By Ayesha Khawaja
Before you visit Makkah, it beckons you; once you leave it, it calls you forever….This is why Muslims around the globe share one burning passion: to undertake Hajj at least once in their lifetime. No other experience on Earth can come close to this incredible undertaking, every moment of which is memorable.
The rites of Hajj are all symbolic. You left your family, home, wealth, all worldly distractions behind you and put on a very basic Ihraam to remind you of the state in which you will return to Your Master. The Tawaaf around the Kaába represents the yearning of the human souls to put Allah in the centre of their lives. Attracted like iron fillings to a magnet, multitudes cry hot tears of repentance as they stream round the holiest place of all, faces enraptured in their Faith. Indeed this huge ocean of swirling believers is a mesmerizing sight and the fulfilment of a life-time dream.
When one scurries down the path between Safa and Marwa, one remembers Hazrat Hajra’s desperate search for water for her infant son , an action that pleased Allah (SWT) so much that he made it an essential rite of Hajj for all times to come. When one joins the flow of millions, one cannot help but feel a sense of awe and wonder at the diversity of people converging for one single purpose.
One thought that constantly overwhelms you in this blessed trip is that your Host is none other than the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and you are so utterly thankful to have been chosen for this holiest of expeditions.
The Prophet (SAWS) said:
The soldier in the path of Allah and the one who performs Hajj and the one who performs Umrah, all are the guests of Allah! He called them and they answered. And they asked Him, and He shall grant them (what they ask for)! – Ibn Majah
The actual rituals of the Hajj begin on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah when the pilgrims leave for Mina all the while chanting the hypnotic cry:
Labaik Allahumma Labaik…
I’ve heard the Call, O God ! Here I am !
You have no partner.
Here I am at your service.
Verily to you belong all Praise and Benevolence and Sovereignty.
You have no partner !
The tent city in Mina is another staggering sight where billionaires and commoners, all share tents and public toilets in an attempt to renounce the worldly comforts for a simple and humble existence. At each point, your patience is tested but you must not lose your cool since that is the lesson we are being taught by the grandest spectacle of the Islamic world.
Undoubtedly the spiritual climax of the Hajj is the standing at Arafat. The Prophet (SAWS) said:
Arafat is Hajj.
The walk from Mina to Arafat is one you will cherish for the rest of your days. The mountains resonate with echoes of Labbaik as thousands make their way on foot to Masjid e Namra.
It is here that multitudes of Hajis simply stand and supplicate, getting a brief glimpse of the Day when all of mankind will be gathered for the Final Judgement. People from all races and colours are stripped of their status, all begging for succour, guidance, mercy and forgiveness. It is the same place where our beloved Prophet (SAWS) delivered his final sermon to the believers on the Mount of Mercy.
At sunset, the crowds start streaming out of Arafat and head for Muzdalifa where they will spend the night on a rocky bed under the stars. Impressions of that serene night remain indelibly imprinted on your heart. No five star hotel could ever touch you with the spiritual fervour that you feel in Muzdalifa. There is nowhere you could find equality comparable to this, where all differences of race, colour and ethnicity are wiped away and all one sees is one nation submitting to one Creator.
The next three days are spent in stoning the Jamaraat where Satan tried to dissuade Hazrat Ibraheem (AS) from carrying out the command of Allah (SWT). This momentous sacrifice has no parallel in human history and teaches us that if he could offer his most prized possession, his son to Allah, we should at least be able to give up our evil desires and wrong actions. The pelting of the stones symbolizes just that: to have a strong urge to repel the sinful advances of Satan upon our souls and to denounce his rebellion.
After the offering of the sacrifice in thankfulness to Allah’s generosity and blessings, the head is shaved which is like being born again, having shed our heavy burden of sins by Divine Grace. After Mina , the Hajis return to Makkah to perform Tawaaf-e-Ziyarat, then go back to Mina to pelt the devils again and then back to Makkah again to perform the last Hajj rite the ‘farewell Tawaaf’ . This is done with a heavy heart for this is going to be the pilgrim’s last, parting round of the Kaába. Drinking Zam Zam and gazing at the sea of white bodies stretching for miles, it is impossible not to be moved by the love of the devotees of the Almighty.
Although the visit to Madina is not a part of Hajj, there is no Muslim heart that does not ache to visit the city of the beloved Prophet (SAWS). It is rightly said that Makkah is all Majesty and Madina is all beauty. You can feel the tranquility and blessings in the very breeze, dawns and sunsets of the city. When you roam the streets of Madina, steeped in Islamic history and the very place where the greatest of all Prophets lived, you are filled with love and admiration.
The Hajj is a magnificent adventure so to speak, with each pilgrim savouring it in his own special way. This love story can only truly be understood by one who has been there. May Allah (SWT) call us to His House time and again. Aameen!
About the author:
Ayesha Khawaja is a stay at home mother of five, who writes for Islamic magazines. She was called to perform the Hajj right after her treatment for cancer ended.