Hajj and ‘Umrah

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Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

IN the religion of Abraham (SWS), the rituals of Hajj and Umra are the pinnacle of worship. Their history begins with the proclamation made by Abraham (SWS) after building the House of God that people should come here to ceremonially devote themselves and revive their commitment to the belief of Tawhîd. This is the highest position a person can attain in his zeal for worshiping the Almighty: he is ready to offer his life and wealth for Him when he is called for this. Hajj and Umra are symbolic manifestations of this offering. Both are an embodiment of the same reality. The only difference is that the latter is compact and the former more comprehensive in which the objective for which life and wealth are offered becomes very evident. The Almighty has informed us that Satan has declared war since the very first day on the scheme according to which He has created Adam in this world. Consequently, his servants are now at war with their foremost enemy till the Day of Judgement. This is the very test on which this world has been made and our future depends on success or failure in it. It is for this war that we dedicate our life and devote our wealth. This war against Iblîs has been symbolized in the ritual of Hajj. The manner in which this symbolization has been done is as follows: At the behest of Allah, His servants take time out from the pleasures and involvements of life and leave aside their goods and possessions.
They then proceed to the battlefield with the words Labbaik, Labbaik and just like warriors encamp in a valley. The next day they reach an open field seeking the forgiveness of the Almighty, praying and beseeching Him to grant them success in this war and listening to the sermon of the imâm. Giving due consideration to the symbolism of waging war against Iblîs, they shorten and combine their prayers and then after a short stay on the way back reach their camps. Afterwards they fling stones at Satan and symbolically offer themselves to God by sacrificing animals. They then shave their heads and to offer the rounds of vow come to the real place of worship and sacrifice. Then they return to their camps again and in the next two or three days fling stones at Satan in the manner they had done earlier. Viewed thus, the ihram worn in Hajj and Umra symbolizes fact that a believer has withdrawn from the amusement, attraction and involvement of this world and like a monk wearing two unstitched robes, bare-headed and to some extent bare-footed too has resolved to reach presence of Almighty. The Talbiyah is the answer to the call made by Abraham (SWS) while standing on a rock after he had re-built House of God. This call has now reached every nook and corner of this world and the servants of God while acknowledging His favours and affirming belief in His Tawhîd respond to it by reciting out these enchanting words: Allah Ummah Labbaik, Labbaik.
The rounds of Tawâf’ are the rounds of vow. This is an ancient tradition of the Abrahamic religion. According to this tradition, animals which were to be sacrificed or devoted to the place of worship were made to walk to and fro in front of it or in front of the altar. The istilâm of the Hajar-i-Aswad symbolizes the revival of the pledge. In it, a person while symbolizing this stone to be the hand of the Almighty, places his own hand in His and in accordance with the ancient tradition about covenant and pledges by kissing it revives his pledge with the Almighty. As per this pledge, after accepting Islam he has surrendered his life and wealth to Him in return for Paradise. The Saî is in fact the Tawâf of the place where Ishmael (SWS) was offered for sacrifice. Abraham (SWS) while standing on the hill of Safâ had observed this place of sacrifice and then to fulfil the command of Allah had briskly walked towards the hill of Marwah. Consequently, the Tawâf of Safâ and Marwah are the rounds of vow which are first made before the Ka‘bah and then at the place of sacrifice.
‘Arafât is a surrogate for the Ka‘bah where the warriors gather to battle against Satan, seeking forgiveness for their sins and praying to God to grant them success in this war. Muzdalifah is the place where the army stops and spends the night and the warriors once again pray and beseech the Lord when they get up in the morning on their way to the battlefield. The Ramî symbolizes cursing Iblîs and waging war against him. This ritual is undertaken with the determination that a believer would not be happy with anything less than the defeat of Iblîs. It is known that this eternal enemy of man is persistent in implanting evil suggestions in the minds of people. However, if resistance is offered in return, his onslaught decreases gradually. Doing the Ramî for three days first at the bigger Jamarât and then at the smaller ones symbolizes this very resistance. Animal sacrifice symbolizes that one is willing to sacrifice one’s life for the Almighty and shaving the head symbolizes that the sacrifice has been presented and a person with the mark of obedience and eternal servitude to the Almighty can now return to his home. It is evident from the foregoing details how grand and extra-ordinary the ritual of hajj is. It has been made incumbent once in the life of a Muslim who has the capacity to undertake it.