Hajis on their way

Following is a translation (edited by Rayyan Institute) of a section on Hajj from the famous book “Virtues of Hajj” by Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhlawi. The translation was made available online by Central Mosque and others.

Hajj appears as a true exposition of affection and inordinate love which is manifest in it. In order to understand this properly the following should be borne in mind. The relation of man with his Creator in Islam is of two kinds:

Firstly, man stands as a mere slave before Him, in a Master-slave relationship where Allah is Master, the Sustainer, the Creator, the Almighty, and man is the servant, slave and subject. Man is the worshipper and Allah is the only One worthy of worship. For this reason everything in salāt emphasizes this relationship and radiates humility, humbleness and submission on the part of man. Hence, man enters salāt undisturbed with dignity, neatly dressed with proper behaviour as in the case of one presenting himself at a royal court of some king where special regulations are imposed for all as far as attire, neatness etc. is concerned.

We, therefore, see that for salāt the clothes must be clean, a person must have performed wudū (ablution), and with calmness and dignity – as in the case of being present before a king – the musallī (one in prayer) stands before his Lord with his eyes lowered, lifting his hands up to his ears he then extols the Lord and glorifies His name. Complying with the rules of the royal court, the arms are folded with hands held on the navel and in sincerity, favours are begged for by him from his king. The servant then bends down praising Him.

Things move to a climax as the musallī (one in prayer) prostrates himself thereby exhibiting his complete weakness, humility and submission. While prostrating every single part of the body shows the humble attitude expected of a slave while only the tongues praises Allah, his King. During salāt, a complete tranquil and dignified manner is required as is expected in the presence of a mighty powerful king in his court. That is the reason why it is makrūh (disliked) to run towards the masjid for salāt. One should walk calmly with dignity. Then while waiting for salāt it is makrūh to sit with the fingers of one hand interlocked in the fingers of the other. For the same reason it is makrūh to crack the finger joints and knuckles in salāt, to cough without cause or necessity, to look around from side to side, to wear ones clothes in a manner other than the way in which it should be worn and to hang clothes (coats, overcoats) over the body without putting the arms through the sleeves because salāt resembles one’s presence in the Royal Court. Salāt, therefore, is nullified if one talks to anyone (except Allah), if the wudū breaks, if one laughs aloud – intentionally or unintentionally – or if one lifts both his feet off the ground while in sajdah (prostration). All these things nullify the salāt because it is against dignity. When one ponders over all these things no doubt exists that salāt is indeed the exhibition of true humility before the Creator and is in fact a perfect resemblance of the court of the king of kings. That is then one aspect of man’s relationship with Allah, the Master-slave or king-subject relationship.

Secondly, there is between man and Allah another relationship based on love and gratitude. Here Allah is the Lord, Sustainer, Beneficent, Gracious, the One possessing all the attributes of beauty and perfection. Man by nature possesses the ability to love, admire and adore beauty and virtue. Such has he been created. The second relationship is of Allah as the possessor of all attributes, of beauty and perfection, and man as the admirer of that. It shows Allah as the Beloved, man as the lover searching for the object of his love and striving his utmost for the pleasure and reciprocal love of his beloved. The distinct exposition of this relationship is shown in Hajj.

Hajj shows a love so great that everything is being sacrificed in the interest of gaining His love. The hājī (pilgrim) is seen right at the outset leaving home and severing all relations with his home, his family, his children and dear ones. He casts them all aside and then sets forth towards his most Beloved. His love is such that without complaint or doubt he braves the journey through deserts and jungles, plains and mountains, valleys and hills, rivers and oceans to reach his destination. Greatly impatient and overly anxious, the journey continues. The reason for this impatience and over anxiousness is the fact that the time has come near for the annual gathering of all His lovers at His House A gathering for which He Himself has issued the invitation.

No doubt such a journey will contain its fair share of difficulties and obstacles but with great tolerance these are overcome. So the hājī proceeds until it is time for ihrām which is his attire in the presence of his beloved. [He proceeds] without any headgear or shirt on the body with an appearance of a man humble and submissive without any form of adornment, in fact, [with an appearance] that of an inordinate and ardent lover. In this manner his journey nears the house of Allah, the house of his Beloved. Actually this should have been the position the moment he sets forth from his home and not merely at the borders of the Haram hence some ulama are of the opinion that it is more virtuous and rewarding to don the ihrām from one’s home. However, because so many things become harām (unlawful) after donning the ihrām and because it becomes very difficult to remain in ihrām with all its very strict rules, Allah through His wisdom decreed that it could be performed at the borders of the Haram.

Therefore, when one enters the Haram borders, he should be like an ardent lover with disheveled hair and dust-covered ihrām clothes uttering aloud the labbayk. That is what Allah’s Messenger made apparent when he said, “disheveled hair and one laden in dust”. The manner in which the hājīs present themselves is so much appreciated and liked by Allah that He boasts about it in front of the angels saying, “O my angels, look at the visitor of My holy house with hair disheveled and laden in dust they come to Me”. It is obvious that after a long and tiresome journey this will be the appearance. The more apparent this untidiness, the more it will show in devotion and love. The hājī searchingly continues his journey and in this untidy state, while chanting the labbayk, he moves towards his goal and then eventually enters Makkah.

It is to this that Allah’s Messenger referred when he said, “Hajj means raising the voice,
crying out aloud the labbayk, and shedding the blood-of the Qurbānī animal”. In fact many hadīths indicate that the male hājī is encouraged to raise his voice while uttering labbayk. Allah’s Messenger
said, “Jibra’il (peace be upon him) said to me: ‘Instruct thy companions to recite the labbayk with raised voice’”. It is a fact that proclaiming this call and announcing one’s presence at the gate of the Beloved with so much pleasure and yearning for Him is indeed a sign of ardent love. In this manner he enters Makkah and also the house of his Beloved. There we see him walking in circles around the holy house. We see him in reverence and love, touching the door and holding unto it. Tawāf commences at the al-Hajr al-Aswad, the black stone, which a hājī is required to kiss or to touch with his hand. Allah’s Messenger called it “the right hand of Allah” as that kissing of the stone is in symbolic terms the kissing of the hand of his Beloved Master. Is that not a sign of Allah’s grace to allow this insignificant man such liberty? To the great ones who lost and drowned themselves in the love of Allah, the touching of Ka’bah’s corners, the stones and also the door of the Ka‘bah signify kissing the hands and feet of the Beloved, which are manifest signs of love. Perhaps there is not a poet worth his name who did not in one or another of his works express this exposition of love.

When I arrive at the house of my Layla,

then I do kiss this wall sometimes and that wall.

When Allah’s Messenger once performed tawāf he was seen placing his lips on the
black stone for a considerable time until tears flowed from his eyes. He then saw Sayyiduna ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) standing near him with tears rolling down his cheeks. Seeing this, he
said, “This is indeed a place where tears are to be shed”. Further we see the hājīs’ hugging the curtain that covers the Ka’bah. Here again it shows the lover’s hugging and pulling at the clothes of the beloved while begging for his forgiveness, attention and favours.

Similar is the case of he who attaches himself to that section of the wall of the Ka’bah called the multazam. The multazam is the section between the black stone and the door of the Ka’bah. It is the significant and most blessed section where duā’s are heard and supplications answered. It is reported that Allah’s Messenger and the Sahābā (may Allah be pleased with them all) used to attach themselves to and place their cheek against the multazam. It is something that brings to mind the search of one madly in love with his beloved.

The description of the ardent lover does not end there. After that the hājī is seen running on top of the hill of Safā in the direction of Marwā and back numerous times, we see him with a bare head and without his usual pants and shirts running towards his Maker, the object of his love, as one who is deeply distressed. As a lover in that distressed state – not knowing whether he is worthy of his Beloved’s love and ready to be tested by Him – gaining momentum, we next see him leaving Makkah to spend a night in Minā from where he then proceeds in the morning for the desert plain of Arafāt. Continuing this trail of the beloved, we see him the same night at Muzdalifah where he spends the night and early the next morning he sets forth for Minā. Thereafter, it is back to Makkah and again to Minā. What is the love for Layla compared to the love for the every pathway that is being trodden? What a hazardous journey it is! One morning the lover is in one place, the afternoon at another, the evening again in another place.

The last phase of this unique scene of a searching lover comes at the time of stoning the Satan at Minā which signifies casting aside and obliterating … everything that can possibly come between the lover and the Beloved, anything that can tear them apart, especially this Satan that he now stones. This phase ends with the sacrificial act of Qurbānī. In reality this is the sacrifice of one’s own self which, due to His mercy, Allah has changed to an animal sacrifice. This is the climax of the lover’s entity on the sacrificial altar to his beloved Master. In other words before this he was prepared to sacrifice his health, wealth, strength and time. Now he [symbolically] sacrifices his most precious possession, his life, for Allah.

In the above paragraphs I merely sketched in brief how Hajj has great similarity with an attached devotee deeply in love. There has been no time to go into minute details. Apart from these there are numerous other points of wisdom and significance in Hajj. This is the case with all of Allah’s commands. Very often these points of significance and intrinsic meaning are such that our intelligence does not even perceive. The more one ponders over these commands, day by day, more and more significance and meanings become clear and apparent. Everyone looks at command of Allah according to his ability, from his own point of view, and with his own professional eye, and each one will see very many different meanings. Hence, a politician looking at Hajj sees its many significance differently from a sufi. These cannot all be put on paper here.

Following, are a further few points of the deeper meaning of Hajj. These I wish to outline merely as a specimen indicative of the significance of Hajj similar to the two points of wisdom and virtue mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

(1) There are times when rulers, governors and kings call the various classes of their subjects together to discuss matters with them and receive reports. For this reason they are often made into various organizations and each has its annual conference. This is what happens in Hajj where representatives from all over the globe, from all spheres of life and from all ranks gather at His house. Such is the Hajj congregation.

(2) Should any influential personality have any proposition to put forward for the progress of the Muslim world then Makkah during the Hajj is indeed the very best place to introduce such a proposal. From there it is most certain that the terms of such a resolution will spread to all corners of the world.

(3) What better place can there be for talks than at Makkah at the time of Hajj, for discussions and deliberations between rulers, ministers and ambassadors of the Islamic countries for the
improvements of relations of all sorts for the forming of unity and co-operation among them? There at the spiritual headquarters of Islam, with the added influence of the spirit of goodwill and
brotherhood at the time of Hajj, some solution is sure to be found to solve their problems.

(4) So many are the different tongues and dialects spoken around the Ka’bah at Hajj. At once, one can hear Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Japanese, Pashto, Chinese, English etc. spoken by the many thousands of hājīs. What a grand exposé of the cosmopolitan nature of Islam. A linguist and a lover of languages cannot find any place more to his liking than this.

(5) No where else can a person see a better exhibit of the soldier like uniformity as on the Hajj journey. This uniformity is a special and unique symbol and badge of Islam. Hence, we see all the hājīs in the same dress, following the prescriptions and commands, avoiding the same prohibitions, doing the same actions at the same time.

(6) For years and years an unsuccessful struggle resisting capitalism is being carried on among the various nations to attain equality between the rich and the poor, and to narrow the gaps between them. To date no real solution has been found. Islam on the other hand with its practical and realistic approach to problems has solved this one in a most easy manner. We see true equality brought to the fore in salāt, fasting, zakāt and in Hajj and no better solution and cure has been found than that up to this day. These Islamic principles are undoubtedly the best, most effective and [most] workable [as a] solution to the world at large on condition that these principles be applied in conjunction with the true fundamental teachings of Islam.

(7) Similar to the afore-mentioned, it is a fact that no better demonstration for the teaching and
propagation of equality between the various classes can be seen than that in Hajj. Here at the same time and at the same places for a substantial period of time, the rich and the poor, the Arab and the Turk, the Englishman and the African etc. all dress in the simple pilgrims garb, present themselves for the remembrance of Allah. All barriers of rank, class, wealth and status are set aside.

(8) To observe national celebrations people make elaborate arrangements, lavish preparations and extensive propagation, well in advance. For Muslims the first two weeks of Dhu al-Hijjah are more important than similar celebrations for which there is neither special arrangements nor lavish expense or extensive propagation made.

(9) Hajj is the ideal occasion for Muslims of the world to foster brotherhood, love, acquaintance and relationship of unity.

(10) A golden opportunity exists at Hajj time for the spread of Islam and the revival of the concept of true Islamic living. Those present in Makkah and the surrounding area are duty bound ethically to deal hospitably with those arriving for Hajj. True hospitality in this case means to increase their enthusiasm for Dīn and to provide an incentive and encourage them to follow the path of Islam and also to revive and reform their love and liking for Dīn. Similarly, those arriving from foreign lands should assist the local people in this noble work of inviting and encouraging others to the true path. In such cases the real benefit to Islam and the Muslims world is crystal clear.

(11) The intermingling of the rich and the poor during Hajj has added advantage. This intermingling does much to remove the pride and haughtiness of the rich while making the poor feel themselves completely at their own home, among fellow brothers. The rich, whose necessities are many, turn to the poor for help i.e. carrying goods, cooking, transport arrangements which they find difficult to do themselves. On the other hand, the poor to fulfill their financial needs turn to the rich. Due to this contact the relationship does not remain one of acquaintance and hospitality only but develops into love and friendship. This it to its fullest extent witnessed during Hajj.

(12) We all know that a vast gathering of Muslims particularly with humbleness and sincerity is a magnetic point for invoking Allah’s mercy, grace and generosity. This is especially so when they are truly humble and sincere. No better show of this can be seen than that scene of the huge gathering of sincere and humble people on the plain of Arafāt.

(13) The greatest advantage achieved from Hajj is the preservation of the monumental teachings of our predecessors, especially the methods of the prophets.

(14) Through this Hajj journey it also becomes possible to get acquainted with the various countries which one passes and also as a result of coming into contact with their peoples. In this manner knowledge is gained about the agriculture, industries, products and conditions prevailing in other countries.

(15) From an educational point of view, Hajj is most beneficial. So many learned ones from a great number of countries and graduates from numerous universities come together which leads to worthy discussions on educational topics. One gets to know the views, progress, decline and achievements of those various institutions. All this definitely affords an opportunity of teaching others and also at the same time learning from them.

(16) Similarly, great saints attend the Hajj gathering annually whereby an opportunity is offered to derive spiritual benefit from their esteemed presence.

(17) In Hajj, the hājī resembles the angels who are an innocent and sinless creation of Allah. They are continually busy performing tawāf of Allah’s throne. His action is similar while performing tawāf of the Ka’bah as the hadīth states that: “Whosoever imitates a group is regarded as one of them” …

(18) Among previous nations monasticism used to be the highest order and greatest achievement for man. At the end of Islam it was henceforth prohibited and in its place Islam instituted a refined decree known as the Hajj journey thus [temporarily] avoiding all things of adornment, sexual intercourse and in fact [avoiding] even talk about sex during ihrām. (Ithāf)

(19) Among many people and religious groups there has been the custom since time immemorial to organize annual fairs as for example the fairs of Europe in the middle ages, the Hindu melas,
Catholic masses … which people await and they also prepare themselves for such gatherings annually. This all is done well in advance. In such fairs, sport, play entertainment, amusement, joy and pleasure is the theme of the day. Islam removed this type of a fair of meaningless worldly affairs and made a change for the better through Hajj, which was made into a gathering where people came together in the name of Allah …

(20) Hajj is also means to visit the blessed places where those who had inordinate and ardent love for Allah spent their energies in worshipping Him until eventually they sacrificed their lives for Him.

(21) While on the one hand, Hajj provides a means of cleansing the character it also assists in giving health to the body. Allah’s Messenger said: “Travel and become healthy”. (Kanz) A change of climate is good for health, and Hajj provides a good opportunity for this.

(22) Hajj is actually a means of continuing and reviving the remembrance of that worship which from the time of Sayyiduna Adam (peace be upon him) has been part of every religion.

(23) Hajj in itself holds a great lesson. It is a visit to the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Visiting these two places in the first place refreshes the remembrance of them in our minds. Secondly, Makkah is the town where in the early days of Islam, Muslims used to live in utter poverty, oppression, persecution and injustice. However, with great perseverance and humility they went through all those atrocities and hardships brought to bear on them by the disbelievers of Makkah.

Later came a time after the hijrah when they conquered Makkah, and after having successfully
settled down in Madinah they not only completely pardoned their enemies due to the kindness at
heart but progressed further owing to the deep conviction of the truth of their religion. They also
displayed the most sublime characters to spread Islam afar so that its light spreads to every nook and corner of the entire globe.

Hajj is a means to visit these towns, which revives the remembrance in us of the heroic achievements of the devotees of Allah.

(24) Hajj refreshes the memory and revives our love for our Nabi, Muhammad , himself. Makkah is his birthplace where up to fifty-three years of age he spent various stages of his
life. Thereafter he migrated to Madinah where he peacefully rests in his grave. Visiting these two towns definitely revives memories of each and every stage of his life.

When people wish to retain the love for some special person, various types of memorials, statues etc, are erected. Islam has instituted the Hajj during which, among other numerous advantages, the memory of Allah’s Messenger is refreshed and love for him increases.

(25) Hajj is indeed the best means of lending strength and power to the centre of Islam, and it provides the best means to render assistance and help to the people of the two Holy Harams. It also gives one the ideal opportunity to study and have an insight of the citizens of these two Holy places. It has been proven that when the pilgrims do see the needs of these people and their plight, a feeling of readiness to assist them is then aroused in the hearts of the visitors of the Holy Ka’bah and Madinah. This mutual and sympathetic attitude normally continues to be felt long after Hajj.

In brief, these points have been mentioned regarding the benefits of Hajj. There are so many more but let this be remembered that at all times the true aim of Hajj is actually to strengthen the contact with Allah, and to remove the love for worldly things.