The Ḥajj pilgrimage is considered as a great act of worship in the Islamic religion and it is in fact one of the greatest symbols of our faith. It is also considered to be an act which can allow someone to gain proximity towards Allah. Just like other acts of worship, the Ḥajj pilgrimage also possesses many blessings and positive effects both on a personal and social level. If this pilgrimage is fulfilled according to all of its various conditions and its various blessings are utilized in the proper way, then it can become a yearly source of progress and change in the Islamic society.
From this perspective, it is necessary that we delve in to the various key aspects of this great pilgrimage towards a better understanding through the viewpoints and lessons offered to us by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. We can utilize this opportunity in understanding the various different facets of the Ḥajj pilgrimage to help us better understand the holistic message of this great act of worship.
A Reflection on the Essential Nature of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. The Ḥajj Pilgrimage as the Greatest Pillar of Islam:
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the essential nature of the Ḥajj pilgrimage as follows: From the Shia point of view, the Ḥajj pilgrimage is one of the most important pillars of the Islamic faith. The Ḥajj is in reality a type of Jihād that relates to one’s body and one’s wealth; it is, in fact, a spiritual Jihād. It can also be said that Jihād is also a type of Ḥajj as well and these two possess a close relationship to one another.
2. The Conditions for the Ḥajj to Become Obligatory
Similarly, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the conditions which make the pilgrimage obligatory upon the Muslims. He has said in this regard: If the general conditions of the pilgrimage, such as having reached the age of religious maturity (puberty) and having a sound mind, exist, as well as the more individual conditions, such as being financially capable of going on the Hajj pilgrimage, having a means of getting there, and being healthy enough to undertake the journey are there, then it becomes obligatory for every Muslim to undertake this journey once in their lives. It is necessary to mention that this pilgrimage becomes obligatory immediately when these conditions exist and one cannot put it off even for a single year.
3. The Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a Symbol of Equality amongst the Servants of Allah
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained this issue by mentioning: The Ḥajj pilgrimage is a collective act of worship which is performed by the Muslims and it is first begun by wearing two pieces of very simple cloth. These two pieces of cloth are worn by all of the pilgrims and it is a sign of the equality of these individuals before Allah (swt), even if they enjoy different social positions or amounts of wealth in their day to day lives. The Ḥajj pilgrimage is a symbolic way for the representation of one of the greatest human hopes and aspirations: that one day all human beings reach an understanding where they discard all of the factors such as race, wealth, social position, or language which may mistakenly, be considered as sources of superiority over others. This will be a day when all human beings truly come to believe that all of them are equal before Allah (swt). The Ḥajj pilgrimage consists of acts of worship which cause people to understand that they are not different from one another and things such as race, wealth, or social position are of no real importance before their Lord.
4. Understanding the Roots of the Abrahamic Ḥajj Pilgrimage
The Ḥajj pilgrimage is in fact a type of great immigration. It is the best opportunity for self-purification and fighting against one’s carnal desires. The Ḥajj pilgrimage is an act of worship which is intertwined with the memories of the struggles of Abraham (‘a), his son Ismāʾīl, and his wife Hājar. If we are negligent in regards to secrets of the Ḥajj, then we will fail to properly understand many of the acts which take place within it. Indeed, the key to properly understand the Ḥajj is to understand the philosophy and roots of many of its acts.
For example, when we arrive at the place of sacrifice in Minā, we remember the story of Abraham (‘a) who was ready to sacrifice his own son in the way of Allah (swt). It was after this great sacrifice that sacrificing an animal at Minā became a tradition. When we go to the Jamarāt (the three columns where the pilgrims throw stones), we remember the struggle of Abraham (‘a) against the whispers and insinuations of Satan who approached him three times. Satan desired to break Abraham (‘a)’s will in obeying the orders of Allah (swt) in this place but each time the Satan approached him, Abraham (‘a) would stone him and drive him away.
When we approach Ṣafā and Marwah, we see throngs of people running back and forth from one small mountain to the other seven times without ever gaining anything. Sometimes they run, while other times they walk. When we go back to the roots of this ritual, we remember that it is based on the actions of Hājar, who ran back and forth between those two mountains in that dry desert seeking some water for her suckling child, Ismāʿīl. Her struggles in this path eventually took her to the well of Zamzam which began to bubble under the feet of her infant child.
As the pilgrims are running back and forth, their imagination can take them back through time in order to see the struggles which were taking place for the sake of Allah (swt). When we understand this historical event, we come to understand that nothing of value in this world is gained easily and the path to Allah is one which possesses great struggle and effort. No one will reach a high state of spirituality without struggling hard for it.
It is in light of these lessons that we understand that the Ḥajj pilgrimage must be performed with full knowledge of the background of its various components and acts of worship. It is through such means that we can understand the deeper philosophy of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and indeed the philosophy behind all of the acts of worship in Islam. It is here too that the deeper moral and spiritual effects will come in to play for the pilgrims; without these deeper realities, the Ḥajj can be nothing more than a series of ordinary physical actions.
5. An Introduction to the Implications of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage for the Interpretation of the Quran
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned that: Allah the Almighty has detailed the rules of the Ḥajj pilgrimage in the Quran (Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 197). These are as follows-
1. The Quran has mentioned that the Ḥajj must be performed in certain specified months, meaning the months of Shawwāl, Dhī al-Qaʿdah, and Dhī al-Ḥijjah.
2. The second point relates to those who have begun their Ḥajj by wearing the Iḥrām (the specific clothing of the pilgrims). The verse has stated that those who are performing the Ḥajj and have worn the Iḥrām should know that they must refrain from sexual inter-course, sin, or disputation during the course of the pilgrimage. This is due to the fact that, the environment of the Ḥajj pilgrimage must be kept free from sexual pleasure, as well as various sins or useless arguments. The pilgrimage is a place where the human soul must rise up, moving to higher spiritual realms. At the same time, the Ḥajj pilgrimage must turn in to an environment for the promotion of brotherhood and unity amongst all the Muslims. Anything which goes against this spirit is disallowed.
3. There are also various spiritual points related to the Ḥajj in relation to one’s sincerity and pure intentions. The Quran has stated that Allah (swt) knows the good actions which we perform. This is something which is important for us to know, for if Allah (swt) sees our actions, they will never be lost. It has also been mentioned that we should ‘stock up’ on our otherwortly provisions and that the best of these provisions is piety. Those who possess sound intellects must fear Allah and practice piety. The Ḥajj pilgrimage is a very good opportunity for ‘stocking up’ on these spiritual provisions. We must be aware of this issue, for those who are aware have the potential of gaining an entire lifetime of spiritual provisions during the course of this pilgrimage. It is evident that the existence of these various facets of the Ḥajj pilgrimage is something which is undeniable. A profound reflection on these various facets can help to gain further knowledge and understanding in relation to the inner reality of our acts of worship. This issue can also help us to better understand the various aspects of society, politics, culture, morality, and even economics.
Various Devotional Aspects in the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. Strengthening the Foundations of Piety and Sincerity
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the various devotional aspects of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and he has mentioned how its primary aspects relate to training and controlling the carnal desires, moral training, and strengthening the foundations of one’s level of piety. He has stated in this regard that: A quick glance at the moral and devotional aspects of the Ḥajj reveals that the most important philosophy of this pilgrimage relates to controlling the carnal desires, moral training, and strengthening one’s level of piety and sincerity.
There are well-known traditions which state that one who performs the Ḥajj pilgrimage with sincerity, proper attention, and abides by its various secrets and with the proper manners will be purified of his sins just like the day that he was first born. In essence, the Ḥajj pilgrimage can potentially act as a means of purifying one’s body and soul, even if these sins were the results of an entire lifetime of error and deviation. This is one of the biggest benefits of the Ḥajj for the pilgrims who visit the House of Allah (swt) in Mecca.
2. The Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a New Birth
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the Ḥajj pilgrimage as a type of new birth for the pious believers. He has stated in this regard that: Every step which the believers take is a step towards Allah (swt); they see their Lord present in every place. There is no doubt that the Ḥajj pilgrimage is a new birth for them! Those who comprehend the Ḥajj with their entire fiber of existence will feel its spiritual effects until the very end of their lives. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Ḥajj has been considered obligatory once in each person’s life.
This is particularly true when we consider that the Ḥajj pilgrimage is a remembrance of the actions of Prophet Abraham (‘a), Prophet Ismāʿīl, and his mother Hājar. It is a remembrance of their struggles and self-sacrifice. The pilgrimage is also a remembrance of the Prophet of Islam (s) and the Infallible Imams (‘a), as well as the struggles of the early Muslims. When we perform the Ḥajj in light of this reality, each of its rituals takes on a deeper meaning and the potential for a higher level of spirituality increases.
The various parts of the city of Mecca and each corner of the Holy Shrine hold the echoes of the Prophet’s (ṣ) footsteps; they hold the echoes of Imam Ali’s (‘a) footsteps. This is a place of living history for us. All of these elements come together and they prepare our souls for a spiritual revolution. People are reborn on this journey and their lives are completely changed for the better.
The Moral Implications of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. A Moral Revolution
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has mentioned that one the important aspects of the Ḥajj is the moral revolution which takes place for the pilgrims who go there. For instance, entering the state of Iḥrām completely takes away all vestiges of social rank, wealth, and status which a person may have enjoyed in their day to day lives. The colorful clothes which distinguish people from one another are shorn, and two pieces of cloth (two towels in fact) are worn. All jewelry is taken off and even the application of perfume is forbidden.
Every element which distinguishes people from a worldly perspective is taken away and the individual is left with the sole goal of self-purification and spiritual development. The pilgrim is transported in to a realm of light and spirituality. The people who were previously burdened with social rank and all of such trappings of life suddenly find themselves lightened and free. The Ḥajj takes away the clothing of arrogance and selfishness from the human being and it instead teaches them lessons in humility, sincerity, and meekness.
2. Combatting the Evil-prompting Self
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has then explained the moral effects of the Ḥajj pilgrimage by stating: Certainly, the Ḥajj is designed as a means for people to further combat their evil-prompting self. If this pilgrimage entailed ease and comfort, then these effects would be lessened but the more difficulties that are endured on such a journey, the greater the spiritual effects. When we look at the city of Mecca, we find it to be a dry and barren place without anything physically beautiful to look at. It is unlikely that anyone would go there for rest or leisure. This is in reality one of the secrets behind the Ḥajj, for this environment actually enhances the spiritual effects of the journey.
The Political Implications of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. The Unity of the Muslim Ummah as a Key Implication of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
Strengthening the level of unity amongst the Muslims is without any doubt a matter of the utmost importance. Indeed the Ḥajj pilgrimage possesses this political potential of uniting the Muslim community worldwide; such unity will entail many great blessings. In light of this issue, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has considered unity to be one of the key elements in the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has stated in this regard that: The spirit of worship involves focusing on Allah (swt) and the spirit of politics involves focusing on the servants of Allah (swt). These two elements are so intertwined in the Ḥajj pilgrimage that they cannot be separated from one another. The reality is that the Ḥajj is an effective means for the promotion of unity amongst the Muslims (and this is an essential political issue).
The Ḥajj is a means of combatting the national and ethnic prejudices which can arise amongst people. It is a means of combatting the idea that the only people who matter are those in one’s geographic location. In various traditions, the Ḥajj has been considered as a type of great struggle for the weak and the feeble. It is a struggle that even the elderly can participate in and in turn, reflect the greatness of the Muslim nation. When one sees the successive lines of the people praying in Mecca, one realizes how powerful the Muslims truly are in their unity and oneness of purpose. This is a scene which strikes terror in to the hearts of the enemies of Islam.
2. The Yearly Gathering of the Ḥajj as the Greatest Gathering of the Muslim Ummah
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has likened the Ḥajj pilgrimage with a great gathering of various segments of the Muslim nation. He has explained the end results of such a massive gathering by stating: The creator of Islam, through the determination of various politically oriented rules and the invitation of the Muslims to attend a mass gathering in Mecca, has created a system which guarantees that the religion will remain forever. There is no doubt that this yearly gathering has effects which are greater than the typical gatherings of political parties around the world.
During the modern era, political parties have just begun to realize the importance of such mass gatherings, while the religion of Islam created this system fourteen centuries ago. The Islamic thinkers, who will naturally attend the Ḥajj pilgrimage, will be able to look in to the latest developments and changes within the various parts of the Muslim world. They will have very precise information which is only available due to the blessings of this massive gathering which is like no other. They can utilize this detailed information in order to fix the various issues which the Muslims may be facing. This can play a very vital role in the progress of the Muslim nation and it can help in certain specific situations such as independence movements.
What gathering is more beneficial than one where the various segments of a group convene, and where the leaders are able to tap in to this phenomenon and utilize it in better understanding what is happening all around the world. The yearly Ḥajj pilgrimage also acts as a place of inspiration for many of the freedom movements around the Muslim world. In this capacity, the pilgrimage serves as a means for the oppressed to break free of the shackles of oppression and tyranny.
One can clearly see this facet of the Ḥajj reflected in the pages of history. The seed of many Islamic revolutions has been first planted at this yearly gathering and many unjust governments have been toppled from the maturation of this very seed. This pilgrimage can be seen as a major focal point for these various freedom movements. The annual Ḥajj pilgrimage in reality strengthens the foundations of Islam and it gives the Muslims power and an enhanced ability in various intellectual, cultural, military, and political arenas.
3. The Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a Source of Honor for the Muslim Ummah
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained how the Ḥajj pilgrimage serves as a source of great honor for the Muslim Ummah. He has stated in this regard that: The Ḥajj, if performed the way that Islam has called for… will bring about great honor for the Muslims and it will strengthen the foundations of the religion and bring about unity. It will serve as a source of great power against the machinations of the enemy. This divine and grand gathering, which takes place alongside the House of Allah each year, is the best opportunity for the Muslims to replenish their strength and strengthen the foundations of their brotherhood. It serves as a great opportunity to neutralize the plots of the enemies of Islam.
4. The Ḥajj as a Key Element in Combatting the Oppressive Superpowers
After the blessing of unity and the realization of greater honor for the Muslim nation, the Ḥajj pilgrimage also has an implication for combatting the oppressive superpowers and their tyranny. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained this issue by stating that: The Ḥajj is a means of breaking the censorship and media blackout covering up the crimes and true reality of the oppressive powers and their encroachment on the resources and destiny of the Muslim nations. The Ḥajj is a means of spreading political news throughout the Muslim nation and so it serves as an effective means for breaking free of the chains of colonialism and slavery, and allowing the Muslims to gain their freedom.
It is in light of this reality that Imam Ali (‘a) has explained the philosophy of the Ḥajj pilgrimage by stating that: ‘The Ḥajj strengthens the religion.’ A well-known non Muslim politician is also known to have said: Woe upon the Muslims if they fail to understand the meaning of the Ḥajj, and woe upon their enemies if the Muslims understand the meaning of the Ḥajj. There is no doubt that a gathering of this size is something extraordinary in our world. It is unfortunate that the Muslims have not yet fully understood the power which lies within the Ḥajj pilgrimage; if they realized this power, they could serve the cause of Islam every year and strike the hardest of blows against the disbelievers.
The Economic Implications of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. The Ḥajj and the Necessity of a Combined Economy amongst the Muslims
The strengthening of the economic foundations of the Muslim Ummah is one of the key elements which can bring greater power and honor to them overall. From this perspective, the great gathering at the Ḥajj pilgrimage has a very important role to play in regards to the economic situation of the Muslims. One prerequisite to this issue is that the Muslim nations must first possess the necessary wisdom and understanding to enact various policies in this regard. Unfortunately, thus far, many Muslim nations have failed to understand the economic implications of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and they remain negligent towards this reality.
Examing this issue and its various subtle aspects, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazihas stated: Contrary to what some people may think, utilizing the gathering of the Ḥajj as a means to strengthen the economic foundations of the Muslim Ummah is not in contrast with the spirit of this act of worship. In fact, this is one of the things which has been mentioned as a philosophy behind the establishment of the Ḥajj pilgrimage. Thus, there is no problem with the Muslims coming together at the Ḥajj and establishing various j o i nt economic ventures; the benefit of such ventures will belong to the Muslims alone and their money will not go in to the pockets of their enemies.
This has nothing to do with worldliness, as some may assume; in reality, it has everything to do with the essence of worshipping Allah (swt) and struggling against the enemies of the religion. As it was discussed above, the economic philosophy of the Ḥajj pilgrimage has been mentioned in the Islamic traditions and so the Ḥajj should serve as a platform for greater economic cooperation amongst the Muslims in resolving their various financial problems.
2. The Great Gathering of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a Means of Strengthening the General Economic Situation of the Muslim Ummah
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has emphasized the necessity of holding economic meetings with various Islamic countries. He has mentioned how important it is to exchange ideas and he has stated: In the Islamic traditions, the economic philosophy of the Ḥajj has been mentioned as one of its goals. Some people may ask in this regard what the Ḥajj has to do with economic issues. Considering that the biggest problem of the Muslims today is their economic dependence on the enemies of Islam many solutions to this problem can be found through utilizing the Ḥajj in order to hold various gatherings where the economic minds can get together and brainstorm various ideas and solutions. Through such means, the Muslims can be freed from the economic domination of the foreigners. The importance of this issue is not hidden from anyone.
In this way, the journey of the Muslims from various parts of the world to the House of Allah and their participation in this grand gathering can pave the way for a general economic movement. The economic experts of the Muslim world can utilize this opportunity to sit down together either during the Ḥajj itself or before or after and devise various plans in order to create a powerful economic system which will make them needless of the enemies of Islam. In reali-ty, the creation of a powerful j o i nt economic system amongst the Muslims will serve as a power tool for strengthening the Muslim community against their enemies.
No nation can become fully independent without a healthy and powerful economy. There is also no doubt that this economic activity should take place under the banner of the Ḥajj pilgrimage and it should not overshadow the pilgrimage itself. Fortunately, the Muslims have sufficient time both before and after performing the Ḥajj where they can brainstorm the implementation of various economic goals.
The most dangerous problem which the Muslims face today is their economic dependence upon the foreigners. What problem can it entail if the Muslims perform their Ḥajj rituals and then hold various economic conferences and seminars? This would not only be an act of worship but it would also save the Muslims from the deprivations of poverty and their dependence upon the enemies of Islam. The economic experts can gather together and create constructive plans which will help the Muslim world greatly. This cannot be considered as a worldly or materialistic activity; it is rather a necessary effort which will strengthen the Muslim world as a whole and save them from poverty. It should be considered as a great service per-formed for the sake of Islam and the Muslims.
The Social Implications of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage
1. The Function of the Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a Negation of Secular Islam and an Emphasis Placed on the Pure and Genuine Islam
One of the great blessings of the Ḥajj pilgrimage is its role in strengthening the social fabric of the Muslim world. This great gathering plays a powerful role in cementing the Muslims of various nations to one another and it helps to foster a set of common values and goals. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained this issue further by stating: Islamic acts of worship such as the Ḥajj pilgrimage possess various secrets which help benefit the worshipper, as well as the worshipper’s society overall.
The Ḥajj is even more comprehensive than the other acts of worship in respect to its social components and it shows the people that Islam is a social religion at heart. When we are faced with such a reality within the teachings of the religion, we come to the conclusion that the individual is a part of his society and he must integrate himself within it. In light of this reality, we know that it is wrong to think that worship at home is better than worship with the congregation. Some people wrongly assume that if they stay in their homes for prayer, they can concentrate better and that their prayer is superior to the congregational prayer.
The Islamic teachings (including such acts as the Ḥajj pilgrimage) show us that this is an incorrect manner of thought. It is even evident in the grammar used in the sentences of our prayers that they are meant to be performed with the congregation as a whole and not individually. For example, when we look at the verses of Surah al-fāṭihah, we find that one verse states: ‘You [alone] do we worship, and to You [alone] do we turn for help’. This verse uses the term we and it doesn’t say I. Another verse in the same chapter states: ‘Guide us to the straight path’. Again, this verse uses the term ‘us’ and this shows us the social nature of our religion.
2. The Ḥajj Pilgrimage as a Means of Reconciling the Hearts of the Muslims with one Another
Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has explained the valuable end results of the Ḥajj in relation to bringing together the various segments of the Muslim world and resolving any problems which they may have with one another. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has made the following remarks in this regard: Social issues are considered to be so important in Islam that anything which helps foster unity and reconciliation amongst the Muslims is considered to be a desirable thing. At the same time, whatever brings about conflict and disunity amongst the Muslims is something which is detested. Islam considers reconciling the Muslims and helping to resolve disputes amongst them as so important that it has been likened to fighting for the cause of Allah (swt) on the first line of the fighters.
In light of the teachings of Islam in regards to unity and the power of the congregation, it is clear that the religion considers that the congregation is foremost in importance. The individual is trained and educated within the heart of the congregation and this is why many of the acts of worship in Islam are congregational rather than individual in nature.
Similarly, the spirit of the Ḥajj pilgrimage is also social in nature and anything which might undermine this congregation is detested in our religion. This includes things such as spreading rumors, backbiting, slander, and cutting off relations; these are all considered to be great sins in Islam. At the same time, reconciling the believers, working with others, and meeting the needs of the people are considered to be some of the most beloved of actions in Islam.
A Final Word
In conclusion, it should be said that while we must focus on the outer aspects of worship, we must also focus on the spirit which drives these acts as well. The people who only focus on the outer aspects of worship and are negligent in regards to their spirit are in error. Such people will not only miss the secrets related to the spirit of worship, but they will also miss out on various aspects of the outer realities of worship as well. The outer reality of the Ḥajj includes things such as the Iḥrām, the ritual stay at ‘arafāt and Mash’ar, the rituals of Minā, the circumambulation, the Saʿi (ritual running), the Ḥalq (ritual head-shave), the Taqṣīr, and other such things.
Yet the spirit of the Ḥajj relates to how the pilgrim becomes a new individual when he has finished these rites; in reality, a total transformation has taken place. The reality of the Ḥajj is not that someone goes to the pilgrimage, performs a set of physical acts, and then buys souvenirs to take back to his family. The spirit of the Ḥajj creates a complete change in the spirit of human beings. The pilgrim sees the places which still hold the echoes of the Prophet’s (s) footsteps.
The pilgrim sees the living history of Islam in the cities of Mecca and Medina. The pilgrim is transported in to the very history of Islam and they see the realities of these holy places with the eyes of their heart. They see how the Prophet (s) began his transformative revolution while he was only supported by his wife Lady Khadijah (‘a) and Imam Ali (‘a). The pilgrims sees how the enemies of the Prophet (s) had all lined up in opposition to him and how the Prophet (s) chose the pleasure of his Lord and stood up against the enmity of polytheists. These are all living realities which one can witness in these holy places.
In order for one to realize the true realities of the spirit of the Ḥajj, one must stay away from the allure of the worldly things, including the souvenirs which so often pull the pilgrims towards them and away from the spiritual aspects of the pilgrimage. One must be wary of the bazaars and marketplaces which may tempt the pilgrim. Unfortunately, we find that some pilgrims busy themselves in such mundane matters and they even end up purchasing things which can be found in our own market. It is not as if they are purchasing something which is rare and cannot be found back home. We must strive to fix this incorrect culture and not allow the Ḥajj pilgrimage to be overshadowed by such unimportant things.