The Secret & Philosophy of Hajj 1

The Secret & Philosophy of Hajj 1

There are four dimensions associated with this great act of worship - each one more deep-rooted and beneficial than the other.

The Ethical Dimension

The most important philosophy of Hajj is the ethical transformation which it induces within man. The ritual of 'Ihram' entirely removes man from material ostentations, external distinctions, extravagant clothing and ornaments. By prohibiting pleasures and engaging him in self-rectification - one of the duties of a 'muhrim',(1)  it distances him from the material world and engrosses him in a world of light, purity and spirituality. Consequently, it causes those who, in ordinary circumstances, find themselves weighed down by the burden of make-believe distinctions, ranks and honours, to suddenly feel light, easy and relaxed.

Subsequently, the performance of the other rituals of Hajj, one after the other, continually brings man closer to his Lord, strengthens his spiritual connection with Him, distances him from his gloomy and sinful past, and guides him towards a bright, luminous and pure future. Every step of the Hajj-rituals is reminiscent of the events associated with Ibrahim (a.s), Isma`il (a.s) and his mother Hajar J, and personifies before man their self-sacrifice, altruism and struggle (in the path of Allah).

The city of Mecca in general, and the Masjidul Haram, the Ka'bah and the place of circumambulation in particular, bring to mind the memories of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), the holy Imams (a.s) and the struggle of the Muslims during the period of early Islam. As a result, this ethical transformation tends to be deeper and more profound such that in every corner of Masjidul Haram and the city of Mecca, man visualizes the faces of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w), 'Ali (a.s) and the other holy Imams G, and hears the enthusiastic slogans of their mission.

Indeed, all these together pave the way for an ethical revolution within hearts that are receptive and in a manner that is indescribable, and causes man to turn over a new leaf and opens up a new chapter in his life. It is not without reason that we read in our traditions that one, who performs Hajj, completely and perfectly… .

يَخْرُجُ مِنْ ذُنُوبِهِ كَهَيْئَتِهِ يَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ‏.

“Becomes free of sins just as he was on the day when his mother gave him birth.”(2) Truly, Hajj is a second birth for the Muslims - a birth which is the beginning of a new human life. It is needless to mention that these effects and benefits, and those that we shall mention later, are neither for those who only content themselves with its exterior leaving aside its core, nor for those, who only view it as a means for recreation, tourism, pretension, dissemblance and acquiring personal material items - never acquainting themselves with its spirit and essence. Their share would only be that which they had set out to achieve!

The Political Dimension

As has been stated by one of the renowned Islamic jurisprudents, the Hajj rituals, apart from putting on display the most sincere and profound acts of worship, are also the most effective means for advancing the political objectives of Islam. The essence of worship is attention towards Allah, while the essence of politics is attention towards the 'creation of Allah' - and these two aspects are observed to be as closely intertwined in Hajj as the yarns in a fabric! 

Hajj is an effective factor in establishing unity amongst the ranks of the Muslims. Hajj is an instrument to combat nationalistic and racial fanaticism, and oppose confinement (of the Muslims) within their geographical boundaries. Hajj is a means for eliminating the shackles of censorship and breaking the stranglehold of the oppressive leaderships prevalent in the Islamic nations. Hajj is a tool for transferring news of political affairs of the Islamic nations from one corner of the globe to another, and finally, it is an effective means for breaking the fetters of captivity and colonialism, and liberating the Muslims.

Consequently, during the period when oppressive tyrants like those belonging to the Umayyad and the 'Abbasid dynasties ruled over the Islamic regions and kept every kind of interaction between the various segments of the Muslims under close scrutiny in order to crush any kind of liberty-seeking uprising, the advent of the season of Hajj was an opening towards freedom, interaction between various segments of the great Islamic society and discussion of various political issues. One can see why the Commander of the Faithful (a.s), expounding the philosophy that lay behind every act of worship in connection with Hajj, states:

أَلْحَجَّ تَقْوِيَةً لِلدِّينِ‏.

“Allah has ordained (the rituals of) Hajj for the purpose of strengthening the religion.”(3) Again, it is not without reason that an eminent non-Muslim statesman has stated:  Woe unto the Muslims if they do not perceive the meaning (and significance) of Hajj and woe unto their enemies if they (the Muslims) ever happen to perceive it.

Even in the Islamic traditions Hajj has been regarded as the Jihad of the feeble ones. It is a Jihad in which even the old and weak men and women can join and have a contribution in exhibiting the greatness and grandeur of the Islamic ummah. By standing in circles around the holy Ka'bah and attesting to Allah's unity and greatness, they cause the hearts of the enemies of Islam to palpitate in trepidation.

The Cultural Dimension

The interaction between the various segments of the Islamic society during the season of Hajj can turn out to be the most effective factor for cultural exchanges and transfer of thoughts and ideas. This is especially so because the grand gathering of Hajj is in reality, a true and natural representation of all the segments of the Muslims of the world (as there is no forced, forged or artificial factor involved in the selection of those proceeding for Hajj.

The pilgrims are individuals who come from all segments, races and languages associated with the Muslims all over the world, who have gathered under one roof). Thus we read in the traditions: One of the benefits of Hajj is the spread of the traditions of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) throughout the entire Islamic world. Hisham b. Hakam, one of the learned companions of Imam as-sadiq (a.s) says:  I questioned the Imam (a.s) about the philosophy that lay behind the performance of Hajj and the circumambulation of the Ka'bah whereupon he (a.s) replied: “Allah created the servants … and for the welfare of their worldly and religious affairs, He sent down His commandments for them - one of them being the congregation of the people from the East and the West (for the Hajj rituals).

This, in order that the Muslims become acquainted with one another, become aware of the states of each other, and (so that) every group transfers its business investments from one city to another … and in order that the memories and traditions of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w) become known, and the people bring them to mind and do not forget them.”(4) It was on this basis that the Muslims, during the suffocating eras in which the tyrannical caliphs and rulers had prohibited them from spreading these rulings, made use of this opportunity (of Hajj) to interact with the Imams G and eminent religious scholars for solving their problems, understanding the rulings of Islam and comprehending the traditions and customs of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w).

On the other hand, Hajj possesses the ability to be transformed into a gigantic cultural assembly in which scholars and intellectuals of the Islamic world, come together for a few days in Mecca, propounding their thoughts and exhibiting their creativity before the others. Essentially, one of the great catastrophes is that the boundaries between the Islamic nations become the cause for them to separate from each other, culturally. As a consequence, Muslims of each nation only reflect upon their own selves and their own state of affairs, and this is something that effectively works towards dismembering and dissecting the single Islamic society; indeed, Hajj has the ability to stem this evil outcome.

How beautifully has Imam as-sadiq (a.s) stated in that tradition of Hisham b. Hakam when he said: “If all the people were to be concerned only about their respective countries and the problems existing therein, all of them would suffer destruction, their countries would face ruination, their benefits and welfare would be lost, and realities would become obscured and concealed.”

Continue in the next article: ( The Secret & Philosophy of Hajj 2 )

NOTES:

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1. One who has worn the Ihram cloths. (Tr.)

2. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 99, pg. 26

3. Nahj al-Balagha, Saying 252

4. Wasa`il ash-Shia, vol. 8, pg. 9