The Philosophy and Practical Aspect of Pilgrimage (Hajj)

By: Muhammad Kamran Rifat

There are five pillars of Islam; Uniqueness (Tauheed), Prayer, Fast, Pilgrimage (Hajj) and Alms-giving (Zakat). The first pillar is Tauheed (Uniqueness), the announcement of the Uniqueness of the Almighty and the Prophet Hood of Muhammad (PBUH). Although it is just a confirmation uttered from the tongue but you cannot get into the circle of Islam without it. This announcement is the prelude and a basic step for introducing into this particular Institution and the Class called religion Islam. Unless you stipulate, you cannot become the part and parcel of this particular Class. Because of this fact, Tauheed is an essential pillar, but you don’t have to abide by rules and regulations. Regardless of wherever in the Universe you’re, whatever your age is, what words you speak, your ethnic background or time, if you have recited Kalimaah-e-Haq (Kalimaah-e-Tayyaba), given acceptance from your tongue, you become part of the Islamic Republic.

The second pillar is Salaat (Prayer), which becomes obligatory at a certain age and level of maturity. It is a certificate of distinction. To institute Salaat, there is no compulsion of place, race and linguistic communication. Once the time of a particular prayer set in, you can institute it wherever in the universe you’re. If you’re at sea level, you must ascertain the direction of the Kaaba (Holy Temple) and offer the prayer facing the Kaaba; but in case you’re above sea level, the condition of ascertaining the direction of the Kaaba (Holly Temple) will not be binding. Once the time of prayer sets in; it has to be offered according to a predetermined method. The observation of the time of prayer is mandatory, but there is no compulsion of space or place.

In the third pillar of Islam, Al-Sawm (Fast), too, the month of fasting is predetermined along with the compulsion of the time of Sehar (keep) and Iftar (break). But other than that the geographical boundaries, race, linguistic communication, etc. are of no importance while fasting.

Zakat (Alms-giving) is compulsory once in a year as per the predetermined and specified ratio, but race and geographic boundaries are insignificant. Wherever in the world you’re, once you have wealth according to a prescribed ratio then Zakat will become obligatory on you.

All of these four pillars have their own significance, while the observation of time is compulsory in all of them except for Tauheed (Uniqueness), none of these four is bound by place.

Pilgrimage (Hajj) is the sole pillar of Islam, in which not only the time but also the place is predetermined i.e. Kaaba (Holy Temple). Hajj is the leading centralized worship amongst all and it is hard to find any other example of this kind in the whole world. The position of the Kaaba is exactly in the Centre of the Earth and just like there are no-fly zones in the capitals of the world, Holy Kaaba being the Centre is also a no-fly zone and it is not only restricted to the aeroplanes only, yet the birds cannot fly over it. While all the centres of the world require a law to declare the capital a ‘no-fly zone’, the Kaaba is a natural no-fly zone. This worship as worship cannot be performed at any other place other than the Kaaba. It is mandatory to be at that particular centralized place to perform Hajj. Just like legislators and ministers are required to be there in the capital to attend the sessions of parliament, national and provincial assemblies. You’re bound to be there in the capital if you intend to attend the particular session.

Likewise, in the annual conferences, meetings, convention, seminar, convocations and extraordinary meetings, the prerequisite is to be present in the head office (since they’re normally summoned in head offices) or any other designated space. Your presence there is a must and for any reason, you cannot justify your presence through any other medium except for your own self. The principle behind this mandatory presence at the centre is because of the significance of the worship and the sovereignty. The principle behind this is that it is more comfortable to concentrate on the job at hand and while you’re physically present, your link with the remainder of the world come to a standstill. Otherwise, you will not be able to concentrate in the manner required and there is a definite possibility of getting entangled in the chores of life. As a result concentration and devotion will shift from the focal point and the whole point of the particular activity will be lost.

The centralized location of the Kaaba is the sign of sovereignty. The observation of time is inevitably tied up with the physical presence at the Center; you cannot travel for Hajj at any time you wish so. The obligation of a centralized place has only been prescribed for Pilgrimage (Hajj). Now, you’re in the capital, you must adhere to the constitution, rules which are applicable in the centre. Whatever comes under the realm of the constitution and rule in literal terms should be accepted in its true form and spirit, you can neither slip-up in the implementation nor you can make an addition or deletion of your own. The compliance with these rules and regulations are to be observed in the same spirit and form. While instituting Salaat (prayer) you can wear clothes of any colour and any kind which fulfil the condition of the minimum clothing requirement ordained by Islam. Whether you wear jeans, trousers or shalwar kameez, whether you hang the shalwar above your ankle or in line with the ankle; these might be objectionable but will not come in the way of the acceptance of prayer. The acknowledgement of the prayer is with The True Owner alone, but it will be considered complete. While reciting Kaalimah-e-Tauheed there will be no consideration of the state of affairs, what you’re wearing, in what position you’re sitting and whether you have covered your head or not, etc. In instituting Salaat, giving Zakat or keeping fast your state of appearance is immaterial; the only thing which matters the most is their performance.

Once you have reached the focal place for performing Hajj, the laws of the centre will become applicable. To complete Hajj everyone has to observe a special pattern and it cannot be comprised on one pretext or the other. In that respect is also a decorum which must be traced; you have to embrace your body with a cloth of a specific colour and in a certain way. The mandatory colour of the cloth is white; it signifies purity as well as the uniformity and equality, which is the hallmark of a Center. Muslims from different social classes reach Makkah to perform Hajj and perhaps to remove this class barrier a cloth piece of single colour was prescribed, whether you’re rich or poor or from the middle class, once you are there in the Center everyone is the same without any distinction and prejudice. The other purpose could be the fact that white colour absorbs heat knowing the weather conditions in Makkah are demanding, so to offset that this particular colour was preferred.

The schools, colleges and universities are all centres of education. Generally in schools getting into the specific uniform is compulsory and the colours are predefined. And not just uniform the shoes and the socks you wear must be in a specific colour and form. You cannot go to school while wearing snickers or trainers unless it is a special case and the permission has already been obtained from the principal. The covering of the head is also prohibited in these institutions. The reason why there is so much emphasis on the specific dress code is the observance of uniformity, training and discipline. You must be properly dressed as per the requirement of the particular centre.

To cover your head while you’re performing Hajj is unlawful to the extent of disbelief, you must stay bareheaded till the specified period of time. Hazrat Hafiz Muhammad Iqbal (R.A) has explained it in these words, “All the symbols of pride are worn over the head, in the shape of a crown to show that you’re the king by wearing either a turban or a cap. These symbols of pride are nothing but self-created flaws of mind because people consider themselves superior and prominent from the other. Hajj is a one of a kind worship that takes place in the Center and covering of the head is prohibited so that no sign of pride can come in the way of performing this worship.”

Unfortunately, once we return after performing Hajj, we quickly forget this basic message. The moment we depart from there, after unification, we become self-righteous. Swollen with pride, we cover our head with a cap, turban or crown and proudly add ‘Haji’ to the names. In doing so, we detach ourselves from the sovereignty after establishing a connection.

In a nutshell, Hajj is the only obligatory worship which is being performed exclusively at the Center. Since the constitution of the organization is carried out in the Center, its essence and impact are far-reaching. A person will take home whatever he has learned and absorbed during his stay at the centre. Just like once we pass out of school, college or university, we take with us whatever we have learned while studying. One of the main factors which should be considered is whether a person went there to gain knowledge, to get disciplined, to get oriented and above all get an education from the heart or he was there just for the sake of it. The outcome in both the cases will be different and they both will be as different to each other as chalk and cheese in every sphere of life. The same universal theory of “as you sow, so shall you reap” applies to the Center of worship. The intention with which a person goes there is of paramount importance and a determining factor during his stay at the Center. If a person goes there just to circumambulate the Holy Temple (Kaaba) and gain some worldly desires, then he will gain the same. But on the other hand, if a person goes there to resurrect his inner as well as the outer world, he will gain it from the Center. Like all other worships, Hajj to has an inner and outer form. To recreate the outer world is definitely the base pit and build up exercise to raise the inner universe. Ironically, it is merely the outer world of the person which is visible to people and their judgments are founded on it. The internal world of the person is only restricted between him and The Almighty. When a person goes to the Central place of worship to perform Hajj with the intention of mending his outer world, if not more, then by virtue of establishing a connection with the Holy Place, the blessings and the eventual effects will lead him to achieve that. There is a definite possibility that with a little effort and urge he could also reincarnate your inner world. But in achieving all is a strenuous effort and to the extent of the outer world, the rest is nothing but Pure Blessings of The Almighty.

Sadly, we do not give any importance to this particular practice of the Center. That outer form is definitely the foundation of the Center’s constitution. If we understand and implement this message in its true form and with real spirit, the positive effects and personal gains are unimaginable.

Practical Aspect of Pilgrimage (Hajj)

“Therein are clear signs; the place where Ibraham stood and whosoever enters it, is in security. And for the sake of Allah, the people are to perform pilgrimage to this House, who could find a way thither. And who denies, and then Allah is independent of the entire world.” (3:97)

There are five conditions for Hajj:

  1. He should be an adult
  2. He should be wise
  3. He should be a Muslim
  4. He should be healthy
  5. He should have the ability (Istataa’t)

It is pretty clear from the above conditions that Hajj is obligatory for adults only who must be wise and Muslim. The next one is he should be healthy, means that Hajj is not obligatory for him, if a person does not enjoy sound health. There is no point of going for Hajj on a wheelchair. The last of the five conditions, to have the ability, is most important and will be discussed at length in the following paragraphs. The important thing to note here is that if any one of the above conditions is not met; Hajj will not become obligatory.

It is a commonly held belief that once you have a certain amount of money Hajj becomes obligatory. This idea is primarily based on the translations done of the word Istataa’t in the verse above. The translators on their part thought to extract the meaning of having possession of the worldly means from the Holy Quran’s word Istataa’t to be a lesser evil. Looking back at the history, when the Holy Quran was only available in Arabic and even in the early translations in a few hundred years ago this concept was not present as such. Why it is now? The reason could be the expenses that are now attached to performing Hajj i.e. the visa fees, airfare and other associated expenditures. But even if one considers these factors this concept lacks authenticity.

In the ancient times when people used to go for Hajj, the current modern facilities were not available to them. They would just ride on their camel or horse and move towards the destination – Mecca. If there was a group of people, then they would form a caravan. Some would travel through the sea in ships. So on and so forth. But one doesn’t get the slightest of hint that all those who went for Hajj had enough money in possession. All the sanctimonious people have considered cash and wealth filth of this world and the fact that it does not concern Almighty. Still, they have performed Hajj. So, having worldly possession does not necessarily apply to them, but yet they have performed Hajj and you feel that the word Istataa’t is more than just having money.

The most appropriate word for the Arabic word Istataa’t in English is ability. The word ability can be defined as the power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc., competence in an activity or occupation because of one’s skill, training, or other qualification: (the ability to sing well) and abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes: (Composing music is beyond his abilities). The definition of the word ability gives an idea of its vast application. Even if we consider this, one can assume that the connotations of the Arabic word Istataa’t definitely go beyond money. Also in general, we categorize people in different levels of abilities like numerical ability, cognitive ability, intellectual ability, analytical ability, reasoning ability and ability to communicate. To survive and perform in the world ideally, a person should possess at least one of them. But for Hajj, we have singled out as having the necessary amount of money without giving it a consideration that it is the word of the Holy Quran.

In our everyday life, we face the challenge of proving our ability for one thing or the other. It starts from the childhood and goes beyond adulthood – until the last breath. A child needs to show his ability to learn and memorize small things like alphabets, the names of the animals, plants and fruits. As he grows old the process remains the same but gets tougher by the day. To pass every class is the test of his intellect and while after passing school, it’s time to get admission in college and then in the university and even more stringent task to prove oneself. Most recently, I have gone through the same test while trying to get admission in a foreign university. At first, I was required to get a predetermined band in IELTS to prove the level of my proficiency in the English Language, and then I had to ensure them that I am capable enough to get admission in the University through my qualifications, personal statement and by answering some specific short questions. Even though I possessed the money to support my education and stay in the respective country, yet I had to prove myself and they judged me according to rules, process and procedure irrespective of the money I possessed. Even in the local universities in Pakistan, there are predefined processes and procedures going through, which the individual gets the admission. Even for the self-finance option, there is a merit. So, in a nutshell, the ability (Istataa’t) an individual possesses gets precedence over the money he has. And after graduating from university, he has to prove my worth by getting a job in a company and then demonstrating the same on a daily basis. It’s a never-ending phenomenon.

So, if the small worldly achievements demand the exhibition of academic and other necessary abilities without any regard of the money possessed, then how can we say that the possession of necessary money is enough for Hajj to become an obligation? It is a grave mistake, Hajj (pilgrim) is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once in a lifetime obligation and for that money cannot be the criterion. We have assumed this theory without understanding that when a person has a certain amount of money, Hajj becomes obligatory for him. The word Istataa’t (ability) which is explained by the Holy Quran has a deeper meaning than that; it is not limited to cash only. The distribution of wealth is with The True Owner and if we consider it a part of food (Rizq) then He could have mentioned the amount, just like the limits have been ascertained for Zakat. The Shariah has set aside clear perimeter for Zakat, if you have 7.5 tolas of Gold or 52.5 tolas of Silver or equivalent sum of money which remained with the individual for one year, the 2.5% Zakat will become obligatory. Similarly, the limits have been defined in numbers of animals and etc. So if Istataa’t (ability) has indeed been about money then it could have been mentioned in the Holy Quran in the manner similar to Zakat. Like Zakat, it could have been written that once you have a certain sum of money, Hajj will become obligatory for you.

If Istataa’t (ability) has anything to do with cash, then along with the word, it would have been defined in some form based on the value of money at that time. From that, we could have ascertained the applicable amount with respect to the value of money today. But no such indication is evident from Holy Quran from which it can be proven that the Istataa’t (ability) is actually to be able to afford the monetary expenses. Had it been the case, the quantity would have been predetermined in some form. The value is fixed for Zakat, the number of Rakaats for each time of prayer, for fasting the month of Ramadan is fixed. If the limits of all these can be determined, then if the term Istataa’t (ability) refers to money then the limit would have been assigned. This Istataa’t (ability) refers to the competence within a person, on the basis of which this demand is made that make an effort and have a go. Performing Hajj is an enormous physical and mental exercise and to perform in an optimum fashion the person must be able enough to live up to these. This is what the Holy Quran highlighted through the word Istataa’t and giving a message to pilgrims that need to have certain abilities before you head on to perform Hajj.

The Istataa’t (ability) has at least three compulsory acts which have been acknowledged by all the religious scholars.

  1. Put on Ihram (pilgrim garb) after reaching Meeqat
  2. To remain standing on the plain of Arafat called Waquf-e-Arafat
  3. And to perform the Tawaf-e-Ziyarat (circumambulating of Ka’bah).

These three obligatory duties are performed in the prescribed order and manner. If any of these three obligations left out, there can be no Hajj and the mistake cannot be set right even by sacrifice. They’re also part of Istataa’t (ability).

Upon reaching Meeqat, the pilgrim puts on the Ihram, two white sheets of unsewn cloth. One sheet is used for covering the lower portion of the body (from the navel downwards) and the other is to be used for covering the upper part of the body. The head remains uncovered. The size of Ihram is the same as of the death garb.

Meeqat, according to Shari’ah, is a point from where you can see Holy Kaa’ba – the distance is about 12 miles from the Masjid ul Haram. In the old days, the pilgrims used to wear Ihram after reaching there since the Holy Place was not surrounded by tall buildings. But nowadays the pilgrims wear Ihram from the home destination and land in Riyadh in Ihram.

After wearing the Ihram, the pilgrim has now formally subject to all the prohibitions and restrictions of Ihram which are as follows:

  1. Wearing sewn clothes (by males)
  2. Wearing of shoes which cover the raised bone of the feet
  3. Putting on a bandage on the head or face
  4. Covering the head or face
  5. Trimming, cutting or shaving hair
  6. Cutting of nails
  7. Using perfumed hair oil, or any kind of perfume
  8. Using abusive or foul language, or quarrelling
  9. Picking of nose and ear
  10. Hunting animals
  11. Breaking the wind
  12. Smoking

Ihram should not be considered as just a piece of cloth rather it should be looked upon as equivalent to death garb (Kafan). The Hajj cannot happen until or unless all the five conditions mentioned above and the twelve conditions of Ihram are met in letter and spirit. Just like, no matter how much steadfastness you offer a prayer, but if you have not performed ablution, wore neat and clean clothes prayer will not materialize.

Just in case, the pilgrim breaks any one of the twelve conditions after wearing Ihram, he will have to go back to Meeqat. He has to take off Ihram and changed into simple clothes, perform ablution and wear Ihram (pilgrim garb) again then walk towards the Masjid al-Haram. No matter how many times this happens, the same process will be followed that many times. To avoid any inconvenience one must comply with the conditions and standard procedure in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, the people who go for Hajj are more concerned with remembering the prayers than meeting conditions of Ihram.

Hajj is not an easy task as some might consider it to be. It is a once in a lifetime obligation and once done there is no bearing on the person to perform it once again. So, naturally, the parameters of this one-time obligation will be stringent. That is why Hajj, when performed in the approved manner, takes a lot out of the person and hence performing once is considered enough for the lifetime.

The following are undesirable acts of Ihram:

  1. Rubbing the body for removing dirt or dust
  2. Using perfumed soap for washing the body or face. Bathing with water is permitted
  3. Combing the hair, or passing fingers through the hair or scratching the head
  4. Smelling perfume or some sweet-smelling grass
  5. Using a pin or needle for holding the sheets of the Ihram
  6. Using spices in food such as cardamom, clove or cinnamon

The following are the permitted acts of Ihram:

  1. Use of toothbrush or miswak
  2. Harmful insects may be killed
  3. Halal animals, but not the hunted, may be eaten
  4. The use of blanket for covering the body, but not the head or face is allowed

A certain man came to Hazrat Junayd Baghdadi (R.A), a renowned Sufi of his time. Junayd asked him where he had been. He replied: “I have been on the pilgrimage.” Junayd asked: “From the time when you first journeyed from your home have you journeyed away from all sins?” He said, “No.”. “Then you have made no journey, ” said Junayd. “At every stage where you halted for the night did you traverse a station on the way to Allah?” He said, “No.” Junayd said, “Then you have not trodden the road stage by stage.” “When you put on the pilgrim’s garb at the proper place (Meeqat) did you discard the attributes of humanity as you cast off your ordinary clothes?” He said, “No.” “Then you have not put on the pilgrim’s garb. When you stood in Arafat did you stand one instant in contemplation of Allah?” He said, “No.” “Then you have not stood in Arafat. When you went to Muzdalifah and achieved your desire did you renounce all sensual desires?” “No.” “Then you have not gone to Muzdalifah. When you circumambulated the Temple did you behold the immaterial beauty of the Almighty in the abode of pure?” “No.” “Then you have not circumambulated the Temple. When you ran between Safah and Marwah, did you attain to the rank of the purity (safa) and virtue (murwa)?” “No.” “Then you have not run. When you came to Mina did all your wishes cease?” “No.” “Then you have not visited Mina. When you reached the slaughter place and offered sacrifice did you sacrifice the objects of sensual desire?” “No.” “Then you have not sacrificed. When you threw the stones did you throw away whatever sensual thoughts that were accompanying you?” He said, “No.” Junayed said to him, “Then you have not yet thrown the stones, and you have not yet performed the pilgrimage. Return and perform the pilgrimage in the manner which I have described in order that you may arrive at the station of Ibrahim.”

In whatever meaning this incident has been written, the stress is given on the point that you don’t just have to visit Khaana (Holy House) but contemplate the Owner of the Khaana (Holy House). You can well imagine exactly how many people really have the understanding of this. Might be one in a hundred thousand people understand this theory.

Hajj has nowadays become a ritual of hundreds of thousands people from the business point of view. The essence of Hajj is the purview of the title-holder of the Holy place, and if His purview does not take place, then no matter how many hundreds of thousands of people perform Hajj, they only circumambulate the Holy House and nothing more than that. There is no doubt that catching a glimpse of the Holy Kaaba is in itself a great achievement because the place has the symbolic representation and a sign of sovereignty. But, Hazrat Ali Hajweri (R.A) has not considered Hajj anything other than beholding the immaterial beauty of the Almighty. Therefore, as much as means has no further effect on the reality of things, the true objective of pilgrimage is not to visit the Ka’bah, but to obtain contemplation of Almighty Allah.

Summing up, the real Hajj is not of the Holy House but of the owner of the House. And when you contemplate for the Owner of the House, the Hajj will become memorable; whether you’re physically there or not. There are people who had been to Khaana-e-Kaaba first and experienced His Magnificence and there is another class of people who experienced first and then to express gratitude went for the visit to the Holy House; because of these people, everyone gets the benefit. Those who think that by performing Hajj they got some worldly gain got the wrong end of the stick and it’s a very low level of thinking. Sure, people who perform Hajj for the sake of it, do rate themselves high in terms of worldly gains, but the essence of Hajj lies in understanding the true meaning and purpose.

Muhammad bin al-Fadl says: “I wonder at those who seek His Temple in this world: why do not they seek contemplation of Him in their hearts? The Temple they sometimes attain and sometimes miss, but contemplation they might enjoy always. If they are bound to visit a stone, which is looked at only once a year, surely they are more bound to visit the Temple of the heart, where He can be seen three hundred and sixty times in a day and night.” Abu Yazid says: “On my first visit pilgrimage I saw only the Temple; the second time, I saw both the Temple and the Lord of the Temple; and the third time I saw the Lord alone.”

Pilgrimage, then, is of two kinds: (1) in the absence (from the Almighty) and (2) in the presence (of the Almighty). Anyone who is absent from Allah in Makkah is in the same position as he was absent from Allah in his own house, and anyone who is present with Allah in the same house is in the same position as if he were present with Allah in Makkah. Pilgrimage is an act of mortification (mujhadah) for the sake of obtaining contemplation (mushahadah), and mortification does not become the direct cause of contemplation but is only a means of it.

In the end, I would like to revisit the time when the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) went for Hajj along with his companions and family. The women present in the contingent was asked to stop a few miles before the Masjid al-Haram. So they all put up camps and stayed there until the men returned after performing the pilgrimage. One of them was; Her Highness (A.S), daughter of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), wife of Hazrat Ali (A.S), the mother of Imam Hassan (A.S) and Imam Hussain (A.S), and the queen of women in the heaven. It is a food for thought for the people if the person as echelon and eminent as she has not performed Hajj then one can definitely presume that Hajj is not obligatory for women. The whole of Holy Quran addresses to men and only on few countable instances of women, so are the verses regarding Hajj. If the Hajj was mandatory for women then the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would have not asked them to stay behind or could have asked one of His companions to go towards them and bring the women along with him, but He didn’t. The rest is for you to decide. The combined Hajj of men and women was only introduced in the late 1900’s to target the 51% of the world’s population – women. Saudi Arabia has gained a lot of business from the Hajj of both men and women. And the forces which act against Islam have also promoted it.

“The darkest thing in the world is the Beloved’s house without the Beloved.”

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