During Hajj the pilgrim imbibes the spiritual experience flowing from the role models of the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) and of Hager. Each of them represents an illuminating model of wholesale surrender to Allah’s will, and of steadfastness, characterized by unflinching resolve and undoubting courage, in following the path prescribed by Him.
As the pilgrim observes the places associated with them, he discovers a new level of existence; of surrender to Allah’s commands. Taken in this sense, Hajj stands out as a salvific journey, facilitating the pilgrim’s quest for deliverance.
For as the pilgrim moves away from his mundane, worldly surroundings and moves on to the open and sacred center and witnesses first-hand the religious sacra, the doors of his/her perception are cleansed. Hajj thus has a tremendous transformative effect on the pilgrim, giving a marked measure of coherence, direction and meaning to life.
It brings to mind immediately the grand assembly before Allah at the end of time when each and every human being will be recompensed in proportion to the record of his/her deeds.
At another level, this grand gathering has effectual benefits. For this infuses a strong sense of brotherhood among all the pilgrims. This spectacle of Muslim fraternity cutting across ethnicities, polities, cultures and societies, brings into sharper relief the truth underlying the Qur’anic assertion about Hajj.
And recall when We appointed the House (the Ka`bah) a resort to mankind and a place of security… (Al-Baqarah 2:125)
Hajj embodies the virtuous inclination of the pilgrim’s will. It thus serves as an excellent opportunity for ennobling and sublimating one’s emotions and responses. As already hinted, Hajj trains pilgrims in exercising and developing self-restraint.
On the way to Hajj, the pilgrim may be afflicted with troubles which are sent by Allah to test his/her moral mettle. Apart from this, the restrictions flowing from donning ihram aim at imbuing the pilgrim with a whole array of moral values. Of these, the avoidance of aggression or controlling one’s animal instincts is to the fore.
The Qur’anic directives of Hajj are, significantly enough, tempered with exhortations for self-restraint, something which is pivotal to leading an excellent moral life. Take the following as an instance in point:
For Hajj are the months well known. So whoever undertakes that duty, let there be no obscenity, wickedness or wrangling during Hajj. And whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it. And take provision for the journey. Surely the best provision is piety. (Al-Baqarah 2:197)
Likewise, the command for animal sacrifice is followed by the precept denoting charity and fellow feeling … “Eat some of it and feed the needy and the poor,” (Al-Hajj 22:28). All lewdness in word and deed is forbidden.
Islam introduced this moral strain at a time when the visit to the Ka`bah during the pre-Islamic period was vitiated by obscenity. The above moral precepts are part of the Islamic code of conduct. These are nonetheless emphasized during Hajj as part of the pilgrim’s moral training.
The union of the separate but similar emotional and moral dispositions of pilgrims facilitates this effectual benefit. Through the strong sense of brotherhood and the common bonding of devotion to the same goal as also the moral tenor leaves an indelible imprint on the mind and soul of the pilgrim.
The convergence of pilgrims from all parts of the world, representative of a vast socio-economic catchment area, provides pilgrims with many associational benefits. Acquaintance and social contact with fellow believers revitalizes the sense of community and solidarity and opens up avenues for trade and commerce.
Furthermore, the exchange of views on a wide range of issues may be likened to a fresh blood supply in the Muslim polity. More rewarding is the interaction among the `ulamaa’ (scholars) and jurisprudents from different parts of the world. Hajj serves as an international gathering of members of various strata of society. It provides an excellent platform for da‘wah, its strategies, challenges and prospects.
Above all, it helps raise the morale of pilgrims as believers.
The benefits of Hajj are staggering, especially the salvific, associational and effectual ones. Little wonder then that the Qur’an makes a point of mentioning that Muslims should perform Hajj so as to witness “the benefits accruing to them” (Al-Hajj 22:28).
Some of these benefits are recorded graphically in the travelogues of pilgrims of all times and places, especially of new Muslims. Even Orientalists, inimical to Islam, feel compelled to pay a glowing tribute to some of the benefits of Hajj, as is evident from the following extracts:
This great international gathering … is an impressive manifestation of the unity of the Muslim world, and serves to keep alive the feeling of brotherhood in Islam. The same thought is impressed upon those Muslims who have been unable themselves to make the pilgrimage in that on the very same day in which the sacrifices are being offered outside the city of Mecca, the faithful … are linked by bonds of sympathy with their more fortunate brethren in the sacred city.
In the same vein is the observation of a distinguished Western historian of Arabia:
Down through the ages this institution (Hajj) has continued to serve as the major unifying influence in Islam and the most effective common bond among the diverse believers. It rendered almost every capable Muslim perforce a traveler for once in his lifetime.
This socializing influence of such a gathering of the brotherhood of believers from the four quarters of the earth is hard to overestimate. It affords opportunity for Negroes, Berbers, Chinese, Persians, Syrians, Turks, Arabs – rich and poor, high and low, to fraternize and meet together on the common ground of faith.
The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.