The first of the month of Shawwal marks the day of Eid al-Fitr , or…
The hajj pilgrimage is among the tenets of Islamic tradition and one of its most important rituals. Though the components of hajj are very rigorous, it is an opportunity to progress in one’s spirituality and seek closeness to our Creator despite the physical and financial challenges. The pilgrimage, which is to be performed in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, attracts millions from across the world in a convergence of believers. God states, “(We commanded Abraham), ‘Call people for Hajj [an act of worship accomplished by visiting the sacred sites in Mecca.]’ They will come on foot and on lean camels from all the distant quarters.”1 This spiritual pilgrimage is a means of seeking closeness to God and attaining His favors and blessings.
Seeking Closeness to the Almighty
When we go for hajj, we should keep in mind that we are being invited to the House of God to attain closeness to Him. God has sent down this invitation including various acts of worship to be performed so that He can bless us with the rewards that come with them. God’s mercy is truly illuminated in this journey. When we call out “Labayk! Allahuma labayk!” (Here I am at your service! Oh God, here I am at your service!), we become hopeful that God will answer this call, for he has promised, “[Call on] Me for I shall answer [you].”2 We become the guests of God during these days, and it is certainly not one of God’s qualities to call on his servants and then mistreat them by ignoring their calls. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) states, “Oh my Master! It is not part of your qualities to order [me] to ask [from you] and prevent your answer [to me].”3 When we utter these words in sincerity, our goal is to build that spiritual closeness to our Creator. God states, “If any of My servants ask you about Me, tell them that … I certainly am near.”4 If some of us may have drifted away from this spiritual bond with God, this journey gives us the opportunity to rekindle that relationship, because God is always close to us.
Unique Merits of the Hajj
From the time of proximity to the Prophet and the Imams of Al-Baqi in Medina, until the first glance of the Holy Kabah, and then moving forward to the lands of Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, every piece of land is blessed, and every breath within the holy cities is meaningful, as it is one of God’s beloved places. A beautiful narration from Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (p) points to the fact that performance of the pilgrimage allows unique blessings to descend upon us. He narrates from his grandfather Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p), “Perform Hajj and Umrah, [for it] allows your bodies to be healthy, and it increases your wealth, and you will have enough sustenance for your families.”5 As we can see from this narration, the pilgrimage has numerous benefits that will aid us in this life and the next.
The tenth of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, which is the day after the hajj begins, marks the day of Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of the Sacrifice.” This is a day of celebration for all Muslims—those who performed the pilgrimage and those who did not. For the hujaj (those performing hajj), they have completed the most significant segment of their journey, which is the day of Arafah (the ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah), and on the day of Eid, will travel to Mina where they will sacrifice an animal in submission to God. For those who have not made the journey, the day of Eid is also a means to seek closeness to the Almighty by prayer and supplication.
Pieces of Advice
1. Make the Most of the Journey: People go to hajj with many different intentions, but it is important that we do so to fulfill our responsibility to God and to seek closeness to Him. Everyone who makes the journey attains some benefit, as the tradition from Imam al-Sadiq (p) tells us that, “The pilgrims [to the Hajj] are of three types—those who have been freed from hell fire, those who have had their sins forgiven as if it was the day their mothers gave birth to them, and [the third] those who have their family and wealth protected, and that is the lowest benefit for those who went for Hajj.”6 The end goal of the pilgrimage should be to spend the days and nights in proximity to God and His prophet (pbuh&hp) to really ensure that we have our souls purified from all sin and vice and that we attain freedom from the shackles of punishment for eternity.
2. Encourage Others: Although it may be difficult to perform hajj, from a financial and also physical standpoint, some may focus on its challenges and hurdles instead of its spiritual benefits and positive experiences. Imam al-Sadiq (p) advises us, “[Do not] hinder one another from going for Hajj for you will be inflicted with a trial in this world which will transition into the next world.”7 It is important that our communities speak about the importance of the pilgrimage, encourage others to go, hold seminars and workshops, and create mechanisms to aid those who do not have the ability to perform the pilgrimage.
3. Honor those who made the pilgrimage: Even if we do not have the opportunity to perform the pilgrimage this year, we still have an opportunity to benefit from its merits, in particular by honoring those who did have the opportunity to make the pilgrimage. Imam Zayn al-Abidin (p) would say, “Oh people who did not perform Hajj! Greet those who went for Hajj, and shake their hands, and honor them! For surely that is an obligation upon you for those who want to share in their reward!”8 If we have family members, friends, or members of our community who are performing the pilgrimage, it is important to celebrate with them and visit them upon their arrival back home.
1. Quran 22:27.
2. Quran 40:60.
3. Bihar al-anwar, vol. 95, p. 83.
4. Quran 2:186.
5. Wasail al-Shia, vol. 13, p. 243.
6. Al-kafi, vol. 4, p. 253.
7. Wasail al-Shia, vol. 11, p. 138.
8. Al-kafi, vol. 4, p. 264.