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Learning to perform hajj

What can Hajj bring to my life?

 

Never before has Hajj been more accessible to a staggering number of people in terms of travel time, accommodation, range of hospitality, transportation, environmental and personal safety and so on. Add to this the relatively low-level of overall physical hardship. We must be the most successful generation so far. Or are we?

For some of us Hajj has become similar to our jet setting tours or trips to Fiji, Australia, Canada etc. Hajj companies are expected to deliver a relatively seamless, enjoyable trip as a “Disney Tour” would plus guides and programs. For these people, spiritual preparation is minimal leaving the control and success of their hajj in the hands of third parties. Their benchmark for happiness is heavily influenced by the comfort and ease with which they performed hajj.

For the majority, Hajj is expected to be a relatively quick and comfortable trip to Saudi to perform the prescribed rites and rituals over 3 to 4 weeks. They will attend some pre hajj classes and perhaps do a minimum of mental and physical preparation. They are aware of some level of difficulties during hajj and will deal with them as they face them. They return from hajj with some intentions to increase dedication to salaats, zakat, fasting etc. and generally working towards being a better person. There is usually no specific plan or goals.

Finally few would have totally understood the blessings and lessons to be taken from hajj and will greatly benefit themselves and others from their learning and actions going forward.

 

Why are we going for Hajj?

Now let’s dig deep, deep, deep into our soul and be 100% honest with ourselves. Is it the appealing “haji” title, acceptance by our peers, because we reached 50 or 60 years, our closeness to death, our competitive collection of trips like trophies, or simply because Sharia dictates. Let’s settle for the general agreement that we truly recognise its potential to refocus our lives to find happiness and success.

So, what is our exact purpose and expectations regarding the outcome of hajj? When we have the answer to this question then we can prepare for hajj, complete hajj and apply the lessons learned to the remaining years of our lives.

Happiness and success come from fulfilment and fulfilment requires us to have a vision for our future. Thus we need to define our purpose, set our goals, draw out our directions and calibrate our compass for guidance.

In fact we can and must benefit from the lessons of hajj and apply them in our lives even if we could not go for Hajj and the purpose of this series of blogs is to explore how.

 

Hajj is from the 5 pillars of Islam

All Muslim must believe in the 6 articles of faith and practise the 5 pillars of Islam. While these are distinctively grouped in 2 separate categories they are inseparable in Islam. Why?

Simple! Islam is a woven tapestry of information and actions. One is not complete without the other. Scholars even define the very first pillar “Belief” by saying that to believe in Allah ﷻ means you have to accept Allah ﷻwith conviction in your heart, to clearly state it by your tongue (Shahadah) and to act on it. Acting on it means physically implementing the 5 pillars of Islam and Hajj is one of them.

 

The balance between belief and actions.

The computer example.

Let us use a computer as an example to illustrate how the 6 articles of faith interact with the 5 pillars of Islam. A computer consists of hardware (i.e. all the material things you can touch – keyboard, mouse, motherboard, CPU etc.) and software (i.e. the numerous coded programs). Both hardware and software are needed for the user to produce something useful.

The 6 articles of faith (belief in Allah ﷻ, the angels, the books, the prophets, the last day and Qadar) are abstract concepts and information that we store. They consist a belief system, a state of emotional flux (Imaan), reasonings and coded logic similar to the computer software. The more convinced  we are of these beliefs (the higher the Imaan), the more powerful the software in this case.

The 5 pillars (Shahadah, 5 times prayers, fasting in Ramadan, Zakaat and finally Hajj) are the actions, physical, touchable, measurable work being done to producing something. In fact, the hardware here is our living body that we put through many states and motions as dictated by the Sharia.

The computer performance and efficiency is as good as the weakest link. The best software used on a weak hardware equals a weak overall computer performance. Also, the best hardware loaded with a weak software will have the same poor performance.

Therefore, a Muslim must find the right balance between the two i.e. information and actions or the beliefs and actions. Note that I did not use the word knowledge purposely because to know is to do.

 

Hajj is the highest achievement.

Hajj is the pinnacle of a Muslim’s achievement. It is so powerful and so valuable that performing it once is enough. The Prophet ﷺ only performed Hajj once.

 

Hajj is life university.

Scholarship:

Hajj is a university where all students are on scholarship by personal invitation from Allah ﷻ. Places are severely restricted, about 0.15% i.e. 15 for every 10 000 Muslims last year. In some countries parents register their child’s hajj visa applications at birth, others use a lottery system and in New Zealand Alhamdulillah, at the moment, one can make the trip as often as one wants provided it can be afforded and obviously subject to Allah ﷻ ‘s invitation.

Courses:

In the old days, the journey to hajj usually starts several months ahead. Where the person might save for years and / or works and earns during his travels to Makkah. He continuously deals with people and issues of the day as he trades goods or services, learns and teaches, accepts and gives help, learns traditions and languages, is exposed to happiness and sadness, faces difficulties and ease and so on. Because he is mindful of his purpose everything aligns to benefit him mentally and spiritually.

For most of us today, the journey to Makkah is very short not allowing us any prolonged life experience. In fact it will just be an extension of life as we know it outside of hajj. So mentally and spiritually we do not have the same advantage of preparation. Our best preparation is from books and to acknowledge the need for patience and trust in Allah ﷻ.

However, the formal curriculum applies to people from all time and circumstances. The rites and rituals consist of visiting and experiencing historical sites for their special blessings, reflecting on the richness of the Islamic history, the personal sacrifices that were made and ultimate rewards that were handed down for mankind to witness. This curriculum also teaches us that certain prayers are more powerful in specific places, that we need to embrace and respect humanity including plants and animals, that all believers have a common purpose and should help each other under hardship and not succumb to selfishness and harming others under pressure.

Examinations:

The examination and passing criteria are about how time was spent in hajj, how we behaved vis-a-vis our Muslim brothers and sisters, how much understanding and trust we placed in Allah ﷻ and how much we endured with patience and gratitude. No one is beyond the tests from Allah ﷻ, how did we deal with our loses or lack of comfort? remember that Allah ﷻ will never test someone beyond their abilities. So what we failed, we failed because of our laziness, softness, weakness or lack of trust in Allah ﷻ.

Graduation:

As graduates we are awarded the ultimate prize, that of rebirth. A clean slate where all has been forgiven with the added bonus of an education and wisdom that cannot be procured from elsewhere. We are now of the elite among 1.8 billion Muslims (2012) .

Post-graduation:

In the old days, after completing hajj, the haji would probably stay back and learn from scholars or teachers and make his return almost in the same manner as his journey to hajj. Along the way and when he got back to his village, he would have a wealth of information, stories, experiences, teachings and wisdom to share. The title haji was earned, respected and was an acknowledgement of his contributions to the community and the changes he made to his life.

Nowadays, after we graduate successfully (Insha Allah accepts our hajj), and return home, how do we honour this new title, how do we honour and pay back this scholarship? Insha Allah we continue to work and maintain a life dedicated to following the commandments of Allah ﷻ but what is our contribution to our community or humanity? What legacy are we going to leave behind?

 

So, what can we do better?

Let’s map out what hajj should mean to us in practical modern context during preparation, during hajj and after hajj. In fact let us use the lessons derived from this even if we did not manage to go for hajj. Let us visualise and then implement the benefits of hajj in our daily life.

Let us be confident to questions like: How did I do? Did I pass the tests? Did I put on my A game? Did I cross off all or most items on my hajj list? Did I set myself up for success?

As per saying: “All hours wound; the last one kills”, which means that every hour is eroding our appointed time, is stripping our body and mind of its strength, abilities and faculties until the appointment with the angel of death. Then that last hour kills.

The good news is that it is never too late to learn and apply ourselves in order to keep our sins to a minimum, maximise our good deeds and multiply and amplify our calls for forgiveness.

 

The plan to explore:

Items Major Topics Sharia Personal/ Practical
A What is hajj? What rites and rituals are involved Take lessons from these rites and ritual and apply to have a successful life going forward.
B Why hajj Islamic requirements and expectations Define your purpose and goals to adopt and apply in your life
C Where hajj List of the sites that constitute hajj, historical meaning and spiritual meanings Where you will be staying with the facilities description. Historical places you could visit that are not included in hajj
D When hajj When to go from place to place at prescribed time The importance of scheduling our life and the respect for time
E Who hajj? On whom is hajj compulsory upon. Conditions to be satisfied before setting off for hajj. Who around us can we benefit from applying these lessons derived from hajj into our daily lives
F How hajj? The dos and don’ts and their implications Attitudes and disciplines to be adopted to navigate through the daily challenges. Modern tools that we can apply.

 

I would like to contribute to your reading material by sharing with you my understanding of the lessons from hajj.

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