Khutbah by Shaykh Yaser Birjas | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video and transcript of Shaykh Yaser Birjas's khutbah "Hajj: The Time is Now." The transcript is slightly modified for the sake of readability and clarity.]
My dear brothers and sisters, a few years back, I remember a brother in his 50s come to me. He came to me after Ramadan, similar to this time. He said, “Shaykh, could you please help me understand, I would like to go to Hajj. Can you explain to me how it feels to be in Hajj? I've heard so many people talk about it and watched so many documentaries, but how does it really feel to be in Hajj? Why is it so special that everyone who goes to Hajj has a wonderful experience?” I said, “This is one of those experiences that you can never express or explain in words.”
When it comes to Hajj, you can never explain it in words. I can tell you as much as you want about it, but it is not like being there and living Hajj yourself.
I received the exact same question recently. This means it is always on people's minds, regardless of where they live or how old they are. They are always thinking about it because they know that when it comes to Hajj, Allāh promises every person who goes to Hajj and his Hajj is considered mabroor (righteous, good, faultless), complete amnesty. Their sins are forgiven.
The Prophet said, “Whoever goes to Hajj and did not engage in any acts to invalidate the Hajj (sexual acts, bad words, argumentation with people, etc.), this individual comes back home just like the day he was born.” What does this mean? Completely innocent. A clear page. Your records are clean. You come fresh. All of your past sins and faults have been canceled if your Hajj was accepted.
Allāh said, “Hajj is during well-known months.” Shawwal is one of the months and then Dhu'l-Qi'dah and then the ten days of Dhu'l-Hijjah. This means that we have less than three months to fulfill your Hajj obligations. Why am I bringing up this issue today even though Hajj is far away? For too many people, Hajj is still too far. It is still too far because they believe they are young and think they have many years to come before going to Hajj. For others, they are still too far because they are too busy. alḥamdulillāh, Allāh made Hajj once in your lifetime, so they will do it on their schedule bi'idhnillah. But it is coming sometime in the future. It is too far for so many people because they never made Hajj a priority. When it comes to their lives, they have so many things they are engaging themselves in. They want to go to Hajj “when it is time to go to Hajj.” What is that moment when you call it “time for you to go to Hajj”?
I've spoken with so many young men and middle-aged people. When you talk to them about Hajj, they say, “We want to go to Hajj so that when we come back, we come back as completely different people.” Meaning: “I want to enjoy my life now, and then when I go to Hajj and come back, I will have that transformation and not do the bad things in dunya.” They think that they are still young and it is permissible for them to engage in whatever they do that is considered bad and wrong so that when it is time, they go to Hajj and come back and mature. They put their Hajj at the age of maturity, whether they are 25, 30, 40, 50 or 60. Many push their Hajj to be late, thinking that it is better to be late so that when you do it, you come back again inshā'Allāh preparing yourself for nothing but departure of this world so that at least they have their sins erased.
Do you have any contract with Allāh to give you life until the next season of Hajj? Does anyone have this guarantee that they are going to live until they fulfill the obligation of Hajj? How many people do you and I know who have died and were unable to go for Hajj for whatever reason?
Others have been blessed with health, youth, time, age, heart, and spirit and they are still pushing the obligation of Hajj. Even though you know it is permissible for you to delay it, it is better for you to go to Hajj now before next time. Why is that? Hajj is addictive! Allāh says, “We made this House [the Ka'bah in masjid'l-Haram] mathaabatalli'l-nas…” The word “mathaabatalli'l-nas” in the tafsir means hujjaj keep coming back year after year after year. In other interpretations of this āyah, it means the individual's heart always wants to go to Hajj and is always attached to the House of Allāh . They wish they were there every single year.
Ask those people who have been for Hajj. Hopefully their experience was magnificent and amazing. If they have been to Hajj, they will wish they weren't praying ṣalāh'l-'Īd that day because they want to be at Hajj. When you are Hajj, you are doing the rites of Hajj. When many of them come to pray ṣalāh'l-'Īd, they have a flashback in their mind to the rites of Hajj and they wish they were there.
Those who have been for Hajj know that it is a blessing from Allāh . Those who have been to Hajj know how much they have gained from that experience. Yes, we are human beings and tend to forget, but every time they remember that experience of Hajj, subḥānAllāh, they start shivering out of the awesomeness of the experience of going to the House of Allāh. For those of you who haven't been for Hajj, I'm giving this khutbah for you because I know you still have two months to make your plans. Yes, you plan to go for Hajj five years from now, but I'm telling you, take the opportunity and advantage while you can. Sort your priorities correctly and go to Hajj this year.
If you enjoyed Ramadan, then make it better. If your Ramadan experience this year was amazing, then make it magnificent and go to Hajj this year. Even if you plan to go five years down the road, go to Hajj now and I guarantee you that you won't change your plans five years later and will still go. Once you do it one time, you will see how much your heart is attached to the House of Allāh . It is a magnificent experience that cannot be explained by words.
For those of you who are young, don't wait until you are old because the best Hajj experiences are when you are young. Your body can handle the effort and you can do things much more than when you are older. You can walk distances between Arafah and Mina and between Mina and masjid'l-Haram in Mecca. You can walk between the manasik and you will be happy, even as you go through the pain of the distance and walking. You are still happy and rejoicing that you are doing it for the sake of Allāh because you are doing what the companions and the Messenger of Allāh did. You will enjoy the experience. As you become older, it becomes harder and harder and you cannot enjoy the experience and cannot handle the pressure. Go when you are young, and you will still enjoy when you go when you are older.
Experiences of Hajj
What are the experiences of Hajj? To encourage those who would like to go to Hajj, here are some words on the magnificent experience of Hajj and what you can expect when you go to Hajj.
1. You see the glory and greatness of Allāh .
How is that? You see all of these people coming from all over the world. I was a student in Madīnah for four years, alḥamdulillāh, and I remember these years. Every Ramadan brought so many people for Umrah. Then there is less than a month, a buffer time, when those who came for Umrah leave and the area becomes empty. Suddenly, out of nowhere you see people coming from all over the world. Hujjaj come in the hundreds of thousands and Madīnah and Mecca become so full. People come from all over the place, and you even lose a sense of direction and sense of place. People speak different languages and come from different backgrounds and represent different cultures. There are different colors all around you – a magnificent sight!
Allāh mentioned to us the beauty of the diversity. “We made you into tribes and people of different colors, backgrounds, languages, so that you may get to know one another.” We see this in the Hajj. People sit down and don't have a common language and start talking a sign language, but they enjoy the experience, the food, and helping one another fulfill the obligation of Hajj.
2. You see no status among the people other than being servants of Allāh .
Specifically, when you put on your ihram and start making your tawaf and sa'i and go to Mina and Arafah, no one will recognize if you are a minister or teacher or director or this or that. No one can tell. Regardless of how fancy or expensive your ihram is, a few hours later, it is not as fancy as it used to be. You will all look alike. People will not call you by your title. Even if you try to zoom out of the beautiful scene of tawaf around the Ka'bah, who are you in that crowd? You are like nothing in these waves of people who come from all over the world.
The beautiful thing about it is that they all come unified for one purpose: to dedicate their service to Allāh , and that is what they keep saying: “Labbayk allahumma labbayk (in Your service we are here)… We are answering your call, O Lord! We associate no partners with You. We answer Your call.”
Allāh looks at the crowd in Arafah and He sees the hands and the people as they are making du‘ā’. Allāh asks the angels – and He knows, but He is showing this beautiful scene to the angels – “Tell Me what these people want from Me.” Allāh knows the answer. They say, “Ya Rabb, they are coming here asking for Your Mercy and Your Forgiveness. They are coming here admitting their faults and wanting Your Mercy.” Allāh answered them saying, “Be my witnesses that I have forgiven them their sins.”
When people put their hands down and the sun goes down on Arafah, they realize that the most important day of Hajj is almost done. That is an amazing feeling. I can't describe this! Specifically, the last hour of the day of Arafah. Some people may relax during the day, but in the last hour those who really came for the Hajj, this perhaps will be their most important hour of their lifetime as they stand there waiting for the sun to go down and wishing that it won't go down. They keep asking Allāh over and over again. Allāh gives them an energy that they themselves are surprised to know that they have. You see yourself in a completely different way. You see something in yourself that you never saw before if you really dedicate your time and dedicate your life on that day to the worship of Allāh.
3. You see people coming from different parts of the world.
When you go there and look around, although unfortunately these days the new developments around the Haram have taken away the traditional beauty and you cannot see the mountains or the old sites that surrounded Mecca to remind you of the original Mecca as it perhaps looked when the Prophet was there. When Ibrahim was there, it was a barren place, completely empty. Ibrahim fulfilled the command Allāh gave him to build the House literally in the middle of nowhere. He fulfilled the command of Allāh because Allāh knows best. When he built the Ka'bah, Allāh commanded Ibrahim to call the people. Ibrahim said, “How will I be able to do that, ya Rabb, when I am just one individual?” Allāh answered him, “You do the call, and We will deliver them.” Allāh says, “Proclaim to the people the Hajj. They will come to you on foot and on camel from every distant pass.” Wallahi, I have seen this! You have seen cars coming from far away, and if you ask them how long they have been on the road, they will tell you from even before Ramadan. Why? They want to make sure they arrive on time. I have seen people coming from places near Mecca but they decided to walk to fulfill this āyah. They walk from distances away from Mecca just to fulfill that obligation and to fulfill the promise that Allāh gave Ibrahim .
4. The unity of the Muslim ummah.
You see everyone unified there. In our communities, even in one masjid, there are differences of opinions and disagreements even though the cause is one. The cause is to have a wonderful experience and wonderful services to bring people together for the deen and the masjid, but still in some communities there are some issues. When it comes to Hajj, regardless of the issues we have with each other, when it comes to making tawaf, no one will make tawaf against the flow. No one is going to do sa'i from the opposite side just to make a statement. No one can do that. Regardless of how you put your ihram on, it will look the same. Hajj unifies the people and brings them all together. They make same rituals, make the same call, make the same number of tawaf and sa'i. They do exactly the same thing. The best time to see this unity and how they all get together in one flow and one path is when you walk from Arafah to Muzdalifah. I don't know how many of you have seen this because most people ride the buses to go to Muzdalifah. If you get the chance, then walk from Arafah. There are streams of hujjaj walking from Arafah heading towards Muzdalifah. These streams start coming together, making small highways and streets. Then they become two major highways. Imagine the darkness of the night and the lights on the highway. People are all following the same course and chanting the same call with different accents. These are millions of people walking. There are two main highways like two rivers flowing. They merge in one huge path. They are walking peacefully – no pushing and no shoving. They keep merging together towards Muzdalifah. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful sites I have seen. Every time I go there, I stop at that bridge which connects the two highways and start looking at this site and crying. It is an amazing sight! You don't see yourself alone. You realize how great this ummah is and how big and how huge a blessing it is to be from this ummah of Muḥammad . Unfortunately, not so many people realize that. Many are still not making this their priority.
5. This is a reminder for the Day of Judgment when you are all standing in front of your Lord carrying nothing.
Regardless of how much you try to carry with you, what else can you carry except the belt around your waist? Nothing much. What will you be carrying in there anyway? You won't be carrying whatever you fancy from this dunya. You will carry the essentials. That is exactly the essence of this dunya. When you stand before your Lord , you should carry nothing but the essentials, the things that will help you go through the journey. This is what you care about. Even if you become so blessed in this dunya, when you go to Hajj, you will still only carry with you the essentials. This means that it is okay to go and pursue the blessings of this world, but use it for the pleasure of the aakhirah to please your Lord .
Hajj is an amazing spiritual experience. It is not about just going for five days to perform particular rituals and rites and coming back again, shaving your head. This is not the experience of Hajj. Hajj is profound and deeper. It penetrates the heart and the soul. Those who go to Hajj and experience Hajj the way it is supposed to be come back completely transformed into completely different personalities. If you haven't done your Hajj this year and you have the time and the luxury of wealth, then do it! Don't wait and don't delay. Even if you plan to go two or three years from now, just go this year if you can. If you go once, then you will love to go again and again and again. This is the promise of Allāh . If Allāh blessed you with one time, then bi'idhnillah, He will bless you again and again to go to Hajj.
When people come to ask me about Hajj, the most common question they ask is: “Shaykh, which travel agency or Hajj agency do you recommend for me?” I say, “Why?” They are looking for the preparation. If you want the travel agency, the best one is the most righteous. Which one is that? I don't know. You need to carry it in your heart. Regardless of with whom you go, make sure you carry with you the best provision. With whom should you go? Who are the best people to go with? There are different degrees of these companies, but wallahi, it doesn't matter as long as you carry in your heart the best provision, which is taqwa, righteousness and piety. Of course they may assist you in making it better for you, but whichever group you go with, make sure you work on your spiritual provision in preparation for Hajj, more than the material sustenance. The material sustenance is easy to find. What you really need over there is righteousness and piety. Hajj will test your patience to limits you have never seen before. It pushes you far beyond your limits. This is the purpose of it. How much can you handle on the Day of Judgment? If you prepare yourself financially and make everything well for you to go to Hajj, you better think about the other side of your sustenance. What are you carrying in your heart? Why are you going for Hajj? What are you trying to achieve when you go to Hajj? That is what matters the most! Righteousness and piety are the provisions that you carry with you when you go for Hajj.