How does Pilgrimage within Islam have a significant aspect within the nature and function of Islam and to the everyday life of believers? And how does Pilgrimage within Islam express a significant aspect of religion?
(I previously posted this question and i received an email with a link to other hajj questions posted in the past, however none of those questions answered or related to mine)
Hajj and Ummrah are the religious pilgrimages in Islam. The annual pilgrimage of Hajj, which every able Muslim is meant to take at least once in his or her life has a significant place in Islam. The Last Revelation of God, the Sublime Qur’an declares:
And pilgrimage to the House is a duty to God for all who have the capability of making the journey and he who denies should know that Allah is not in need of His creation. – Ala Imran 3:97
It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) defined it as one of the pillars of the religion:
Islam is based on five fundamentals: to proclaim that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad (pbuh) is the Messenger of Allah, and to establish the prayer, and pay Zakah, to offer pilgrimage to the House [of God] and to fast during Ramadan. (Bukhari, No. 7)
So, there is no doubt that it has an important place in Islam. There is good reason for this and I shall endeavor to explain it, Inshallah.
The journey to the House of God is actually like a journey toward the Almighty. It is a reminder of Judgment Day when we will all be standing before our Maker. We travel toward the House built by Abraham (pbuh) along with his son Ishmael (pbuh) for the worship of the One God. The Prophet Abraham (pbuh) was chosen as the leader of mankind (Surah 2:124). He led and set an example which was to be adhered to by all who followed. From him descended a very long line of Prophets (pbut) and his very own two sons were bestowed with prophethood. This man was blessed with such greatness because of His undying love for God and his readiness to sacrifice everything to please Him. Thus, he was chosen with the honor of raising and then cleansing the central house of worship toward God; the one in which all the believers of humanity join together to pray to Allah (swt). He honourably disseminated and taught the only religion acceptable to God. All Prophets (pbut) after him were then responsible for reviving whatever of this religion may have been changed or forgotten. Of course, there may have been a few things that needed changing due to the development through time, but apart from this, it was the same religion Abraham (pbuh) introduced to humanity.
Now when all this is kept in mind, it is logical to think that the Pilgrimage has a lot of meaning to it. In it, we are reminded of the efforts made by this pious leader of ours. Thus, we are motivated toward imitating him as best we can. Yet this is not all. Actually, to get a real good appreciation for the importance of this pilgrimage, we really need to be aware at least somewhat of what goes on in it.
As with all the other directives in this religion, the pilgrimage aims to cleanse the soul. This is so because according the Qur’an it is only the purified that will be worthy of God’s pleasure and unending rewards in the hereafter. Reflecting upon the actions taken on this pilgrimage would soon reveal that it actually entails a resemblance in some way to all other religious duties. It is like an “all in one,” which nurtures and boosts the spirit of the person in quite a unique fashion. The piety emanating from it is magnificent and it is for this reason that the Prophet (pbuh) is narrated to have said:
One who performs Hajj in God’s way and does not speak obscene language, and does not commit sins, will come back as he was at the time of his birth. (Bukhari No. 1421)
Hence, when performed correctly; it transforms a person. It is like a rebirth. The importance of it can then obviously not be underestimated.
The pilgrim travels to Hajj in order to worship the Almighty. In the process the person gives up his everyday life, uses his wealth for the purpose of getting there and spending in all other ways necessary while over there. This change in expenditure is a beautiful symbol of love for the Almighty – love that is far greater than the love for this world. Though he may not get something physical out of it, the pilgrim understands very well that spiritually he would come back a new person. This desire he cherishes in his heart and so, like a Mujahid marches on in God’s way. From this then, it becomes evident that the pilgrimage instills in a believer what all the other duties such as prayers, charity, fasting and Jihad aim to do as well. There are a number of characteristics that are strongly embedded in a pilgrim. The pilgrimage increases awareness and consciousness of God; it strengthens the faith and will to work for Him; it creates greater piety and fear of ever displeasing Him and produces a more profound love for Him and our fellow beings.
While on Hajj, the pilgrim would put on unstitched white clothing known as Ihram. This symbolizes setting aside the pomp of worldliness and reminds us of the dead who also are bound by such simple clothes. It reminds us that this life is but temporary and that we will soon return to our Maker. It makes every pilgrim – no matter what his language, race, culture, appearance or level of religious knowledge maybe – on equal terms, all now in the same simple clothing with the same noble aim. Yes, people from all races and backgrounds unite in this pilgrimage and there is no discrimination between them! They are united with love as brethren and sisters in faith, all concerned with the worship of God. This can therefore really awaken and improve the thought process. It gives us an awareness of what truly matters.
While we are in Ihram, we are forbidden from certain carnal pleasures such as sex with one’s spouse. We are not to overly engage in things other than the purpose for which we are there. We are not to get involved in petty disputes or any foul thoughts or feelings. We are not even to kill any living thing no matter how insignificant while we are in this simple clothing. Otherwise, the blessings that come with it will not have the desired effect. With such restrictions, being in Ihram is similar to fasting. Then the circumambulation of the Ka’bah is performed and this is a form of prayer unique to this House of God. The pilgrim begins this by either kissing the black stone in the Ka’bah or raising his hand toward it. This action signifies the renewal of his pledge to serve the Almighty obediently.
The Sa’i (i.e. the walk around the two hills, Safa and Marwah, near the Ka’bah) signifies our submission to the Almighty and our willingness to support His cause. The best demonstration of such was given by Abraham (pbuh) who took his son and walked with him from Safa to Marwah in order to sacrifice him for the Almighty. As is clear, many of the performed actions during the pilgrimage actually symbolize important realities and being unaware of this could render them quite unproductive. Nonetheless, if we keep them in mind and perform them properly it can have a strong psychological effect on us. About this there are no doubts and many pilgrims bear testimony to it.
Another symbolic act undertaken is the male cutting or shaving his hair and the female cutting a bit of her hair too. This has long been a demonstration of their belonging to God. In the stay at Arafat we are given the chance to plead before the Almighty and be graced with His all abounding Mercy before the Day comes when we stand before Him once again, only this time for judgment. The travel from here to Muzdalifah and Minaa and the short stay at a place during this journey makes one feel very much like a soldier moving on to fight in God’s cause. It also makes one feel like a traveler who is not here to stay; God is the goal, the hereafter will be our eternal abode. Then the throwing of stones is a symbol of our fight against all evil forces and our refusal to bow to their demands in place of God. Another great symbol is that of sacrificing animals, a life for God in place of our own just as Abraham (pbuh) was spared the sacrifice of his son. How grateful we should be that God provides an animal for us to express our emotions toward Him, and to symbolize our willingness to sacrifice our own life to Him! Yet this should also create awareness in us of the need to truly be prepared to sacrifice our life, our possessions and near and dear ones if need be in the test of this life, for the sake of God as Abraham (pbuh) so beautifully exemplified. It reminds us of death. It brings us closer to Him.
Though I have only very briefly touched upon some of what goes on in the pilgrimage, I think it is more than enough to show why it has such significance in Islam. God consciousness, self-restraint, patience, generosity are all virtues that should be firmly embedded in a believer if he performs the rites with the right form and spirit. It would serve as a training course and all the soldier would then need is to ensure that he adheres to all his daily religious routine and as a result he will not only change his own life but the life of those who surround him. It is as though people are trained in these few days in the Islamic headquarter and then sent back to change others via their example.
How does Pilgrimage within Islam have a significant aspect within the nature and function of Islam and to the everyday life of believers?
I trust that I have fully answered the first part of this question but I would like to touch upon the second part a little. Having explained the importance of Hajj in Islam, the annual Hajj days are then obviously very important to a Muslim’s calendar. Even if the Muslim does not happen to participate in the actual pilgrimage that year, he would still commemorate it in some way. The person may decide to fast and pray extra supererogatory prayers in the hope that he too gains some of God’s special blessings reserved for these days. The scholars all around the world during this time would also without doubt educate and create an awareness of how much of an inspiring occasion this really is. The Eid-al-Adha actually marks the end of these great days and serves as a celebration of them. In this again all Muslims around the world participate. They take a bath, get into their best clothes and perform a special Eid prayer in congregation and also listen to a sermon by the Imam. They then also sacrifice animals and spend in charity. Such days thus boost the spirit of all believers around the world and is cherished and always looked forward to by each of them.
I hope that this will be of benefit.
In need of your prayers,
February 13, 2005