Are you going on Hajj?
You shall observe and complete the rites of Hajj and`Umrah for the Almighty… (Quran 2:196)
Brethren, let me begin by asking the opposite question: why are you not going on hajj this year? Is it because of lack of the means to do so? This indeed is a valid reason in Islam. It is they who have the means who should go on Hajj so says the Almighty (Q3: 97). An elderly woman asked me the other day at a public lecture whether she could take a loan from a bank in order to perform Hajj. My response was simple and straightforward. Loans from Nigerian Banks, or rather conventional banks, come with strings and interests. Since the latter is forbidden by the Almighty any attempt to go against this divine injunction no matter the purpose for which the loan is taken would be tantamount to using urine to take bath. I therefore counseled the woman to live within her means. The measurement of the poor on the day of resurrection would be lighter than that of the rich!
But that brother does not intend to perform this year’s hajj for another reason: he has simply not given a thought to its urgency at all. He is of the view that those who should go to Hajj are the elderly ones, those nearing the end of their ‘term’ on earth. Each time the sun rises in the horizon, he looks at his image in the mirror. He soon comes to the conclusion that he still has lots of time left on the planet earth. “This guy’s still young” he tells himself. Though he has the means to go on hajj this year, he chooses to postpone it till another day, another year. This brother, dear brethren, is running a great risk. Should death come calling tomorrow, he would have no excuse to present to the Almighty for his inability to discharge the responsibility. Is it not true that a child that is born this moment is old enough to transit to the great beyond at the next.
Ibn ‘ Abbas, may the Almighty be pleased with him, said, “Whoever does not make pilgrimage or pay Zakat will ask to be returned to life when dying.” Someone said, “No one asks to be returned except the unbelievers”. He said, “Allah, the Almighty, says: And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which we have bestowed on you, before death should come to any of you and he should say: 0 my Lord! Why didst thou not give me respite for a little… while I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good. (Q63: 10)
What about our brethren in corporate outfits who constantly plead busy schedules in the offices as excuse? Such is the case of a younger colleague. Face to face with the possibility that demands of work in the office would not afford him the luxury of fulfilling his religious obligations, of fasting the best way he should, of performing neither the Umrah nor the Hajj, he seized upon the only window the ‘oga at the top’ opened to all the workers. He, therefore, schedules his annual leave to coincide with either the Ramadan or Hajj periods. In other words, dear brethren, for each location and station we find ourselves, a more critical engagement and analyses would show us that there are opportunities we can still explore to make our situation better. Our accounting on the day of resurrection would therefore be patterned not only along the lines of such opportunities but also based on how we relate to our Creator.
Let us now engage our initial question. Do you plan to go on Hajj, to the sacred house of the Almighty in Kaaba this year? Are you preparing to put on the Ihram in one of the designated places (miqaat), to enter the Sacred Mosque and do the Tawaf (Circumambulation)? Do you plan to do S’ay (running) between Safa and Marwa in order to recreate the eternal fortitude and forbearance displayed by Hajar thousands of years ago? Do you plan to drink from the Zam Zam water – a miraculous stream which has been gushing forth non-stop since time immemorial? Do you plan to go out of your abode in Makkah on the 7th and 8th day of the month of Dhul Hajj in order to camp in Minnah and engage in spiritual eulogy and extra-terrestrial lullabies? Do you plan to camp on mount ‘Arafah in order to relive the day in which your Prophet delivered that memorable speech? Are you hoping to stand on mount Arafah in order to experience, ahead of time, the day of resurrection when humanity, “white”, “black”, “yellow”, “red”, rich and poor would stand in front of the Almighty, in nudity, to account for their actions, inactions, deeds and misdeeds while on earth?
Dear brethren, if you happen to be one of those who have registered to go on Hajj this year, then begin by acknowledging the opportunity as a privilege from the Almighty. Experience and knowledge tell us that it is not every good thing that we desire in life that we achieve; not everybody born of the union between a man and a woman shall have the opportunity to ride an airplane; not every Muslim shall have the opportunity, no matter the urge and desire, to visit the Kaaba.
But dear brother while you are loading your bag and luggage, just before you embark on the journey, pause for a moment and consider the possibility the journey could be the last one for you on earth and, by implication, the beginning of the eternal one to the Almighty. Thus intending pilgrims should repent of all sins they have committed before stepping out of their homes. If the sin is an infraction against the injunction of the Almighty, a sin you committed and about which only the Almighty is a witness you need to seek His forgiveness, regret deeply for the error and enter a covenant with your creator that should He preserve your life till you return from Hajj, that you would not travel that same heinous path again.
Now if the sin you committed is against a fellow human being; perhaps it is a sin against your parent, your co-worker, your neighbor, then you have two pathways to follow. First, if the sin has to do with the honour (‘ird) of the person in question, you should seek the latter’s forgiveness in person before you begin to seek the forgiveness of your Creator. Now, if the sin has to do with something physical, perhaps its money you unjustly appropriated or something that you know does not belong to you, you have to return the thing to its owner, seek his forgiveness and thereafter, seek the redemption of your Creator. You should do all these because your Hajj would likely be invalid while somebody’s property is unjustly under your care. You cannot expect the blessing of the Almighty while your soul is enshackled by the iniquitous acquisition of worldly properties and gains.
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Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Ibadan,