The Pilgrimage to Makkah, is one of the essential elements of the Islamic faith. It is obligatory on all believers provided they have the financial capability and physical ability to endure the challenges of the pilgrimage.
According to Islamic tradition the Kaaba, a simple square cube structure in Makkah, was the first house of worship established to remind humanity of the One Supreme God. The structure was reconstructed by Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ishmael.
And when We made the House (at Makkah) a destination for humankind and a sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship). Quran 2:125
The gathering of millions of faithful in Makkah during the days of annual pilgrimage, Hajj is a fulfilment of Prophet Abram’s prayer.
And, lo, Abraham prayed: “O my Sustainer! Make this a land secure, and grant its people fruitful sustenance – such of them as believe in God and the Last Day.” .. Quran 2:126
The Pilgrimage to Mecca is a sign of supreme significance. It was Prophet Abraham’s unconditional commitment to God that led him to leave his wife Hagar and his infant son Ishmael in this desolated desert. Prophet Abraham was reward for his unwavering submission to God, by a promise from Him to make this uninviting land into a place of promise and plenty.
Muslims who visit Makkah for Hajj become part of God’s promise to Prophet Abraham.
Like any other article of faith, the pilgrimage can become meaningless if it is regarded as an end in itself rather than a means for the attainment of a meaningful life.
The following story reminds us of the spirit of Hajj.
The Cobbler’s Hajj
It is related that a noted Muslim scholar Abdullah bin Mubarak, had a dream while he was sleeping near the Kaaba.
Abdullah bin Mubarak saw two angels’ descend from the sky, and start talking to each other.
One of the angels asked the other: “Do you know how many people have come for Hajj this year?”
The other angel replied: “Six hundred thousand have come for Hajj.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak had also gone for Hajj that year.
The first angel asked: “How many people’s Hajj has been accepted?”
The second replied: “I wonder if anyone’s Hajj has been accepted at all.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak was grieved to hear that. He thought, “So many people have come from all over the world, crossing so many obstacles like rivers, jungles, mountains, suffered so many hardships, and meeting so many expenses. Would their effort be wasted? Allah does not let anyone’s effort go to waste”.
He had thought only so far when he heard the other angel speak: “There is a cobbler in Damascus. His name is Ali bin al-Mufiq. He could not come for Hajj, but Allah has accepted his intention of Hajj. Not only will he get the reward for Hajj, but because of him, all the Hajjis will be rewarded.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak woke up, he decided he would go to Damascus and meet that cobbler whose Hajj intentions carried such a lot of weight.
On reaching Damascus, Abdullah bin Mubarak inquired if anyone knew a cobbler named Ali bin al-Mufiq. The town people directed him to a house. When a man appeared from the house Abdullah bin Mubarak greeted him and asked his name. The man replied “Ali bin al-Mufiq”.
Abdullah bin Mubarak asked: “What do you do for a living?”
Ali replied: “I am a cobbler”. Then Ali asked the stranger’s name that had come looking for him.
Abdullah bin Mubarak was a very well-known scholar of Islam, when Abdullah bin Mubarak introduced himself, the cobbler was anxious to find out why such a well-known scholar was seeking him out.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak asked Ali to tell him if he had made any plans to go for Hajj. Ali replied “For thirty years I have lived in the hope of performing the Hajj. This year I had saved enough to go for Hajj, but Allah did not will it, so I couldn’t make my intention translate into action.
Abdullah bin Mubarak was eager to find out how could this man’s Hajj be accepted and blessed for all the people who went for Hajj that year when he didn’t go for Hajj in the first place. While talking to the cobbler he could feel a certain purity in his heart. Islam regards greatness not in wealth or in power, but in civility, in good manners and the goodness of heart.
Abdullah bin Mubarak further asked: “why could you not go on Hajj?” In order not to disclose the reason, Ali again replied “it was Allah’s will”.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak persisted, Ali revealed: “Once I went to see my neighbour’s house. His family was just sitting down for dinner. Although I was not hungry I thought my neighbour would invite me to sit down for dinner out of courtesy but I could see that my neighbour was grieved about something and wanted to avoid inviting me for dinner.
After some hesitation the neighbour told me: “I am sorry I cannot invite you for food. We were without food for three days and I could not bear to see the pain of hunger of my children. I went out looking for food today and found a dead donkey. In my desperation I cut out some meat from the dead animal, and brought it home so that my wife could cook this meat. It is halal (lawful or permitted) for us because of our extreme condition of hunger, but I cannot offer it to you.”
Ali continued: “On hearing this, my heart bled with tears. I got up and went home, collected the three thousand dinars I had saved for Hajj, and gave my neighbour the money. I too had to go hungry but that was to save money for Hajj, but I thought helping my neighbour during his difficult times was more important. Although I still desire to go for Hajj if Allah wills.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak was greatly inspired by the cobbler’s story and told the cobbler of his dream.
God is merciful and shows mercy to those who do likewise to his creatures. This act of compassion on the part of the cobbler was so pleasing to God that it not only earned him the reward of Hajj but was extended to all the people who came for Hajj.