This is the season of Hajj. It comes up in the month of Dhul Hijjah every year. Hajj means an aspiration towards a higher pedestal in spirituality. It is, divinely, a pillar of Islam made obligatory by Allah for Muslims who can afford it once in a lifetime. Hajj is an ordained pilgrimage and not a mere tourism. Thus, the visa issued to Muslims who perform Hajj, annually, is that of pilgrimage and not of tourism. Whilst pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, tourism is a pleasurable journey.
The similitude of Hajj in the life of a Muslim is like that of pregnancy in the womb of an expectant mother. The experience may vary from one woman to another, as the foetus in the womb undergoes various stages before reaching the stage of delivery. By the time the child is finally delivered, the mother feels a relief of her life while the child assumes a tabula rasa (clean slate) that makes it absolutely innocent.
Spiritually, a pilgrim is like a newly born baby, if he strictly performs Hajj as prescribed by Allah. But if he returns into the world of vanity after Hajj, he automatically becomes like a person in snow-white attire who finds his way into a palm oil market. Unless he spiritually guides his loins, he may immediately become a tainted person both in body and in soul.
The Rigours of Hajj
Muslim pilgrims who are going on Hajj must be prepared to go through series of rigour both spiritually and physically. The rigour of getting the money with which to perform Hajj; the rigour of getting the travelling documents including visa; the rigour of taking care of the home front before embarking on the Holy journey; the rigour of boarding the plane with a sense of high risk; the rigour of going through the security check at the embarkation point as well as the disembarkation point in Saudi Arabia; the rigour of performing the Tawaf and Sa’y; the rigour of moving from Makkah to Mina on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah and, to Arafah, on the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, and back to Mina via Muzdalifah on the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah; the rigour of throwing the pebbles at the Jamrat in Mina on the three or four days known as Ayamu-t-Tashrik; the rigour of performing Tawaful Ifadah at the Sanctuary in Makkah after the first day of throwing pebbles; the rigour of performing the farewell circumambulation otherwise known as Tawaful Wida‘I; all in the midst of millions of people can be too much to forget so soon after Hajj.
Whoever is not bothered by the money spent on Hajj should at least be bothered by the various stages of the rigour involved including that of visiting Madinah. To lose all these to the forces of Satan after Hajj is like losing one’s travelling passport after obtaining visa. The prayer of every genuine pilgrim is to retain the validity of Hajj forever.
Conditions for Hajj Performance
Performance of pilgrimage must be based on genuine intention and high spiritual standard. An intending pilgrim must have attained puberty. He must have been an ardent practitioner of the first four pillars of Islam: (Salat, Zakah, and Sawm) all of which are fervently based on faith (Iman). Hajj without these pre-requisites is like a tree without roots.
Money is a major pre-requisite for Hajj but it is not absolute.
Hajj, the last pillar of Islam shows very vividly, the similitude of what mankind will experience on the Day of Judgment. Looking at the unique way in which pilgrims dress for Hajj and how they assemble at Arafat, leaving their luggage behind in Makkah, one will realize how ephemeral this world is.
Purpose of Hajj
The various stages of preparation through which pilgrims pass before arriving at Arafat are symbolic of our peregrinations in life as human beings. Like the Day of Judgment, Arafat is the climax of Hajj performance. Anybody who misses Arafat misses Hajj. But Arafat is not by physical appearance alone. It takes a combination of factors to participate effectively in that great assembly which serves as the climax of Hajj.
For Hajj to serve its spiritual purpose in the life of a pilgrim, certain steps must be taken before leaving home. They are as follows:
Fine-tuning the first four pillars of
Islam very sincerely;
Packaging the intention to perform Hajj;
Ensuring the security of the way;
Providing for the family and dependants
Paying all the outstanding debts
including fulfillment of promises;
Ascertaining the condition of health;
Perfecting immigration procedures and
undergoing all necessary medical
requirements including inoculation;
Assuming a mood of humility like that
of a servant approaching his master;
Readiness to endure hardship and to
tolerate fellow pilgrims’ abnormalities;
Admonishing fellow Muslims on the essence of spiritual journey, including Hajj.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once said: “Actions shall be judged according to intentions. Whoever embarks on a spiritual journey for the sake of Allah will be adjudged on that basis. And, whoever bases his/her intention for pilgrimage on marriage or material gains, should not expect any reward beyond that for which his/her intention is based”. The steps to follow in the performance of Hajj are as follows:
Al-Miqat which is the specified place for the wearing of Ihram dress. There are five of such places in all.
Tawaf which means circumambulation of the Ka’bah. The very first Tawaf to be performed by any pilgrim on entering Makkah is Tawaful Qudum. It is performed before a pilgrim settles down in any residence. Tawaful Qudum is an obligatory Sunnah from which only residents of Makkah among pilgrims are exempted.
Residence in Makkah or Madinah
Most Nigerian pilgrims often seek their accommodations in Makkah or Madinah close to the Haram. This is to enable them walk to from the Haram conveniently at the time of any Salat. To minimize pilgrims’ regular occurrence of missing their ways, they are provided with hand bands which bear the addresses of their residences. Pilgrims are therefore advised to wear such bands at all times to enable them show it to either the Hajj guides or policemen whenever they miss their road. It is also important for pilgrims to always be with the identity cards provided for them by Nigerian Pilgrims’ Commission or private agents. This is to enable them to be identified in case of sickness, accident or even death.
Movement to Mina
Pilgrims must be ready to undergo some rigour in the process of moving to Mina from Makkah. The rigour, which normally affects all pilgrims, is engendered by limited time available for millions of pilgrims who must move to that spiritual camp before the sunset on the day preceding Arafah day.
The Day of Arafah
At the Plain of Arafat, pilgrims are advised to stay under their tents and concentrate on the spiritual activities that take them to the place.They must reach Arafat by mid day when Salatu-d-Dhuhr and ‘Asr should be observed combined. Anybody who is not at Arafat by mid day is considered not to have taken part in the assembly and therefore missed Hajj. Immediately after observing the combined Salatu-d-Dhuhr and ‘Asr the Imam who led the two Salat is expected to give a sermon. Listening to such sermon is as compulsory as giving it.
The great assembly of Arafat terminates shortly before sunset (Magrib) and the pilgrims return to Mina via Muzdalifah.
At Muzdalifah, pilgrims are expected to halt their journey to observe Magrib and ‘Ishai combined. They are also expected to pass the night there and observe the Salat-s-Subh the following morning before proceeding to Mina. Muzdalifah is adjacent to Mina and is therefore a walking distance.
Stoning the symbolic devils (Rajmu Jamrat) begins a day after Arafat and continues for the next three or four days that the pilgrims are supposed to spend at Mina. This exercise is obligatory and without it, Hajj is incomplete. There are three points at which stones are to be thrown. Seven pebbles are to be thrown at each point on every one of the three or four days to be spent in Mina.
While going for the pebble-throwing exercise, pilgrims are advised to take their pebbles along with them. Except for the first day when seven pebbles are supposed to be thrown at only one spot, pilgrims are required to throw twenty one pebbles each day, seven of those pebbles are to thrown at the each of the three spots provided while they remain in Mina.
Picking such pebbles at the point of throwing them is forbidden. All pebbles must have been picked before leaving the tent for the ‘Jamrat’ or on each day.
Slaughtering of sacrificial animals is done at the abattoir in Mina. Pilgrims do not need to bother themselves by going to the abattoir for the purpose of carrying out this compulsory obligation. They can simply buy the guaranteed ticket sold by designated Saudi agents. The ticket is the evidence that one has performed that duty. The slaughtering is done on behalves of the pilgrims by some authorised artisans who are paid by the Saudi Hajj authorities from the money which the pilgrims had paid for those animals. The animals to be slaughtered at Jamrat range from rams to camels. A pilgrim should slaughter one ram or more while seven pilgrims may combine to slaughter one camel or five of them may jointly slaughter on cow.
For pilgrims who can afford to go to Makkah from Mina, after throwing the first seven pebbles, it is good to perform Tawaf-ul-Ifadah. For those who cannot, the exercise can be deferred till the end of Tashrik, when they are supposed to finally leave Mina for Makkah.
The only reason for any pilgrim to go to Makkah from Mina during the camping period is to perform Tawaf-ul-Ifadah. No pilgrim should break camping rule by going to Makkah without performing Tawaf-ul- Ifadah. And, after performing Tawaful Ifadah, no pilgrim should remain in Makkah or elsewhere without returning to Mina before sunset.
With the completion of the camping days in Mina and the performance of Tawaful Ifadah on arrival arrival of all the pilgrims in Makkah, Hajj has been completed except for Tawaf Wida‘i otherwise called farewell Tawaf. That Tawaf is also compulsory.
It is then left for pilgrims to decide whether or not to go to Madinah, if he had not gone before. Going to Madinah is not compulsory as it will be spiritually odd for any pilgrim to choose not to visit the Prophet’s Mosque.
Throughout the Hajj exercise, what should be uppermost in the mind of a pilgrim is the spiritual benefit.
Hajj is made compulsory only once in a life’s time for those who have the wherewithal to undergo it and can satisfy the conditions attached to its performance.
On arriving home finally, pilgrims are not expected to start organizing parties in celebration of a successful Hajj performance as ignorantly done by some Nigerians. Maintaining Hajj is a necessity for those who know the value of doing that. Whoever is privileged to perform Hajj once in his/her life, should forever be grateful to Allah as no one is sure of getting another chance.
For those gaoing on Hajja this year, the Message says HAJJAN MABRURAN!
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