Hajj & the journey inward
By the time you read this, I should be in Mecca with my brothers to perform hajj insha Allah. Just writing those words feel surreal to me because just 2 years ago, the thought or even the intention to perform hajj never crossed my heart.
I thought I’d probably do it in my 40s or 50s like most people would (even my parents) but last year, after my brothers and I performed our first ever umrah (smaller pilgrimage), we said to each other: “Let’s do hajj.”
We had just finished our sa’ee, a ritual which involves going back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, which also marks the completion of our umrah, when we decided that now that we have experienced umrah, we wanted to take on hajj.
By all means, we did not think we were amazing in our religion or that we had attained a great level of taqwa (piety) just because we had done umrah, but we felt a strong desire to complete this very significant pillar of Islam (Islam has 5).
It is obligatory for all Muslims who are financially, physically and mentally capable to perform hajj. What this means is he is not living in poverty, he is not ill or disabled and his ability to think is not compromised by a mental condition i.e he is mad. If any of these are lacking then it is not obligatory for one to perform it.
But the remarkable thing is: many people who are living in poverty manage to find the means to perform hajj. When you’re here, not everyone is checked in a hotel; some are camping outside Masjidil Haram or sleeping on the streets of Mecca.
Many have even walked thousands of miles from their respective countries just so that they are able to fulfil the 5th pillar of Islam—this is no exaggeration. I was told by a soldier here that many Arabs and Africans come here by foot which means they make their way to Mecca weeks or months in advance.
It is not incumbent on someone who is poor to perform hajj and yet you’ll see that many of the hajj pilgrims are from very scarce financial backgrounds.
Why then, do they still do it? How do they manage?
It is simply iman (faith) that draws one to fulfil their religious obligations. There is a saying that ‘Allāh gives all the pleasures of the world to both believers and non-believers but He only gives iman to those that He loves.’
Faith lies within the heart and it is the heart that drives us to do things—even things which may seem completely illogical. People do crazy things for love don’t they? When the heart desires something, it’ll overcome all barriers to achieve it. This is one of the mysteries of the spiritual heart; we are able to go above and beyond to do good or evil.
Though hajj is not obligatory if you’re compromised physically or financially, people are driven by their faith to take on this difficult yet rewarding journey. The spiritual benefits of hajj are superior so it’s no surprise that Muslims jump at the chance to do it.
No difficulty can overcome one’s devotion towards Allāh—if there are barriers, Allāh will lift them for the sincere believer. By the Will of Allāh, nothing is impossible because al-Karim, the Most Generous, will always provide those who seek to get closer to Him.
the calling to do hajj
My brothers have their own personal reasons for wanting to perform hajj and I do, too. But all three of us had age as one of the factors for performing hajj so soon—we wanted to do it while we were young as hajj is a physically challenging journey and requires a lot of physical endurance. Imagine hours of walking in the heat in a crowd of MILLIONS.
Secondly, we are at a point in our lives where we feel: ‘Why delay doing things for Allāh?’
When one is on the path to be close to God, you cannot help but feel so aware of your age and mortality. Each year that passes, you can’t help but think: ‘Will I get to do this before I die?” You don’t have to be the most pious person to understand that life is short and when you’re able to do good, or embark on something to better one’s self, one shouldn’t be hesitant or embarrassed to do so.
Though many people, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, feel that hajj is something reserved for Muslims who have attained a high level of religiosity, that’s simply not true. Everyone that’s embarking on this journey to Allāh is a sinner—what differentiates each sinner is how much or many times they are willing to return to Him when they have fallen.
Repentance is not easy for everyone because it requires one to acknowledge their limitations and to be broken before God. It’s not possible to submit to a Higher Power when we have turned our own egos into a god. When we are constantly appeasing our egos and worshipping our desires, we veil ourselves from God.
Those who are blinded by their own egos will never think they are in need of Allāh’s Forgiveness or that they need to seek Allāh’s pleasure.
They’ll always make excuses for their current spiritual state and carry on life on their own terms. They’ll not take advice from the ‘alim (the learned) because they feel it is beneath them and that they ‘know better’.
But as Muslims, we live life according to Allāh’s Terms, not ours. This life is entrusted to us by Him and we will have to return to Him and answer for our deeds in the afterlife which is why we always seek guidance from not just Allāh but those whom He loves: the righteous.
This journey Is for everyone
It has not been mandated that one has to saintly in order to be worthy of hajj. There’s no part of Islam that mandates one is only worthy of Allāh’s love and forgiveness once they have reached perfection. Allāh only asks for us to be sincere, to assign no other partners to Him (declaring He is One) and to recognise our faults when we do fall into sin.
The path of taubah (repentance) is a path for ALL because as humans, we will always fall short before God and His creations. We make mistakes, we hurt others and we cross boundaries.
Hajj is not simply a set of rituals; it is the process of spiritual purification in action. The essence of Islam cannot be appreciated nor experienced from just observing its rituals without understanding its spiritual significance. The true essence of Islam, one that every heart yearns for, can only be felt when we make that inward journey into our soul.
When we reevaluate our purpose in life and truly understand the reason for our existence, only then can we appreciate what has been set out for us within this religion. Otherwise, it’s easy to view this religion as an unreasonable set of dos and don’ts—an ignorant view, indeed!