Why Do People Find Peace in Hajj Despite the Hard Rites?

When I first came to Islam, I met many people who, on their return from Hajj, had an aura of peace and tranquility about them. I yearned for that feeling and still try to seek it now.

On their return, they seemed to be on a higher spiritual level. It was as if all was right in their world now they had submitted to God’s commandment and been on Hajj. They had refocused on what was important in life having tasted the beauty of worshiping God in the birthplace of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

We hear so much about the rules and regulations around Hajj and of the challenges that people face, but what is it about that journey and the performance of those rituals that can bring about such peace?

Why does God place the obligation on Muslims to go to Hajj if they can, despite it causing great physical, emotional and financial challenges to many people?

{And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass that they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals.

So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor.

Then let them end their untidiness and fulfill their vows and perform Tawaf around the ancient House.} (Al-Hajj 22:27-28)

So how do people witness benefits from their Hajj experiences?

The Spiritual Benefits of the Rites of Hajj

I believe that the spiritual benefits start from the moment you make the decision to go to Hajj. You are accepting the obligation that God has put on those who can afford to go and are physically able to do so, and putting aside all your excuses.

The focus of your life changes and you start planning how you can meet this obligation in the best way and all other matters become secondary. It leads to the necessity of you resisting the temptation to spend your money on earthly goods and services and choosing instead to invest financially in your Hereafter. For many, this may involve financial hardship and struggles to fulfill their goal.

The Road to Makkah

Once you leave to travel to Makkah, your journey is one of building excitement at the prospect of getting closer to the House of God and the land where the Prophet Muhammad actually lived and proclaimed Islam to his people.

Up until that point your journey may have been a very personal one, involving just you, your family and maybe a few friends, but as you get closer to your destination, the numbers will be swelling as you’re joined by people of every race, color and language, from every corner of the globe taking the same journey as you to the same destination and you start to realize your position in the grand scale of God’s plans.

Changing into Ihram is a physical sign that reminds you that you are leaving your old identity, status and desires behind for the time it will take to perform your Hajj. You will become as one with the people around you; all standing before God as equals.

On the journey towards Makkah, the excitement and anticipation rises along with the volume of the Talbiyyah: “Labbayk Allahumma labbayk… (“I am present, O’ Allah, I am present…).

But once the Masjid Al-Haram is sighted for the first time, it will take your breath away. The realization that God has invited you as a guest to His House and you are truly standing in His Presence will dawn. All the struggles to get there fade into the distance, as your heart truly connects with your Maker and the purpose of your journey.

Rites in Makkah

The first ritual that you have to perform, kissing or indicating towards the Black Stone, symbolizes your submission to God and His Prophet, as the only reason that you are doing this is to follow the Prophet’s example. As Umar said after he kissed the Black Stone:

“I know that you are only a stone and that you can neither benefit nor harm. If I had not seen the Prophet (peace be upon him) kiss you, I would not have kissed you.” (Al-Bukhari)

You then join the crowds of people, moving as one, circumambulating their spiritual center, the Ka’bah, counter clockwise in the same way as all of God’s creation, from the smallest of atoms to the largest of planets, moves daily in their own orbits. This ritual connects you to the laws of the cosmic universe and makes you at one in harmony with it.

Moving onto mounts Al-Safa and Al-Marwah reminds you of the purity of the trust that Hajar had in God that He would provide for her after Abraham had left her alone in the barren desert. As you run between the same hills that she did, reflecting on her faith, this increases your faith that He will also always provide for you.

{And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect.} (Al-Talaq 65: 2-3)

Outside Makkah

Then comes the most important day of all the Hajj, the day without which Hajj is not complete. This is the Day of Arafah, when you will stand with everyone on the plain of Arafah.

It will be reminiscent of the Day of Judgment when we will all be standing in the heat of that day before God. But on this day, God descends to the nearest heaven and grants forgiveness for major sins.

He frees more people from the Hellfire on that day than on any other day, so this is the day when you truly communicate with Him; acknowledging your sins, pleading for His forgiveness and opening your heart to His mercy.

The next stage is to stone the Jamrat-ul-‘Aqabah. You will be among hoards of people symbolically throwing stones at Satan to repel him. What a powerful image that is; all those people repelling Satan together! One that you will be able to recall forever when you face his temptations in the future.

Final Rites

Once you have done that, you start on the final rites of Hajj. You will cut or shave your hair, creating for the men a powerful reminder of their Hajj that they will take back with them when they return home, and then you will perform your sacrifice.

This last act is one that you will do with Muslims around the world in commemoration of the unquestioning ultimate sacrifice that Abraham was prepared to make of his son Ishmael and of Ishmael’s absolute submission.

{He said, ‘O my father, do as you are commanded.  You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.’} (Al-Saffat 37:102)

May we all develop our faith to be as strong as they were in following God’s commands!

Before returning home, you will once again circumambulate the Ka`bah to say farewell for now to the House of God and the blessed city, joining with the throngs of people who will all be leaving a part of themselves in Makkah, hoping one day to return.

What an amazing experience Hajj is! No wonder those who return from it are affected by their experiences; they have spent days truly immersed in the worship of God, submitting to His commands, following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), strengthening their Iman (faith) to face their daily lives with new vigor and conviction.

Is it any wonder that God obligates Hajj on those who are able to go?

About Amal Stapley
Amal Stapley After accepting Islam in 1992, Amal graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies. She then went on to work with several Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and more recently in her home country, the UK.