Hajj is a collection of rites and observances. It is a number of action and recitation. They are all combined to be performed within a certain time and place. The result is worship, and an enlightening action conducive to the building up of the Muslim character. It effectively rebuilds the personality, corrects its course in life, and focuses its direction toward Allah.
Hajj, in its general formula of certain devotions and prayers recited by the pilgrim, inspires the soul with spiritually sublime feelings. The pilgrim then realizes the grandeur of his undertaking and the greatness of humbleness and servitude to Allah. It inculcates into the soul the highest of morals, and leads it to righteousness, and benign behaviour.
Every action, word, and prayer during Hajj is a symbol that inspires the soul with a vivid feeling and encompasses a secret and an objective.
Ihram (donning the pilgrim’s garb), Talbiyah (the saying of Labbaika Allahumma Labbaik), Tawaf (circumambulation), Sa’y (walking to and fro between the hill of Safa and Marwah), Wuquf (staying at Arafat)…etc, all of these are meaningful actions and feeling.., with deep meanings that the pilgrim experiences spiritually.
Hence, the genuine value of Hajj and its reforming effects on the soul and behaviour does not lie in mechanically routine practice, devoid of any meaning or value beyond what is seen, but in the awareness of the pilgrim and his spiritual and ideological awareness of every action he practises, every call he makes and in every prayer he reiterates. Otherwise, the pilgrim is not but a tourist, idly wandering around a historic place. He achieves none of the goals of Hajj and his soul remains untouched.
How deep was the awareness of the pious to the implication and goal of Hajj! How excellent was their depiction of Hajj, because they lived it a deeply effective truth within themselves, and a symbolic language expressing their deep feelings.
Let us take an exemplary picture for this deep understanding of the implications of Hajj. Herein Imam Ali bin Al-Husain (Al-Sajjad) (‘a) describes Hajj, discloses its symbolic implications, and the inspirational meaning of each devotional rite (deed) during Hajj. The reader will understand from the explanation of the Imam that such rites are designed to accommodate the alms of Islam and demonstrate its goals in symbolic and exact way.
The pilgrim practice thee rite within the greatest gathering of people assembled for worshipping and landing under the shadow of the greatness of Allah the Almighty.
It is reported that when Imam Zain Al-Abideen (‘a) returned from Hajj, he was welcomed back by Al-Shibli. The Imam asked Shibli, “O, Shibli, have you performed the Hajj?”
And Shibli replied, “Yes, O Holy Imam.”
The Imam asked “When you were about to relative your clothes and wear the Ihram, what was your intention during those exciting moment? Did you avoid absolutely all the things that must be avoided and that which is inferior to Almighty Allah?”
Shibli replied: “No.”
He then asked, “Did you say ‘labbaik’ with full knowledge and great respect? Did you hear the command of Allah and obey as Ibrahim did?”
He replied, “No.”
Imam: “While you were in Arafat, standing so close to Almighty Allah, did you have a chance to know Him? Were you not eager to grasp a bit of knowledge?”
Imam: “When you entered the Ka’ba, as ‘the people of the cave’ had done, did you deny your self-centeredness? Did you fear the punishment of the Hereafter?”
Imam then asked him. “When you shot the idols, did you think of them a evil? Did you then avoid all wrong deed?”
“When you offered the sacrifice, did you feed a hungry person or an orphan? Did you first think of Allah? Did you then kill your selfishness?”
“When you stood in Ibrahim’s position, did you rely absolutely on Allah sincerely and with strong faith?”
“While you circumambulated and made the Tawaf of the Ka’ba, were you reminded of all the angels who constantly circurnambulate this world?”
“During your Sa’y, while you were running between Safa and Marwah, were you sanctified and purified?”
“Now that you have returned from Mecca, are you homesick for the Ka’ba? Did you bury your “self-there”? Are you impatient to return?”
Shibli replied, “No. Of whatever you have asked me so far, I have understood nothing!”
Then the Imam said, “O friend, you have not performed the Hajj! And you have not obeyed Allah! You went to Mecca and visited the Ka’ba, but when you decide to return to Hajj again, try to do as I have instructed you”.