Hajj is the pilgrimage to the House of Allah in Makkah which is compulsory on every adult Muslim in any part of the world who has the means to undertake the journey. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and brings together yearly what may justly be described as the greatest gathering of mankind.
Hajj is, above all, a journey of individual self-renewal inspired by piety and devotion to Allah. In this quest, the individual is strengthened by the knowledge that thousands of human beings from all over the world regardless of their worldly status, language or race, are in pursuit of the same goal – the pleasure of their Creator.
Many of the rites of the Hajj go back to the Prophet Ibrahim [a] and there is a sense of history, of going along the same straight way that has been the way of the prophets of Allah and those who followed them. There is also a natural feeling of cosmic identity on the part of the pilgrim as he goes anti-clockwise around the cube-like structure of the Ka’bah clothed in the simple garments of the state of Ihram, or as he stands soulshaken on the plain of Arafat from noon till the sun sinks below the horizon.
Hajj, like perhaps no other occasion, has the capacity to lay bare the fancies and vanities of man. The Talbiyyah or the special refrain announcing man’s willingness and eagerness to acknowledge and obey Allah resounds throughout the Hajj environment:
“Here I am, 0 Lord, here I am! Here I am; no partner hast Thou; here I am! Surely to Thee is all Praise, all goodness and all Sovereignty; No partner hast Thou!”
The simplicity, beauty and power of this refrain create the mood in which the pilgrimage is performed. However, the atmosphere and environment in which the Hajj is performed can be and has been marred by the intrusion and dominance of many alien and incongruous planning concepts, technologies, cultures and institutions and by the behaviour of pilgrims who often show little trace of the adab of Islam.
There is in fact a warning in the Qur’an to those who might be tempted to mar or ruin the desired mood of the Hajj by selfish or wicked conduct. The Qur’an instructs:
“Whoever undertakes the pilgrimage…shall, while on pilgrimage, abstain from lewd speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling; and what ever good you may do, Allah is aware of it. And make provision for yourselves – but, verily, the best of all provisions is Allah-consciousness. Remain then conscious of Me, O you who are endowed with insight.”
The mood of Hajj can also be marred or ruined by the environment and the physical conditions under which Hajj is performed. Noise from earth- shattering technology and hi-tech urban planning styles as well as the unhygienic practices of many pilgrims have transformed the hajj environment for the worse. Simple and more natural solutions in keeping with the natural physical environment of the Hajj will be best suited to maintaining the spirit and the atmosphere of contemplation, devotion and intense personal rectification which is the object of the Hajj.