The philosophy of Hajj and sacrifice in Islam

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An occasion which demonstrates an obligatory worship in the religion of Islam is the institution of Hajj, the journey to the House of Allah, the Ka‘bah.

The concept of pilgrimage, in one form or another, can be found in almost every religion across the globe. However, the pilgrimage in Islam is a unique and universal representation of Muslim unity and the believers’ love for Allah the Almighty.

The history of the blessed Baitullah – the House of Allah, also known as the Ka‘bah – dates back to the era of Prophet Abrahamas, when he searched for the traces of Lord’s first house, which were not known at the time. Through divine guidance, he built it from the ruins with the help of his son Prophet Ishmaelas in Mecca which was then known as Bakkah.

Regarding the greatness and historical importance of the Holy Ka‘bah, it is stated in the Holy Quran:

اِنَّ اَوَّلَ بَیۡتٍ وُّضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِیۡ بِبَکَّۃَ مُبٰرَکًا وَّ ہُدًی لِّلۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ۔ فِیۡہِ اٰیٰتٌۢ بَیِّنٰتٌ مَّقَامُ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ ۬ۚ وَ مَنۡ دَخَلَہٗ کَانَ اٰمِنًا

“Surely, the first House founded for mankind is that at Bakkah, abounding in blessings and a guidance for all peoples. In it are manifest Signs; it is the place of Abraham; and whoso enters it, enters peace.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.97-98)

Following the command of Allah the Almighty, Prophet Abrahamas placed the foundations of civilisation in a deserted place and left his wife, Hazrat Hajiraas (Hagar) and his son, Ishmaelas to live there. The purpose of this exemplary sacrifice was for the place to serve as the centre of guidance for the world in the future. Hence, from the progeny of Prophet Ishmaelas, a great prophet rose who was the reason behind the creation of the universe and mercy for all mankind. He was none other than the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, whose teachings are for the entire world and for every period of time.

The House of Allah was built around 2,000 years before the advent of Prophet Jesusas and continued to serve as the worship place of one God. However, with the passage of time, it came under influence of the idol-worshippers. Allah the Almighty later restored its glory and grandeur through the hands of the Holy Prophetsa and every single idol was removed from this blessed Baitullah after the victory of Mecca. Soon after, Hajj was made obligatory for every Muslim to perform at least once in their life.

Highlighting the importance of Hajj, the Holy Prophetsa said:

“Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah’s delight and does not carry out foul talk, nor commits any evil or sin, they will return [after Hajj free from sins] as the day in which his mother gave birth to him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Hajj)

Explaining the philosophy and reason behind the institution of Hajj, the Promised Messiahas states:

“In the world of love, the human spirit always circles around its lover and gives a kiss towards its threshold. Likewise, the Holy Ka‘bah is a physical manifestation for all the fervent lovers [of God]. Allah states that this is His house and the Black Stone [Hajr-e-Aswad] is the stone of His threshold. He gave this order so that a person could practically express their ardent love. Hence, pilgrims physically walk around it [the Ka‘bah] at the occasion of Hajj, in a way that they are intensely in love with Allah. They put aside their beauty, shave their head, and walk around the Ka‘bah. They kiss the Black Stone with the thought that it is the stone of the threshold of Allah.

“This physical passion creates spiritual warmth and love, and the body circles His house and kisses the threshold’s stone, and with this, the spirit circles its true lover and kisses its spiritual threshold. Similarly, the soul circulates the true Beloved and kisses His spiritual threshold.

“There is no Shirk [associating partners with Allah] involved in this practice. When a friend receives a letter from a beloved friend, they kiss it as well. No Muslim worships the Holy Ka‘bah, nor do they ask anything from the Black Stone, but only considers it a model of God’s manifestation which has been established by Allah. Just as we lay prostrate on the ground and this prostration is not for the material earth, in exactly the same manner do we kiss the Black Stone, but that kiss is not for the Black Stone. A stone is merely a stone and can neither benefit anyone, nor cause any harm, but it has been bestowed from the hands of the Beloved, Who has declared it to be a manifestation of His threshold.” (Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 23, pp. 101-102)

Regarding the time of performing Hajj, Allah the Almighty states in the Holy Quran:

اَلۡحَجُّ اَشۡہُرٌ مَّعۡلُوۡمٰتٌ ۚ فَمَنۡ فَرَضَ فِیۡہِنَّ الۡحَجَّ فَلَا رَفَثَ وَ لَا فُسُوۡقَ ۙ وَ لَا جِدَالَ فِی الۡحَجِّ

“The months of the Hajj are well known; so whoever determines to perform the Pilgrimage in these months should remember that there is to be no foul talk, nor any transgression, nor any quarrelling during the Pilgrimage.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.198)

The above verse of the Holy Quran refers to the known Islamic months of Shawal, Dhul Qa‘dah and Dhul Hijjah, during which a person begins the preparation of Hajj and eventually performs it between the days of 8 to 13 Dhul Hijjah, according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophetsa.

It is worth mentioning here that the Tawaf-e-Ziarah can be performed from 10 Dhul Hijjah till the end of the month. On the other hand, if a pilgrim has performed Tawaf-e-Ziarah and wants to leave Mina two days earlier than 13 Dhul Hijjah, there will be no sin in it according to the Holy Quran, provided everything they do is done with good intentions, acting righteously and fearing God.

The Promised Messiahas states:

“There are two parts of worship: firstly, that a person fears God as one ought to. The fear of God takes a man to the fountain of purity and his soul begins to melt and flow to the Unity of God, making man a true worshipper; secondly, that a person loves God as He is worthy to be loved. God says:

وَالَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّٰہِ

[‘And believers are stronger in their love for Allah’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.166)], we should take all the affections, transitory and mortal, and the love of God as real and true …

“In order to fulfil both these things, Islam has enjoined its followers to offer [five daily] prayers and to perform Hajj. The prayer manifests the aspect of fear, while the Hajj depicts the love of God. Whatever the fear demands, we have it in various postures of the prayer; a man humbles himself and admits his being the servant of God. Whatever is done during the Hajj shows different ways of love.

“In the extreme condition of love, at times, one does not feel the need for clothes; love is also a sort of madness and a lover cannot be looking after his clothes to maintain their fineness.

“There was once a woman in Sialkot, and she was in love with a tailor-master. The people tried all they could to restrain her but she would tear off her clothes and run to him. This condition of dressing is to be met with in the ceremonies of Hajj; man has to shave off the hair on his head; one has to run; one has to kiss – this is the kiss of affection [all the religions have taken kissing to be a sign of affection]. Slaughtering of the ram [sacrifice] is also a sign of excellence of love.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 3, pp. 298-300)

The Holy Prophetsa performed his only Hajj in the year 10 AH but he used to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha on its prescribed date of the Islamic calendar, commemorating the great sacrifice offered by Hazrat Abrahamas.

Prophet Abrahamas stood by the command of Allah on two occasions and set an extraordinary example of sacrifice for the coming generations: firstly, when he saw in a divine vision that he was sacrificing his son, Ishmaelas and became ready to do it for attaining God’s delight; secondly, when he left his son and wife at a place where there was no water, nor the passing of any man.

The objective and true spirit behind the true sacrifice can be understood from the verse of the Holy Quran, Allah the Almighty states:

لَنۡ یَّنَالَ اللّٰہَ لُحُوۡمُھَا وَ لَا دِمَآؤُھَا وَلٰکِنۡ یَّنَالُہُ التَّقۡوٰی مِنۡکُمۡ ؕ کَذٰلِکَ سَخَّرَھَا لَکُمۡ لِتُکَبِّرُوا اللّٰہَ عَلٰی مَا ھَدٰٮکُمۡ ؕ وَ بَشِّرِالۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ

“Their flesh reaches not Allah, nor does their blood, but it is your righteousness that reaches Him. Thus has He subjected them to you, that you may glorify Allah for His guiding you. And give glad tidings to those who do good.” (Surah al-Hajj, Ch.22: V.38)

In the explanation of the above verse, it is stated in the The Holy Quran Five-Volume Commentary that this verse throws a flood of light on the essence, inwardness and real object and purpose of sacrifice. It also teaches a supreme lesson, that it is not the outward act of sacrifice which pleases God but the spirit underlying it and the motive behind it. The flesh or blood of the slaughtered animal does not reach God, but rather it is righteousness of the heart which is acceptable to Him.

God demands and accepts total sacrifice of all that is near and dear to us in our material possessions, the ideals that are so dear to us, our honour and life itself. In reality, God wants and demands no offering from us in the form of flesh and blood of animals, but the offering of our hearts.

The Promised Messiahas states:

“Let everyone strive hard to reach the stage where they can say, ‘My life, my death, my sacrifices, my prayers are all for the sake of God. His soul should cry out like that of Hazrat Abrahamas: َ

اَسۡلَمۡتُ لِرَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ

‘I have submitted to the Lord of the worlds.’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.132)

“Unless a person is annihilated in God and unless he is dead in Him [prepared to die for His cause] he cannot have a new life. You who are with me can observe and realise that I take the aim of my life to be dedicated for God’s sake. You should look into your lives and find out as to how many of you like this act of mine and how many of you like to dedicate your lives.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 100)

Explaining the word sacrifice, the Promised Messiahas stated on one occasion:

“The word qurbani, or sacrifice, is taken from qurb, which means nearness, and this alludes to the fact that the nearness of God is attained when all the desires and passions of the flesh are slain.” (The Honour of Prophets, p. 17)

Hence, it should be borne in mind that along with the apparent or outward act of sacrifice, the spirit and soul underlying it, which is the kernel and essence of the sacrifice, should not be pushed aside or ignored.

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