, by HAMID AKHTAR
After initial few days of my pilgrimage to Makkah, I started pondering as to what Almighty Allah wants the Muslims to develop or experience during Hajj. I became conscious and started taking mental notes of the extraordinary experience and observations.
The first thing, which the Hajj provides – it is abundantly clear – is the spiritual satisfaction. Although people do get the taste of spiritualism by offering Tahajjud or observing fast, etc. yet for most of us, especially the well off, the experience of Hajj is basically a brush with spiritualism. Pilgrims from all over the world – emanating from different continents, races, ethnic and language groups, rich and poor, cosmopolitan and village folks – pour into Makkah and concentrate on one point (Ka'aba). They perform Tawaf and Saee – a brisk walk between Safa and Marwah hills – in addition to regular prayers in the mosque. Every Haji feels that s/he has achieved the ultimate goal in this world, that is, reach the house of the Almighty Allah where prayers are answered. After completion of the Hajj-e-Mabroor, he becomes as sin-free as a newborn baby.
Centrality of Makkah (the city of Ka'aba) is another striking feature, which comes to the fore. Muslims from almost all the nooks and corners of the globe start their pilgrim for the city of Baitullah by different means. All are attracted towards it. They have only one purpose – to reach Ka'aba and once they are there, they lose their identity and become a part of the large Kaleidoscope. There is so much harmony that language, fiqh, geographical distance, the colour of skin, race do not matter a bit. The extraordinary mercy of the Almighty Allah can be gauged by observing the person next to you in the Haram. There is hardly any communication among the gathering. A Turk may not communicate to a Bangladeshi next to him, an Indian may not interact with an African, Indonesian or Arab, yet it seems as if they are all brothers and sisters engrossed in remembering Allah. Communication gap because of language barrier does not come as a hurdle as everyone has got what s/he had been yearning for all through the life – the sight of Ka'aba, the joy to commune with Him.
The mercy of Allah on the gathering can at best be seen, rather than explained. Over two million Hajis rushing towards Ka'aba, together coming out of the Haram after offering Salat, Tawaf and Saee and that too without any queue, announcement and presence of security personnel make a beautiful scene. Even the rudest of the people, the impatient youngsters and old men/women become patient, tolerant and accommodative. This is the most important lesson from Hajj. Even if one per cent of the tolerance shown during Hajj percolates down to our daily life, it will be a boon for our society.
Hajj is the best “training camp” for one and all. The pilgrims are trained to become punctual by systematic and regular attending of Salat in Baitullah. They are trained to become accommodative by living together, walking together with strange people so harmoniously for weeks. They are trained to concentrate on the purpose of the journey to Makkah. There are other subtle trainings such as living in camp with the associated hardship, training of mujahida in the sense that one constantly and easily strives for what ever has been ordained during stay and journey to Ka'aba, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa.
One finds humility of men and women before the Almighty Allah at its peak. One can regularly observe, pilgrims of all type – poor, well off, young and old – remembering Allah with full concentration, seeking forgiveness from him with tears in eyes.
A very interesting thing can be observed in Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa. A person comes to realise his or her real position before Allah when s/he, in two loin cloths, with dirt all around and uncombed hair, moves out with hardly any care to eat and sleep. Many a times walk miles together. In Arafat, he is supposed to supplicate – preferably standing under the sun – while in Muzdalifa they stay for the whole night under the open sky without any facility around. The pilgrims busy themselves once again in Zikr and Salat and subsequently walk back to Mina, most of them on foot. In Muzdalifa the sight is all too strange. Pilgrims, even the well off ones, spread their mats on the uneven and stony earth on the foothills, where they take nap/sleep under the open sky. They resemble the poorest of the poor beggars in our cities. One is made to understand one's position before Allah. Is man more than the poorest of the beggars before Allah?
Hajj provides an opportunity to understand different types of people and remove the pre-conceived notion about some of them. For example in India, it is often thought that Africans are less cultured and are an illiterate lot. But when one interacts with them during the Hajj one observers that many of them are more decent than the Turks or Pakistanis. They, as a group, are disciplined, knowledgeable and serious about what they are doing. One can find their Tajweed better than many other well-known nations of the world. Pakistanis are vibrant, to some extent restive with lesser understanding of Islam. Afghanis with well-built bodies are a more religious, God-fearing and serious lot. Bangladeshis and Assamis are other God-fearing type people. Turks are well off but not as serious as other nations. Most of the Chinese and Indians who come for Hajj are old people while Indonesians and Malaysians come in early part of their lives. One thing comes to fore too often, that is had there been a common language for all Muslims say Arabic or English, the communication part would have been much better.
Hajj is an occasion, which provides an enormous potential to an individual as well as a group. An individual gets the taste of his Imaan; s/he comes very close to the nature and gets an idea of the potential of Ummah. Hajj provides a new lease of life sans too much indulgence in worldly affairs. As a group one gets the opportunity to understand the problems of one another and lend helping hands to others. As the largest congregation on the planet it gives the Ummah an opportunity to learn from the scholars and be guided by them. The need of the hour is to utilise this occasion for the larger appeal.