Assalamu Alaikum and thank you for keeping in touch.
Insha Allah You have intended or renewed your intention for hajj this year.
THE SPIRITUALITY OF HAJJ
What is a satisfying hajj?
Based on my observations, feelings and statements from numerous pilgrims, I put forward that a truly satisfying hajj is measured by the level of spirituality and closeness we feel with Allah ﷻ during Hajj.
It is not about the fancy prayer book bought before boarding the flight, or prayers that have been memorised like parrot without full comprehension or as we often see the repeating after a guide of foreign words making it just a phonetics exercise one would do in a language lab.
Connecting with Allah ﷻ
Hajj is indeed only about the true connection we make with Allah ﷻ from the deepest reach of the soul. It is about this communication and love and awe and infinite gratitude that we get to experience on a one-on-one base with our Creator. It is the privilege, the awe, the swollen heart, the teary eyes, the shaky steps, the unbearable emotional heaviness of walking in the steps of so many prophets عليهم السلام and pious predecessors رضي الله عنهم and the Best of the Creations ﷺ. To be in the manifest presence of Allah ﷻ The Source of everything we have ever known, The One who never left us, who continues to support us and continues to guide us through our life journey. The One who reserves his judgement till our last breath so He may forgive us.
Behaviour of Allahﷻ ‘s Guests:
We are fully sponsored guests to His house, having a one-on-one with Him regarding our deepest secrets and desires. As per Abu Hurairah narration that the Prophet ﷺ said: [Pilgrims and those performing Umrah are Allah’s guests; their prayers are answered and their supplications for forgiveness are granted].
However, we also know that an accepted hajj (Hajj mabroor) comes with certain conditions and these conditions can only be fulfilled with some degree of spirituality. For example the injunction in the Quran, ﴾… stay away from intimate relations, foul language, and arguments during pilgrimage﴿. AL-BAQARA, VERSE 197.
Safe to say, we can all agree that people keep away from the intimacy part but not the other behaviours that require a heightened sense of spirituality to control. Sadly, foul language, arguments, short temper, anger, back biting, lying and cheating are behaviours often observed during hajj. These behaviours are fuelled by the love for the worldly comfort which subconsciously is protected by our ego at all cost.
No man has 2 hearts:
The heart is designed to accept one thing at a time. ﴾ Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body ﴿. AL-AHZAB, VERSE 4. So, when there is craving (or niyah) for material or comfort acquisition for worldly sake only, then there is no longer room in it for spirituality. Unfortunately, it is possible and common that we superficially fool ourselves to believing that we have worked hard and reached a degree of spirituality but sadly continue to miss out on the bigger opportunities designed and presented to us by our Creator ﷻ.
The spiritual struggle or Jihad an-Nafs is the hardest battle ever for any human being and this is why we often just ignore it. The journey to success cannot be undertaken except through Taqwa (God mindfulness) and Taqwa leads to guidance by Allah’s ﷻ Light.
Preparation of hajj starts with Ramadan
Some spiritual guides and scholars have written that the preparation for hajj starts with the month of Ramadan. This is because the month of Ramadan focuses on all the higher qualities Allah ﷻ gifted to mankind.
Ramadan challenges us to control and suppress behaviours emanating from all our animal instincts and our Nasf – our Self- our ego. In Ramadan, we are asked to forgo food, water, sleep, to pray more, to watch our behaviour, to be kind, to be generous, to be patient and so on. Allah ﷻ furthermore continuously motivates and facilitates the cultivation of spirituality in this month with blessings and multiplying good deeds, gifting us the Night of Power (Lailatul Qadr), restricting evil , flinging open the doors of paradise, closing the doors of hell and so on.
Just as for the injunction for fasting:
﴾ You who believe, fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you; so that you may come to acquire Al – Taqwa (become mindful of Allah ﷻ) ﴿AL-BAQARAH, VERSE 183
There is also injunction for hajj:
﴾ Pilgrimage is made in appointed months. … And be mindful of Me (Taqwa), O people of reason﴿. AL – BAQARA, VERSE 197
In both cases Allah ﷻ reminds us of the necessity to be God conscious and the specific word taqwa is used. Taqwa or God Mindfulness is to be aware of what pleases and displeases Allah ﷻ and adjust our present behaviours accordingly. Allah ﷻ shows us the power and the relationship of Taqwa with success in the following verse:
﴾ Be conscious of Allah (Ittakullah), and Allah will teach you.﴿ AL-BAQARAH, VERSE 183-
Here teaching does not only mean knowledge but to be kept close to Him, to be looked after by Him and to see with Allah ﷻ light the secrets of creation that others cannot. The aim is to have the believer guided, illuminated and bathed in the light of Allah ﷻ.
The gift of Taqwa is beyond the promise of forgiveness. The promise of forgiveness is limited as a one-time offer in any moment. Attaining Taqwa is continuous salvation. So, believers must aim for God Mindfulness.
Building on the month of Ramadan to Dhul Hijjah:
Ramadan is strategically placed, separated by 2 months ahead of hajj. A spiritually successful Ramadan increases the chance and magnifies the height of spirituality during Hajj.
Some believers gain this illumination in Ramadan, and are able to maintain and grow their piety until and during hajj. For them, their seeing by Allah’s ﷻ Light grows exponentially, just like faith (Imaan). Other believers may not gain their enlightenment in Ramadan, the pilgrimage is therefore for them an opportunity not to be wasted and to catch up. Sadly, there are those who fail to become illuminated by Allah’s ﷻ Light or benefit only a little in Ramadan or during hajj. They have lost in both situations because they did not understand the value of these 2 events offered to them by Allah ﷻ. In short, it is either because they did not understand, did not realise the value, did not try hard enough or simply cannot let go the trappings of the worldly illusions of wealth and success.
Hajj the internal and external challenge to the Nafs/ Ego:
We established the purposes, the similarities and the connection between Ramadan and Hajj. We can see that Ramadan is a challenge within our own environment. Hajj however is a challenge away from our comfort and familiarity, it is a challenge that truly drives home the message of having to leave behind our worldly possessions and join the sea of humanity from all over the globe to assemble in one place.
This would entail in most cases for us to leave behind family, relatives and friends and face new challenges and spend our earnings, energy and health. There will be many difficulties along the way. Of course, everything is relative. What we call difficult from New Zealand because we are soft and weak both mentally and physically might be a dream for someone less fortunate from India or Africa or China for example. What we consider a difficult journey today; the ease of which would be impossible to imagine 200 years ago. The important message is that Allah ﷻ , through this experience, wants to prepare the believers to live a better, richer, easier and more focussed life in this world and attain eternal bliss for the hereafter. Allah ﷻ wants to uplift our station to a height and position for which we were created and destined to attain and enjoy. Allah ﷻ ‘s love for us, Oh Allah ﷻ ‘s love for us…if only we could feel and be grateful for an atom of it!!
The spirituality attained in hajj:
So, Allah ﷻ called on humanity to assemble in the land of Al-Hejaz to perform the duty of pilgrimage. Some of the believers on that day whose spirits have become illuminated through Ramadan can be compared to those equipped with a university Master’s Degree and are now ready to continue with their PhD. During this further stage of illumination in Hajj, the believer is now going to witness the finer, deeper, more subtle secrets of Divine Orders. Each day, each event, each experience from now on will be a clear sign, a lesson and the witnessing of new knowledge, peeling layers after layers of knowledge as per Allah’s ﷻ desire. After all, the knowledge and lessons from Allah ﷻ have no bounds.
﴾ Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “If the ocean were ink for ˹writing˺ the Words of my Lord, it would certainly run out before the Words of my Lord were finished, even if We refilled it with its equal. ﴿ AL – KAHF, VERSE 109
The high status offered to all:
In this way Allah ﷻ offers to the believers a status so high, limited only by their will power and efforts. For the one who has wisely understood this spiritual gem, this spiritual gift and worked hard for it, then through Allah ﷻ ‘s light, the possibility exists for him to become a pious man, a man of God, a man who understands the laws and the secrets of the universe as reality. Allah ﷻ willing, this man then is elevated to becoming a scholar and contribute to making the world a better place i.e. becomes a true humanist as per the teachings and the aim of Islam.
Preparation to seize the opportunity:
So, my dear brothers and sisters. It is now time to ponder on hajj and to decide how you will prepare for it. Each one will have a different standard as the competition is against ourselves. It is all about our own journey, our own path our struggle for continuous improvement. Therefore, it is important that we start setting goals for ourselves as without goals there cannot be any progress.
Insha Allah ﷻ our next topic will touch on goal setting, how to set ourselves up for success during hajj.
May Allah ﷻ help us all to get closer to Him. Aameen.