THE SPIRIT OF HAJJ

Personality Changing:

THE personality that should emerge after performing Hajj is one in which a two-fold activity is set in motion, one form being external and the other internal.

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‘External activity’ here refers to the peaceful mission of the Prophets— conveying the message of God to mankind—which a person undertakes after having seen the places where Prophet Abraham, Ishmael and Prophet Muhammad and his companions spent much of their lives in this mission. Until then, the pilgrim had just heard about these places, but when he physically goes to those places, he receives a great inspiration to continue this prophetic mission.

Hajj removes one from one’s worldly environment so that one can concentrate completely on God.
By ‘internal activity’ is here meant a heightened sensitivity towards and awareness of piety, self-control, avoidance of violence and aggression and the need to lead life devoted to God, instead of to self-glorification. In other words, during and after Hajj, the Haji undergoes continuous process of deconditioning.

Lesson of Piety:
In a verse about Hajj, the Quran says:

The pilgrimage is in the appointed months. Whoever intends to perform it during them must abstain from indecent speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling while on the pilgrimage. Whatever good you may do, God is aware of it. Make provision for yourselves—but surely, the best of all provision is God-consciousness. Always be mindful of Me, you that are endowed with understanding.
THE QURAN 2: 197

Hajj, for the Arabs, was an ethnic festival, not an expression of the worship of the one God. In pre-Islamic times, Hajj was associated with all sorts of practices that are characteristic of tribal or ethnic festivals. Islam put an end to these. In this context, the Quran, as the above verse tells us, forbade things like indecent speech, wicked conduct and quarreling during Hajj, things that are forbidden even in ordinary circumstances but which are to be avoided with particular care during Hajj. One major reason for this is that because when an occasion demands travel and a large number of people coming together, the chances of such misbehaviour are greater. If a person is not fully conscious of such matters, it is possible that he may indulge in such activities, willingly or unwillingly. Since Hajj involves travel and a large gathering, such misbehaviour is clearly and explicitly forbidden.

One of the most dangerous things that constantly threaten to undermine collective harmonious living is one’s tongue.
A true believer is one whose life is driven not by lust, but, rather, by a higher purpose. He takes every care not to disobey God in any of his dealings. He abstains from conflict with others. This is how a true believer should always behave, but during Hajj when a person exemplifies these traits, he shows himself to be a true Haji. If he has really imbibed these values of piety that he should possess during Hajj, he will desist from the sort of misdemeanour that above-quoted verse of the Quran refers to. These things destroy piety.

Additional Precautions:
Things that are forbidden during Hajj are also forbidden at other times, too. They are to be especially particularly carefully abstained from during Hajj, but they must be avoided at other times as well. By stressing that we should be particularly careful about avoiding them during Hajj, it is so that we are more conscious of such activities and develop the special capability to abstain from them at other times also. When we are in our homes or in our workplaces, we are deeply engrossed in our personal affairs. We forget the realities that exist beyond these levels. That is why people are encouraged to go to mosques every day to pray—so that for at least some time they come out of their personal environments, free their minds from irrelevant affairs, and focus, with deep concentration, on God. Travelling for Hajj is also like this. During Hajj, one is taken out of one’s limited environment and is taken to various places of prominence in Islam over a period of several days. In this way, Hajj removes one completely from one’s worldly environment so that one can completely concentrate on God.

There are several religious traditions associated with Arabia. The Kabah is in Saudi Arabia—and a great many religious traditions, accumulated over several thousand years, are associated with it. Stories of the sacrifices of prophets have been written here. Here are memorials testifying to the divine blessings received by pious servants of God. Here are also signs of the lives of God’s last prophet and his companions.

Historical connections of this sort have given the places associated with Hajj a unique sanctity and respect. As soon as one enters this area, an entire religious history comes to life in one’s mind and one’s religious spirit is enkindled. One begins to abide by one’s religious duties with greater seriousness and commitment. Because of the special historical importance of this area, God selected it to be an arena where people come to rehearse the true and peaceful Islamic way of life, so that when they go back to where they came from they can be better equipped and inspired to lead God-oriented lives.

The ihram worn in Hajj is a practical expression of the Islamic principle of human equality.
Among the things that are forbidden while on Hajj are hurting anyone through one’s tongue and killing or wounding any animal. One is also to abstain from certain comforts and indulgences, such as wearing stitched clothes, using perfume and engaging in sexual relations.

Being Careful While Speaking:
One of the most dangerous things that constantly threatens to undermine harmonious collective living is one’s tongue. The greatest hurt you can do to someone is through your tongue. Vast numbers of people gather together on the occasion of Hajj, and hence many situations where the possibility that people may lose control over their tongues and use them to hurt others. So, the training and instruction of being especially watchful of what one says is given emphasis to by people during Hajj. Although not hurting others in words is an Islamic value during all times, during the Hajj it made a mandatory condition. It is made into a necessary part of an Islamic act of worship, although being careful not to hurt others through one’s speech is a general Islamic teaching that applies at other times, too. The Prophet said that he who performs Hajj in such a way that others are safe from his tongue and hands will have all the sins that he has committed till then forgiven.

If we say something indecent, it can hurt others. This is also true when we say bad and disrespectful things about others. It isn’t good to speak harshly, too. All these things are totally forbidden while on Hajj. In this way, people will appreciate the need to abstain from such speech at other times as well, when they return to their homes after Hajj.

Abstaining From Violence and Aggression:
After donning the ihram, it is forbidden for pilgrims to hunt animals. Also forbidden for the pilgrim are accepting as a gift the meat of animals that have been hunted, plucking the feathers of birds, assisting others in hunting, giving someone a knife to slaughter an animal that has been hunted and so on. All these are forbidden.

A true believer is one whose life is driven not by lust but rather by a higher purpose.
During Hajj, one can kill a pest or an animal such as a snake, and also the sacrificial animal that is part of the Hajj rituals. But besides these, it is strictly forbidden for the pilgrim not only to kill but also to hurt any animal. Hunting animals under normal conditions is allowed, however during Hajj this is completely forbidden.

This, in actual fact, is a reiteration, in a stronger sense, of a general commandment of the Islamic law. Humans are expected not to kill fellow humans or to torment animals. These are general Shariah laws that every Muslim is expected to follow at all times. But during Hajj, these laws are expanded to include a ban on hunting. In this way, the pilgrim experiences a heightened awareness of these laws, and so when he returns to his home after Hajj he will be more mindful in observing them. He will also become more mindful at all times not to oppress others.

A Life of Self-Control:

A concise way of describing the Islamic way of life is to say that it is a life of self-control. The various controls and the code of discipline that one is expected to observe during Hajj can be seen as a training for such a way of life. This is reflected in the Hadith report that we earlier quoted, in which the Prophet said that he who performs the Hajj in a way that Muslims are safe from his tongue and his hands, will have all his earlier sins forgiven.

So, while performing Hajj the pilgrim must be very careful not to hurt anyone by his words and deeds. In this way, his earlier sins can be forgiven.

Avoiding Self-Importance:

During Hajj, luxuries and indulgences are discouraged. Hajj begins with the donning of the ihram—which is a very simple white dress. Every pilgrim must wear the ihram. It is, in a sense, a dress that denotes humility and simplicity. It is an announcement, in a way, through which God teaches His servants that all of them are equal. Outwardly or external things, on the basis of which people claim superiority or inferiority vis-à-vis others, are all hollow and false in the eyes of God.

God sees everyone with the same eyes. It is like during Hajj, when vast numbers of people, wearing the same sort of dress, appear to be identical to each other. It is as if the ihram worn in Hajj is a practical expression of the Islamic principle of human equality. Those who truly want to become dutiful servants of God must remove every other ‘dress’ and, instead, don the same divine ‘dress’.

The Prophet said that he who performs Hajj in such a way that others are safe from his tongue and his hands will have all the sins that he has committed till then forgiven.
The Prophet was asked who a Haji is, and to this he replied, ‘Unkempt hair, dusty clothing.’ These words describe a true pilgrim. Unkempt hair and dusty clothing are symbolic of a man with purpose. When a person devotes himself with total seriousness to a certain cause, he will have no time for lavish grooming and beautification. During Hajj, voluntarily abstaining from such activities is an instruction in leading a purposeful life. This means that we should immerse ourselves so deeply in the Divine cause that we lose all concern with the temptations of the external world and forget all temporary enjoyments. In seeking higher purposes, we should forget our own personal desires and demands. While referring to Hajj, the Quran says:

Make provision for yourselves—but surely, the best of all provision is God-consciousness. Always be mindful of Me, you that are endowed with understanding.
THE QURAN 2: 197

In pre-Islamic Arabia it was thought that making material provision for Hajj reflected a materialistic outlook. If a person did not make such arrangements and set out for Hajj, it was thought that he was very pious. Such a person would say about himself that he relied only on God. But the Quran does not consider this sort of external or exhibitionist religiosity as true piety.

Religiosity has to do with the heart and mind, not with external demonstrations of this sort. True piety is not the mere lack of material provision; it is a cleansing of the mind and heart of the fear of everything and everyone other than God.

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