Islamic Perspectives

Pilgrimage (Haj)

By Shaista Bano

Haj is the fifth Pillar of Islam, any sane adult who can afford it, Muslim male & female is ordered to perform Haj once in a lifetime.

“The first house (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (same as Makkah); full of blessing & guidance for all beings” (3:96). The foundation of Ka’bah goes back to Abraham, though before it, has also been associated with the names of Adam & Eve. In it are Sign Manifest; (for example) the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah - those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith; Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures” (3:97).

And said Abraham “O Lord! Grant me a righteous (son) (37:100). In response to this prayer of Abraham: “We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer & forebear” (37:101).

Remember, Abraham said: “O my Lord! make this city one of peace & security : and preserve me & my sons from worshipping idols” (14 : 35).

“O Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by Thy Sacred House; in order, Our Lord! that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some of among men with love towards them & feed them with fruits, so they may give thanks” (14:37).

“Praise to Allah, Who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’l & Issac: for truly my Lord is He, the Hearer of Prayers” (14-39).

It is reported that the age of Abraham when Isma’il was born was 86. & Abraham was 100 years old when Issac was born. The progeny of Issac (the young son) developed the faith of Israel & that of Christ while that of Isma’il’s developed the Faith of Islam, the Faith of Abraham the True. So Abraham is revered alike by Jews, Christians & Muslims. The good news of the birth of Issac was given to the Prophet Abraham (peace be on him) after the event of “mighty sacrifice.”

Prophet Abraham (peace be on him) was rewarded by the title of Khaleelullaah meaning friend of Allah. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son!” I see in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one practicing Patience and constancy!” (37:102)

It was a trial of the will of the father & the son. Father consulted the son who readily consented & offered to stand true to his promise if his sacrifice was really required. “When both surrendered (to Allah’s command) and Abraham flung the son down on his forehead (for sacrifice) We called out to him: O Abraham! you have indeed fulfilled your dream. Thus do We reward the good - doers. This was indeed a plain trial. And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice, and We preserved for him a good name among posterity. Peace be upon Abraham. Thus do We reward those who do right” (37:103-110). “And We gave him the good news of Issac” (37:112)

“Remember We made the house (Ka’bah) a place of assembly for men & a place of safety: & take ye the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We convented with Abraham & Isma’il that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round or use it as a retreat, or bow or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer)” (2:125 ; 22:26)

“And proclaim the pilgrimage among men; they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep & distant mountain highways” (22:27).

In response to this call given about 4500 years  back, every person going for Haj recites loudly:- “Lubbaik, Allahumma Lubbaik, lasharika laka Labbaik....” And “That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof & feed the distressed ones in want” (22:28).

The actual Sacrifice is performed at Mina, where the pilgrims stay during these days of Haj.

One reason for calling it “a mighty sacrifice” is that Allah made it incumbent on the believer to offer animal sacrifice on the same day the world over so as to keep fresh the memory of that great event which epitomises fidelity and devotion of the very highest order to Allah. “It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah: it is your piety that reaches, Him. He has thus made them subject to you, that you may glorify Allah for His guidance to you: and proclaim the Good News to all who do right” (22:37).

So the Haj (on 9th of month) & mighty sacrifice on the day 10 of the month is celebrated the world over.

After 10 years of Hijrat, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) decided to go to Makkah to perform Haj in the year 632. On this occasion about one lakh people gathered at Arafat. This Haj of the Prophet (PBUH) is termed Farewell Pilgrimage & the sermon given by him is the best charter of human rights even today. Some portions of that sermon are quoted here: “O people! Listen to my words; for I do not know whether I shall be amongst you again. Remember that you shall have to appear before your Lord and give an account of your action to Him.”

“Remember that your wives & property are sacred & inviolable amongst one another for all times. The Lord has ordained that every man shall have his share of inheritance and a will prejudicial to his heirs is unlawful “O people! You have rights over your wives & they have rights over you. It is incumbent upon them to honour their conjugal faith & not commit acts of impropriety, which if they do, you have the authority to chastise them; yet not severely. If your wives refrain from impropriety & are faithful to you, clothe & feed them suitably. Verily you have taken them on the security of Allah & made them lawful unto you by the words of Allah.”

“And feed your slaves with such food as you yourselves eat. Clothe them with the same stuff that you wear. If they commit a fault which you cannot forgive, then sell them for they are all servants of Allah & are not to be tortured

“Listen, O people! Listen to what I have told you, fix this in your hearts that every Muslim is a brother of every other Muslim. You are all equal; you enjoy equal rights & are subject to the same obligations. You are members of a common brotherhood. It is accordingly forbidden to you to take from your brothers save that which he gives you of his own free will.”

After the sermon was over, the Prophet (PBUH) cried out loudly. “O Lord! Have I delivered Thy Message?” and the valley of Arafat resounded with a reply from millions of mouths, “yes, you have.”

The Prophet’s (pbuh) message to the Muslims in the Haj is a memorable one in history. It reminded the Muslims of his teachings with regard to the social order of Islam. It gave in short the substance of his idea of the ideal Muslim society and brotherhood, a society based on equality, fairness & justice - a society which accords equal rights to husband & wife, master & slave. Which gave the property right in inheritance to woman much before the advanced Europe granted it.

The writer is a retired professor of Aligarh Muslim University