The Fifth Pillar of Islam

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by Hazrat Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi Saheb R.A

Provisions of the Shari’at

The holy law has provided the Haj with an environment which is basically conducive to self-realisation and inner upliftment. It has encompassed it with worship and endowed it with sanctity and spirituality. The journey of the Hajj, for most people, is long and tedious. In it they have to pass through many lands and undergo diverse experiences. Temptations beset their path, business worries and other vexations tax their minds; they stop at strange places and come into contact with all sorts of people. Sometimes, they are also accompanied by their families which often proves to be an additional distraction. All these things can undermine the spirit of devotion and endeavour which holds the key to the blessedness of the Haj. There was, thus, not an inconsiderable danger of the Haj Pilgrimage getting reduced to another journey with the pilgrims going out as tourists and returning home empty-handed.

As a safeguard against it the Shariat has given to the Haj a colour of sanctity and sublimity that never fades. It has provided it with a built-in mechanism that allows neither neglect nor apathy nor any other vain or frivolous element to enter into it and ruin its beauty. The Shariat has laid down wise and comprehensive rules for the Haj which strengthen its hold on life and ensure its continuance as a most important means of correction and reform and gaining access to God. To begin with, it has declared it to be the fourth fundamental duty in Islam and made it obligatory for all Muslims who fulfil certain conditions.

“Pilgrimage to the House (of Allah) is a duty men owe to God – those who can afford the journey, but if any deny faith God stands not in need of any His creatures.” (-iii: 97)

It is related by Hazrat Ali that the Prophet once said, “A person whom God has given enough to perform the Haj if he fails to do so then it does not matter whether he dies a Jew or a Christian.” Another Tradition of the holy Prophet reads, “The foundation of Islam rests on these five pillars: The affirmation that there is no God save one God and Mohammad is His Apostle, the establishment of Salat, the payment of Zakat, the observance of Saum in the month of Ramadhan and the performance of the Haj by those who can afford to make the pilgrimage.”

In the Traditions the virtues of the Haj and the high place it occupies in the sight of God have been stressed over and over again with the object of arousing the sentiments of faith and eagerness because unless these two sentiments are associated with an act and it is motivated primarily by them God has no use for it. It is related by Hazrat Abu Huraira that the Prophet once said, “The reward for a pure and untainted Haj is Paradise itself and nothing short of it.” In another Tradition related by him it is said that “he who performs the Haj and commits no lustful act during it, and does not disobey God (in any other way), he will return from it as pure and sinless as he was at the time of his birth”. Yet another Tradition of the holy Prophet reads, “Perform the Haj and the Umra for they both remove the sins in the same way as the furnace removes the impurities of gold, silver and iron, and there is no lesser recompense on a pure and untainted Haj than Paradise, and when a believer puts on the Ihram all his sins disappear with the setting of the sun.” It is, further, related by Hazrat Ayesha that the Prophet once said: “On no other day does God release so many of His slaves from the torment of Hell as on the day of Arafa.”

Once it was enquired from the Prophet which was the most excellent of acts. He replied, “The affirmation of faith in God and His Apostle.” He was asked what was next to it, and he said, “Jihad in the way of Allah.” On being asked what came after it, the Prophet replied, “Pure and untainted Haj.”

Included among the wise and far-reaching regulations governing the Haj pilgrimage is the determination of Miqaats which fulfils the purpose of imparting a new consciousness to the pilgrim and producing a kind of mental and spiritual awakening in him. He begins to feel that he is approaching an Imperial durbar and has entered its sanctified precincts. But for it, the pilgrims would reach the House of Allah without being psychologically prepared for the event like the uncultured rustics who intrude into the courts of kings and noblemen only to be thrown out unceremoniously.

Commenting on the significance of Mawaquit, Hazrat Shah Waliullah writes: “The real idea behind the determination of Mawaquit is that while, on the one hand, it is enjoined upon the pilgims to present themselves in Mecca with their hair dishevelled and in a distressed condition, on the other, there is an open difficulty for them in setting forth from their homes with the Ihram wrapped round their bodies – some of whom have to do a month or two of travelling, or even more – some special places have been marked on all sides of Mecca on crossing which it is necessary to put on the Ihram. Care has been taken that these places are well known as points of transit. The Miquat for people coming from Medina (i.e., Zul-Hulaifa) is at the farthest distance. It is so because Medina is the centre of Divine, Revelation, the citadel of faith, the home of Migration and the first city to embrace Islam at the Call of Allah and the Apostle. The people of Medina, as such, have a greater claim to be in the vanguard of those who strive in the path of Allah and ahead of everyone in worship. As against Jawatha, Taif and Yamama, Medina is counted among the earliest towns to have entered into the fold of Islam and given proof of single-minded devotion to faith. There is, therefore, no harm if the Miquat for it has been fixed so far away.”

The pilgrim’s robe of Ihram is meant to attune him spiritually to the sublimity of his mission. It brings about in the pilgrim the realisation that he is going on an important errand and presenting himself in the holiest of courts. There is also a complete freedom in it from ostentation. In this way, Ihram occupies the same place in the Haj as Takbirs does in Salat which takes the worshipper into a new spiritual climate and puts him in a special kind of bondage by taking away his freedom for the time being. Observes Hazrat Shah Waliullah:

“Ihram which is worn in the Haj and Umra is like the Takbir of Salat. It is a symbol of believer’s faith, sincerity and endeavour. Its purpose is to make the self lowly before God, to make it bow down before Him in submission and to serve as an expression of anguish, distress and suffering for His sake.”

A definite method has also been prescribed for coming out of the state of Ihram and the discipline that goes with it. It is not that the pilgrim takes off the Ihram all of a sudden and begins to enjoy all the things that were prohibited till then. He does so with a precise formulation of intention (Niyat) and in accordance with a definite procedure. Just as a person comes out of the state of Salat by means of Salam (Salutation) he divests himself of Ihram through Hulq (shaving of the hair). As Hazrat Shah Waliullah explains, “The significance of Hulq is that by it a method of coming out of the state of Ihram is determined which is not opposed to dignity. If people were left to their own judgement every one would be acting the way he liked. Besides, it marks the termination of the state of dishevelment that was desired earlier. It is like the turning of the face (Salam) in Salat”.

Talbia, again, forms a part of the plan designed to enhance the efficacy of the Haj. The Shariat has stressed its importance and the holy Prophet also has said that it is preferable to utter it in a loud and full-throated manner. On being asked which Haj was of a higher order he is reported to have remarked, “The one in which Talbia is recited forcefully and the animals are offered in sacrifice properly.”

The Talbia has an important role to play in stirring up the inner self of the pilgrim, in enkindling the flame of love, devotion and eagerness within him and in arousing in him the desire to beg, beseech and rub his forehead on the ground in the holy precincts of the House of Allah. As the pilgrim utters it a wave of faith and spirituality surges through his entire existence. It equips him emotionally for the great event and, thus, removes the deficiency from which he is generally inclined to suffer owing to pre-occupation with the mundane things of life. When he raises the heartwarming cry of Here I am: O God, Here I am in Thy Presence: Thou art without a partner: All Praise is for Thee, and from Thee are all Blessings! To Thee belongs all Power (and Rule): Thou hast no partner, the inherent meaning and significance of the Haj dawns upon him in its full lustre and solemnity, he is seized with joy and excitement, the cup of love overflows and the flame of Monotheism runs through the depths of his being; he feels restless and a genuine mental and spiritual affinity between him and Hazrat Ibrahim, the sacred Prophet, his Companions and the bearers of his message is created and he becomes one with them.