Universal Lessons of Hajj

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Highlights Topics: Hajj, Makkah (Mecca) Values: Spirituality Views: 18679

Millions of pilgrims from all over the world will be converging on Mecca in the coming days. They will retrace the footsteps of millions who have made the spiritual journey to the valley of Mecca since the time of Adam.

Hajj literally means, "to continuously strive to reach one's goal." It is the last of the five pillars of Islam (the others include a declaration of faith in one God, five daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan). Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

The Hajj is essentially a re-enactment of the rituals of the great prophets and teachers of faith. Pilgrims symbolically relive the experience of exile and atonement undergone by Adam and Eve after they were expelled from Heaven, wandered the earth, met again and sought forgiveness in the valley of Mecca. They also retrace the frantic footsteps of the wife of Abraham, Hagar, as she ran between the hills of Safa and Marva searching for water for her thirsty baby (which according to Muslim tradition, God answered with the well of Zam Zam). Lastly, the pilgrims also commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. God later substituted a ram in place of his son.

Yet, the Hajj is more than these elaborate rituals. The faithful hope that it will bring about a deep spiritual transformation, one that will make him or her a better person. If such a change within does not occur, then the Hajj was merely a physical and material exercise devoid of any spiritual significance.

  • Struggle to do good
  • Respect of all the great Prophets
  • Commemoration of the sacrifice of Prophet Abraham
  • A journey to re-awaken the inner spirituality
  • Remember Eve and Hagar and rights of women
  • Celebration of human diversity
  • The Hajj of Malcolm X
  • Hajj linking the world

As all great religions teach, we are more than mere physical creatures in that we possess an essence beyond the material world. Indeed, this is why all great religions have a tradition of pilgrimage. In the Islamic tradition, Hajj encapsulates this spiritual journey toward this essence.

The current state of affairs -- both within and outside the Muslim world -- greatly increases the relevance of some of the spiritual and universal messages inherent in the Hajj.

As Islamic scholar Ebrahim Moosa asks rhetorically: "after paying homage to the two women Eve and Hagar in the rites of pilgrimage, how can some Muslims still violate the rights and dignity of women in the name of Islam? Is this not a contradiction?"

Indeed, the Qur'an teaches: "I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in my way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other." (Quran 3:195)

Clearly, the white sea of men and women side by side performing tawaf (circling) around the Kaaba (the stone building Muslims believe was originally built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael) should lay to rest any claim that Islam -- as opposed to some Muslims -- degrades women.

The fact that millions of Muslims transcending geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic and social barriers converge in unison on Mecca, attests to the universality of the Hajj. It plants the seed to celebrate the diversity of our common humanity. Pilgrims return home enriched by this more pluralistic and holistic outlook and with a new appreciation for their own origins.

One of the most celebrated Western Hajjis (one who has completed the Hajj) is none other than African-American civil rights leader El-Hajj Malik El Shabbaz, more commonly known as Malcolm X. The man who was renowned for preaching that whites were "devils" -- especially the blond, blue-eyed ones -- profoundly reassessed these views during the Hajj. This transformation, of course, sealed his break with the Black nationalist movement of the Nation of Islam.

Muslim pilgrims take part in the day-long station at Arafat during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca .It is a day of atonement and reminds believers of the day of judgment where all of humanity will be taken for account for their actions.

Contrary to the teachings of the Nation, he concluded that Islam encompassed all of humanity and transcended race and culture. Malcolm X later said, "In my 39 years on this Earth, the holy city of Mecca had been the first time I had ever stood before the Creator of all and felt like a complete human."

In Mecca, he discovered himself mixing with, "fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was whitest of white." Malcolm X was so inspired by what he witnessed, that, in letters to friends and relatives, he wrote, "America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem."

Upon returning to America, he embarked on a mission to enlighten both blacks and whites with his new views. Malcolm X understood that in order to truly learn from the Hajj, its inherent spiritual lessons must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims to forging a common humanity with others.

In fact, as part of the spiritual experience, the pilgrimage links people across religions through a past shared by several Abrahamic traditions. This combined with the Islamic teaching of the common origin of humanity holds out much hope. Indeed, the Qur'an teaches: "We created you from a single pair of a male and female (Adam and Eve), and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other and not that you might despise each other. The most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you" (Quran 49:13). This is a great celebration of the differences and at the same time unity of all of humanity.

Another essential spiritual message of the Hajj is one of humility to God and His supremacy and control over all that we know. The multitude of people and their inner beliefs and practices are all to be judged by God and God alone in His infinite wisdom and full knowledge. Indeed, as the Qur'an insists, "Let there be no compulsion in matters of faith, truth stands out clear from error." (Quran 2:256)

The result of a successful Hajj is a rich inner peace, which is manifested outwardly in the values of justice, honesty, respect, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy. And it is these values - all attributes of God almighty -- that are indispensable to us all if we are just to get along in this world.

Faisal Kutty is a lawyer, writer and doctoral candidate at Osgoode  Hall Law School of York University.  He is also vice chair of the Canadian Council on  American Islamic Relations. His articles are archived at www.faisalkutty.com.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Highlights
  Topics: Hajj, Makkah (Mecca)  Values: Spirituality
Views: 18679

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Older Comments:
AL HARAM said:
May Allah reward the writer for his good work. Ameen

The first time one sees the Kaaba would be struck by the awe of
the House of Allah which remains the focul Center of convergence
bringing together all different nationalities ant tribes
throughout the world all coming together to purify and chant
Labbaik Lahumma Labbaik the Greatness and Oneness of Allah the
Creator of the whole Universe.He is the Controller who Sustains
and running the Universal Galaxies of the boundless sky that is
Allah the Creator of Adam and his wife Eve Abraham the friend of
Allah Moses whom He spoke with and Jesus the Spirit of God
conceived by His Mother Maryam with the permission of Allah and
our Prophet Muhammad sent to the whole humanity and all other
Prophets me and you and the rest of the humanity Not only we the
human being is the same Creator who created the Jinns like us to
worship Himand nobody else.La ila ha illallah.Allah created all
the Angels Gabriel Michael and all of them,Paradise and Hell
animals and trees oceans and seas and everything we can see and
we cannot see all belongs to Allah and not any one else.The
Hajjis donn the simple universal cloth of Ihram to remove their
feelings of status making others inferior that I am so and so
who are you in front of Allah you are nobody but simple servant
of Him like every body.This is the Universal Lesson of Hajj and
Islam in general.

Alhamduillah! Beautifully written. Food for the soul.

Assalamu Alaikum:
The details of Hajj is very inspiring. Since I converted to Islam I read the Islamic details again and again yet, never get tired.
It is such a tragedy that Islam was hidden from me and my community.
And not only that but we were ordered not to mingle with Muslims and keep away from the
Al-Quran (Astagifirullah).
Whoever orders that can be identified with Iblis
the Shaytan and nothing else.
Sis. Gulshan (an ex-Ismaili).

assalam aleikun, may Allah swt rewards u for this msg. though i have not gone for haj. but i am praying to Allah to make it easy for me, dis is a msg that awakening the mind of all muslim ummah who intend to go for haj. that they should know that haj. is one of the five pillars in islam, and it should be parform with the fear of Allah. those who have gone may Allah accept it as an act of ibadah and make it easy for us that has not gone. meawhile pls this msg should not be on haj alone but on all other aspect of act of worship. ma sallam

Indeed the Universality of the islamic faith is further portrayed in the performance of Hajj, the largest gathering of mankind in one place, at a particular period and for the same purpose. Surely this is a sign for men of understanding. May Allah continue to guide us to his light, strenthen our faith in him and grant us Al-jannah. The experience of Malcom X as expressed by the the writter of this article has aptly captured the essence of Hajj.

As a Muslim preparing to embark on the Holy pilgrimage this year with my wife, I find this article highly relevant and interesting.. It is an excellent summary of the nature and philosophy of the journey. May Allah reward Bro Faisal abundantly in this world and the hereafter for this noble task of enlightening the Muslims of the essence of Hajj. I will surely recommend this to my wife and other brothers preparing for the same journey.

ASA, Bro.Faisal, Thank you for enlightening me regarding the Lesson of Hajj. It is very perplexing that women are supposed to be treated equal, however, this may exist in only a small percentage of areas around the globe. Our duty to Allah is to spread the word of AL Islam in positive and truthful ways. Thank you for telling the truth, now brothers and sisters must really strive to be not just muslims but believers and seekers of the truth.

May Allah continue to bless you and grant you success in this life and the hereafter.

ASA, Sis Aisha

A very nicely written article. I have not gone on my own Hajj but dream of doing when I am able. I have always listened with much longing to those who have part taken in a Hajj and to there own spritual adventures. This article reminded me of why I love Islam and why I convered.