Hajj: Journey of a Lifetime

Hajj: Journey of a Lifetime



London— No matter what part of the world you live in, the news of war, disaster and poverty will find its way to your door. For millions, it isn’t just news but a reality they’re living. Whilst conflicts and disasters submerge the lives of many, there are those who have been chosen to forget the troubles of the world whilst they attend the biggest human gathering on the planet, Hajj. We are just a couple of days away from entering the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah in which the rites of Hajj are performed. Hajj is the great pilgrimage to Makkah, which every Muslim who has the means to do so, must perform once in their lifetime.

As millions prepare to perform their pilgrimage, I reflect upon the disparities and inequalities that are rampant in the world, the amount of people waging war and causing harm to those they have peacefully coexisted with for thousands of years and the astounding level of poverty that exists in the 21st century. Many of you may be wondering how any of these issues are related to the act of Hajj. In fact, during Hajj, the differences between the rich and the poor are erased and the authoritarian and the powerless walk the same walk, for everyone is equal in the eyes of God and everyone performs the rites of Hajj exactly the same way. It truly fascinates me when I remember that each and every human being who has gone to perform their pilgrimage will be uttering the same words irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, wealth and social status; Labbayk Allahumma labbayk (Here I am Oh Lord, here I am)

Despite copious efforts to tarnish Islam, this sacred month and the acts of worship performed within it is verification that Islam is not the villain as it is so often “made out” to be. Millions have sacrificed their daily luxuries, made a commitment to not cause the slightest of discomfort to those around them and given up all egotism to please their Creator whilst on this journey and after it. Hajj has the ability to transform the most intemperate; it was during this journey that the legendary Malcolm X came to a life- a life changing experience.

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors … from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white,” Malcom X wrote in his diaries about Hajj.

This powerful testimony is evidence of the transformational power of Hajj.

This holy month is significant to all Muslims. It is a time of spiritual unification as those who have travelled to the holy city of Makkah pray for their loved ones and for those suffering across the globe.

Each year when the month of Dhul Hijjah arrives, I revisit the words of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) spoken in his last sermon on the plains of Mount Arafat in Makkah. It is of particular importance now to remember the legacy this great man left behind with his final and most lucrative speech. This sermon can be considered one of the earliest declarations of human rights, displaying a universal message that is still applicable after 1400 years.

The sermon represents the importance of universal values in the lives of all Muslims. In a time when Islam has become synonymous with the words terror and war. We only need to look back at the speech of the final Messenger to remind others of what our faith embodies. Yes, it can get tiresome and frustrating when we continuously find ourselves compelled to defend a faith followed by almost 1.6 billion of the world’s population, with majority of Muslims practicing their faith peacefully and adhering to the tenets revealed to the Prophet, but this time of year and the act of Hajj is a perfect exemplar of how peace, humanity and compassion are essential elements of Islam. Quarrelling and cursing are forbidden whilst performing the rites of pilgrimage. Exposure to violence and aggression has become ordinary with the news literally at our fingertips with the smartphone revolution, but Hajj prohibits anything that can manifest itself in the form of anger or violence regardless of how trivial it may.

Hajj is the perfect opportunity to put the counsels given in the Prophet’s last sermon into action.

“Oh people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds,” prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said in the farewell’s sermon.

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action,” prophet Muhammad (pbuh) added.

The most beautiful aspect of Hajj is that it accentuates the oneness of man under the one God and the Prophet’s last sermon was a reaffirmation of this.

I’d like to send my best wishes to all those who have embarked on this life changing journey.

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]Nishaat Ismail
Nishaat Ismail is completing a MSc in Middle East in Global Politics: Islam, Conflict and Development at Birkbeck University of London. Nishaat has also a BA in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Nishaat specialises in the politics of the Middle East and North Africa.