Islam is built on five pillars one of which is pilgrimage to the House for those who are able to undertake the journey. Hajj is obligatory on Muslims once in a life time. The Ancient House, The Ka’bah, is situated in Makkah of the present Saudi Arabia. The original building was destroyed by the Flood of Prophet Noah (Nuh), may Allah’s peac be upon him. Allah then appointed it, showed and guided His Prophet, Ibrahim, alaihis salaam, to rebuild it, sanctify it for those who compass it or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves therein in prayer. Allah, moreover, made it a place of assembly, a well-deserved United Muslim-Nations General Assembly, where adherents of Islam converge annually for worship, to compare notes on the situation of their brethren around the world in the economic and political spheres. (Al-Baqarah, 2:125,198)
Isma’eel (Ishmael) assisted his father Ibrahim (Abraham) in raising the foundations of the House; and when they finished they prayed Allah to accept the service from them. (Al-Baqarah, 2:127). Then Allah commanded Ibrahim: ‘And proclaim the pilgrimage among men: they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways;…’ (Al-Hajj, 22:27) ‘They will come to you….’ Allah says. Are the pilgrims coming to The House or to Ibrahim? Of course hajjies go to The Ka’bah; but to honour our father, Ibrahim, Allah made going to him to mean going to the Ka’bah.
Again – ‘…:they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways;…’ depicts the hardship involved in this spiritual journey, for trekkers and those on camel, horseback, wagon etc.; modern-day pilgrims travelling on air are not immune from the fatigue associated with travel. Abu Hurairah Narated that The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon said, “Travelling is a kind of torture as it prevents one from eating, drinking and sleeping properly. So, when one’s needs are fulfilled, one should return quickly to one’s family.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 3, Hadeeth 031).
But what is most striking is the use of the word ‘ya’teena’, in the above verse, to describe coming of the lean camels with pilgrims to the Ka’bah. If Allah had used ‘ya’tuuna’, it would’ve referred to the pilgrims; ‘ya’teena’ refers to the camels. This is acknowledging the efforts of both the pilgrims and the animals that convey them to Hajj. We read similar thing in al-Aadiyaat, 100:1 where Allah swore ‘By the steeds that run with panting breath’ to convey the Prophet’s companions to places of their expedition. Allah recognizing the efforts of beasts…? Allah is Great! Even animals are not neglected in the roles they play in helping the believers fulfill their vow in battle and Hajj.
The moral here is for us to also acknowledge the efforts of people (we wrongly deem unimportant) in the success we record in our daily endevours – be it in business, intellectual pursuit and in our various places of work, offices. Everybody is important to the overall success in a going concern or government establishment. How many companies will remember, during their AGM, to, at least, thank or recognize the hard work of the chauffeurs, the security personnel etc in the success recorded in a financial year? How many writers will care to mention, in the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT page, the typist for her diligence and patience in typing, retyping, correcting and updating the scripts before the publication of the book? Again, how many writers will appreciate the understanding of, let alone mention, their spouse in the books they author? When you place the do-not-disturb sign on the door to your study during the period of your research for the book, your spouse needs you, to converse with you or feel your warmth. He or she deserves mention in the book for giving you the support and showing understanding. But how less do we do that?
The above discussion is not a digression; it is part of the exegesis of the verse in which Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, to proclaim the pilgrimage to people. So, Ibrahim wondered: ‘How can my voice reach all the people of the world from here?’ Allah said: ‘your task is to proclaim; ours to convey…’ On the Mount of Abu Qubais the prophet Ibrahim summoned mankind to Hajj: ‘O people’ he proclaimed, ‘perform pilgrimage to the House of Allah.’ This proclamation, Muslim scholars say, Allah caused to reach people in the loins of their fathers. Whoever Allah destines to perform Hajj during his earthly sojourn answers: labbaikallaahumma – answering your call my Lord. The scholars further add that whosoever answers this Ibrahimic call once, performs Hajj only once in his life time; whosoever answers twice, he performs Hajj twice and so on. People will go to Hajj, as far as this scholastic opinion is concerned, according to the number of times Allah made them to answer the call of Ibrahim, peace be upon him.
Therefore, pilgrimage to the Ka’bah is a duty people owe to Allah – those who can afford the journey thereto. (Ali’Imraan, 3:97). Thus an intending pilgrim cannot be a debtor or one that is insolvent. He or she should have enough for the Hajj expenses plus what to leave for dependents here, such as will be adequate for all spending in their absence, before undertaking the journey. You cannot use your life’s earnings for Hajj at the expense of the welfare of your family and the future of your children. One who is not able to pay for Hajj with all that I have mentioned above is not part of the addressees of Al-Hajj, 22:27 – pilgrimage is not obligatory on him. Yes, Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam just like zakkah is, but giving out zakkah out of one’s property is only on the rich. Majority of Muslims live and die without ever paying zakkah because they have not got zakkatable wealth. Likewise, many Muslims may not be able to perform Hajj because they are poor. Allah will not question the poor on zakkah or Hajj; obligation here is subject to wealth and ability. I say ability because a wealthy person that is afflicted with disabling ailment cannot perform Hajj. Somebody may perform it on his behalf. A woman asked the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, concerning the limpness of her aged father who wanted to perform Hajj. The Prophet answered that Hajj was not obligatory on him. Hajj is on those who are able to undertake the journey!
First published: December 2010