Hajj: The High Maintenance Journey
I make no bones to admit that years after performing the Hajj pilgrimage my bubbling enthusiasm and attendant excitement have since run out of steam. I do say Salah (nimaz) five times. In fact, I recite Koran in the mornings, and perform several other ‘Haqooq-ullah’ regularly. However, what worries me the most is that my performance/dealings with the people--- ‘Haqooq-ul-ibad’---largely fail me to save my Hajj.
Performance of the Hajj is the story of monotheism and strict obedience to Allah. It is the journey of love, rituals and a prayer aimed at tracing the saga of Prophet Ibrahim (pbh) and is personal one. While Purity, prayer, humility and faith are implied in the pilgrimage, the pilgrims are supposed to dedicate themselves to worship and prayer, as also the denial of worldly vanities and the rejection of evil in thought, word and deed.
During the journey, the pilgrims are expected to decide to purify themselves and throw stones symbolically on all the devilish tendencies. The thought being directed from physical to spiritual the best of the provisions required for journey is right conduct, which is the same as the ‘Fear of Allah’ or in other words ‘Taqwa’. They shall now on live life free of devilish tendencies and ensure that their dealing in terms of ‘Haqooq-ullah’ as well as ‘Haqooq-ul-ibad’ is in tune with the Koran and Hadith.
Hajj is no picnic. It is a highly demanding pilgrimage fraught with great risk. Hajj can make you and unmake you. Visit to Ka’aba would give Sahaba, the companions of the prophet Muhammad (pbh), and other pious people a scare lest they should sin against the (unwritten) code of conduct. For a Hajji living life is not a cakewalk. It involves high maintenance i.e. ‘Taqwa’ and not merely the ‘thanday thanday deen’ i.e. reading Nowfals, reciting Koran and Darood.
Students seeking admission in the institutions of higher learning world over are required to take ‘aptitude tests’. The tests have been devised to assess the comprehension, communication, problem solving, and reasoning and data sufficiency abilities of the applicants. As a part of the policy to maintain reputation of higher standards of learning, a majority of these schools/institutions admit only those applicants who score high in these tests.
Maka’h and Medina are the places of great learning in the Islamic world. The former houses Ka’aba, the House of Allah, towards which the faithful gravitate. It also boasts of being the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (pbh). Medina is the place where Prophet Muhammad (pbh) lived and practiced his religion. It was here that men of great learning with hardly any parallel in the history learnt and taught the message of peace, equally, and humanity to the world. Pilgrimage to these high profile institutions of learning/repute calls for assessment of the abilities of the prospective pilgrims, be it the comprehension, reasoning, faith, conviction and devotion.
Symbolic of a typical inadequately informed ‘nine-something-brat’, obsessed by the passion, gets to own the high label gizmo. As his passion ebbs away, he chucks it out as junk. Buying decision with inadequate knowledge/ comprehension invariably ends in fiasco. Several years back when I was privileged to respond to the call for the Hajj, I think, I was caught in the torrent of emotions (for ziyarat) to touch, feel and live the holy sites. Swept on to a precipitate reaction, perhaps while deciding to perform the pilgrimage I had perceived only part of the situation. Without much knowledge, thought and application of mind when I was required to acquaint myself with the real essence (‘whys’ and the ‘wherefores’) of the fifth article of Islam, the emphasis was laid mainly on performance of Manasik-e-hajj. I returned home, with the title but not with the key as ‘to how to emerge cleansed of sins’ and ‘live life hereafter innocent of devilish tendencies’. Based on my experience, I attempt to relate certain notions and perceptions as to why people like me fail to save our Hajj.
With all the razzamatazz of excitement and publicity, the emotionally charged Hajjis are as usual set to leave for the holy journey this year. Their kindled passions run very high. Drenched in devotion and drowned in supplication, the pilgrims embody all the feelings of penitence and remorse for their sins. The guilt of unprepared–ness/undeserved–ness is overwhelmingly high, suggestive thereof as if the piety and devotion are greater during the pre – Hajj days than in the aftermath of performing the Hajj.
There is no emotion, for a Muslim, to equal the first sight of the Kaa’ba. There is also no feeling close to the sense of complete submission that overtakes him when his forehead touches the ground, as he prays to the Almighty Allah. Desire to touch, feel, and live the holy places: walk: and live where Prophet Mohammad (pbh) and his followers once lived and the place that witnessed several great Islamic events is overpowering.
For the first few days of their stay in the holy land most of the pilgrims remain drenched in devotion so much so that they may even conjure visions of dying (the privileged) death in the holy places. To them their dream of touching, feeling and living the holy places and clinging to the Kaa’ba, performing countless tawafs, kissing Hajre–Aswad, closeting themselves in Riyaz-ul-Janat at Medina, saying Nowfals and reciting holy Koran and so on to get-their-sins-cleansed has come true.
As the Satan makes fanatic use of lures to distract the attention of the emotionally charged pilgrims, it is not many days before a section of the weak-kneed lot brings themselves to the feeling that they have had their fill and therefore their enthusiasm is suddenly on wane. They find themselves leisurely----ostensibly, with plenty of the disposable time---- soon huddle themselves in the markets for the shopping spree.
As the number of tawafs, kisses on the Hajre-Aswad and saying Salah (nimaz) in the sacred Hateem register marked fall, the last minute dash would find many of them saying Salah (nimaz) in the outskirts of the Haram. Those who prefer to say Salah (nimaz) in their hotel rooms, claim to be saving time in going back and forth the Haram. The faithful that earlier fantasized about dying-the much-cherished-death turn volte-face. The stampede that occurs in the nearby gives them scares of death. Should there be some Fatwa they will evade the very important Hajj Manasik of throwing stones (symbolically on all the devilish tendencies) on the Satan (Jumarat) in Mina.
As if cleansing of sins and emerging, as ‘newborn’ were a rarity, what are cleansed in the process on the other hand may be the handful virtues (like penitence and humility) that the pilgrims possess when they leave for the Hajj. Ironically, enough the cargo of sins that they carried to the holy place for ‘cleansing’ is carted back with some more additions. The cleansed lot---- rare as hen’s teeth---- are filled with the remorse and apprehensions about their performance. They would try their best to hide their light under a bushel.
A number of the pilgrims are not sceptical in the slightest about returning home as newborn, sins washed away. Busy conjuring visions of parading their title, during the 4-5 hours long journey in the plane on return, these hapless pilgrims do not have time and desire to thumb through a single page of the holy Koran, gifted away to them by the Saudi authorities at the airport, or for that matter say Salah. Earlier the same frenzied pilgrims, on the way to the holy land, had all along devoted themselves to rehearsing the Hajj rites, reciting Koranic verses, saying Salah, and humbly and pleadingly praying Allah to forgive them. In the fit of remorse for having lived a life of sins---- unpardonable and unutterable---- some of them had broken down several times.
The freshly returned exalted lot get the visions of the Ka’aba every time they stand up to offer Salah. The muezzin’s shouting Azaan takes them back to the stentorian Azaan in the holy places, symbolic of tearing hearts of the faithful apart. It is however not many days before the honeymoon is over, the enthusiasm starts running out of steam, and the hapless Hajjis find themselves again exposed to the worldly vanities/desires. Avalanched by the concerns like worldly comforts/luxuries, money, ostentatious displays, offices, promotions children’s education, their career and the like, the poor fellows find it difficult to save their Hajj.
The assumption of the social influence and respect may be suggestive as if of some divine powers rubbed off by Allah (on them). In effect the behaviour of some hapless fellows smells something of an age-old aphorism about the Hajji, who when begged of alms by a blind man, hands him the red-hot earthen piece from with in the fire pot who reacts to quiz. ‘Are you a Hajji?’ Interestingly those who bestow honour on the pilgrims also layout boundaries, mark peripheries and watch their Post Hajj actions/dealings keenly. More often than not, they do not hesitate to treat their conduct as also the acquired title beneath contempt.
(Moral; The way Hajjis talk and deal with people is suggestive of his performance during the Hajj. May Allah bestow on every Hajji the sprit of Allah fearing, the Taqwa-----Amen).