In Islam there are different forms of worship. The mandatory one is in the form of Salah that a Muslim has to learn Namaz and offer five times a day, other than that there is the recitation of Holy Quran, the voluntary prayers, the keeping of fasts and the most renowned of all – the Pilgrimage or Hajj. The last is among the most renowned pillars of Islam and has become a representative Muslim congregational prayer.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and it is mandatory upon every Muslim who is financially and physically able to perform it. It is one of the greatest and biggest congregations in the whole world and is performed in the month of Zil-Hujja. Besides being just a mandatory prayer or a form of worship, Hajj symbolizes a greater universal message. The lines below discuss the different messages that Hajj embodies that carry a universal appeal.
Women In Worship:
One of the major problems of the world of today is the gender based discrimination where women are considered the lesser being and men are consider the prime being. This discrimination can be seen at even more prominence when it comes to the role of women in religious rituals and prayers. Offering prayers and being religious by performing the rituals is primarily considered as the duty of man and women are only marginalized to the stereotypical role of performing the chores of the household. The ritual of Hajj challenges and rejects this stereotype and shows to the world that when it comes to performing a religious ritual which is as crowded and as humungous as Hajj, women are equal to men and the performing of Hajj carries equal religious reward for them as it does for men. In Quran Allah Almighty says:
“I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in my way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other.” (3:195)
From this ayah it is clear that performing of Hajj carries equal reward for women as it carries for men, therefore, the stereotype that only men can go for the religious rituals and obligations is refused in the ritual of Hajj.
Another factor that brings about the importance of women in Islam with regards to the festival of Hajj is the fact that it involves a ritual of Sa’I, which means striving. This ritual is in commemoration of Hazrat Hajra (RA) who strived between Safa and Marwa Mountain in search of water for her son Ismail (AS). This act of hers was so liked by Allah Almighty that He made it a compulsory act for the ritual of Hajj. Therefore, this also gives us the message that in Islam both men and women are equal when it comes to their standing in the court of Allah, especially in context of religious reward. Thus, this equality in reward carries a universal appeal to all the women of the world who think that religion is only for man.
One of the major objectives of the Islamic teachings is to bring humility among the followers. This humility is targeted to take place at two levels, the first level is of the humility in front of Allah and the second is the observance of humility within people. The ritual of Hajj helps achieve both these levels.
Firstly, pertaining to the humility in front of Allah Almighty, Hajj is perhaps the best example of submissiveness to Him. Muslims from all over the world travel towards the house of Allah, make expenses, leave their worldly life for days and do whatever Allah has commanded in this ritual to do. Moreover, the famous ‘Labaik Allahuma Labaik….” Tasbeeh which the pilgrims recite clearly shows the submissiveness of Muslims towards their Lord and their acknowledgement of the fact that only He is the Lord who deserves worship.
Secondly, during the rituals of Hajj the humility within the Muslims also surfaces. Muslims that may take pride in their ethnicity, wealth or social standing forget it all and during Hajj they stand and perform rituals with all other fellow Muslims who might belong to a different social, cultural and economic background. Thus, Hajj gives the universal message of humility to all those who search for it.
We live in a world of stress and in this world, everyone of us want a life where there is little trouble and we could live the life with peace. Achieving inner peace is easier said than done, however, for a Muslim the achievement of inner peace is quite simple as it is based on the remembrance of Allah Almighty. The more a Muslim remembers Allah, the more he or she achieves peace. Moreover, the reward associated with the remembrance of Allah Almighty is another factor that gives inner peace to a Muslim. In this regard, the following hadith can help achieve that inner peace which is so universally desired:
“(The performance of) Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed (between it and the previous one). And the reward of Hajj mabrur (the one accepted by Allah) is nothing except Paradise.” (Bukhari)
Therefore, for Muslims around the world, performing Hajj is something that brings inner peace to them and they grow more fond and grateful of what Allah has given them.
In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
“We created you from a single pair of male and female (Adam and Eve), and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other and not that you might despise each other. The most honored of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you.” (49:13)
From this ayah of Quran it becomes clear that in the eyes of Allah Almighty all humans are equal and all of us have the same parents, the only discrimination is there is based upon the righteousness of a person, otherwise all are equal. The ritual of Hajj is an embodiment of this ayah as during the pilgrimage, there is neither any differentiation nor discrimination on the bases of gender, race, color, ethnicity, social standing and so on, rather each and everyone of the pilgrims is a servant of Allah and equal to any of the other in the pilgrimage. Therefore, this unanimous gathering of people from different parts of the world without any discrimination gives the message of universal equality, which the world needs the most under present circumstances.
In a nutshell, the ritual of Hajj is much more than just simple set of activities undertaken for religious reward, rather, at a greater level Hajj symbolizes much more and in all its acts it carries a universal appeal that if understood and followed can help the world become a better place and give a boast to the image of Islam.