Hajj the Fifth Pillar of Islam: Will You be able to go on the Journey of a Lifetime?

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    Before the pandemic, more than twenty thousand people from the UK used to perform the Hajj. However, last year the number dropped to less than four thousand due to the soaring cost, on average £10’000 per person. Making it prohibitive for working-class Muslims. However, the devout, the pious and the lovers of the Divine will not renegade this duty. Here I explore the spiritual benefits of this life-changing journey.

    “Follow the religion of Ibrahim, a man of firm faith, he was not a materialist idolater. He founded the first house of worship for people in Makkah, full of blessings and guidance for all people; inside it are clear signs, including the station of Ibrahim, and whoever enters it will be safe. People owe Allah a duty of pilgrimage to the Ancient House, whoever can make the journey, but anyone who denies this duty should know that Allah is Self-sufficient, independent of all the creation” (Ale-Imran:95-97).

    The Majestic Quran stresses the obligation of pilgrimage by saying it is a Divine right that people owe the Lord. Furthermore, pronouncing disbelief of those who deny the pilgrimage, and closing this directive with Istighna, an expression of Divine pride, Allah doesn’t need you if you don’t fulfil this duty. The Messenger (peace be upon him) also expressed its importance when he said, “anyone who can afford to go to Hajj but doesn’t let him die as a Jew or Christian.”

    The rituals of Hajj are an ancient form of worship, thus taking us back to our roots. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The walk between Safa and Marwa, the circling of the Kabah, and the throwing the pebbles at the Shaytan is a remembrance of Allah.”

    Recognising and acknowledging the sacred sites of Makkah

    Historically the Arabs have respected the Kabah and Masjid Al-Haram. Therefore, Makkah has been a safe city, free from wars, invasions, and civil strife, which are its unique features. When he was emigrating the blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) praised this city with tearful eyes saying “Makkah you are the best place on earth and dearest to Allah, if I weren’t expelled by its citizens, I would never have left you” (Ibn Majah).

    The Kabah – a tall awesome cube, draped in a spectacular black cloth is a tangible symbol of the existence of the Almighty Lord. It represents His glory and grandness. Scholars say that the Kabah is the earthly representation of the celestial Kabah in the heavens, which is continuously circled by angels. The main objective of Hajj is to be focused on the Divine presence, Zikr, the continual reciting of the name of Allah. So, the pilgrims’ famous chorus, they begin to sing the Talbiyah, “Lord I am here, I am here, you have no partner, I am here, all praise, goodness and kingdom is yours you have no partner”. In every place and always during the Hajj this chorus is chanted. This continuous chanting helps to focus the minds on Allah, our Lord. It helps to negate all idols we may have in our hearts and minds, our desires and worldly wishes.

    Hajj is about spiritual realisation, Divine love and giving up the egotistical and troublesome ‘I’. It is this selfishness that makes the self-indulging personality. No wonder it is neglectful of the Creator and unwilling to obey Allah. Spiritual cleansing cannot be achieved without giving it up. To neutralise ourselves and overcome the destructive word ‘I’ the pilgrim wears the Ihram, the unsewn simple white uniform.

    Sitting near the Kabah was an awesome experience. I was mesmerised by the black-robed cube. All around people were gazing at the Kabah with tearful eyes, crying and sobbing. I too would be moved and pray, “Lord, help me to improve my manners, morals and social relationships and grant me spiritual attainment.” Sometimes from the first floor leaning against the railings overlooking the Kabah, I saw young men pushing wheelchairs with old frail mothers or old men being helped to fulfil their destinies, sometimes by their wives or sons. It was a moving experience to watch a mother pushing her disabled child. How sincere would her pleas be to the Almighty, what great expectations she had for her beloved child.

    The after-effects of Hajj and the lessons learnt

    Hajj is an expensive journey, costing nearly ten thousand pounds these days. The most expensive of devotions. No wonder it is referred to as ‘a life-changing experience’, ‘a journey of a lifetime’ and ‘one returns home as pure and free of sins like the newborn’. Living in a spiritually charged place for 20 odd days is going to have a long-lasting impact. The change I noticed in myself after Hajj was that I preferred to spend more time on Quranic recitation, Salah, Zikr and reflections. I had more time and energy to do these things whereas before Hajj, I had to exert a lot of effort for these activities. Another change is that I became more self-critical, and could see my shortcomings like selfishness, snapping and judging others. I seek Allah’s help to be more tender, loving and caring towards everyone (Ameen)!

    A testament to spiritual unity and the dissolution of racial barriers

    Finally, this reminded me of the Hajj experience of Malcolm X, he wrote a letter to his friend from Makkah, dated April 25 1964, where he said, “During the past seven days of this holy pilgrimage, while undergoing the rituals of the Hajj, I have eaten from the same plate, drank from the same glass, slept on the same bed or rug, while praying to the same God—not only with some of this earth’s most powerful kings, cabinet members, potentates and other forms of political and religious rulers —but also with fellow‐Muslims whose skin was the whitest of white, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, and whose hair was the blondest of blond…”

    He goes on to say: “Their belief in the Oneness of God has actually made them so different from American whites, their outer physical characteristics played no part at all in my mind during all my close associations with them.” Malcolm X’s transformative experience during his Hajj offers a profound lesson on the power of spiritual unity and the dismantling of racial and ethnic barriers. In his account, the Hajj serves as a vivid demonstration of Islam’s ability to transcend racial divisions and foster a genuine sense of equality among its adherents.