Editor’s Note: This essay is part of Altmuslim’s Hajj 2015 reflection series.
By Wadud Hassan
By the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), my family and I were fortunate to perform our Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah last year. We had a very pleasant journey and a great experience to remember for the rest of our lives. When I started writing about my experience, I realized that much of my feelings about Hajj are difficult to express and perhaps can only be duly expressed by an accomplished orator or writer. The following paragraphs are just a mere attempt to share a few select thoughts.
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ جَآؤُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُواْ اللّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُواْ اللّهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا
“[…] And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (Qur’an 4:64)”
This verse is very dear to me and talks about Allah’s assurance of forgiveness for those that would visit the Prophet (peace be upon him) and repent to Allah. On our Hajj journey, we visited Madinah first. Though we cannot directly talk to the Prophet and ask him to pray for our forgiveness, it was the tradition of our pious predecessors to quote this verse and ask for Allah’s forgiveness when they visited the Prophet Masjid and his tomb in Madinah and conveyed their salaam (greetings of peace) to him. It was an amazing feeling to go the Prophet’s Masjid, reflect on the sacrifices made by the Prophet, his family and companions in order to establish and spread the religion of peace
And then you feel remorse about how we have fallen short in following the example of the Prophet in our daily lives.
But then you approach his tomb in Madinah after entering his masjid. You try to relate to the feelings of those who were fortunate to visit the Prophet when he was alive, and you feel the anticipation of entering the Masjid and greeting the Prophet at his tomb when the green dome comes in sight. Remembering the hadith (record of the words or actions of the Prophet) — that when you convey your salaam to the Prophet at his grave, he responds to you — can be very heart wrenching. You look around to see the expressions on people’s faces, and the tears of love and attachment to the Prophet are ever visible.
What an amazing sensation to pray at the Masjid of the Prophet in the presence of all the memories of the Prophet. The days in Madinah; visiting the graves of the Prophet, Abu Bakr, and Umar radi allahu `anhum (may God have mercy on them); visiting Jannat-ul-Baqi where more than 10,000 companions are resting; praying in Riyadh ul Jannah, or the portion of the Prophet’s mosque he designated as part of Jannah (Paradise); visiting the gate through which the angel Jibril `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) used to come to visit the Prophet; the pillars where the Prophet used to pray, give sermons from and meet delegations; walking in the streets of Madinah; even merely shopping in the markets in Madinah is full of thoughts of the time of the Prophet and feelings of peace in the blessed city.
Parting Madinah reminds me one of those stories that relate to us how the Companions used to feel upon leaving the company of the Prophet. The story of Muadh ibn Jabal (ra) as he was deputed to Yemen comes to mind when he kept looking back to see the face of the beloved Prophet and kept crying, thinking that he may never see the Prophet again. But he knew that his journey forward was for the sake of Allah,s pleasure, like the haajis (pilgrims) who were departing Madinah to go towards Makkah as the days of Hajj drew near.
From Madinah to Makkah
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds. (Qur’an 3:96)”
You can feel the sacredness and might of the city of Makkah as you get close to Masjid ul Haram and visit the Ka’ba. You are reminded of the greatness of Allah as the pilgrims walk into the Masjid, fearing their Lord, remembering their shortcomings, realizing that it is not due to their personal merit but rather the mercy of Allah (swt) that they are now the honored guests of the Ka’ba. They hope for Allah’s forgiveness and blessings while walking slowly until they have a full sight of the Ka’ba. Tears trickle down the faces of the pilgrims, some fall in sujud (prostration) and others cry profusely at their first sight of the Ka’ba – some not even remembering what they were suppose to pray for at their first sight of the Ka’ba.“Rabbana a`tina fee dunya hasana, wa fel akhirati hasana, waqina `adhaban naar. Our Lord! Grant us all the good of this word, and that of the hereafter and save us from the fire,” chant the pilgrims while walking around the Ka’ba to complete the seven circles of their tawaf (ritual rotation around the Ka’ba).
This is it—this is the courtyard of the Divine Master and the Creator of the universe, where the wishes of the pilgrims are granted. The desperation is felt as people cling to the walls of the Ka’ba and shed their tears asking Allah (swt)’s favors. While I did my tawaf, I realized how symbolic this particular act of worship is: our whole life and everything that we do should revolve around Allah (swt) and what is pleasing to him. The symbolism of running between Safa and Marwa is that you run to Allah (swt) and ask Allah (swt) for all your needs as we remember the divine intervention of the well of Zamzam after the mother Hajar (as) desperately ran back and forth between these hills.
The constant movements of the haajis from one place to another, the tawaf around the Ka’ba, the sa’ee (ritual running or walking) between Safa and Marwa, the walk to go pelt the jamaraat (the three stone pillars representing Satan) all teach us that a Muslim needs to be physically fit and active to fulfill the obligations of his deen (religion). One has to find spirituality and moments of reflection while continuously being on the move during Hajj. This was an important reminder for me, and I am sure for many others, to stay active in good deeds, in going to the Masjid, in serving others and in engaging in activities that keep one physically fit.
From Makkah to Mina and Beyond
فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُم مِّنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ عِندَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ وَإِن كُنتُم مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّآلِّينَ
“[…] But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al-Mashar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray. (Qur’an 2:198)
The journey from Makkah to Mina, then Mina to Arafat, Arafat to Muzdalifa, Muzdalifa to Mina and finally Mina back to Makkah reminds me of how Allah wants us to search for Him and His bounties like a desperate traveler who has forgotten all about adorning himself in the state of ihram (cleanliness), refusing even to comb his hair or apply perfume and avoiding all vain talk in order to only be engaged in searching for and building a relationship with God.
فَلاَ رَفَثَ وَلاَ فُسُوقَ وَلاَ جِدَالَ فِي الْحَجِّ وَمَا تَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ يَعْلَمْهُ اللّهُ وَتَزَوَّدُواْ فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُونِ يَا أُوْلِي الأَلْبَاب
“[…] there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding. (Qur’an 2:197)”
Finally, one of the major lessons of Hajj I personally connect with is how Allah wants us to get out of our comfort zone while seeking His pleasure. Though it is very pleasurable to be making your salat (prayers) in the Holy mosques listening to beautiful recitations, that is not enough to perform your Hajj. You still have to toil in the streets and tents of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa to fulfill the obligations of Hajj.
In our daily life, there are acts of worship that we can do in our comfortable surroundings. At times, however, we have to leave that in search of more meaningful worship, seeking knowledge, preaching our religion or in the service of mankind. When you do step out of your comfort zone — like one does in Hajj, traveling in ihram like any other person and out on the streets with thousands of other pilgrims all around you — you have to completely rely on Allah for His help, guidance and protection.
And, that is what Allah refers to in the above verse. Though a haaji is encouraged and rewarded for taking provisions for his journey, “Wa tazawwadu fa inna khairaz zaadit taqwa. Verily, the best of provisions is God-consciousness.”
I hope and pray that Allah accepts the hajj from all those who performed it in the past and are chosen to perform it this year and in the future. May He, out of his enabling grace, make it easy for every Muslim to fulfill this sacred obligation and live its lessons until he meets his Maker.
Wadud Hassan is the Secondary School and Special Programs Manager at Furqaan Academy Collin County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this essay originally appeared here.