Spirit of Haj
HAJ is quite unique. While the other acts of worship concentrate on one pertinent aspect of life, Haj is a comprehensive act of worship, one which caters to each and every angle of human life.
In this worship, a believer is required to submit to the will of the Creator not in one dimension, but in all.
While the act of Haj is quite alive in our society, the propensity to cater to the action, rather than the spirit, has unfortunately not made an exception in its case. In simple words, the ritual remains; the spirit, however, hides under layers of vagueness.
It is quite clear that without highlighting and understanding the spiritual essence of Haj, the benefits it provides would not only be compromised, but would reduce as our distance from the core idea behind Haj increases.
The central idea behind Haj lies in disconnection, followed by the creation of another unique connection. In today’s world, our objectives of life have become quite blurred. One way or another, even the average individual realises that our priorities have become somewhat jumbled. In doing so, we end up worshiping things like material well-being and social status, while the most important aspects of life have taken a rather insignificant role.
Stemming from our limited and misconstrued understanding of the universe and to satisfy our innate desire for self-fulfilment and ultimate achievement, we create artificial identities and objectives.
Haj breaks the hollow shell of attachments, involvements and routines. Going through the symbols and rituals of Haj, where everything is changed – from location, clothing and routine to behaviour and habits – a Muslim experiences the hidden dimensions of life. It reconnects us to Allah; makes us think about Him.
The worship of Allah is not only a duty, but a pleasure. It seems that our lives are so full of other feeble and fake pleasures that there seems to be a lack of capacity on our part to understand and appreciate the enjoyment that can be found in worshipping Allah.
By suppressing all other worldly pleasures such as dress, applying perfume, looking in the mirror and physical desires, the believers become ready to be enveloped by the immense satisfaction that can be found in devotion to Allah.
Through the ambiance created by staying in a desert and looking towards Jabal-i-Rahmah in Arafat, which has no geographical beauty, Haj offers a unique chance for everyone to experience the immense satisfaction of spiritual connection with Almighty Allah. By going through this process, many Muslims develop and attain an exalted standing. It is as if a human is reborn, which is symbolised by the shaving of the head, demonstrating that all sins have been washed away and a new, pure life can start.
As millions of people, dressed in the same way, flock to the holy lands of Hejaz, the social conventions of class are destroyed.
Everyone bows before the same iconic structure, rich and poor, young and old, white and black. This very process reminds the believer of not only his humble origins, but also of his humble end.
We may differentiate ourselves by wealth or colour, but Haj is a very keen reminder that we all came into the world in the same way, and will surely exit it on equal terms. Haj is practice for a new social order based on humility resulting in equality and justice.
In a way the whole practice of Haj is a very symbolic act. In order to fully benefit from the fruits of Haj it is important to understand exactly what each of its components highlight. The white cloth of ihram reminds the believer of the simplicity of the way in which he came into the world. Additionally, it reminds man of his final resting place, where he would lie within another white cloth, separated from the world, similar to the way in which he is separated during Haj.
The tawaf is also metaphorical. It symbolises how we as believers should be living our lives, circling around Allah. Everything in our lives should first be based on the consent of Allah, and then our own likes or dislikes.
The journeys within Haj represent the everlasting journey that a believer must undertake in order to achieve spiritual attainment. Similar to the way we travel from Makkah to Mina and Arafat, a believer must travel through the many difficulties of life to finally achieve spiritual attainment. As stated earlier, all procedures of Haj hold deep symbolism, from the stoning of the devil, sacrifice of animals, shaving of the head, to the drinking of the pure Zamzam.
It is quite surprising how so many important aims are attained by the act of Haj. A very important aspect of Haj lies in its political effect. It is a glorious show of strength, of unity and brotherhood.
It is a demonstration — unlike any other — where millions of people gather from countries around the world, every year, announcing to the world that ‘Yes, we are united in the name of Allah’. It firmly establishes the point that Islam is not declining, but ever developing.
It is quite evident that once a believer follows in the footsteps of the great prophets and goes on the same journey as they did, it brings him closer to Allah.
When all these things combine, a Muslim feels a deep connection with God, as if time had somehow stopped for him and he is left to attain closeness to Allah, which is the purpose of all worship.
The writer is a religious scholar.