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Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Visiting Holy Kaaba and performing pilgrimage is obligatory once in a lifetime upon every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable. Every year thousands of people undertake the journey of Bayt Allah (the house of Allah) to perform this sacred duty. All devotions made obligatory by Allah have purpose behind them. Achieving that purpose while performing these devotions is extremely important.

Rituals of Hajj

The rituals performed during Hajj are called rites of Hajj (Hajj k arkan). The rites of Hajj are:

  • Entering the holy sanctuary of Makkah
  • Acquiring the state of ihram (plain white clothing worn by pilgrims)
  • Performing tawaf-e-qudum (the initial circumambulation around Kaaba performed by the pilgrim upon entering Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah)
  • Spending a day in Mina (a town near Makkah)
  • Heading to the plain of Arafat and performing wuquf (ritual of Hajj in which the pilgrim stays in the plain of Arafat and listens to the sermon of Hajj. Here noon (Dhuhr) and afternoon (Asr) salat are offered together).
  • Staying for a night at Muzdalifah beneath the open sky
  • Heading back to Mina at sunrise and performing rami (obligatory ritual of stoning the three walls representing Satan in the city of Mina.)
  • Slaughtering of an animal
  • Then proceeding to Bayt al-Haram and performing tawaf (seven-fold circumambulation around Kaaba in counterclockwise direction.)
  • Offering mandatory two units of prayer at the station of Abraham

There is wisdom behind all these rites of Hajj. Its understanding is important for a pilgrim. Only then one can perform a true Hajj (haqeeqi Hajj). However, majority of people are oblivious to the obligation of Hajj and the soul of its rituals.

A recount between a Shaikh and a disciple

To understand the spiritual reality of Hajj, we narrate below an incident of Abu Bakr al-Shibli and one of his disciples:

After returning from Hajj, the disciple came to meet Abu Bakr al-Shibli. He asked the disciple a few questions and the disciple recounts this exchange as follows:

Shaikh asked me: ‘Did you make the covenant to perform Hajj?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He then said to me: ‘By means of this covenant did you then revoke every other covenant that you made from the time you were born, that contradicted this covenant?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He responded: ‘In that case you did not make the covenant of Hajj.’

The Shaikh asked: ‘Did you get rid of your clothing at the time of wearing ihram?’ I said: ‘Indeed I did.’ He asked: ‘At that time did you eliminate from yourself everything other than Allah as well?’ I answered: ‘No, that didn’t happen’. He said: ‘Then you really did not remove your clothing.’

The Shaikh then asked me: ‘Did you cleanse your body by performing ablution?’ I said: ‘yes I did clean myself.’ He replied: ‘Did you also remove all evils and faults from yourself through that bodily purification?’ I said: ‘No.’ He said: ‘Then you did not really achieve purification?’

Then he asked: ‘Did you invoke talbiyah (saying labbayk Allahumma labbayk i.e. here I am, O Allah, here I am)?’ I said: ‘yes.’ The Shaikh said: Did you get an answer of your talbiya from Allah?’ I said: ‘No’ He replied: ‘Then you did not really invoke talbiya.’

He asked: ‘Did you enter Haram (sacred boundary of Makkah)?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘Did you pledge to rid yourself from all prohibited things eternally?’ I said: ‘No.’ He replied: ‘Then you did not enter the Haram either.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you visit Makkah?’ I said: ‘Yes I did visit Makkah.’ He said to me: ‘At that time did you also experience a spiritual state where you were seeing spiritual realms?’ I replied: ‘No, I did not experience seeing spiritual realms.’ He then replied: ‘Then you did not really pay visit to Makkah.’

Then he asked: ‘Did you enter Masjid al-Haram? I responded: ‘yes.’ He asked: ‘Did you experience Allah’s closeness at that time?’ I said: ‘No.’ He replied: ‘Then you did not really enter Masjid al-Haram.

He inquired: ‘Did you gaze at sacred Kaaba? I responded: ‘yes.’ He asked: Did you also achieve Divine vision for which journey to Kaaba is truly undertaken?’ I said: ‘No.’ He said: ‘Then you did not really gaze at the sacred Kaaba.’

Then he asked me: ‘Did you do ramal (making rounds of Kaaba at hurried pace) while circumambulating the holy Kaaba?’ I replied: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Did you also flee from this worldly life in a way that you knew you were cutting yourself off and alienating yourself from it inwardly?’ I said: ‘No.’ He said: ‘Then you did not do ramal properly.’

He asked: ‘Did you place your hands on al-Ḥajaru al-Aswad (black stone venerated into the eastern corner of Holy Kaaba) and kiss it. I responded: ‘yes.’ He sighed in woe and said: ‘Are you aware that whoever places hands on it in fact greets Allah and whoever greets Allah comes under Divine protection. Did any sign of Divine protection manifest upon you there? I replied: ‘No, I did not experience any such manifestation.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really place your hands on the black stone.’

He then questioned: ‘Did you offer two units (ar-rakah) of prayer at the station of Abraham (Maqam Ibrahim)?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘At that time you had reached a station which is highest near Allah (rank of Prophet). Did you inwardly fulfil the right of standing there? I replied: ‘No.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really offer prayer at the station of Abraham.’

He asked: ‘Did you climb on the mountain of Safa for performing sa’ee (ritual of running) between Safa and Marwa? I said: ‘yes, I climbed there.’ ‘What did you do there?’ He asked, ‘There I recited takbir (Allahu akbar i.e. Allah is the greatest) seven times and prayed to Allah for the acceptance of my Hajj.’ I responded. Then he asked: ‘Did angels also recite takbir with your takbir and did you experience the spiritual reality of your takbir at that place?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He said: ‘Then you did not recite takbir.

He then asked me: ‘Did you descend from Safa?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He then asked: ‘Were you completely purified there after removing every fault from yourself?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He responded: ‘Then you did not really ascend or descend Safa.’

He queried: ‘Did you run between Safa and Marwa? I responded: ‘yes, I did.’ He asked: ‘At that time did you run towards Allah and found refuge from what you ran from (inciting innerself self) and arrived at your true existence?’ I responded in negation, and he said: ‘Then you did not run properly.’

This ritual of Hajj in fact points towards the following verse of the Holy Quran:

فَفِرُّوْٓا اِلَی اللّٰہ

Meaning: Run towards Allah.

Then he questioned: ‘Did you climb the mountain of Marwa?’ I said: ‘yes.’ He asked: ‘Did the Divine tranquility descend upon you and did you take it?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really climb Marwa.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you go out to Mina?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He then asked me: ‘Did you then desire from Allah a spiritual state that was different from the one in which you were disobedient to Him?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really go to Mina.’

He then asked: ‘Did you enter Masjid al-Khayf (located in Mina)?’ I said: Yes. He asked: Did the fear of Allah overtook you there like never before? I responded: ‘No.’ He said: Then you did not enter Masjid al-Khayf.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you reach the plane of Arafat?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘At that time did you realize the purpose of your creation? What are you doing now in the world? And where will you go after death? Did you witness there any signs of Allah’s warnings? I replied: ‘No.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really go to Arafat.’

He questioned: ‘Did you go to Muzdalifah?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He then asked: ‘Did you make remembrance of Allah in a way that made you forget everything other than Him?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He then responded: ‘Then you did not really reach Muzdalifah.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you go to Mina and perform the ritual of slaughtering an animal?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘Did you also sacrifice your inciting innerself for Allah?’ I said: ‘No.’ He responded: ‘Then you did not really perform this ritual of Hajj either.’

He then queried: ‘Did you perform rami (ritual of stoning the Satan?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘With every stone you threw did you also throw your ignorance away from you and felt increase of knowledge manifested upon you?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He then replied: ‘Then you did not really perform rami.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you perform tawaf?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ Then he asked: ‘Did Allah reveal His secrets upon you, and did He shower upon you the spiritual dignities? Because the Holy Prophet, has said:

  • One who performs Hajj or Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage) is in fact the visitor of Allah and it is the right of the One being visited to honor His visitor.’ I replied: ‘I did not experience the revelation of Divine secrets upon me.’ He then responded: ‘You did not really make the visitation.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you unfasten the ihraam?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He asked: ‘At that time did you decide to earn your means only through permissible sources?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He replied: ‘Then you did not really unfasten the ihraam.’

He then asked me: ‘Did you perform farewell tawaf of Allah’s House?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘There did you completely gave up your desires of innerself and your will?’ I replied: ‘No.’ He responded: ‘Then you did not really bid farewell to Allah’s House.

He said: It is incumbent upon you to return and repeat your Hajj keeping in mind the spirituality of rituals of Hajj so that your Hajj may bear some resemblance with Prophet Abraham’s Hajj.

It is important for all pilgrims to understand the true purpose of Hajj before setting off for the journey. They should also prepare for it mentally and physically so that the sacred duty for which they spent their wealth and time does not go unaccepted in Allah’s court. The important duty of Hajj should be performed keeping in mind the soul of all its rituals. May Allah bless us all with the ability of performing true Hajj with its full spirit. Ameen

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