pole, which are the places where Satan appeared to Ibrahim and tried to deceive him.
Despite all this spirituality Hajj has many other angles. People come back with suitcases full of things they have bought. Once a person steps out of the Mosque there are stores and people on the sidewalk selling things. There are many American chain stores such as KFC and Baskin Robins found there. Many talk is amongst people about where and what price to buy different things.
Hajj has moments filled with hunger, exhaustion and frustration. Madji mentions how for a whole day all they ate was a banana and cookies. She says: We were hungry, tired, and frustrated and I kept on thinking were is the tafakur in hajj. I”m suppose to think about creator the creator and not about these materialistic things. Then little did I know that the lesson was in that. ?The hardship of physically carrying your body to do all the rituals and also bear with the dirtiness, sleepless condition, and food is part of the whole test in hajj.
It is from the Prophets sunnah to visit the city of Madina before or after hajj. Madina has a very different atmosphere. As much as Mecca is rocky and crowded, Madina is very flat and calm. It has a very peaceful atmosphere. The shrine of Prophet Muhammad shines from far away with its green tomb. The women and men taste different experiences. Women are only allowed to the main part of the shrine certain hours a day and are categorized per country for going in. As Madji mentions: After they announced that women can go in, they said we won”t let you in until you get into groups so they had around two dozens signs and they had people divided based on nationality and who goes on. That was disrespectful. First of all not all countries were represented such as Senegal and America. I asked them where is the group for America, they responded “oh no”, and they are always nicer to you if they knew you are from America. I can”t believe they divided you based on nationality. Also the amount that people were rude was insane. Its not about the destination, its about the journey and I thought maybe if you keep your akhlaq is better than getting closer to the shrine and shoving people.
Is Hajj really the utopia and place of ultimate beauty and seeking Allah? A person is required to do Hajj once in their lifetime. Allah commands the believers to to pray 5 times a day and each prayer has a particular effect for that amount of time until the next prayer time comes in. However with Hajj, the journey generally occurs once in a believer”s lifetime. Therefore, it is up to the believer to capitalize -to the highest capacity- on all the wonders and blessings that exist in Hajj. Thus the dimensions of serenity in Hajj are heightened relative to one”s heart. ¢