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Hajj - The Journey of Hearts

by Muhammad Alshareef

Arafah – 10 years after the Hijrah: A man was standing with RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam when he was thrown from his camel. The camel stomped and the man’s neck was snapped. He was dead.

“Bathe his body with water and sidr and bury him with both garments,” said Allah’s Messenger sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam. “Do not cover his head, nor touch him with camphor ... for verily he will be returned (to Allah) on the Day of Resurrection in the state of Talbiyah” (Bukhari and Muslim)!

‘Amr ibn Al-‘Aas narrates that when his heart entered Islam he went to the Messenger of Allah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam and said, “Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.” The Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam spread his hand, but ‘Amr withdrew his.

The Prophet sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam asked, “What is wrong ‘Amr?”

Amr said, “I want to make a condition.”

“And what is that?” asked the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

“That Allah will forgive me.”

Then the Messenger of Allah said, “Did you not know that Islam wipes out what came before it, and that Hijrah wipes out what came before it, and that Hajj wipes out what came before it” (Sahih Muslim)!

RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam also said about Hajj, “And there is no reward for an accepted Hajj … except Jannah!” This is the ultimate reward.

What is the first verse that you read in Surah Al-Hajj? It does not speak of Arafah, nor does it pronounce the pillars of the Day of Nahr (the day of sacrifice). It simply says:

O Mankind! Fear your Lord, indeed the eruption of the (final) hour is a horrific event. On that day that you shall see it, every nursing mother will be engrossed away from that (child) she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people (appearing) intoxicated, while they are not intoxicated; rather it is the punishment of Allah, severe.

Hajj is not a journey of the body, as are vacations to a tourist attraction; it is a journey of the soul and heart. When one pays careful attention to the verses speaking of Hajj, he will find that verse after verse concludes with a commandment of being conscious of Allah’s presence, or a reminder of Allah’s bounteous favor upon us, or a link between Hajj and the Final Day.

The Destination

In the not-so-far-away days of old, whenever a journey was to be undertaken, proper provisions had to be prepared. The deserts were long, hot, harsh, and unmerciful. There were no gas stations to fill up with chips and refreshments, or rest stops to slurp water from a fountain. In fact, there was not a human in sight for miles upon miles of barren sand dunes and losing the way meant losing your life. Thus, you had to have the provisions with you before you made the journey – enough food, enough water, enough everything to carry you to your destination.

In the verses that speak of Hajj, Allah speaks about the provisions one should take. But while everyone is focused on their journey to the Ka’bah and the material provisions they should take, Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala turns the attention of His slaves to another journey and a different kind of provision. Allah ‘azza wa jall turns our attention to the journey to the Hereafter, to Paradise or Hell, and the provision is taqwa:

And take sustenance (with you) for the journey; verily the best sustenance is taqwa (Al-Baqarah 2/197).

On the day Buhaym Al-‘Ajlee set out with his companion for Hajj, he looked toward the endless desert awaiting them both and wept, his chest soaking from the tears. “This is something,” said Buhaym, “that has made me understand the most certain journey I must one day take to Allah ‘azza wa jall!”

The Provider

There is debate over whether someone who performs Hajj should be called a Hajji. It is not something found in the Sunnah; rather it has an interesting background in our cultural history. In antique days, when someone decided to perform the journey for Hajj, it was synonymous with bidding farewell to life on earth. This was due to the treacherous obstacles of traveling in the desert – trials such as sickness, starvation, and the struggles of the separate situations. An entire village might gather to bid those people farewell.

When someone would go through such a remarkable journey and return alive, he would dedicate his life to the worship and obedience of Allah ‘azza wa jall. Gone was the cheating, or the lying, or the missed salah; he was now a Hajji.

Today, with the jumbo jets, ocean liners, and Mercedes busses, the facilitation of performing Hajj has taken away the luster of the title Hajji. Some might complain that there are no queen-size mattress beds in Mina, or that the air conditioning motor is a tad too loud.

But dear brothers and sisters, who is it that provided us with all the blessings that we are living in? It is the same Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala that has tests us on the plains of Arafah. The slave of Allah can only truly understand the favor of Allah upon him when it is taken away.

There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord (during Hajj). But when you depart from Arafat, remember Allah at Al Mash’ar Al Haram. And remember Him as He has guided you, for indeed you were before that among those astray.

Alhamdulillaah. Indeed the greatest blessing that Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala has favored us with is Islam, and it alone suffices as favor.

Allah knows we are going to get dusty during Hajj, Allah knows it. So don’t be surprised when that dust blows, instead turn to Allah and hit back with patience and a whisper of gratitude to Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala.

Then let them end their untidiness, fufill their vows, and perform Tawaf around the ancient House (Al- Hajj 22/29).

Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote a poem about this journey of the hearts, here is only a glimpse of some of the Arabic verses:

He says, my slaves have come to me (for Hajj) out of love for me

And I am merciful to them, bounteous and loving.

Glad tidings, O participants of that stand (on Arafah),

A moment when Allah forgives all sins and showers His mercy.

Abu Hurayrah radi Allaahu anhu narrates: I heard the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam say, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit any obscenity or transgression, he returns free from sin as the day his mother bore him” (Bukhari).

Getting the Heart in Shape

Many years ago, as the Hujjaj swept through the valley of Muzdalifah, a man remarked out loud, “My! Look at the number of Hujjaj!”

A wise man replied, “Nay, the passengers are many, but the Hujjaj are few.”

I once heard the story of a man who was blessed with the opportunity to join the caravan for Hajj regularly. However, his shortcoming was that he could never control his anger during the days of Hajj, and would snap, cursing others.

One person had an idea for him: instead of cursing Muslims during Hajj, write all your bad comments on a piece of paper, fold it, and then when you get mad at someone, just hand him the paper. On the top of the tiny envelope write, “Do not open until after Hajj”. The man agreed to try this idea.

As incident after incident assailed him, the man would simply smile, then frown and hand out the tiny envelope to the provoking party.

Everything was going smoothly until the day when he was walking to the Jamarat and someone stomped his toes. He lost all control. Teeth gritting, he snarled and took out his briefcase of envelopes and dumped it on that poor guy’s head.

In Hajj, I have seen people who snatch for patience and the reward of Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala during those trying moments, like a man panhandles for gold. I asked myself, “What is different from them and those who spend their breath in criticism and argumentation?” It finally dawned on me that it was not the body of Zayd or ‘Amr that I was witnessing, but it was the hearts of Zayd and ‘Amr.

Some people come to Hajj prepared financially. Others come with a prepared heart – that is what’s essential. Whether the grindstone grinds us to dust or polishes us up depends on what we are made of.

How can we get that heart in shape for Hajj?

First, attend lectures and workshops dealing with Hajj. Hajj is one of the pillars upon which Islam is built. When someone intends to perform this rite, it is a must upon him that he learns it well. RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.”

Imam Bukhari writes in his Saheeh, “Knowledge comes before statements and actions.” He then quoted the verse of Allah:

So Know, that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin (Muhammad 47/19).

Secondly, establish salah and perform Qiyaam ul-Layl. When RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam was preparing his heart for the mission of conveying this deen, Allah ordered him to prepare using Qiyam ul-Layl. Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala says:

O you who wraps himself / Arise (to pray) the night, except for a little (Al-Muzzammil 73/1-2)

A student once slept over at Imam Ahmad’s house, rahimahullah. Imam Ahmad had left a vessel of water for him, and upon arriving at Fajr time, found the vessel still full of water. Upon seeing the vessel still full and realizing that the student had not woken during the night, he was shocked and remarked, “How can a person be a student of knowledge and not stand for Qiyam ul-Layl!”

Some people said to Ibn Mas`ood radi Allaahu anhu, "We are unable to wake up to perform Qiyam ul-Layl."

He told them, "You are distancing yourselves from it by your sins."

Thirdly, repent to Allah and make du’a. At Hajj, it was during the days of Tashreeq when Jirbreel alayhis salam came to RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam with the words of Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala:

When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest / And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes / Then exalt Him with the praises of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever accepting of repentance (An-Nasr 110/1-3).

This was the culmination of 23 years of da’wah, jihaad, and work. This was the farewell pilgrimage and it ended with:

Then exalt Him with the praises of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him.