It must have been extremely hard for millions of Muslims from all over the world not to be able to perform firstly ‘Umrah in Ramadan and now Hajj. It had to be heart-wrenching for everyone.
This applies to all: intending participants (pilgrims), organizers, hosts, and even those uninvolved worldwide, for cancelling pilgrimage – except for a small group of local residents – and virtually closing down Al-Masjid Al-Haram and the rest of holy places, is an unimaginable prospect. It is a devastating psychological blow to all Muslims.
The Meaning and Importance of Hajj
Most Muslims live their entire lives for the experience of visiting Makkah – and Madinah –especially as Hajj pilgrims. It is their biggest dream to walk in the footsteps of the Prophets (all Prophets performed pilgrimage to Makkah), and the footsteps of the most exemplary generations of Islam.
Such signifies the climax of a Muslim’s spiritual journey. It is the conclusion of all of his spiritual cravings and the ultimate end where all other ends lead and eventually come to rest. It is the moment of truth.
No wonder that for Hajj people’s lifelong savings since their youth are set aside. They are also gradually, but persistently, being prepared and primed for the moment, both spiritually and mentally.
Many Hajj matters and events have entered the folklore of Muslim communities. Every so often they became the stuff of legend.
In the contemporary sense, though, Hajj is increasingly taking centre stage in what could be called a Muslim pop(ular) culture.
All that is more than worthwhile. Hajj is an otherworldly investment whose returns are correspondingly remarkable. Nobody returned from Hajj disappointed, unconvinced, and his expectations not met. There is no better way to self-fulfilment than Hajj.
Hajj is a life changing experience. It is a spiritual revolution. After Hajj, nobody’s life is ever the same again. A person must see and experience it to believe it.
Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasized that:
After an accepted Hajj, a pilgrim will go back free of sin as on the day his mother bore him; that an accepted Hajj brings no reward but Paradise (Al-Bukhari; Muslim)
An accepted Hajj removes poverty and sins as the bellows removes the dross of iron, gold and silver (Al-Tirmidhi).
Literally, hajj means “pilgrimage” or “journey to a fixed destination”. It is derived from the verb hajja, which means “to journey” and “to go to”. The verb hajja also means “to intend”, “to aim at” and “to strive for (qasd)”. Derived from the same root are the nouns hijjah and hujjah, which mean “year” and “authoritative evidence” respectively.
It follows that Hajj is the pilgrimage (spiritual journey) to the holy city of Makkah: its Ka’bah, al-Masjid al-Haram and the rest of the holy places. It is an extremely challenging occasion conducted once every year (hijjah).
The hearts of many people are filled with love towards Hajj, endlessly yearning for and preparing themselves for it (the purity of intention, hajj or qasd).
In Hajj, furthermore, people also seek and find the most authoritative affirmation and evidence as to the meaning of life and truth as a whole (hujjah). He who performs Hajj is called al-haajj.
His individuality and integrity are expected to exemplify as much as possible the conspicuous dimensions of Hajj. He himself is to become an evidence and role model.
The Prophet’s Experiences
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah. The first 13 years of his prophetic mission unfolded there, right in the vicinity of the Ka’bah and its Al-Masjid Al-Haram.
However, ever since he declared his mission, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was never left alone and in peace. A large number of his countrymen and even his kith and kin rejected him. They never stayed out of his way, making those years the hardest of his life.
Since they knew that purifying Al-Masjid Al-Haram of its physical and spiritual impurities and making it the epicentre of the Islamic monotheistic message was his supreme goal, the obstinate polytheists of Makkah tried their best to place numerous obstacles in the way of the Prophet’s success.
Expectedly, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, which then housed around 360 idols, was the main focus of their attention.
One can imagine how unnerving it was for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to see his opponents and the opponents of truth controlling, patronizing and “maintaining” Al-Masjid Al-Haram while bearing witness to infidelity against themselves.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers were hindered from properly utilizing the holy mosque. The mosque was there, but was deformed and blurred. Its innate purpose and functionality were debilitated beyond recognition.
Those obstacles varied from physical to psychological, and from inner bitterness and verbal protests to co-ordinated operations and physical abuse.
When the ill-treatment reached its highpoint, and the relationship between the two sides went beyond the point of no return, leaving Makkah and its Al-Masjid Al-Haram and migrating to Madinah happened next. Such was an unfortunate and sad escalation of events.
It is hard to say which circumstance was more heart-breaking: to continue living in Makkah and next to Al-Masjid Al-Haram, but experience cruelty and abuse, or to get away and live freely, but away from the best land on earth and its holy mosque.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) encapsulated this sentiment when he said about Makkah upon leaving it:
You are the most beloved land to Allah, and you are the most beloved land to me. Had the polytheists not forced me out of you, I would never have come out and left you (Al-Tirmidhi; Ahmad; Ibn Hibban).
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