Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Performing Hajj at least once in one’s lifetime is Fard (obligatory) to every Muslim who has physical and financial ability to undertake the journey to Saudi Arabia. Every year millions of Muslims converge in the sacred city, Makkah in Saudi Arabia during hajj season from various countries over the globe to perform their Hajj. Makkah is the only place on earth where the Hajj pilgrimage can be performed. The sacred house of Allah, the Ka'bah is situated there.
In the Hajj the pilgrims perform various rites and prayers prescribed in the religion and complying the Sunnah [procedure followed by the Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam (SAW)]. The important rituals include assuming state of Ihram, reciting Talbiyah, circumambulating the Ka'bah, moving between the Safa and Marwah hills, reaching Mina and staying in the tent there, leaving for Arafah and staying there till sunset, departing from Arafah and staying in Mujdalifah under the open sky in the night, throwing pebbles to Jamarah in Mina on three consecutive days, sacrificing animals, shaving heads etc. Place, date and time are fixed for every ritual to perform and the pilgrims need to follow that strictly. The pilgrims who can perform all these rituals sincerely following the Sunnah and with a view to satisfy Allah Subhanahu Wataala (SWT) only may hope that their Hajj will be accepted by Him.
The Ka'bah and its surrounding areas are places where mercy and blessings are bestowed continuously by Allah (SWT). Therefore, besides the fixed rituals and prayers of Hajj, the pilgrims gathered in Makkah perform various Nafl (voluntary) Ibadah (prayer) there to achieve mercy and blessings of Allah (SWT). Through Hajj the pilgrims get an opportunity to get rid of their past sins, to purify their souls, to achieve closeness to Allah (SWT), to get His mercy from Jahannam (Hell) and to pave the way to Jannah (Paradise) in the Hereafter.
Apart from the Hajj season people also visit the sacred city, Makkah all over the year to perform Umrah which is not Fard like hajj. It is a Sunnah or Nafl Ibadah but no less important to achieve mercy and closeness of Allah (SWT). Great emphasis has been put to Umrah in Quran and Hadith as well.
There are many significant perspectives of Hajj and Umrah and we can learn many lessons from Hajj and Umra. Hajj and Umrah teach us to submit to Allah (SWT) completely. It develops trust and reliance in our heart about the oneness of Allah (SWT) firmly. In the pilgrimage Hajj people belonging to many different nations with many different races, colors and cultures are gathered together with the same purpose and perform all the prayers and rituals together. It develops a feeling among them that they belong to the same community, the Muslim Ummah despite all these differences. It teaches us the art of sacrifice and unity. Through Hajj and Umrah a brotherhood is built up among the Muslims which open the door to know each other and sharing views and opinion on various issues in Islam. Due to our worldly business and socio-economic obligations we are often not conscious about the life afterwards. The pilgrimage Hajj and Umrah strengthen our divine connections and make us conscious about the life afterwards. It develops eagerness and habit to perform our prayers and duties towards Allah (SWT) regularly. It pushes us spiritually forward to develop closeness to Allah (SWT) and awareness of the fact that we are on earth only for a small period of time. Our life can be terminated at any moment and if we fail to do good deeds in this life we have to face serious consequences after death and we would be put in the hell fire permanently. These are the lessons generally we can learn through performance of Hajj and Umrah. However, if we can analyze some of the rituals of Hajj and Umrah in the light of science we can learn some more lessons. In the following paragraphs we’ll explain the significance of some the rituals in Hajj and Umrah from scientific point of view.
Allah (SWT) has given the highest degrees of freedom to mankind among all of His creatures. He has bestowed the human beings with willpower and they can do anything they wish. So, being the most privileged creature they should worship Allah (SWT) showing highest gratitude and submission towards Him. But actually because of the indefinite freedom they often forget and neglect to show their obedience to Allah (SWT). We know that the Angels are much more superior and powerful creature of Allah (SWT). But they never forget the remembrance of the creator. They are constantly engaged in the worship of Him and never show any negligence. They do not have any freewill of their own. They only carry out the orders of Allah (SWT).
If we look at the nonliving world we see that they are also constantly engaged in the worship of the creator. They never disobey whatever task the creator has assigned to them. It is worth mentioning that the nonliving things can respond to the orders of Allah (SWT). Someone may ask how can a nonliving thing respond? Generally, we think that the nonliving creations do not have life and cannot speak. But the fact is that every creature can speak to its creator by some language or signals and can thus respond to the orders of the creator. Allah (SWT) understands very well the languages of His creatures. We can learn this truth from many verses of the Quran. In the Quran Allah Almighty says, “Then He directed Himself to the heaven while it was smoke and said to it and to the earth, ‘Come (into being) willingly or by compulsion’. They said, ‘We have come willingly’.”[Al-Quran 41:11]. We notice that in this verse there is a conversation between Allah (SWT) and two nonliving creations, the heaven and the earth. In another verse Allah (SWT) says, “ ‘O earth swallow your water and O sky, withhold (your rain)’. And the water subsided and the matter was accomplished, and it (i.e., the ship) came to rest on the mountain of Judiyy.-----” [Al-Qran 11:44]. In this verse we also notice that Allah (SWT) commanded the earth and the heaven to do some task and they accomplished the task accordingly. Therefore, from these two verses it is quite clear to us that the nonliving entities understand the commands of Allah (SWT) and they respond to those accomplishing the task immediately. The entire nonliving entities including the seven heavens and the earth are obedient to Allah (SWT) and they execute His commands without raising any question.
Generally, in our sight the members of the nonliving world are the worst of the creations. Because, they cannot move by their own, they cannot speak and they don’t have any freedom. Also they don’t have any willpower. They can’t do anything at their will and they can’t make any decision. Even they can’t enjoy any rest. They can only do what they are made to do. Thus it is apparent to us that the nonliving creations are the worst among all the creations. But from the Quran we learn that the nonliving creations are always acting for the welfare of the mankind and their role is very important for the existence of human being. In the Quran Allah (SWT) says, “Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heaven and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors (both) apparent and unapparent?------” [Al-Quran 31:20]. Therefore, whether it is apparent or unapparent to us Allah the Almighty says that the nonliving creations of the universe are engaged in the task of doing welfare for us, the human being. The members of the nonliving world are always engaged in the work assigned to them by Allah (SWT). The earth and the universe as a whole are in a state of existence due to the discipline in the functions of the nonliving entities. In order to maintain the discipline of the universe nonliving entities are constantly engaged in their duties by the order of Allah (SWT).
In fact Allah (SWT) has not given any freedom to the nonliving entity and has engaged them to do good to the human beings constantly. Non-stop engagement in the duties assigned to them can be considered as their Zikr (remembrance) to Allah (SWT). The universe is in its state of existence as a result of the constant Zikr of the huge celestial bodies in the heavens. The purpose of ceaselessly engaging the nonliving creations in their duties is that Allah the Almighty wants to keep the human being alive and to make them flourish in the world. Due to the sincere Zikr of Allah (SWT) by all the celestial bodies in the heavens a discipline prevails in the entire universe. This discipline among the heavenly bodies ensures proper environmental conditions on earth such as sunlight, rain, air, water, heat, cold and other elements necessary for human beings, animals and plants to survive on the earth. All these blessings together have made the planet earth beautiful which is the only dwelling place for us, the human beings.
Now, let us try to understand from the knowledge of science how the celestial bodies in the universe are in a state of Zikr of Allah (SWT) and how their Zikr keeps the universe in a state of discipline. Science states that nothing is stationary in the universe. The universe exists in a dynamic state and everything in the universe is in motion. If we look at the solar system we see that the earth, the planet in which we live orbits around the sun. The sun is the only star in the solar system. Like our earth all other planets also orbit around the sun. The earth has a satellite known as the moon. The moon orbits around the earth. Similarly the moons of other planets exhibit orbital motions around their respective planets. The sun itself is also moving along with its solar system around the center of mass of the milky way galaxy. In the milky way galaxy there are about 200 to 300 billion (1 billion=1x109) stars. Each of these stars has its own family like our solar system comprising many planets and moons. All the members of the family of each star exhibit orbital motion similar to that exhibited by the members of the solar system. Thus we notice that billions of stars in a galaxy along with billions of planets and satellites are exhibiting orbital motion. In the universe there are trillions (1 trillion=1x1012) of galaxies and all the celestial bodies inside each galaxy undergo orbital motion. We also know from science that these trillions of galaxies themselves are flying apart with tremendous speed. It is surprising that these trillions of bodies in the heaven never deviate from their paths. They follow a strict discipline in their motion and a dynamic equilibrium is established in the universe. They are following this disciplined motion because they have been directed to do so by their creator Allah (SWT). All the celestial bodies are obeying the commands of their creator meaning that they are in a state of remembrance or Zikr of Allah (SWT).
From atomic science we know that an atom comprises of protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons exist inside the central part of the atom known as the nucleus and the electrons revolve around the nucleus in different orbits. Thus we see that in the microscopic world elementary particles like electrons also exhibit orbital motions in order to maintain stability of atoms. This can also be interpreted as Zikr of the elementary particles by the order of their lord Allah (SWT). Therefore, we see that every nonliving entity right from the elementary particle in the microscopic world to the huge celestial body of the macroscopic heaven is in a state of Zikr of Allah (SWT). This is the rule set forth by the great creator Allah (SWT) for the nonliving sections of His creations.
The knowledge obtained from science helps us to understand certain aspects of Hajj and Umrah. We find a similarity of certain rituals of Hajj and Umrah with the orbital motion of the nonliving entities (in both macroscopic and microscopic worlds). In the Hajj and Umrah it is mandatory to perform Tawaf around the house of Allah (SWT), the Ka'bah. To perform Tawaf the pilgrims have to circumambulate the Ka'bah with remembrance of Allah (SWT) through pronouncing Tasbih, Tahleel, Dua and seeking Magfirat (mercy) and Rahmat (blessings) of Him. Circumambulating the Ka'bah is similar to orbiting of the heavenly bodies and elementary particles around a center. It may be understood that introducing Tawaf in Hajj and Umrah Allah (SWT) intends to simulate a picture of the orbital motion of the nonliving creations around Ka'bah by the pilgrims. The nonliving creations are silently and obediently performing the orbital motion since the beginning of the universe by the order of their lord. There is no violation, no protest, no negligence to the duties by the nonliving bodies. The picture of sincere, dedicated and devoted observance of His commands by the nonliving section of the creations has been cast by the great creator Allah (SWT) in the act of Tawaf of the pilgrims around the Ka'bah. He has introduced this ritual in the Hajj and Umra in order to teach the human being, the most intelligent section of His creations about the devoted and sincere manner of Ibadah or Zikr performed by the nonliving section. We assume that Allah (SWT) wants human being to think over the Zikr performed by the nonliving creations in the form of observance of duties sincerely and constantly. The human being should remember the flawless discipline in the universe maintained by the lifeless bodies by the order of their lord. Keeping the picture of the unique Zikr of the nonliving entities in view, the human being should perform Tawaf with utmost sincerity, humility and gratitude to Allah (SWT) from the core of their hearts and seek His mercy and blessings most ardently.
We further know from science that apart from the orbital motion, the nonliving entities also exhibit a vibrating motion through a mean position. It is known as periodic oscillation. It is a motion of a body between two extreme positions passing through a middle position. An example of this motion is the motion of the pendulum in a pendulum clock. The pendulum moves on either side of a middle position constantly. This kind of oscillatory motion is found both in microscopic and macroscopic entities. We know that the nucleus of an atom consists of two particles known as proton and neutron. Modern science has discovered that neutrons and protons are made up of extremely tiny sub-particles called quarks. These quarks undergo oscillatory motion or vibration around a mean position. We also find similar oscillatory motion in the macroscopic bodies. Pulsar star is a heavenly body which exhibits oscillatory motion and emits radio-frequency wave. Scientists have been able to detect this radio-frequency wave emitted by pulsar stars in the laboratory on the earth. The periodic oscillatory motions of the bodies both in the tiny microscopic world as well as those in the huge heaven can be thought of as Zikr of Allah (SWT) by them. It visualizes a picture of the truth that the nonliving creations follow the orders of their creator without any hesitation and protest. Every member of the nonliving world silently keeps on doing the task or duty assigned to it by the creator.
There is a ritual function in the Hajj and Umrah which resembles the periodic oscillatory motion of the nonliving bodies. This ritual is the movement of the pilgrims between the two hills Safa and Marwah and is known as Sa'yee. We know from religious history that being directed by Allah (SWT) prophet Ibrahim Alayhe Wasallam (AW) left baby Ismail (AW) and his wife Hajira (Hajar) in the hilly and isolated valley in Makkah. Mother Hajira ran between Safa and Marwah like a mad woman in search of water for saving the life of baby Ismail (AW). With a view to keep the picture of the state of deep agony and affliction of mother Hajira alive in the memory of the believing section of the mankind, Allah (SWT) has introduced Sa'yee in the rituals of Hajj and Umrah. From the scientific point of view we can see an exercise of the periodic oscillatory motion of the nonliving world in the Sa'yee. Moving between Safa and Marwah by the pilgrims remembering Allah (SWT) appears similar to the oscillatory motion of the nonliving entities. In the case of a periodic oscillatory motion there is always a middle position through which swinging on either side takes place. The middle position for sa'yee is the middle position between Safa and Marwah where the pilgrims need to walk at quicker pace or to run. Doing Sa'yee between Safa and Marwah the pilgrims commemorate the struggle and pain of mother Hajira for water. Sa'yee also reminds the human beings of the most devoted Zikr of the nonliving world so that the human beings can learn and perform their prayers with such devotion.
Allah (SWT) has created a dynamic universe where every single bit of matter is in motion. The materials world has been in motion following the rules set by Allah (SWT) since the beginning of universe with no violation at all. Through these never-ending motions all the nonliving entities exhibit their absolute obedience and gratitude to the creator for their existence. Allah (SWT) has bestowed human being with willpower to test them whether they obey His rules and commands. However, human being cannot remain in prayer all the time like the materials world. They are totally different from the nonliving substances structurally and functionally. Their bodies are subject to many physiological and biological functions which limit them to be engaged continuously in work. They need rest, food, recreation and many other things. They need to grow their food, they need to earn their livelihood, they need to fight diseases and disasters and they have family and social responsibilities. The great creator Allah (SWT) is quite aware of their limitations. That’s why He has not ordered them to engage themselves in prayer or Zikr constantly. He has introduced the pilgrimage Hajj in Islam which a person need to perform only once in his lifetime if he is physically and economically fit for that. Tawaf and Sa'yee are prayers which are mandatory for people performing Hajj and Umrah only but not for everyone. He has not made compulsory for human being to perform Tawaf and Sa'yee all the time like the constant orbiting and oscillatory motions by nonliving entities. He has given the rule of Tawaf and Sa'yee in the Hajj and Umrah as a simulation of the prayer or Zikr of the nonliving entities with a view to make human being familiar with the sincere and constant prayer of the nonliving creations. From the scientific point of view it may be said that being the best creature of Allah (SWT), the human being should ponder over His creations and know how He manages and controls them for the maintenance of the universe. With deep thought and meditation the human being can get an idea about the function and activities performed by the nonliving world every day. Thus they can conceive in their mind that obeying the orders of the creator the nonliving creations glorify their lord, Allah the Almighty and express their gratitude to Him. From this one can develop a feeling in one’s mind how dedicated and how sincere is the prayer of other creations and can try to establish such dedications in one’s own prayer. Human being should also thank Allah (SWT) for exempting them from such difficult and hard prayer as assigned to the nonliving creations.
If we think deeply we can find that there are many significance in the Hajj and Umrah. Moreover, if we can analyze the rituals and prayers in the Hajj and Umrah in the light of science we can have closer understanding of the significance and lessons which Allah (SWT) wants us to learn. We hope that from the above discussions we can realize it to some extent. In this modern era, the kingdom of knowledge of human being has been enriched to a great extent through development of science and technology. It is possible to have a profound understanding of the significance of Hajj and Umrah applying the knowledge of science into various aspects of it. Allah (SWT) instructed in the Quran to ponder deeply over His creations. He says, “Verily! in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding” [Al-Quran 3:190]. If we think profoundly utilizing the scientific knowledge about the vast universe and every single particle of it we can obtain surprising information from their functionalities. All the nonliving entities of the universe are performing the duties assigned to them by the Almighty creator with great discipline and harmony without any bit of mistake or negligence. This is a great lesson for the human beings to become conscious about their duties towards Allah (SWT) who is the creator and sustainer of their lives as well as their dwelling place, the earth.