Literary speaking, Hajj or pilgrimage denotes a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
Source: Muslims of Calgary
Source: Muslims of Calgary
This spiritual journey connotes spending dear worldly attachments, like money, time, and effort, to please the Creator and to attain inner and outer peace. Indeed, Hajj is an important training course for Muslims which produces many benefits including the valuable feelings of peace and serenity.
Obligatory Self Jihad
Islam teaches its followers to undergo various types of training to attain self-control and self-restrain, among which is performing Hajj. Moreover, Allah made Hajj obligatory on capable Muslims, as He says in the Qur`an;
(And hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka`bah) is a duty that mankind owes to God, those who can afford the expenses (for one`s conveyance, provision and residence)) (Aal `Imran 3:97)
This act of worship requires sacrifices from a Muslim`s money, time, and effort, Almighty Allah says;
(And proclaim to humankind the hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform hajj)) (Al-Hajj 22:27)
Indeed, performing Hajj is an act of positive struggle. Lady`Aishah, the mother of believers, narrated the following hadith: "The Prophet was asked by his wives about Jihad and he replied: "The best Jihad (for you, women) is (the performance of) Hajj." (Al-Bukhari)
Like all acts of worship, there are sublime aims behind Hajj, among them is to elevate Muslims` character and refine their behavior. Allah the Wise says,
(For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj) (Al-Baqarah 2:197)
These teachings go against the inclinations of a person`s lower self; however, if a Muslim succeeds in behaving appropriately, then the aim is achieved. This directly leads to increasing one`s inner peace, and consequently peace with others.
Peaceful Human Diversity
During the Hajj season, more than three million people gather in the same place, wear the same clothing, and perform the same rites. No one feels special or superior that day, as all pilgrims are equal.
During Hajj rituals, pilgrims meet fellow Muslims, men and women, rich and poor, black and white, elderly and young, and people of high and low social status. This unique situation helps spread among them the feeling of peace, as there is no room for arrogance, pride, nor feeling superiority; elements that go against peace and stability.
Here is an indicative story related to this meaning. Ibn Kathir mentioned in his book Al-Bedayah Wa An-Nihayah a narration that a man called Jabalah, an Arab Christian king, who embraced Islam in the time of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, came to Makkah to perform Hajj. While walking, a fellow Muslim stepped mistakenly on Jabala`s long clothes, so Jabalah slapped the man on the face smashing his nose. The man went to the just caliph `Umar ibn Al-Khattab who judged that either the man forgives Jabalah or Jabalah would be punished with the same act. Filled with pride and arrogance, King Jabalah refused to be treated on equal footing with a layman. He asked the caliph to wait until next day, and during that time he ran away leaving the city, and Islam all together, and returned to Christianity.
Indeed Hajj stands firm against that fatal trait of arrogance which is a threat to people`s peaceful co-existence.
Based on the fact that performing Hajj needs a high level of spiritual struggle, many Prophetic sayings urge Muslims to perform it, promising the greatest of rewards, i.e., forgiveness of sins and Paradise in the herafter.
As narrated by Abu Hurairah: "The Prophet said: "Whoever performs Hajj to this Ka`bah and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commit sins (while performing Hajj), he will return as sinless as a new-born child, (just delivered by his mother)." (Al-Bukhari)
Also narrated Abu Hurairah: "Allah`s Apostle said, "(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 but Paradise." (Al-Bukhari)
Attaining peace and serenity within one`s self and with others requires overcoming negative desires within human beings. Arrogance and pride are among the main factors of conflict among people, and Hajj comes as a wonderful intensive training course that cures these negative traits, as people during and after Hajj feel and live the meaning of equality and humbleness.
May Allah shower us with the blessing of performing Hajj, and grant us tranquility, serenity, and peace.