As Muslims, we make intention for and perform the Hajj because it is the fifth pillar of Islam, making it obligatory. It is one of the highest forms of Ibada (worship) and when performed with a sincere heart, Hajj is a chance to ask forgiveness for one’s mistakes and shortcomings of the past.
Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “One who comes to this House for Hajj and avoids all lewdness and sins returns as they were on the day their mother gave birth to them” (Bukhari & Muslim).
The last few years however, have put the Hajj into a different perspective. The experience has afforded us an opportunity to look within ourselves and really assess our remembrance (Dhikr), faith (Iman), patience (Sabr) and humility (Hawnan).
Remembering Our Connectedness
Making Hajj is very different from other aspects of Islam. It is a deeply personal thing, yet also connected to every other believer making the same journey. How symbolic and significant it is to demonstrate that the struggles that we think are unique to us alone, are in reality a collective struggle everyone experiences.
During the COVID-19 pandemic we each had to contend with our own personal fear, uncertainty, stress, economic challenges, isolation, etc. Yet each of these emotions and realities were mirrored and experienced by everybody else. We were all in it together.
Likewise, we are all Muslims,practicing the one true religion and struggling to submit to Allah, The Most High. That connectedness is something we can never forget. Surely Allah instructs us of this in the Holy Quran, Surah Muminun (The Believers):
“ Surely this community of yours is one community, and I am your Lord; so fear Me.” (Quran: 23:52)
Faith in Allah - not Arrogance
In 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia practically closed down the annual pilgrimage due to the pandemic. In 2021, the number who may enter the holy precincts will be reduced. The believer is reminded never to take the Mercy that Allah bestows on humankind for granted. Until Covid-19, Muslims all over the world were confident or had faith that making Hajj was available to us. We wrongfully, and let’s face it, arrogantly, assumed that the only obstacle after having the intention, money, time, and health would be an unfortunate circumstance that impacted us personally, like a missed flight, last minute illness or emergency.
But Allah grants favor to whom He wills, prevents whom He wills and Allah alone is in control of everything. In Surah Fil we are taught how Allah decided the plans for the people of the Elephant. The Quran is a guide, warning and inspiration. It should be applied to our daily understanding of life. Our faith should solely be in Allah, not our human-made circumstances or assumptions. Incidents, people, and even nature may not always allow us to do the things we want or plan. We remember that when our beloved Prophet was driven out of Makkah with Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with him) to the cave of Thawr, neither the hasty journey, nor having to hide was in his plans. From this we learn that the plans and intentions of all human beings – including the Prophet, are not to be taken for granted. That is why we put our trust and faith in Allah alone.
Remember how the Unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out (of thy home). They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah.” (Quran 8:30)
The last two years have been nearly two years – not a couple of days or months. Human beings had no control over the pandemic or time. In the U.S. many people grew inpatient and gathered at weddings, funerals, spring break, and the holidays. Each time, just a few weeks later, people became infected with the virus and some unfortunately passed away due to the exposure.
Collectively, many gained weight, experienced depression or even anger as we grew impatient with Covid. During Hajj, patience is brought along as essential gear. There is no way to make it through the crowds without patiently waiting for your turn or patiently asking for help or even patiently dealing with someone who has been overtaken by the trials of pilgrimage.
The pilgrims perform acts of worship as they renew their sense of purpose in the world and seek goodness and the pleasure of Allah. And there are a couple million of us doing this in fairly limited space and time. This cannot be accomplished without patience.
This time and these trials put the importance of patience foremost in our minds as they always should be. Surely, Allah is most patient with humankind and our shortcomings, so we must nurture patience within ourselves in deference to our Rabb (Lord).
“Only those who are steadfast in patience, only those who are blessed with great righteousness, will attain to such goodness” (Quran, 41:35).
We Stand Humbled
The situation of the past two years has humbled us all as we were brought to a collective status of having to be quarantined and confined. Being rich or highly educated did not change that fact. During Hajj, the Haji (pilgrim) feels the significance of life here on earth and in the hereafter. The pilgrim is stripped of all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. Indeed, as the men don the Ihram, they cease to appear as individuals, but rather emerge as servants of Allah, all alike. What a beautiful and humbling experience. Indeed, the tests we have collectively endured have humbled and reminded us all of just how meaningful and relevant the rites of Hajj are and thereby increased our desire to make this wonderful journey.
And the servants of the Beneficent God are they who walk on the earth in humbleness…” (Quran 25: 63).