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Recounting Hajj pt. 2 – What Makes Hajj So Unique?

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When people you know come back from Hajj, you notice them talking about how much they “miss” Hajj and how they can’t wait to go back. There are many possibilities for what exactly each person misses from their journey, but what’s common between them is the reason why they would say that and feel that way.

At Hajj, you go through certain experiences that you cannot and will not find anywhere else. It’s simply the nature of Hajj. It has experiences that are unique to it, and those experiences make Hajj itself a unique wonder. That’s why you hear people saying, “I miss Hajj.” It’s like they’re going through withdrawal, knowing that they won’t get what they felt except for at that same place and time.

Here are three things that are exclusively unique to Hajj, and perhaps another piece of the puzzle for those who’ve never gone for Hajj in understanding why it is the journey of a lifetime.

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1. Fulfillment of an ancient Prophetic legacy
The rites of Hajj are more than just completing the fifth pillar of Islam. It’s about fulfilling an entire ancient legacy of worshiping Allah (SWT). From the earliest generation of mankind, we know that the Ka‘bah existed as the first house built for the worship of Allah. So the land has been sacred since the beginning of humankind during the time of Adam, peace be upon him.

But all of this was intensified during the time of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him. Allah told him to raise the foundations and rebuild what was once already a sacred and holy site, and then urged him to call the people to Hajj. While Ibrahim was worried that no one would come to such a place in the middle of the desert, Allah told him to do his part and leave the rest up to His Lord.

Since then, hundreds of generations have passed with people answering the call, from the followers of Ibrahim, to the pure worshipers living amongst the polytheists of Quraysh, until the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, performing Hajj near the end of his life. 1400 some years later, we have 3 to 4 million people going for Hajj and answering Ibrahim’s once desolate call, each and every year.

kaba_1880

The Ka‘bah in 1880

kabah_1953

A 1953 Photo

kaba_nov-16-2009

The Ka‘bah, November 2009

At Hajj, you get to be one of the people that answer the call of Ibrahim. And when you get there, see the Ka‘bah, perform ṭawāf around and pray in front it, run between Mount Safa and Marwa and drink from zam zam water like Ibrahim’s wife Hājar, and perform the rites the Prophet (SAW) performed on his Hajj, it’s an incredible historical, Fiqhi, and spiritual experience all-in-one.

2. A time and place to perform any worship possible
My wife was explaining to another sister something so unique about the city of Mecca particularly during the time of Hajj. She told her that it’s the one place in the world where every single act of worship can be performed. Wondering how so? Let’s break up worship into three tiers.

Tier one, acts that we do at home throughout the year like prayer, fasting, i‘tikaf, and giving charity. These can be done anywhere in the world at any time.

A scene of prayer, reading Qur'an, and making i'tikaf before Fajr at Masjid Al-Haram

A scene of prayer, reading Qur'an, and making i'tikaf before Fajr at Masjid Al-Haram

Tier two, acts that can only be done in Mecca, such as ‘umrah, ṭawāf and sa‘ī.  These acts are limited to the city and at the Ka‘bah, but are not bound by time.

Tawaf at 3am

Tawaf at 3am

Tier three, however, is where the uniqueness kicks in. Acts that are only performed during Hajj, such as staying in Mina, going to the area of ‘Arafah to make du‘ā’ on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah and staying the night of the 10th, and performing ramī, the stoning of Shayṭān at Jamarat.

Mt. Rahmah on the Day of 'Arafah

Pilgrims making du‘ā' on Mt. Rahmah on the Day of ‘Arafah

Only during Hajj do you have the ability to perform all three tiers of worship, and focusing on that during your trip makes it one of amazing worship and performing good deeds.

3. The feelings of being in the most unique event in the world
Take a look throughout human history and try to find anything that compares to Hajj. You can’t. It’s the most monumental event that ever existed in mankind, and the feelings you get from it are incredible.

You feel like your ego is crushed when you are in the same city as millions of people all there for the same reason as you. But it’s okay, because it empowers your belief in Islam. I mean, where else will you find up to four million people gathering for the same purpose, to pray to the same God, and ask Him for forgiveness and renewal? And under which religion? Only in Hajj and only in the religion of Islam.

So many people!

So many people!

And because of those millions of people, you feel brotherhood and sisterhood in ways you’ve never felt before. The diversity totally stands out too. Arab, Desi, Turkish, Chinese, Guyanese, American, Chechen, African, Japanese, Russian, you name it and you’ll find it. Getting to know people of other backgrounds and cultures increases your love of Islam showing just how far the religion spread.

Muslims at Hajj come in all shapes, colors, and sizes

Muslims at Hajj come in all shapes, colors, and sizes

And lastly, after humbling you and teaching you to appreciate your fellow Muslims, you feel absolutely unique yourself that Allah chose you to perform the amazing journey during the year that you go. It’s only by His will that anything happens, and when you see old men and women from all over the ends of the Earth there to turn back to Allah, you realize what a blessing it is that you were chosen to be there, too. This, many people feel, is one of the biggest favors Allah ever gives them in the span of their entire lifetime.

Thank you, Allah!

Thank you, Allah!

These aren’t the only unique aspects of Hajj. They’re just some that stood out to me. If you’ve gone, what made your journey unique to you, and if you haven’t gone, what unique part are you looking forward to the most?

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SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. hUddi

    December 17, 2009 at 9:26 AM

    I haven’t read it yet, but I like, lol (aka, I wanted to be the first to comment)

    • hUddi

      December 17, 2009 at 9:41 AM

      Okay, so I actually read it now. Nice post, JK. What did you use to take the pictures? Besides Arafah & Muzdadlifah, I love the time chilling in Medinah before Hajj that some ppl get the opportunity to do. Hearing Sudais live isn’t that bad either, :).

  2. ummaasiyah

    December 17, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    ” I mean, where else will you find up to four million people gathering for the same purpose, to pray to the same God, and ask Him for forgiveness and renewal? And under which religion? Only in Hajj and only in the religion of Islam.”

    The comment above brought me to tears. Subhanallah, the Power of Allah is so great that nothing…NOTHING AT ALL can ever compare to Hajj and nothing can deter Muslims from going. Not even the threat of swine flu.

    And it’s so true. I keep telling everyone who’s asked me how my Hajj went that there is no other event, religious or otherwise, in the world like Hajj.

    There are so many amazing aspects of Hajj, my absolute favourite being the last half an hour of Maghrib at Arafat…seeing so many people begging Allah(swt) for their needs and wants, for His Mercy and for His Provision. It’s so humbling to see all that and even more to be a part of it. The beauty of the talbiya is understanding it, especially where you’re reciting ‘Labbayk, allahumma labbayk’ meaning ‘Here I am, O Allah, here I am at Your Service’. Standing on Arafat making dua made me realise that I was there purely for the sake of Allah at His Service, begging Him, crying to Him. This is where Allah(swt) shows the Angels that we are all there for Him and Him Alone as his servants, in our simplest clothes and in a state of purity…that we have given up most of our worldly comforts (i.e. comfy clothes, food, transport) for His Sake and we have suffered the heat for Him. That in itself is so humbling and can only bring you closer to Him.

    The other part of Hajj was that, alhumdulillah, my Hajj group allowed us to do it in accordance to the Sunnah to the point where we even stopped at Dhul Hulaifah, the meeqaat near Madinah where the Prophet (saw) tied his ihraam, just so that the men could also get off the bus and do the same at the masjid there. We tried to REALLY follow the footsteps of the Prophet(saw) as much as we possibly could and just being there on Arafat made me feel like I was doing Hajj with the Prophet (saw)…that he, too, had once stood on the same plain making intense dua to Allah(saw).

    It makes me want to go for Hajj again, but then I do worry if going again won’t tarnish the memories of my first Hajj ever, because the experiences will be different, I will be a different person, of a different age and having gone through more experiences at an older age, I may not enjoy as much as I did at the age of 23.

    • Ahmed B.

      December 20, 2009 at 11:29 AM

      What a beautiful comment. Thanks for telling your experiences.

      It makes me want to go for Hajj again, but then I do worry if going again won’t tarnish the memories of my first Hajj ever, because the experiences will be different, I will be a different person, of a different age and having gone through more experiences at an older age, I may not enjoy as much as I did at the age of 23.

      Has anyone you’ve talked to had this problem? Somehow I doubt it with all the people returning for Hajj again and again, year after year…

  3. A Nightingale

    December 17, 2009 at 10:41 AM

    I totally agree about feeling humbled by the crowds and feeling unique at the same time.

    While making tawaf I got “in the zone” of making du’a. I felt like I was the only person there, just circling the Kaaba, and making du’a to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. I felt as if there was a spotlight on me–anything I want, anything I need, anything I could ask for was all mine.

    And then I snapped out of it, turned to my left, and there was an old man, also in the zone. He was from Pakistan, white hair, white beard, bent shoulders, with his wife. Me and him were both pushing through the same crowd. We were both supplicating to the same Lord. We had the same physical and emotional test ahead of us. I didn’t feel so special.

    I then realized that I was “in the zone” with about 2,000,000 people at once. And that’s the beauty of Islam–everyone gets their own spotlight from Allah.

  4. Afiya

    December 17, 2009 at 12:19 PM

    The pictures brought back a flood of memories

    Before hajj, you feel excitement and anticipation, after hajj you feel an overpowering sense of nostalgia and exerience withdrawal but Its hard to put into words the feelings you experience during hajj.

    When you recount the journey, stories, and moments of hajj to your friends and loved ones, you find yourself trying to describe the indescribable… trying to explain the unexplainable like the feelings and state of mind you enter…

    When your plane starts descending as it reaches Jeddah, and the entire aircraft resonates with the sound of the talbiya, as you all chant in unison
    When you reach Mina, and Allah sends down a pouring rain, and the only sound in your tent is of people supplicating and making duaa
    When you stand alongside a million other men and women in ihram on the plains of Arafah, your face turned towards the qibla, your hands raised, and feel as if you are the only one, just you and your Rabb
    When you wake up in the middle of the night, and see the stars above you, the mountains behind you, and Muslims all around you during the night at Muzdalifa
    When after having completed Tawaf-e-Ifaada and performing 2 rakkahs you say tasleem, and turn your head, to find a rare unobstructed view of the Kaaba in front of you, and all the people disappear, and all the sounds fade away…

    These are some of the moments that stood out to me. However, this being my first hajj, every single thing about it was special to me, every single ritual, every single mishap, every single place we went, and every single person I met was memorable and make up the special and truly amazing experience I had at Hajj.

    May Allah give us all the opportunity to return to his house, Ameen.

  5. ummahmed

    December 17, 2009 at 7:28 PM

    assalamualykum brother,

    Jazakallahu khairaa..I just want to share my ustadah`s experience ..she being a widow ,with 4 kids, worked hard in the fields , saved daily little bit, then traveled to mecca from india through a boat, read daily tahajjud ,did dua vigorously.She always thanked Allah for making the hajj easy.I never really understood all of this when I was a child.May Allahtaala grant towfeeq to all the muslims to perform the obligatory hajj.

    Jazakallahu khairaa for sharing your experience .

    salaam.

  6. if.but.maybe

    December 18, 2009 at 10:22 AM

    I loved standing in a congregational prayer and feeling the reverberations from millions of people saying ‘Ameen’ in the Haram, and the thought that the Angels were doing the same. Truly special.

  7. a_sister

    December 19, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    Asalaamu alaikum, I went to Hajj this year and just returned home about a week ago. I can totally relate to the statement in the 1st article that despite how challenging Hajj is, you feel so devastated that you have to go home! And it’s so true that once you return home you miss the whole Hajj experience so much!!!

    Something that really stood out for me was the times where I felt like I was truly experiencing the mercy of Allay (swt)…like on the day of Eid when we had to walk from Mina to Makkah after the stoning of the largest Jamara, and were so exhausted and sweaty and tired when we reached the end of the tunnel, but when we got out and into the sunlight, there towering in front of us was Al Masjid Al Haram, and then a beautiful light rain showered down upon us. Subhanallah! :)
    Another thing that stood out was how after reciting the Talbiyah, you actually felt stronger. Also, the experience of sometimes being scared and knowing that you can only turn to Allah (swt) and put your trust in Him. And waiting hours upon hours in the Prophet (saws)’s masjid and then finally being able to go into the rouwdha area and send greetings upon the Prophet. I hope Allah (swt) accepts the Hajj of all those who went this year and grants us the opportunity to return to His house.insha’Allah..

  8. Moosa Ali

    December 20, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    it’s not true that every act of worship can be performed in Makkah….there’s visiting the Prophet’s mosque, giving him (saws) salam, praying in rawdatul-jannah, praying 2 rakah in masjid Qubaa, and praying in al-aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to name just a few.

    But the amplification of acts of worship by 100,000 is of course unique only to the valley of Ibrahim (saws)

  9. FlyHajj Team

    September 8, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    “If it were not difficult, it wouldn’t be Hajj”.

    With all modern amenities, Hajj has become easier than ever. Imagine Ibn Battuta who once famously said “If I have to die, let it be on the way to Mecca.”. Ibn Battuta was a 14th-century Moroccan who in 1325 set out on a journey three times as long as Marco Polo’s.

    May Allah give us opportunity to perform this obligation in its true spirit.

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