Hajj: The Physical and Spritual Journey, By Imam Murtada Gusau

Hajj is a reminder of death. We are clothed in the same simple white cloth that will cover us on our final journey to the grave.

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the most Merciful

Alhamdulillah. Indeed, all praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil within ourselves and from our wrongdoings. He whom Allah guides, no one can misguide; and he whom He misguides, no one can guide.

I bear witness that there is no (true) god except Allah – alone without a partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW) is His ‘abd (Servant) and Messenger.

“O you who believe! Revere Allah the right reverence, and do not die except as Muslims.” (Al-Imran, 3:102)

“O people! Revere your Lord who has created you from a single soul, created from it its mate, and dispersed from both of them many men and women. Revere Allah through whom you demand things from one another; and (cherish the ties of) the wombs, indeed, Allah is ever watchful over you.” (Al-Nisa’, 4:1)

“O you who believe! Revere Allah and say fair words. He will then rectify your deeds and forgive your sins. He who obeys Allah and His Messenger have certainly achieved a great victory. (Al-Ahzab, 33:70-71)

Indeed, the best speech is Allah’s (SWT) Book and the best guidance is Muhammad (SAW) guidance. The worst affairs (of religion) are those innovated (by people), for every such innovation is an act of misguidance leading to the fire.

My dear brothers and sisters,

Our today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is about Hajj. In a few days’ time, millions of Muslims from the far corners of the earth will converge on the holy city of Makkah to perform the fifth and final pillar of their faith.

The Noble Qur’an says, in Surah Al-hajj, chapter 22, verse 27:
“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…”

Also in Surah Al-Imran, 3:97 – we read:
“…Pilgrimage is a duty men owe to Allah; those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of his creatures.”

All Muslims, who have the means to do so, physically and financially, must do the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime. It is a duty, but not merely a duty. It is an integral part of being Muslim.

For a few precious days, we participate in one of the greatest annual events in human history. We complete the rituals whose origins go way back beyond the time of Prophet Muhammad, (SAW), to the time of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S), and even further back to the time of Adam (A.S).

During these momentous days, pilgrims remove their normal clothing, removing all outer signs of nationality, of wealth and social status, and everyone wears the same simple sheet of white cloth, the ihraam.

From the starting point or meeqat, they chant those deeply stirring words, “labbaik, Allahummalabbaik, labbaik… Here I am, O Allah, Here I am!” They are answering the call of Allah, which began with the first time they recited their KalimahShahaadah.

Hajj is the response to Allah’s call. His invitation to visit His House, at least once before we die. It is also the fulfillment of a promise that we all make. Every time we recite our KalimahShahaada, and we say “…Wahajjulbayt,manistata‘ailayhisabeelaa…” It is a part of our Declaration of Faith that we promise to perform Hajj when he have the means to do so.

We then perform tawaaf, walking around the Ka’abah, which was purified of idols by Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as soon as he returned to Makkah from exile in Madinah. Praying at Maqam Ibrahim, the Place of Prophet Abraham (A.S), and performing sa’yi; we remember how his wife Hajar ran in search of water for her infant son, Ismail. This is how the well of Zamzam was found. To this day, for thousands of years, Zamzam has quenched the thirst of millions who visit the House of Allah.

Later, we make our way to the great plain of ‘Arafaat and spend the day of wuqoof in deep and passionate prayer, asking Allah to forgive us our sins, just as he forgave Adam, (A.S), in that very place, on Jabal Rahma, the Mount of Mercy; we seek atonement for our past sins, and await Allah’s Mercy. At Mina and Musdalifah, we throw stones at the Jamraat. This is an outer expression of our inner resolve to reject Shaitaan (Satan) and all that he stands for. The whole experience of Hajj is rich in symbolism and history. We are not mere spectators, but active participants in this prolonged act of worship. When we do our daily prayers, it takes a few minutes of concentrated effort. When we perform Hajj, it takes at from 7 to 10 days to complete all the rituals associated with this great journey.

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
This year, we expect the Day of Wuqoof in Arafaat. All the pilgrims will be devoting this day to seeking Allah’s Mercy. May I request that we all fast on that day, so that even if we cannot be on Arafaat in person, we can at least join those pilgrims in spirit. Our fasting should be an act of solidarity and unity with the Muslim Ummah, not only seeking forgiveness for ourselves, but also to seek Allah’s mercy and blessings for those who suffer hardship and distress everywhere.

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
What is the significance of Hajj? What does Hajj really mean to us, and how does Hajj affect our lives, and our destiny?

Hajj is both an outward and inward journey. It is an outward journey, from our homes and families and familiar things, to the centre of Islam; it is also an inward journey, to find our own centre.

The outward journey to reach the Ka’abah in Makkah helps us to meet our Muslim brothers and sisters, from around the world. It must also be our inward journey, to reach the Ka’abah of our own heart and own soul. Here we need to reflect, to take stock of ourselves. Where have we come from, and where are we going? What have we done with our lives? How have we used the health, education, wealth and opportunities, which Allah has provided for our benefit? We ask these questions at every level, but most importantly, at the spiritual level. Where have we come from, and where are we going?

The answer comes from deep within the innermost chambers of the heart, from within the deepest depths of the soul; in the words of the Noble Qur’an:

“Innalillahiwainnailayhirraajiuun”.“From Allah do we come, and to Him is our return.”

That is it! What could be simpler, more profound, and more complete! Our origin is from Allah, and our destiny is to return to Him. About that we have no choice. But how will we return? Will we return to him, eagerly, willingly, excited to meet with our lord, or will we return kicking and screaming, our hearts filled with dread, heavy with guilt and remorse? Will we return in a manner that pleases Allah, or displeases Him? Here we do have a choice, a most important choice. And the wonderful news is that we still have time to make that choice, and to act on it.

Hajj is a journey of full of meaning and purpose. By wrapping ourselves in two sheets of plain white cloth, the Ihraam, we symbolically prepare ourselves for death; it is the only time we will wrap ourselves, in our own burial shroud. When we die, someone else will do it for us. Here we remind ourselves of the fleeting nature of our life on earth; yet it is also an opportunity to put matter right, to make a fresh start; a chance for rebirth, and renewal. We can take a new look at ourselves, consider the direction of our lives, and if needed, we can still rearrange our priorities.

Hajj brings together some of the fundamental teachings of Islam. The concept of Tawheed, the unity and oneness of Allah, is visibly expressed here, in a most powerful way. We see the oneness of Allah, through the oneness of those who worship Him. We see the essential unity that underpins the great diversity of Muslims. Every race, every language, every colour of the human species, is represented here. On Hajj, we are not merely passive witnesses and we are not like couch potatoes watching TV. We are an active part of the great Ummah of Islam.

We see and experience the true brotherhood of all believers. Before Hajj, we were used to praying and observing our Islamic duties in smaller groups. For example, prayer, Salah, is a duty we all must observe, on time, five times a day. When we are alone, we pray alone, but as soon as there is at least one other person, we are encouraged to pray together. If we are near a mosque, we are encouraged to go there, and join a larger group. Once a week, we attend Jumu’ahprayers, and twice a year, we join even larger groups for the Eid prayers. Finally, we are obliged, at least once in our lives to make the pilgrimage to Makkah. Hence, Islam urges us to seek active association in ever widening circles. So, clearly, Islam is not a religion of the Loner or the recluse. It fosters the idea of community, from gatherings of just two people at home, to over eight million on Hajj.

Hajj is therefore an extremely important act of collective worship. Those who do not perform Hajj when they are capable of doing so are considered to be no better than non-Muslims. In an authentic Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:

“Whosoever fails to complete his Hajj before his death, he dies as a Jew or a Christian.”

Despite our many different languages, races, cultures and social backgrounds, we Muslims are all one. While in ihraam, we cannot see any distinction between rich and poor, high born or low born. The professor and student, the prince and the farmer, the businessman and window-cleaner, all wear the same two sheets of plain white cloth. In Ihraam, there is no distinction between anyone. We see ourselves exactly as Allah sees us. Stripped of all our outer pretensions, it is the inner person, the essential human being that we have to cultivate, strengthen and purify.

Hajj is a reminder of death. We are clothed in the same simple white cloth that will cover us on our final journey to the grave. Hajj is therefore an opportunity for new beginnings, for taking stock of our lives. It’s a wake-up call. When the angel of death comes to return us to our maker, we will have no opportunity to delay, or to complete any unfinished business. Hajj is therefore an excellent time to start setting things right.

Throughout the rites of Tawaaf, and sa’yi, the journey to Mina, Musdalifa and Arafaat, we seek Allah’s mercy and forgiveness for our sins, and we rededicate ourselves to His service. If those prayers are sincere, if we honestly and truthfully turn away from our bad and shameful behaviour, and if we strive with great effort to seek Allah’s pleasure, then the Hajj becomes a significant milestone in our lives. On Hajj we are able to reflect on our past deeds, from a distance, and consider our future direction. Hajj is not only the completion of an important Islamic duty. A true Hajji or true Alhaji returns home with a solemn determination to steer his life in the direction that pleases Allah. He no longer is a slave of his own vain desires, but a true Ambassador of Islam.

Someone we know may well be making their Hajj this year; many would have left already. We pray for their safety and good health, may Allah take good care of them on their journey to Makkah, Madinah and all the Holy places. May Allah accept their Hajj,and when they have completed their duties, may Allah return them safely to their homes, Inshaa-Allah.

May Allah Most Gracious, also accept this prayer, that each and every one of us here should find the means and the opportunity to perform our sacred duty, and complete our own Hajj, at Allah’s invitation, in the near future, ameen.

May Allah the Bestower of Mercy also assist, help and guide our leader, the leader of all the Nigerian Muslims, the permanent National Amirul Hajj of Nigeria, His Eminence, the Sultan, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’adAbubakar III and His Royal Highness the Emir of Kano, SheikhMuhammadu Sanusi II, who was delegated by the Sultan to represent him as the National Amirul Hajj of the 1436/2015 Hajj operation. And May He the Most High assist and help the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and all the stakeholders on this great, important assignment and responsibility put on their necks and shoulders. Ameen YaaAr-hamar-Raahimeen Yaa Rabbal Aalameen.

This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Shawwal 29, 1436 A.H. (August 14, 2015), by Imam Murtada Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-UveteJumu’at Mosque, Okene, Kogi State Nigeria. He can be reached via: 08038289761 (+2348038289761).