Tuesday, 29 August 2017

If Only We Understood Hajj!

When I was very young, at the end of every Thursday I would stand with the other children at the outskirts of our village waiting for the people returning from the weekly market carrying their goods after a long day of buying and selling. Some people had profited and become joyous, whereas others had incurred loss and returned miserable.
Today, decades later, I find myself standing at the borders of the country to see the groups of pilgrims returning from their great trip. I see in their eyes the same expressions that I would see in the eyes of the people returning from the market. Some of these pilgrims rejoice at the gained pleasure and forgiveness of Allah and returning without sins just like they were the day they were born. Their food and clothes were obtained from lawfully gained property. They were patient and sought reward in their Hajj and did not indulge in sexual relations, indecent speech, wicked acts or arguing therein. They return in happiness after being hosted by Allah The Almighty as if they have heard this response of Allah to their Talbiyah (Hajj-related chant, “Your call has been heard! You are fortunate. Your provisions are lawful, your mount is lawful and your pilgrimage is free of sin and is acceptable.”Accordingly, these people are delighted with the pleasure of Allah and determined to hold fast to the light shining on their faces and to never return to their past misdeeds and sins.
On the other hand, other pilgrims return psychologically defeated. They uselessly exerted efforts and spent money because they return carrying their sins and more. They did not stop arguing, desist from immoral acts, purify their intention, make sure of lawful gain or purify their hearts from diseases. They are disenchanted because they return empty-handed. They return as if they - from among the humble crying people - heard a caller giving them a quivering announcement saying, “Your call is not accepted; nor are you welcome; your food is unlawful; your provisions are unlawful; and your pilgrimage is not free of sin and is therefore unacceptable.” Such people lose in the worldly life and the Hereafter. They have wasted their time, efforts and money. They went along with the pilgrims; yet, they were bearing grudges, rancor, racism and boasting of position, status, nationality, and so on. Then, they came back carrying the same load, boasting of what they used to boast of, insisting on committing sins, dreaming of practicing immorality again and flaunting their ability to deceive, setting up traps for others and stabbing them in the back.
If only we understood the wisdom behind HajjHajj has not been prescribed in order to make people psychologically and physically distressed through their Tawaaf(circumambulation of the Ka'bah), Sa‘y (walking between Mounts As-Safaa and Al-Marwah), casting pebbles, standing on mountains all day long, staying nights in the desert, sleeping on the sand and using the sky for cover; nor is it meant to make people arbitrarily spend their money in transportation and boarding. Rather, Hajj is a universal annual conference for all Muslims the world over that is attended by their representatives to renew the pledge and renew their belonging to this religion as well as affirm their allegiance to this location and message. They declare to themselves, to the whole world and to their fellow Muslims who did not get this opportunity, that they follow the moral and material footsteps of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) (may Allah exalt his mention). They obtain light and guidance from the original spring of light and guidance, from the cradle of the message and the Messenger. Then, they return as ambassadors to their countries and families guiding them to that light until the conference of the next year. This was the custom of the early generation who used to go for Hajj in order to learn more about Islam and renew their pledge of steadfastness to the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ). The Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) and his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, would meet delegates who gave them the oath of allegiance, discussed with them their affairs and then go back to their homes carrying the message of this religion.
Do pilgrims nowadays recognize these meanings? Do they feel that while they may be almost three million souls, they have to return after Hajj in a better and more pious state than their previous one? Do they feel that they have to hold fast to the inspired meanings, spirituality and transparency that they have experienced in their hearts? Do they realize that they have to strictly adhere to this religion and its teachings as those who have their Hajj accepted return sinless like the day of their birth? They should therefore seize the opportunity of having the sins of tens of years erased. Do they know that they are ambassadors to those who could not perform Hajj and their mission is to return to them bearing new motives and inspirations towards the true faith? Do they realize that they have to mix with people in order to correct their mistakes, remove the accumulated blackness of sins from their hearts and take their hands to the sublimity of the soul and longing for Paradise that they have tasted?
By Allah, if these meanings were understood, we would not be in this state of disunity, partisanship, racism, superficiality of thought, infirm beliefs, and so on. Year after year, Hajj after Hajj‘Umrah (minor-Hajj) after ‘Umrah, one wave of ambassadors after another... Had we understood and known and had sincere intentions, we would have been transformed and would have transformed others. We would have been influenced and would have influenced others. Unfortunately, we have become like the useless foam of a flood - the condition against which the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) warned us.
Throngs of people go to Hajj, make Tawaaf, perform Sa‘y…planes, ships, buses and cars transport people to and from the holy lands…a state of alert and readiness among security personnel in airports and bus stops…passports, visas, permissions, prohibitions, checks, letters…millions of people and millions in expenditure; but – and how painful it is - hearts are disagreeing, disputing, hard and inflexible, disunity, racism, nepotism, driving wedges between others, bearing grudges towards neighbors and colleagues! If the person is saved from these diseases, he still may be heedless of its dangers to his religion and country and does not care about the fire that approaches his home and offspring. He does not even burden himself with thinking about this tragic end.
If only our hearts would become harmonious! If only the stain over them would be removed! If only the souls would be sincere towards each other! If only intentions would become devoted only to Allah! If only we could get rid of our attachment to the worldly life and rise above our worldly thoughts! If only our efforts were exerted for Allah’s sake! If only our souls hugged and not just our bodies! If only our hearts throbbed with love!
If only we understood the lessons of Hajj!
If only we acted according to what we are certain about and asked about what we are not certain about!
Were this to happen, we would become, once again, the finest nation ever raised for humankind.

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