“At Your Service, O Allah, at Your Service”
A few thoughts on Hajj and Qurbani
By Abu ‘Asim Badrul Islam
The Hajj season is once again here. Those who have been blessed by Allah Subhanahu have either said farewell to their loved ones at home and reached the al-Haramayn al-Sharifayn or are due to leave shortly. Their hearts are filled with excitement, joy, fervour, awe, devotion, and sincerity. It is for many an once-in-a-lifetime blessing and a dream come true. The servant is forsaking all worldly ties, be they with human beings or material objects, considering himself amongst the dead, and presenting himself at the court of his Almighty Lord, the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth. It is death before death.
Hajj, one of the four fundamental and practical parts of Islam after the core and soul known as Iman (Faith), has been ordained by Allah Subhanahu as a compulsory duty upon every male and female Muslim above the age of puberty who has the means to fulfil it. He Subhanahu says in His Noble Book (translation):
‘Pilgrimage to the House is a duty men owe to Allah, – those who can afford the journey [..]‘
There are many amongst us who claim to love Allah Subhanahu. We say this with our tongues but apparent signs contradict it. The ‘Ulama, who are the spiritual guides and doctors of this Ummah, have written that to merely claim the love of Allah and His Beloved Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam cannot be said to be true unless it manifests in one’s character, actions, outer appearance and lifestyle. Even the non-Muslims make such claims but Allah rejects their verbal claims (see: al-Ma’idah:18). If one truly loves Allah and His Messenger Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, he will strive to live his worldly life according to the commandments of Allah as practically demonstrated by His Messenger Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
Allah Subhanahu has made it a Fardh and compulsory duty upon every Muslim to go for Hajj just as He has made it Fardh upon every Muslim to pray five times a day, fast during the month of Ramadhan, and give out Zakah annually to the poor and needy (as explained in the books of Fiqh). Yet there are many of us who are neglecting this very important and compulsory duty we owe to our Lord, Most High. Many are doing this simply due to gross negligence and indifference while others try to justify this with very feeble excuses – and they are a whole range of excuses. A great scholar of the Qur’an and Sunnah, Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (Rahimahullah) says in his Tafsir that if one claims to love Allah – and this should be in the heart of every Muslim – and he has the means to go for Hajj, he should do so. If he does not, it will be a clear sign of his being false in this claim of his. He further says that it should also be known that Allah Subhanahu is not in need of any form of devotion from His creation -‘ Allah, the Eternal, Absolute (al Samad)‘ (al-Ikhlas: 2). Our Beloved Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has said regarding such people:
“He who possesses provision and transportation which can take him to
the House of Allah, Most High, but does not go for Hajj, [let him die]
a Jew or a Christian [..]”
(al-Tirmidhi: 812, al-Bayhaqi: 3978 )
This extremely severe warning should be sufficient for those who take heed, are concerned about their Iman and fear ‘The day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail‘ (al-Shu’ara: 88).
As for the virtues of Hajj, they are many. In a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (Radhiyallahu ‘anhu) he says, “The Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was asked, “What is the best deed?”. He replied, “Faith in Allah and His Messenger”. It was asked, “What after that?” He replied, “Jihad in the path of Allah”. It was asked, “What after that?” He replied, “A mabrur Hajj” (al-Bukhari: 1519). Similarly, the Mother of the Believers, ‘A’ishah (Radhiyallahu ‘anha) says she asked, “O Messenger of Allah, we believe Jihad to be the best deed, shall we not go out in Jihad?” He replied, “No, [in fact] the best Jihad is a mabrur Hajj” (al-Bukhari: 1520). In these two very authentic Ahadith the Prophet Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam has called Hajj the second most virtuous physical devotion to Allah after Jihad in His path, and he has said that a mabrur Hajj is the best Jihad. We shall look at the term mabrur shortly.
In another Hadith reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “An ‘Umrah to another ‘Umrah is expiation for [all the sins committed] between them. And a mabrur Hajj, its reward is nothing but Paradise” (al-Targhib:1641). He has also told us that after one performs Hajj in the correct manner, he returns sinless as on the day his mother gave birth to him (al-Bukhari:1521). In light of this and many other Ahadith we may say that a correct and mabrur Hajj is a rebirth of the Hajji. It is a rigorous and thorough procedure of spiritual cleansing for him. He returns, after disposing of all that may have passed, with a fresh, spotlessly clean new life. Could there be a better procedure for spiritually cleansing oneself than through carrying out the rites of Hajj? After reflecting on the full spiritual and physical aspects and etiquettes of Hajj one cannot but admit that there could not possibly be any better procedure for this cleansing than what Allah Subhanahu in His infinite wisdom and knowledge has prescribed upon His servants. O Allah, for you is all praise and for you are all our insignificant devotions.
Now, what exactly is a mabrur Hajj? Shaykh al-Islam al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (Rahimahullah) has defined it most beautifully by quoting how the Great ‘Ulama before him had defined it. He says, “Ibn Khalaweh said it is a Hajj that is accepted [by Allah] while others have said it is a Hajj which is free from any traces of sin. [Imam] al-Nawawi has considered this [latter opinion] as the more stronger. [Imam] al-Qurtubi said it is a Hajj the rites of which have been carried out fully and correctly – exactly the way it was sought from the servant. [Imam] Ahmad and al-Hakim have reported a Hadith: “They asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what makes a Hajj mabrur?” He said, “Feeding [others] food and spreading salam” (Fath al-Bari: 4/487). Another explanation Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani gives is that a Hajj can only be said to be mabrur after its completion. If the Hajji returns transformed, having changed his old ways, which may have been sinful, or Islamically inappropriate, it may be said that he has indeed performed a mabrur Hajj.
Let us now pause and think for a moment. How many of us who have been blessed to go for Hajj has performed it correctly? From those of us who think we may have performed it correctly, how many came back transformed, spiritually cleansed of all our wrongdoings, truly and sincerely repented from all our past actions which may have been displeasing to Allah Subhanahu, and remained that way? Or, Allah forbid, are we one of those regarding whom, according to some narrations in books of Hadith, it is stated that there would come a time when the wealthy amongst people would go on Hajj for pleasure and satisfaction (just as on a holiday)? (Kanz al-‘Ummal: 5/133, Hadith 12362; Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din: 1/367; Takhrij al-‘Iraqi: Hadith 830). Though the chain of narrators of the Hadith has been identified by the Great ‘Ulama of Hadith as extremely weak, it should serve as a warner and admonisher for those who take heed. May Allah Subhanahu give us all the true and fruitful understanding of His Book and the Sunnah of His Beloved Prophet. May He also give us all the spiritual strength to mould our lives according to it and remain steadfast upon it until we breathe our last.
Hajj coincides with another spiritually significant devotion to the Lord of all the worlds – Udhhiyyah or, more popularly, Qurbani. Lying beyond this apparent sacrifice of an animal is a whole inner dimension of sincere devotion to the Lord of the worlds. This is also the case with the various rites of Hajj and ‘Umrah. When one upon whom it is legally compulsory (according to the Hanafi school of Sacred Law) sacrifices an animal, he is not merely slaughtering a physical animal. In reality, he is slaughtering his passions and desires in complete submission to the commandments and demands of His Creator and Sustainer. He is slaughtering the beast within himself – if one may be pardoned for using the expression – and expressing to His Lord Almighty his incapacity, weakness, vulnerability, total and sincere submission to His Divine will. Through carrying out these rites, man is expressing how a powerless and insignificant weakling he is in front of his Lord. Sacrificing an animal and then consuming some of its meat himself may not make much sense to the worldly-minded one. But it is the love and submission to his Lord that has compelled him to do so without reasoning or rationalising with Him. This is a prime characteristic of the true believers.
In the various rites of Hajj, ‘Umrah and Qurbani lie many Divine wisdoms, some of which man has been able to comprehend while others lie beyond his finite mortal comprehension. Allah Subhanahu has not made it binding upon him in any way to delve into these underlying Divine wisdoms. His duty is to simply hear the command of his Lord and obey as Allah says:
‘The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may
judge between them, is that they say: We hear and we obey. It is such as these that will prosper‘
However, many Great ‘Ulama of Islam have explored these inner dimensions in much detail and left for those who were to come after them oceans of priceless treasures in the form of their exploratory books. Two of the greatest legends in this respect have been Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (d.505AH) in Persia and Imam Ahmad Ibn ‘Abdir-Rahim, better known as Shah Waliyullah (d.1176AH), in India. They have left two monumental works for their believing brethren, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din and Hujjatullah al-Balighah respectively. As for the non-scholar of the Islamic sciences, one would be better advised to study Fadha’il Hajj by Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya and other such works written with the layperson in mind.
Finally, may we pray that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala give us the will power and true zeal to sincerely obey Him in a way most pleasing to Him, for, ‘Verily to Allah we belong, and to Him is our return‘ (al-Baqarah: 156).
Abu al-Fadhl Zayn al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahim ibn al-Husayn al-‘Iraqi, al-Mughni ‘an Haml al-Asfar fi al-Asfar fi Takhrij ma fi al-Ihya’ min al-Akhbar, Maktabah Tabariyyah, Riyadh, 1415/1995.
Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 1423/2002.
Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Fath al-Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 1421/2000.
Muhammad Zakariyyah Kandhlawi, Fadha’il Hajj, ‘Imran Book Depot, Delhi, no date.
Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani, Tafsir ‘Uthmani,
King Fahd Qur’an Printing Complex, Madinah al-Munawwarah, 1409 AH.
Zaki al-Din ‘Abd al-‘Adhim al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa al-Tarhib, Dar Ibn Hazm, Beirut, 1422/2001.