In the past, Muslims need months for travelling to accomplish their journey to Mecca. The means for transportation were mainly on camels if by land or through basic wooden made boats by water. From Granada, Istanbul, Cairo, Abyssinia, Damascus, Baghdad, Tashkent, Sumatra, and as far as the wall of China, Muslims regarded this trip as the first, and for many the last visit to Mecca and Madina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s grave is located. Today, it takes only about ten hours flying from Kuala Lumpur, approximately thirteen hours from either Tokyo or Washington D.C, to reach the holy land. Although it is very costly journey, both economically and physically, yet in recent years millions of Muslims have attended the annual pilgrimage in Mecca. The question this article seeks to ask is, what motivates these individuals to perform this ritual, and, what is the religious significance behind this kind of obligation? Is Hajj (pilgrimage) considered only part of an Islamic worship and believe or an individual’s journey for purification the soul?
The first obligation of a Muslim, regardless of where he or she lives, is to worship Allah (God), by carrying out His will in all aspects of life. The nucleus of Islamic teaching and the Islamic way of life is a set of four obligatory acts of worship (ibadat), which, taken together with the confession of faith, are referred to as the “five pillars” of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has defined the faith (iman), the submission (Islam), and the best models for human behavior to follow (ihsan). The significance of the five pillars for a Muslim is demonstrated in the way the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) spoke about four pillars in his tradition (hadith) concerning submission. According to the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam):
“Islam been built on five pillars: testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah (shahadah), performing the prayers (salat), paying the poor-due (zakat), making the pilgrimage to the House (Hajj), and observing the annual fast of Ramadan (sawm).”
hese acts of worship constitute the five pillars or cornerstones of Islam, each of which has its own spiritual and social values. One who believes in these pillars enters the fold of Islam and becomes a member of the Muslim community (the ummah). It is these ceremonial obligations that draw the faithful closer to Allah and help them fulfil their duty to Him. The purpose of Islamic worship is, therefore, to strengthen the individual’s faith and sense of submission to Allah, and to reinforce the ties of brother and sisterhood among Muslims. In order to examine the significance of Hajj to Mecca in a Muslim’s social and spiritual life, the following analysis on the subject will be introduced.
The Qur’an (the Holy Book in Islam) has reported in several places the importance of Hajj, in both Muslim’s religious as well as social life. It designates the entire chapter # 22 (surat al-Hajj) for this purpose. It was reported in the Qur’an:
“And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every deep ravine”
In this regard, the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“He who makes the pilgrimage to the House (of God), avoiding indecent and immoral behavior, emerges from his sins like a newborn baby.”
He also said:
“If some one sets out from his home as a pilgrim or visitant (mu’tamir) and then die, he (or she) is granted the reward of a pilgrim or visitant till the Day of Resurrection. Anyone who dies in either of the sanctuaries (Mecca or Madina) is not subject to review or reckoning, but is told to enter paradise.”
In addition, the Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Pilgrims and visitants are the emissaries and visitors of Allah, if they petition Him He gives what they ask, if they seek His forgiveness He forgives them, if they call on Him He answers, and if they seek intercession it is granted.”
The performance of Hajj is incumbent upon all Muslims, and should be fulfilled at least once in a lifetime, if they are in a position both physically and economically to undertake the journey to Mecca and to make sufficient provision for their dependents during the period of their absence (Qur’an 22: 27-32).
The Shafi’aiate School of Thought considers the proper time to fulfill this task can be at any time after certain conditions (i.e financial, physical, and security) for Hajj accomplished.
In his book Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (“revival the sciences of religion”), the great Muslim scholar, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (R.a) had recorded the inner states at various stages of Hajj such as the role of sincerity in intention, the way to respect the noble shrines, the manner in which to contemplate them and to reflect upon their mysterious and meanings, from the start of the pilgrimage to the end. In his conclusion of the subject al-Ghazali (R.a) said, “such are the duties of the heart at all stages of the pilgrimage. When all have been completed, your heart should be beset with sadness, anxiety and fear, for you do not know whether you have had your pilgrimage accepted and been firmly placed in the company of the loved ones, or had your pilgrimage rejected and been included among the outcasts. The pilgrim should discover this from his (or her) heart and its conduct” (p. 119).