Hajj Reflections

The Wells of Zamzam Nourish the Pilgrim's Soul

by Wadud Hassan

[Wadud Hassan is the Secondary School and Special Programs Manager at Furqaan Academy Collin County. He can be reached at whassan[at]furqaan.org]

By the mercy of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), my family and I were very fortunate to perform Hajj (the pilgrimage to Makkah) last year. We had a very pleasant journey and a great experience to remember for the rest of our lives. When I started writing about my experience, I realized that much of my feelings about Hajj are difficult to express and perhaps can only be duly expressed by an accomplished orator or writer. The following paragraphs are just a mere attempt to share a few select thoughts regarding my Hajj experience.

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُواْ أَنفُسَهُمْ جَآؤُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُواْ اللّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُواْ اللّهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

“[…] And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” (Qur’an 4:64)

This verse is very dear to me and talks about Allah (swt)’s assurance of forgiveness for those that would visit the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) and repent to Allah (swt). Though we cannot directly talk to the Prophet ﷺ and ask him to pray for our forgiveness, it was the tradition of our pious predecessors to quote this verse and ask for Allah (swt)’s forgiveness when they visited the Prophet ’s Masjid and his tomb in Madinah and conveyed their salaam (greetings of peace) to him. It was an amazing feeling to go the Prophet ﷺ’s Masjid, reflect on the sacrifices made by the Prophet ﷺ, his family, and companions in order to establish and spread the religion of peace, and then to feel remorse about how we have fallen short in following the example of the Prophet ﷺ in our daily lives.

On our Hajj journey, we first visited Madinah. The feeling of visiting the Prophet ﷺ’s Masjid and tomb in Madinah is almost ecstatic. You try to relate to the feelings of those who were fortunate to visit the Prophet ﷺ when he was alive and you feel the anticipation of entering the Masjid and greeting the Prophet ﷺ at his tomb when the green dome comes in sight. Remembering the hadith (record of the words or actions of the Prophet ﷺ) that when you convey your salaam to the Prophet ﷺ at his grave, he responds to you can be very heart wrenching. You look around to see the expressions on people’s faces, and the tears of love and attachment to the Prophet ﷺ are ever visible. What an amazing sensation to pray at the Masjid of the Prophet ﷺ, in the presence of all the memories of the Prophet ﷺ. The days in Madinah; visiting the graves of the Prophet ﷺ, Abu Bakr, and Umar radi allahu `anhum (may God have mercy on them); visiting Jannat-ul-Baqi where more than 10,000 companions are resting; praying in Riyadh ul Jannah, or the portion of the Prophet ﷺ’s mosque he designated as part of Jannah (Paradise); visiting the gate through which the angel Jibril `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) used to come to visit the Prophet ﷺ; the pillars where the Prophet ﷺ used to pray, give sermons from, and meet delegations; walking in the streets of Madinah; even merely shopping in the markets in Madinah is not devoid of memories of the time of the Prophet ﷺ and feelings of peace in the blessed city.

Parting Madinah reminds one of those stories that relate to us how the Companions (ra) used to feel upon leaving the company of the Prophet ﷺ. The story of Muadh ibn Jabal (ra) as he was deputed to Yemen comes to mind when he kept looking back to see the face of the beloved Prophet ﷺ and kept crying, thinking that he may never see the Prophet ﷺ again! But he knew that his journey forward was for the sake of Allah (swt)’s pleasure, like the haajis (pilgrims), who were departing Madinah to go towards Makkah as the days of Hajj drew near.

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

“Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah – blessed and a guidance for the worlds.” (Qur’an 3:96)

The sacredness and might of the city of Makkah are felt as you get close to Masjid ul Haram and visit the Ka`ba. You are reminded of the greatness of Allah (swt) as the pilgrims walk into the Masjid, fearing their Lord, remembering their shortcomings, realizing that it is not due to their personal merit but rather the mercy of Allah (swt) that they are now the honored guests of the Ka`ba. They hope for Allah (swt)’s forgiveness and blessings while walking slowly with their heads down until they have a full sight of the Ka`ba. Tears trickle down the faces of the pilgrims, some fall in sujud (prostration), and others cry profusely at their first sight of the Ka`ba – some not even remembering what they were suppose to pray for at their first sight of the Ka`ba. “Rabbana a`tina fee dunya hasana, wa fel akhirati hasana, waqina `adhaban naar. Our Lord! Grant us all the good of this word, and that of the hereafter and save us from the fire,” chant the pilgrims while walking around the Ka`ba to complete the 7 circles of their tawaf (ritual rotation around the Ka`ba).

This is it—this is the courtyard of the Divine Master and the Creator of the universe, where the wishes of the pilgrims are granted. The desperation is felt as people cling to the walls of the Ka’ba and shed their tears asking Allah (swt)’s favors. While I did my tawaf, I realized how symbolic this particular act of worship is: our whole life and everything that we do should revolve around Allah (swt) and what is pleasing to him. The symbolism of running between Safa and Marwa is that you run to Allah (swt) and ask Allah (swt) for all your needs as we remember the divine intervention of the well of Zamzam after the mother Hajar (as) desperately ran back and forth between these hills.

The constant movements of the Haajis from one place to another, the tawaf around the Ka`ba, the sa`ee (ritual running or walking) between Safa and Marwa, the walk to go pelt the jamaraat (the 3 stone pillars representing Satan)—all teach us that a Muslim needs to be physically fit and active to fulfill the obligations of his Deen (religion). One has to find spirituality and moments of reflection while continuously being on the move during Hajj. This was an important reminder for me, and I am sure for many other Haajis, to stay active in good deeds, in going to the Masjid, in serving others, and in engaging in activities that keep one physically fit.

فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُم مِّنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْكُرُواْ اللّهَ عِندَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ وَإِن كُنتُم مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّآلِّينَ

“[…] But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al-Mashar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray.” (Qur’an 2:198)

The journey from Makkah to Mina, then Mina to Arafat, Arafat to Muzdalifa, Muzdalifa to Mina, and Mina to Makkah reminded me of how Allah (swt) wants us to search for Him and His bounties like a desperate traveler who has forgotten all about adorning himself in the state of ihram (cleanliness), refusing even to comb his hair or apply perfume, and avoiding all vain talk in order to only be engaged in searching for and building a relationship with God.

فَلاَ رَفَثَ وَلاَ فُسُوقَ وَلاَ جِدَالَ فِي الْحَجِّ وَمَا تَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ يَعْلَمْهُ اللّهُ وَتَزَوَّدُواْ فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُونِ يَا أُوْلِي الأَلْبَاب

“[…] there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding.” (Qur’an 2:197)

Finally, one of the major lessons of Hajj I personally connected to was how Allah (swt) wants us to get out of our comfort zone while seeking His pleasure. Though it is very pleasurable to be making your salat (prayers) in the Holy mosques listening to beautiful recitations, that is not enough to perform your Hajj. You still have to toil in the streets and tents of Mina, Arafat, and Muzdalifa to fulfill the obligations of Hajj. In our daily life, there are acts of worship that we can do in our comfortable surroundings. At times, however, we have to leave that in search of more meaningful worship, seeking knowledge, preaching our religion, or in the service of mankind. When you do step out of your comfort zone like one does in Hajj, traveling in ihram like any other person and out on the streets with thousands of other pilgrims all around you, you have to completely rely on Allah (swt) for His help, guidance, and protection and that is what Allah (swt) refers to in the above verse. Though a Haaji is encouraged and rewarded for taking provisions for his journey—Wa tazawwadu fa inna khairaz zaadit taqwa. Verily, the best of provisions is God-consciousness.”

I hope and pray that Allah (swt) accepts the Hajj from all those who performed it in the past and are chosen to perform it this year and in the future. May He, out of his Enabling Grace, make it easy for every Muslim to fulfill this sacred obligation and live its lessons until he meets his Maker.

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  • JazakAllah. May Allah accept ur Hajj; and all those who have been. For me, reliance was the biggest lesson from Hajj. We know things in theory, but when we’re faced with challenges and that theory comes to life – it’s when the lessons really sink in and become personal. That was my big lesson.

  • Mashallah, very good reflection.

    Hajj is a journey that teaches you so many lessons that you can talk or reflect about them for the rest of your life.

    Alhamdulillah, I had the honor to be hosted by Allah this year. For me, the greatest struggle was to keep my intention pure when the struggles of hajj put me at the boundary. Sometimes I became annoyed with the crowd (in hearts but never expressed in words) and sometimes even thoughts like ‘why I am going through such and such’ came into my mind. I really regret those feelings and that is why I really hope that Allah gives me another chance to perform hajj.

    Nonetheless, hajj was a real eye opener. I am also writing my hajj diary in my blog and you may want to read it 😉

    • Would love to read you diary! Please share the link. You are right everyone gets so excited and can talk about one’s Hajj experience whole life. One of my dad’s friends was short tampered and we used to ask him to tell us more about his Hajj experience whenever we needed to divert his attention and calm him down. It worked every single time 😉 May Allah grant him Jannah.

  • May Allah accept ur hajj & al 2gether. Hajj i may say’ s simple coz with haniya & determination. During pilgrim, one observes diff kinds of act & start 2 increase in iman(belief) leading 2 making oath/ promise not 2 move 2 don’t of Alkah. But @ coming home, people forget there promises & their believes is declining. What do u think is d major problem? Do u think is cause of satan? Environment? Society? And whatsoever that might be the causes. Pz, i need reply. Ma salaam.

    • Such a beautiful question and we can all relate to it! So many intentions and aspirations after you visit the Kaaba and spend time in the company of Prophet’s Mosque and then you fluctuate in your strength of faith and commitment once you are back. This is indeed the how the faith of the believers are and it is only natural.

      Like the famous story of Hanzala RAD, the famous companion of the Prophet SAW when he came rushing back to the Prophet SAW when he saw his level in faith changing when he goes back to his family and daily routine. But the Prophet saw explained this was only normal and he also added if the companions always maintained the spiritual state they were in while in the presence of the Prophet SAW even the angels would shake hands with them (meaning this is not normally achieved).

      I hope that answers your question. Let us keep asking for forgiveness, keep with the pious, keep asking for guidance and make our best efforts. We will find Allah inshaAllah!

  • Jazakallah Khair for this article,
    My heart yearns to go see the Kabaa, I pray Allah invites me and my family soon. We had plans to go some years back but it was not meant to be.

    • Wayakum. Ameen – may Allah accept you and your family and all of us to visit His House and the Masjid of His beloved Prophet SAW frequently!

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