Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states,
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is the peak and culmination of the acts of worship. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever performs the rites of Hajj, while having refrained from acts of lewdness, obscenity and wrangling, will return home like a new born (i.e., free from all sins).” He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “A virtuous Hajj entails no other reward than Paradise.”
The question, however, remains: What is meant by a virtuous Hajj?
The answer is not hard to find when we closely peruse the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) as well as the wise instructions of the scholars and imams.
First of all, a virtuous Hajj is that which fulfills two important conditions:
One, it must be done in accordance with the prescribed way, and
Two,it must be done with a sincere intention to please Allah, the most Exalted and Glorious.
In order to fulfill the first condition, while performing Hajj, the Muslim must take care to conform to the form and manner of Hajj as taught by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who reminded us during his farewell Hajj, “Learn your Hajj rites from me.”
It is not difficult to learn the correct form of Hajj: It can be done either by following the teachings of any of the acceptable Schools of Jurisprudence, or by close study of the Qur’an and Sunnah under a qualified teacher. By failing to do so, the person will not fulfill the Hajj rites as prescribed by Almighty Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), for it is important to remember that in acts of worship, we must never mix our personal opinions with religion.
Once a person has learned the basics of Hajj, it is also important for him—whenever he/she faces issues that are not clear—to seek the opinion of those who have been endowed with knowledge. The Muslim must never act based solely on his/her own personal opinions, without sufficient knowledge.
Coming to the issue of sound intention, it is important to know that while the form of Hajj is important, equally, if not more important is the spirit of Hajj. If a person is not keen to guard the spirit of Hajj, it becomes nothing more than empty rituals devoid of any deep meaning. It is only by diligently preserving the spirit of Hajj that the Muslim can hope to gain the maximum benefits from performing it.
With this purpose in mind, let us list some of the most important points to keep in mind before embarking on the Hajj journey as well as during the course of Hajj.
1) The Muslim who is planning to undertake Hajj should make sure that the fare and expenses of Hajj have been earned through lawful sources of income, free from all taints of haram.A Hajj funded through unlawful means merits no reward.
2) It is equally important to make sure that he undertakes the journey in as clean a state as possible. In order to achieve this, the Muslim should pay off his debts, seek forgiveness from those whom he may have offended or hurt, and reconcile with those who have strained relations. While it is important to reconcile with everyone, it is even more crucial to reconcile with his own close blood relations such as parents, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, from both the paternal and maternal sides of the family. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “One who severs blood relations cannot hope to enter Paradise.” Therefore, by failing to make up with his blood relations prior to performing Hajj, he is depriving himself of the true rewards of Hajj.
3) The Muslim who is leaving behind dependents must ensure that they are provided for and taken care of, during his absence.
4) The Muslim should leave a will stating his obligations and liabilities towards others and how to discharge of them in case of being unable to return.
5) It is a true sign of piety to advise his family members who are left behind to be mindful of Almighty Allah and to observe the path of righteousness.
6) The Muslim should also try as much as possible to travel in the company of those who are knowledgeable and pious. This is because the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that a Muslim should take care of the company he keeps as they have either a beneficial or harmful influence on him. By keeping the company of the righteous, the Muslim can hope to be inspired and enlightened both spiritually and morally, thus, hoping to reap the full benefits of Hajj.
7) The Muslim should also be diligent in the performance of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) before, during and after returning from Hajj. There are prescribed du`aa’ to be recited before and during the journey as well as while performing the various rites of Hajj. Moreover, the Muslim should also try to make his tongue and heart always supple with dhikr. He may be inspired to do this by remembering that dhikr of Allah is the true spirit of Hajj.
8) The Muslim can never exaggerate the importance of nurturing patience and tolerance both during the journey as well as while performing the rites of Hajj. Doing everything he can to help others, or at least sparing others of his harm should be the consistent policy to follow.
9) Finally, the Muslim should fill his heart with true love for Almighty Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) and perform all the rites of Hajj while being attentive to their inner meanings, with a sense of awe and reverence. Also, he should always remember the Prophetic saying, “Show mercy to others if you wish to receive Allah’s mercy.”
May Allah accept our acts of worship, and may He grace us with His vision on the Day Resurrection, amen.
Allah Almighty knows best.