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A Quranic Pilgrimage

By Ahmad Ali

Hajj, also known as the greater pilgrimage, is an amazing phenomenon which engulfs the hearts and minds of Muslims from all across the globe. It is an event which is indeed spectacular; a mass sea of human will and flesh surging along the path once traversed by Abraham, the caller to Islamic monotheism. It is a pilgrimage that is centredaround the prime maxim of monotheism, every action and ritual maintaining a direct relationship with it.
Inasmuch as Hajj being the single most important and spiritual journey that man will undertake, it is pertinent to note that most are unaware of the Qur’anic verses relating to it. It is in this vein that we shall be taking a brief look at a few verses in Surah Hajj where Allah speaks of this most blessed journey.
The discussion begins with the verse: “And (remember) when We appointed for Abraham the place of the House (saying) ‘Do not ascribe anything as a partner to Me and purify My House for those who circumbulate, stand, bow, and prostrate.’
The verse commences the discussion about Hajj through introducing it as an affair which stems from Abraham. We find that the appointment of the house (Kabah) coupled with pure monotheism as Allah established for Abraham His House along with His house rules. In keeping with His guidelines, He articulates acceptable and pleasing behavior: circumbulating, standing, bowing, and prostration – all forms of physical worship. Thus, the verse in question affirms tawhid (monotheism), the action of tawhid (al-Uluhiyah), the direction (qiblah) of tawhid, and the Prophet of tawhid. It is through such points that man may achieve eternal bliss; by believing in the monotheistic nature of Allah without ascribing any form of partnership to him, by worshipping Him in line with His monotheistic nature through the prescribed actions of circumbulating, standing, bowing, and prostrating; facing the Kabah while committing these acts; and following the millah (religion) of Abraham who was a monotheist himself.
Abraham, the Friend of Allah, is given sole importance in relation to the Kabah, and was honoured through being commanded to build the Kabah where Allah decreed. It was built out of taqwa and founded upon obedience, he and his son built this great edifice and a part of his offspring remained in Makkah living alongside it. As for Allah’s command to purify His House, it was to purify it from polytheism and disobedience, and from impurities and dirt. Allah, the Most High, ascribes the House to himself through His usage of the pronoun ‘my’, and in doing so sanctified and honored this blessed structure. It is to this end that `Umar b. Al-Khattab said when kissing the black stone, “Verily I know that you are merely a stone, you neither harm nor benefit. Were it not for the fact that the Prophet kissed you, I never would have,” since his kiss was merely because of its sanctified nature which God afforded it, and not because it is special in and of itself.
Allah then says: “And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine, so that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.”
After being commanding to build the sanctified structure, Abraham was told to call mankind to undertake the pilgrimage. It is mentioned the Abraham said, “My Lord, how can I call mankind when my voice cannot reach them?” So it was said, “Call, and its conveyance is upon us.” Similarly, the famous exegete Ibn Al-‘Arabi states that “Allah commanded him to climb Abi Qubaisand call out, “O mankind, Allah has ordained upon you the Hajj, so undertake the Pilgrimage.” So none were left except that Allah conveyed the call of Abraham to them…”
The verse then states the means by which the pilgrims shall respond to the call, and their coming from “every deep ravine” is from every far and desolate place, so much so that the believers will flock from all corners of the earth – this miraculous statement is evident today where people of all nationalities and races arrive at the sacred House. Interestingly Allah states that “they will come to you” as in to Abraham instead of the House itself. This passage emphasizes the link between the Hajj and Abraham, and that the Hajj is to respond to the call of monotheism – it is in effect an act of monotheism. Furthermore, in responding to Abraham we become of him, as Allah states “Verily, among mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him.” Thus, the Hajj establishes the connection between the Muslims and Abraham since we are the only people to follow in his way, in both deed and intent.
As for “the things that are of benefit”, they are of two types: religious and worldly. As for the religious benefit, it is to engage in worship and fulfil one’s duty to Allah. As for the worldly gain, it is to gain an income and some profit. Ibn `Abbas said the verse pertained to benefit in this life and the hereafter. “As for benefit in the hereafter, it is to reside in eternal bliss; and as for this life, it is benefit in regards to profit and business undertakings.” In this regards, the majority of exegetes state that the meaning of the verse “There is no sin on you if you seek the Bounty of your Lord…” is that there is no harm nor sin in undertaking profitable ventures during the Hajj as long as it does not interfere with carrying out the prescribed rituals.
In regards to mentioning the name of Allah on the appointed days, then this is to slaughter the sacrifice in His Glorious name as well as to praise and thank Allah for His many bounties. Ibn `Abbas stated the ‘appointed days’ are the first ten days of the month of DhulHijjah.The ‘beast of cattle’ is recorded in the Qur’an as the bahimatulan’am which are camels, cows, and sheep. This is reiterated by the hadith of `Abdullah b. `Abbas as narrated by Abu Jamrah Nasr b. `Imran Ad-Duba’i when he asked Ibn `Abbas about the tamattu’ Hajj and sacrifice. In reference to the discussion pertaining to the benefits of Hajj, the bahimatulan’am are also a benefit in this life and the next since the one selling them benefits financially, and the one who slaughters them benefits in the hereafter. It is then from the divine mercy and wisdom of Allah the Most High that he allows the slaughterer (who now benefits from his sacrifice in this life) and the poor to eat from the sacrificial meat.