Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins, then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew. (Bukhari 1521)
Have you ever witnessed the process of making raw iron pure?
A coarse, polluted piece of metal is heated red-hot and beaten repeatedly, and when it turns cool, the process is repeated until it attains the desired level of purity.
As the cycle of beating and heating continues, you see impurities slowly rise to the surface and flake away.
Hajj is like that. And I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say it. Those five days of camping were tough, really tough.
No wonder the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Perform Hajj and ‘Umrah, one after the other, for performing them one after the other removes poverty and sin as the bellows removes impurity from iron. (Ibn Majah V4, B25, no. 2887)
It’s true that most Muslims in the twenty-first century know nothing of the hardships of earlier pilgrims; those who would travel by sea or land from distant places (there are still some admirable people who walk to Makkah, balancing baskets on top of their heads that serve as their suitcases), and face risks of wealth and life en-route to Makkah; those who’d do tawaf in the harsh heat, walking barefoot on the burning sand, and sleep under a tree or a makeshift tent out of a torn cloak in Mina, and search for food in an unknown wilderness.
We don’t face these trials; but we have other hardships, hardships that spring out of the comfortable, luxurious, techy, couch-potato lives we live at home.
I’d never been camping in my life before I stayed in Mina on the 7th of Dhul Hijjah, 1435 AH. True, the tents had air-conditioners. Still, it was hot.
All my belongings amounted to the contents of a string bag. The mattress was half the size of a single bed, and the pillow the size of a regular cushion.
The food wasn’t at all what I was used to at home. I couldn’t charge my phone or tablet. And all I will say about the cleaning and washing facilities is that it was a nightmare.
And yet I was happy. I felt peaceful, almost all the time. I had plenty of leisure to worship Allah, to read the Quran, or to just reflect.
And it is He who spread the earth and placed therein firmly set mountains and rivers; and from all of the fruits He made therein two mates; He causes the night to cover the day. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reflect. (Quran 13:3)
This is one type of worship that modern life has made too difficult. It was easier for the desert Bedouin to reflect when he sat in front of the vast wilderness stretched in front of him, meeting the starry sky at the blurred horizon.
Nowadays we don’t have the leisure, or sometimes even the means, to get a glimpse of the sky. The luster of the stars has been eaten up by industrial pollutants clouding our heavens.
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], ‘Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire…’ (3:190-191)
There at Hajj, I was forced to reflect. I had nothing else to do – no blinking devices, no blaring televisions, no nagging friends to distract me. I simply had nothing else to do. And the scenes around me stimulated reflection. They were drastically different from the usual scenes at home.
A desert – I’d never seen a desert before that had only one ‘s’, and it was strange. Almost no houses, no plants, no animals – nothing for miles and miles. Only the pilgrims, their camps, and their gears.
Why did all these people, people from different corners of the world, leave their comfortable homes? Why were they here in this hot, hot desert?
Only to worship Allah. That one thing united the whole settlement despite our differences in age, language, race, color, everything.
We were all here for the same purpose. And every hardship we faced reminded us of that purpose. Every anomaly that hit our eyes or ears reminded us of that purpose. There just wasn’t any escape from that reminder.
We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness? (41:53)
Read part 2: