Islam is the most organized of all practicing religions in the world. In every aspect of life, Islam is more social than individual. Muslims all over the world assemble in their local mosques five times a day then they attend every Friday in a much larger gathering for Juma. Every year they all observe one month fasting together. While they give Zakat (the right of the needy in the surplus income of the rich) they give it in a collective way. Every year they do have a world conference in terms of Hajj in which almost three million representatives from every nook and corner of the world attend. Islam’s two festivals come after Fasting and Hajj both of which are mental as well as physical struggle. Eid is a kind of spiritual as well as physical feast after fasting, patience and perseverance. Or in another words, it can be said a kind of crown after undergoing through the strenuous struggle. In this article, I would like to share some ideas with the readers about Hajj which yields the pilgrims some unique experiences, imparts with them distinct ethos in their life, instills piety in them and causes to sprout in their minds some distinct thoughts as well.
Hajj, though an annual universal conference of Muslims, is also a unique observation of symbols, which cements the concept of unconditional obedience to the will of Almighty. Hajj sprouts and grows from the seeds and roots of human history. As per Glorious Quran, the cubic structure, Kaaba, in Mecca is the first House built of Worship appointed for humankind. (3:96). When the pilgrims go to Mecca they are returning to their roots and their past. See what the Glorious Quran says in this regard: “Remember when we made the House (the Ka’aaba at Mecca) a place to return for mankind and a place of Safety” (2:125). The glorious Quran says while dealing with the ritual of Arafa: “Then you flow from the place where humanity started to flow out” (2:199). Again it depicts Mecca as “Mother of all towns” which clearly denotes the seed of human civilization was sowed in Mecca and it sprouted there itself. Secondly, all Quranic references regarding Mecca, Kaaba and Hajj address the humanity as a whole just like it says about the ideology of Islam, its followers, the Islamic community, its inexhaustible guiding Book, the Glorious Quran and its ever illuminating model and inspirational force the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) are for humanity. Please look into the following Quranic verses, which clearly show how Islam is building its humanitarian concept from everything related to it including Kaaba, Mecca and Hajj.
Quran for Mankind:
“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion between right and wrong” (2:185).
Prophet for Mankind:
“We have sent you O Muhammad not but as a mercy for mankind.”
The Muslims as an individual, society and nation for humankind:
“Thus We have made you Muslims a just nation that you be witness over mankind” (2:143).
“You are the best of people ever raised up for mankind” (3:110).
Hajj & Mankind:
“And proclaim to mankind the Hajj” (22:30).
“And Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah” (3:97).
Kaaba for humankind:
“Verily the first House of worship appointed for mankind was that at Mecca, a full of blessing and a guidance for the mankind” (3:96). The House of Lord is built for the people. When you go there as guests of Allah seeking Him, the host of the House, what you end up with is living in an ocean of the people, with them, for them and among them.
Allah has made the Kaaba, the Sacred House, an asylum of security for mankind” (5L97).
And remember when we made the House (the Kaaba at Makka) a place of central resort for mankind and a place of safety” ( 2: 125).
Eid Day, A declaration from Allah and His messenger for Mankind:
And a declaration from Allah and His messenger to mankind on the greatest day (The Eid Day on Dul Hajj 10)” (9:3).
When we go for Hajj, we fulfill and realize the true spirit of Islamic humanism mentioned in the above verses in its fullest sense and spirit. We go to Mecca as guest of God seeking God. What we do see in hajj is an ocean of human beings. Just like mentioned in a Hadeeth Qudsi, this also denotes a fact that in order to reach Allah, we need to work among the people, for the people and with the people sharing their sweat and soil, pain and grief. In addition to that, when we look back into the past without stopping our movement to the future and only to guide us into future like we do in Hajj, we become aware of the fact where from we are coming and to where we are heading towards.
Hajj gives us a true picture of process of growth as a human being both in culture and civilization. While pilgrims enter into Ihram, they do feel as if they are in the state of an embryo to be born as a revolutionary. What a revolutionary does need is the will power to do what is difficult and power to resist the temptation. Ihram does impart it with the pilgrims in abundance. The will power that will not be and should not be hijacked by ego and arrogance. Sure, Tawaf, Sa'y, Slaughtering and even saluting the Black stone represent symbols. Other than what have been mentioned about all these, I would like to walk through the un-trodden path of this great pilgrimage. Sure, in Tawaf we are trying to be in communion with the whole universe. The anti-clock wise circumbulation around the nucleus is what we observe in the atom as well as in spheres and planets. When Pilgrims do Tawaf around Kaaba, the pilgrims symbolically takes a pledge to lead a life that is in communion with the mainstream of the universe. The fact that pilgrims do Tawaf in the beginning, middle and end of Hajj means that the communion with the mainstream of universe is to be maintained throughout the life of human being in this world.
Development of Human Being in Hajj
In the preceding paras, I have told epicenter of Hajj is human being. Its origin and growth was from the seed, roots and stalk of human history. It gives us a true picture of the process of growth as a human being both in culture and civilization. Hajj starts with the development of will power through Ihram which does not and should not dwindle into ego and arrogance. Tawaf in the beginning, middle and end of Hajj teaches the pilgrims about the need of maintaining communion with the main stream of the universe throughout the human life on this planet.
Sa’y in Hajj symbolizes perseverance that we need to pay to acquire what we are lacking for the dignified existence of our life. No excuse of helplessness or dereliction is acceptable in this regard. If anybody was worth to be given excuse, it was Hajara, the second wife of Prophet Abraham. She represents the downtrodden class of the world since she, before her marriage to Abraham, was a housemaid of Sara, Abraham’s first wife. She represents the then weaker class of the world since she was a woman. She was made even more helpless when she was left alone in the heart of the barren desert in Mecca with her only child Ishmael. Still she was not sitting idle. She was a kind of an optimistic person who found opportunities in every difficulty. She refused to withdraw into the shell of helplessness and dereliction by seeking excuses which were apparently immense as far as she was concerned. She understood that even if it was Prophet Abraham who had left her alone in the barren desert of Mecca and even if it was as per the Divine instruction, she had to pay her perseverance. She didn’t want to leave the things for destiny by taking refuge into mere prayers devoid of action. Prayer without action required is futile from Islamic viewpoint. She ran seven times between the mountains of Safa and Marwa yelling and shouting in search of water. She was striving alone to acquire what she did not have for sustaining the spirit of life. Her prayers were supported with prior perseverance. Combination of perseverance with prayers, and not mere prayers without perseverance and nor perseverance without prayers, did miracle of Zamzam.
If Hajara cannot sit idle in her apparently helpless loneliness, how can 1.5 billion Muslims with their huge population, vast lands, immense resources and power can pretend to be helpless. If Muslims strive to optimize their resources paying enough perseverance and combining it with deep and sincere prayers, it will be capable of doing thousands of modern day Zamzam miracles in this world. Then, Hajj says us about the importance of Knowledge through Arafa. The pilgrims acquire knowledge from Arafa (Arafa means knew and it was the name of the place even before coming of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Arafa is the place where time stands still. It represents the past, the present and the future. Its past goes up to the meeting between Adam who had descended in Indian Subcontinent (There is a mountain of Adam in Sri Lanka) and Eve who had descended in Hejaz. The word “arafaa” means those two met and knew each other which really connotes the meeting between Adam and Eve. So, in this process of knowledge, we come to know about our roots that reach to Adam and Eve. Arafa in Hajj is the cross section of the present day world and from there we come to know the contemporary world, its problem and the solutions that it seeks. Arafa is the symbol of the great assembly of humanity (mahshara) after the Day of Doom. So, it extends to the infinite future. Prophet told: Arafa is Hajj and his saying denotes the importance Of knowledge as well.
But, knowledge itself is not enough or sufficient. Everybody knows that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Still, they smoke because of the lack of awareness. It is not the lack of knowledge, but lack of wisdom that has caused immense and intrinsicate problems for humanity. We had Hiroshima and Nagasaki not because of lack of knowledge, but because of lack of wisdom. Wisdom springs and sprouts from the sacred awareness (Masharul Haram in Quranic tongue). Yes, this includes awareness about the place and time also. Knowledge devoid of wisdom is too precarious and dangerous. So, knowledge is to be uplifted to the level of the sacred awareness. This includes awareness about time and place where knowledge is to be pressed into service. Masharul Haram or the place of sacred stream of consciousness has another name Muzdalifa. It means the place bringing closer to something else. Yes, awareness brings the knowledge closer to action. So, the pilgrims are asked to move from Arafa (the place of knowledge) to masharul haram (the place of sacred awareness) where they are asked to stay and meditate in the thickest of the darkness under the roof of the sky leading the life of people of slums.
The process of growth is not to be halted. There is no use only with knowledge and awareness. This has to be translated into action. Otherwise, there is no point in staying previous night in Muzdalifa. Actions purify both your knowledge and awareness. This was what Hajera also had done. So, the pilgrims are asked to move from Masharul haram to Muna. Before moving to Muna, they had come to Muna on 8th of Dul Hajj to set their goal and to map the place. Nothing can be realized without having a vision and goal. After setting their goal, pilgrims are asked to be pre-equipped well with arms from the sacred place of stream of consciousness itself since Muna is the place where pilgrims translate their wishes into actions. For action, you need to be equipped with the tools. Muna is the place where pilgrims translate their intentions into efforts. It is the place where they translate their awareness into perseverance. It is the place where their minds and souls are converted into bodies. It is the prelude of another incessant process of continuous work. That is why pilgrims are asked to stay there for three days which itself is the symbol of incessant continuity.
Muna is the realm where pilgrims struggle, strive and thrive. Their aspiration is to surrender their will to the will of God using the freedom given to them. As a symbol of it and in commemoration of what prophet Abraham had done while he showed his readiness to slaughter his only son Ishmael as per the command of God, pilgrims and the Muslims all over the world do sacrifice. When pilgrims sacrifice, all the universe dwindle into nothingness in their hearts and minds. Their souls become broad and wide as universe. They consider everything silly in front of Allah which is meant by Takbeer Allahu Akbar. They understand from God’s commandment to Prophet Abraham to Slaughter his only son, irrespective of whatever the world may say, the right and authority to command is for Allah. Once they are convinced that the commandment is from God, they have to obey and oblige whether they like it or not.
Devils may try to tempt to violate and deviate from this path of total submission. Pilgrims have to stone him at any cost. That is what pilgrims do in Muna of Hajj also. First, they face the most monstrous of all devils. When they stone they defeat him and stay vigilant since the devils may come back more powerfully in different attires with different features. That’s why on second and Third day, they do stone all devils from small to the biggest. This is what history teaches pilgrims also. History is full of revolutions which were hijacked by the enemies themselves. So, pilgrims have to be vigilant of the enemies and devils since Satan also is a great strategist and protagonist. Here, the pilgrims are asked to translate the historical awareness they had acquired from Arafa and Masharul haram into action. They have to be vigilant and diligent. Second day also they defeat the satan. Still they are not supposed to be idle since an idle person’s heart is the workshop of satan. Be careful of the enemies. Take whatever pre-cautionary measures that are required. Don’t leave anything for assumptions. Don’t put your security on the shoulders of your enemies. On the third day also pilgrims are stoning all types of devils and Satans. This could be their own ego also which was the prime reason for the fall of Iblees/Lucifer as per the Glorious Quran. Prophet taught us that we wouldn’t be able to enter into paradise with an iota of ego for which Iblees/Lucifer was ousted from the paradise. Through this continuous stoning, all the pilgrims proclaim that their duty while they return to their homeland is to dedicate and devote themselves for the cause of Islam sacrificing everything including their ego and arrogance and to continue the struggle by stoning all the forces of Satan standing on the way and tempting them to deviate. At this time, the pilgrims reach maturity in their life and are turned into revolutionaries. So, hajj as a whole is a symbolic process of the positive and the constructive change that we undergo in our own life itself.