Hajj—The Supreme Act of Worship

Prof. Farida Khanam I 30 July 2020

Hajj or pilgrimage is the fifth pillar of Islam. All Muslims who have the means to do so are commanded to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. The root meaning of the word Hajj is “to set out” or “to make a pilgrimage.” The month of Hajj falls in the month of Zul Hijjah, the 12th month of the lunar calendar. Hajj is considered the greatest of all acts of worship. Indeed it is the culmination of worship, involving a series of symbolic rituals aimed to bring Muslims as close as possible to God.

During the month of Hajj, normally over two million pilgrims gather at Makkah to perform Hajj. This year to preserve the norms of social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, only a limited number of people who reside in Saudi Arabia are performing the ceremony. However, people all over the world can experience the spirit of Hajj, which is, so to say, to dedicate one’s life to the cause of God.

This spirit of Hajj that has been handed down from generation to generation through the repeated re-enactment of the life history of the Prophet Abraham (C. 1985–2160 BC) who dedicated his entire life to the cause of God. The full extent of Abraham’s dedication was demonstrated by his readiness to sacrifice even his own son for God. But God was satisfied that Abraham, by showing his willingness to perform the sacrifice, had passed the test of loyalty to his Creator. God, therefore, ransomed his son with a noble sacrifice and bestowed on him the praise of later generations. (Quran, 37:107-8) Every rite of Hajj reminds us of the life of this great prophet who is described as Khalil-Ullah, friend of God, in the Quran (4: 125)

The pilgrim (Haji) symbolically relives certain historic events in the life of Prophet Abraham. The pilgrim makes a pledge to God that he will similarly dedicate his life to the cause of God even when it entails passing through all the stages of Abraham’s ordeals in this mission. During the acts and rites of Hajj, it is as if the servant of God has given himself up to his Lord to the ultimate extent. To go on the Hajj is to meet God. When the pilgrim reaches Meeqat, the border of the Sacred Territory, he is filled with awe of God: he feels that he is leaving his own world, and entering God’s world. Now he is touching the Lord, revolving around Him, running towards Him, journeying on His behalf, making a sacrifice in His name, praying to the Lord and seeing his prayers answered.

The pilgrims gather at Makkah for this great spiritual experience.  They pray in the same language, thus fostering universal love and brotherhood. During Hajj, the most powerful and richest of men are indistinguishable from the poorest, for all signs of rank, status, wealth, colour and nationality simply cease to exist. When the pilgrims wrap themselves in a special garment of unsewn cloth called Ihram, which makes them all look alike. Then it is time for constant prayer in remembrance of God. Pilgrims walk around the Kabah seven times, all the while praying and concentrating only on God.

The House of God in Makkah is one of God’s signs on earth. The souls which have strayed from the Lord take comfort in Him once again. Thus the various practices of Hajj aim at giving men the lesson of surrendering before God, fearing God, and awareness of the Day of Judgment. A strong love of God is thus developed, which leads the believer to fulfil, like one possessed, the Lord’s commandments.

Of all the Muslim acts of worship, the Hajj is the most prominent. In one Hadith, the Prophet called it "the supreme act of worship". Each and every one of us should dedicate our lives for the cause of God to experience the spirit of this supreme act of worship.