Haj is a blessed pillar from among the noble pillars of Islam. Allah honored a specific place on Earth by choosing it for His special blessings and ordered His House to be built there. To the naked eye this place in Makkah in Arabia is just a cube of rock and stone, but is the focal point for Allah’s special tajalliyat (blessings and mercy). The important concentration and descent of Allah’s blessings on this place is what earn it the name Bait Ullah, the House of Allah.
All mankind is commanded to face this location in prayer to Allah. Every believer is attracted to this place because it is an absorption point for Allah’s love and blessings. People from all walks of life come here for homage out of love because Bait Ullah is a magnet for people’s hearts. The poorest of the poor who do not have enough to eat or to clothe themselves will surely have a desire to see the House of Allah.
This is a fascinating attraction that is not limited to the rich but applies to all people, regardless of whether they have the means or not. This attraction does not fade when someone just reaches the Haram (the Grand Mosque) but gets stronger until it pulls people to the Kaaba itself so that they hug its draped cloth just like iron hugs its magnet.
Muslims ready themselves and are pulled to this House from all corners of the globe in their intense love for Allah, and this is why Hajj is a journey not of obligation but of love. These are fortunate people who have been allowed to come to Bait Ullah after countless days and nights of prayer and supplication. All the lovers of Allah converge upon His House for the blessed pilgrimage in the first days of Zulhijja.
A Journey of trial
Haj is not a luxury tour or vacation, and Allah has made hardship a necessary factor in Haj. Those who depart with the mindset that Haj is supposed to be easy get impatient and start complaining at the slightest inconvenience. Hence pilgrims need to begin their journey with the knowledge and intention that Haj is a journey of trials and not one of luxury. We are lovers and not the beloved but yet we expect our every need to be catered to just like we were the beloved. This is a journey only for lovers, and whoever wants to travel as if he is the beloved will find that he will never get the opportunity for this grand journey.
Remember the difficulties of Haj journey before a few decades:
Hadrat Ghulam Habib R.A. used to say that (a few decades back) he and the pilgrims would depart for Haj by ship and reach Arabia after a grueling month’s journey. Once reaching Jeddah the ship would remain at port for three days while immigration and immunization status would be verified. Today this same process does not even take a full three hours let alone three days.
Advances in technology such as the aircraft have nullified the trials and tribulations that existed in those times and made travel easy for us but people still complain. Today the luxury exists for us to complete the entire Haj trip in twenty days or less. The pilgrim should not be desirous of hardship but nevertheless be steadfast and prepared for it.
Correcting our Outlook
The lifestyle that we have become accustomed to has spoiled us and we except a limousine to be waiting at the airport to whisk us away and drop us right outside the Haram. There is a system to everything that we must realize and we must be prepared to allow it to run its own course. We need to realize that we are servants whom the Master is allowing to come visit His House and not the other way around.
Presidents and kings of this worthless and temporary world make their visitors wait for hours without explanation and we expect the Master of the universe to cater to our every need. To be allowed to come to Haj is indeed a blessing for which we should be ready to bear double if not triple the usual burden.
Haj is a journey and act of worship and there is always trial in worship no matter what form. If people desire luxury and comfort they are welcome to stay in their beds because no one is forcing them to go to Haj. However, people must be prepared for hardship if they have already taken the first steps toward anything.
Pilgrims must make sure that they are never verbally critical of anything on this sacred journey and keep our complaining tongue in check for the few days that we are at Haj. Wherever there is great benefit there will undoubtedly be shortcomings of many kinds because Haj demands a monumental task of preparation in every field from transportation to sleeping arrangements for the pilgrims.
Purpose of Haj
We need to keep focused on the purpose of this sacred journey and consider every shortcoming and trial as a blessing for us. Allah is allowing filthy sinners like us to come to His House and so there is no need to make any comments about anything. There have been countless people much more pious than us who have not been fortunate enough to see Bait Ullah. This is a journey of trials and not the luxury that we have unfortunately become accustomed to.
For a sincere and pious worshipper these complaints are only for not seeing the House of Allah and disappear immediately once he or she looks upon the Kaaba. The House of Allah has such a brilliant magnetism and awe that one does not consider a hardship as a hardship anymore because a believer realizes true peace and security in the House of Allah just as a child finds security and love in its mother’s arms. Furthermore, Hadrat Ashraf Ali Thanvi R.A. writes that the righteous find peace upon seeing Bait Ullah just as the believers will find peace when they enter Paradise. Here they forget all past worries and trials.
Sincerity and Sacrifice
The next important thing that pilgrims need to evaluate is sincerity of intention. Undoubtedly sincerity is an essential requirement of every act of worship, but this requirement is given more emphasis here for the auspicious worship of Haj.
The simple reasoning for this is that Haj is an act that is required only once a lifetime. A worship such as prayer is observed five times a day so if one prayer was offered without sincerity the person can try harder for the next prayer, but Haj is a special occasion that only comes once a lifetime for most. Hence people need to be extra careful about what might seem to be the smallest issues.
Disputes and arguments are a very normal part of life, which may intensify because Haj is a long journey that people have to undertake together. Arguments may increase between friends or between family and relatives because unfortunately people do not want to listen but want to lead. We need to keep in mind that this journey is sacred and cannot easily be repeated and so there is no need for any kind of argument or dispute whatsoever.
We are Muslims and only temporary travelers in this life, so it is not always necessary that we absolutely have to have the best seat on the bus or the best room in the hotel. We should try and make sure that others in our party are more comfortable than we are rather than inconveniencing them so that we are more at ease. This is a journey of trials and we need to learn to compromise.
Purity of Means
The most important thing that pilgrims need to be absolutely sure of is the purity of the finances that are spent for Haj. There should be no doubt whatsoever that the money for every aspect of the journey from travel to lodging arrangements is legally permissible (halal), with not the slightest hint of being prohibited (haram). Haj will only be accepted if the means used for it are halal.
A hadith in relation to this states that a man was crying to Allah as he clutched the draperies of the Kaaba but his supplication was not accepted. This was because his earning was haram, which made his food and clothingharam. Supplication (dua) will never be accepted here because the very means used to come there are haram, and hence the finances used for Haj need to be absolutely pure. Someone in doubt about the lawfulness of his earnings should discuss the issue with the local ulama in his city.
Points to Ponder
The Messenger of Allah said that among the signs of the End times would be that the wealthy among the Muslims will go to Haj for vacation; the poor will go to beg; and the ulama will go to boast of their superiority over the other Muslims.
In light of this hadith the hujjaj (pilgrims) must make it a point to never boast of their Haj to others. They not only risk having it invalidated but Allah may never give them another chance because of their arrogance.
The Lover’s Destination
Every journey has a destination and the destination of Haj is the pleasure of Allah. There are two kinds of hujjaj: those who are fortunate to see (ziyarah) Bait Ullah and those still more fortunate who are able to see the Creator of Bait Ullah.
This is why the tawaf (circumambulation) that is performed after the gathering of Arafat is called Tawaf-e-Ziyarah. Those who have worked hard against their evil desires and lower self (nafs) are able to see the bounties of Allah in all their glory, and those who have not obviously cannot partake in this experience. Thus it is essential to have a righteous alim or shaykh in one’s company so that he may guide at every point.
Haj is a journey of love and desire, and upon close examination love is found to be the paramount force in every action within Haj. As a general rule lovers whose purpose is a specific beloved pursue their quest single mindedly and ignore all else. They make no attempt to beautify themselves like a wife might do for a husband because the one purpose of getting to the beloved overpowers all other desires or concerns.
The rites and rituals of Haj personify this intense desire of the lover. From the beginning of the journey the lover is told to shed all outer décor and don the ihram, two simple and unstitched sheets of white cloth. For the duration of the journey and Haj itself this lover is not allowed to apply any sort of scent, nor is the lover allowed to trim the hair or nails.
Lovers maddened with love and desire usually not only speak of their love but publicize it loudly in chants or poetry. Hence when the lover of Allahstarts on this quest he is also commanded to raise his voice and shout that he is coming to his beloved: Labbaik Allahumma labbaik!
Our elders who have gone before us understood and practiced the meaning of this cry, and hundreds would receive guidance because of their efforts. Today we go physically but fail to effect any change within ourselves and return exactly as we were and return to our same heedless lives.
A lovesick boy stands outside the window or door of his beloved hoping for a sign of recognition. The lover of Allah circles the House of Allah with the same maddened desire like a moth circles a flame.
Moths to A Flame
Tawaf is the only ritual within Islam that men and women are commanded to perform in the same vicinity, whereas there is separation in all other situations. Men and women are separated in prayer with a partition to cite just one example.
This may seem strange because Islam is very strict in terms of male and female interaction but the ulama have written a fascinating explanation for this:
The lovers of Allah journey tirelessly for the chance of worshipping at Bait Ullah, and once they reach this magnificent shrine men lose all sense of their masculinity and women likewise lose heed of their femininity, and in maddened desire they focus only on Bait Ullah. Allah wanted to establish for all mankind that His lovers lose all sense of themselves and relinquish all other loves when coming to worship Him.
Allah wanted to further establish the reality that His love is paramount and superior to all other loves that may exist. This is truly the case because even husbands and wives focus only on Allah instead of themselves. It is the only occasion when men and women worship and cry in the same vicinity with no thought to one another.
Recognizing the Enemy
The lover would hate anyone who tried to keep him away from his beloved or hindered his quest to attain nearness to the same. Satan tries to create a rift between mankind and Allah and so the hujjaj stone the devil at the stone throwing ritual at the Jumurat.
Lovers always shower their beloved with gifts as an outpouring of their love and labor hard to be noticed. Likewise the pilgrims also present a sacrifice to Allah at the conclusion of Haj.
Most Generous of Hosts
The hujjaj are guests of Allah at Haj as He commanded Hadrat Ibrahim A.S. to announce an open invitation to all to come worship at His House. Allah is the Supreme Host, and takes great care of His guests even more than we honor someone who may come to our house.
The Messenger of Allah said that even the person who sits and looks uponBait Ullah is a recipient of Allah’s countless blessings. We are unfortunate in that we do not recognize His supreme hospitality, otherwise we would be in Paradise on Earth.
Acceptance of Dua
We may not know the exact times at which duas are accepted, but hadith has told us that there are seventeen key locations at Hajj where duas are accepted. Hujjaj should make a point of learning these key locations so they may be able to offer prayers here and beg from Allah.
No one knows the blessed moment when Allah may accept a particulardua or prostration from his servant.
The difference between the Haj of the righteous beings of Allah and that of common people is that of night and day.
Acceptance of Haj
The mashaikh have written that there are many signs that Allah has accepted the pilgrim’s Haj. Hadrat Ashraf Ali Thanvi R.A. writes that the first of these signs is that upon leaving this sacred land the pilgrim has an intense desire in his heart to return for another Hajj. Such people are fortunate because Allah accepts their deed and ignites a flame of desire in their hearts that will keep them yearning for Makkah.
In contrast there are those unfortunate wretches who leave with nothing but complaints and vow not to return because they had such a bad experience. Such people return empty handed because their Haj is not accepted.
Some people return from Haj cleansed of their sins and rectified with a complete positive change in their lives whereas others return with out any improvement or,sometimes, even worse than they were before. The difference is that the Haj of the former party is accepted whilst the Haj of the others is not, and so the latter continue down the path of wretchedness.
Acceptance of our Haj is the biggest reason why we must cry and beg to Allah on this sacred journey. We must cry so much that Allahaccepts us if only out of pity. Our righteous elders would weep and beg for years so Allah would accept their Haj and turn their lives around.