Two subjects associated with the dramatic commencement of Hajj are ihram and talbiyah, further enhanced by the concepts of sincere intention (niyyah) and mawaqit (fixed times and places for the beginning of Hajj).
Ihram is making the intention for Hajj on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and taking off all sewn cloths and wearing the Hajj garment. The garment consists of two sheets of white cloth made of very plain and simple fabric. One is wrapped round the upper part of the body, except the head, and the other round the lower part of the body.
This is the dress for men. For women, however, it can be regular clothing, albeit with all ihram restrictions applying to them as well.
What is Talbiyah?
Talbiyah is the uttering of specified words while donning the garment of ihram. It is part of the Hajj intention and continues to be uttered afterwards in most Hajj circumstances until the throwing of the first pebble at Mina on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah.
Imam al-Shafi’i is reported to have said: “We love to say it (talbiyah) at all times (during the said period of three days).” As for its legal importance and rank, talbiyah oscillates from being recommended to being obligatory.
The standard words of talbiyah are the Prophet’s words:
“Here I am, O Allah, here I am. Here I am. You have no partner. Here I am. Verily, all praise, grace, and sovereignty are Yours alone. You have no partner.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said:
“Here I am, O God of Truth.”
Moreover, he approved of some people’s addition to the original talbiyah:
“Here I am, O Owner of the Ways of Ascent. Here I am, O Owner of Excellence”.
A companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Abdullah b. ‘Umar, used to add as well: “Here I am and blessed by You, and all good is in Your Hands, and desire and action are directed towards You.”
Makkah & Its Mawaqit
It goes without saying that there is more to ihram and talbiyah than what is immediately apparent. The two acts constitute a procedure that ushers a person into a higher realm of meaning and experience. The set times and locations for the start of Hajj (mawaqit) denote the end of a less significant domain and the beginning of a greater and more consequential one. The mawaqit function as the transition point, and ihram together with talbiyah as an epitaph to it.
The city of Makkah is a holy city. It was and remained umm al-qura, the mother of all cities and villages, i.e., all types of urban and rural human settlements. Its nobility and luminosity stand for the source of all other nobilities and luminosities.
Not only is Makkah the centre of life on earth, but also the centre of the universe and all existence. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that Almighty Allah decreed Makkah to be what it is – i.e. a holy city, sanctuary, and a place of safety – the moment He created the heavens and the earth. As if the city is the existential raison d’etre of the terrestrial life.
Following the heavenly feat of creation, it all started the moment Adam and his wife Hawwa’ (Eve) descended from Paradise to earth. Adam built the Ka’bah as the House of God and as the first house of worship established for mankind, and thus introduced the ceremony of pilgrimage. However, no sooner had monotheism been swapped for polytheism, than the Ka’bah and the tawhidic (God’s Oneness) pilgrimage rites were distorted, abandoned and, in the end, forgotten.
Later, Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma’il – also prophet – were tasked with the rebuilding of the Ka’bah and the revival of the Hajj institution. Almighty Allah instructed Ibrahim:
“And proclaim to the people Hajj (the pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant path” (al-Hajj, 22:27).
At the time Makkah was a barren and uninhabited valley. There was nothing that could attract anybody to undertake a journey to it, let alone to settle there or to fall in love with it. What was happening was hard to rationalize and relate to the laws of nature or society.
Even Hajar, Ibrahim’s wife, whom he had brought to the valley together with his newly born son Isma’il and was about to leave them there, was lost for words – and judgments. In desperation she asked Ibrahim if Allah had commanded him to do all that, to which he replied in the affirmative. Afterwards she calmly responded: “Then certainly, He will not abandon us.”
Indeed, the story of Ibrahim, his wife Hajar and his son Isma’il, was intended to be something extraordinary. The story represented a divine plan for mankind. Yet, it was about mankind’s destiny.
Furthermore, it was a window into the future where some of its most momentous chapters were intimated. Thus, Ibrahim is normally called the father of holy prophets, but in the highest heavenly spheres he is known as the friend of God.
It follows that studying human history with holy prophets at centre stage means exploring the unfolding of the divine plan. It also means reading the Will of God at work, and reading the evolution of the mother of human settlements (umm al-qura) from being nothing to being everything, and of the world from being misguided and directionless to being guided and purposeful.
This is the spiritual, in addition to intellectual, world which every pilgrim steps into by means of putting on ihram and declaring talbiyah. Through ihram a pilgrim renders himself qualified – and pure – to be admitted into this world replete with historical wonders and with present overwhelming sensations and signs (ayat). Removing his old dress represents removing hindrances that may stand between him and a proper experience of the new world. Positively, one of the goals of Hajj is to chart and enliven history as much as possible.
There are certain etiquette which a pilgrim must observe while wearing ihram, and generally while being on Hajj. They revolve around cleanliness, beautification, maintenance of ihram, interpersonal communication, dealing with the environment, and some other elements related to general decency and good manners.
The Qur’an sums up those etiquette as follows:
“For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling (disputing and quarrelling) in the Hajj. And whatever good you do, (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, O you that are wise” (al-Baqarah, 2:197).
Wearing ihram and staying away from impropriety return a person to his primordial self as well as origins. He forsakes artificial and often discriminatory titles, symbols, routines and standards of living. There is nothing, or extremely little, in Hajj that can allude to any of these. People are all one and the same, demonstrating thereby the profundity of tawhid (the Oneness of God) and how it manifests itself in life via the unity of existence, purpose, calling and destiny. People are reminded of the simplicity and practicality of the truth, and of the inconvenience and desolation of falsehood.
In other words, a person becomes human and himself. He becomes a member not only of the earthly humanity family – temporarily erasing all falsely drawn borders and established criteria – but also of the universal family that features the boundless known and unknown planes of creation. He is constantly reminded of who he is and what he is supposed to accomplish. All paths leading to happiness, success and distinction are redrawn on Hajj. Most things are not themselves.
This way, essentially, Hajj is more about returning than going. It is more about investing (earning) than spending. It also connotes coming back home to the warmth of the ideals that the holy land of Makkah (the mother of human settlements) personifies. No wonder that pilgrims are the guests of Allah. They are in their Makkah. They are home. As Allah’s sanctuary, Makkah is free and belongs to nobody. Nobody can lay claim to it. Those who are in charge of it are no more than its servants. Makkah belongs to everyone, just as everyone belongs to it.
Part 1 – The Spirituality of Hajj: An IntroductionPages: 1 2 3