Haj and its important rituals
AS you near the miqat, your heart will tremble and tremor. Is this really happening? Is my heart getting closer and closer to His House? Soon you will enter Allah’s haram. It is only fitting that you enter into a state, both externally and internally, that justly corresponds to this honor. Beyond the miqat, there is only talbiyah.
The essence of Hajj is the journey of our hearts away from the house of our lower selves (nafs) with its passions, inclinations (ahwa) and attachment to the created world to the haram and, ultimately, the House of Allah. We must leave these temporal attachments to receive the greatest divine connection. We must leave to arrive. Ihram is from haram. Both meanings, to be sacred and to be forbidden, are carried in it. Through the ihram, the heart is meant to leave the temporary and the finite — to make it, in a sense, “forbidden” — and to prepare for the sacred audience of Allah’s presence.
One enters into ihram with talbiyah. Talbiyah is the heart’s most profound surrender to the invitation and call of Allah: Here I come to You, my Lord, here I come — fully and forever. With the talbiyah, we proclaim that no associate or attachment will distract us from seeking Allah. Our hearts will not see, hear, obey, or be lured to another, besides Him. The recitation of this talbiyah is to be said with constancy and conviction, and not intermittently and infrequently.
Mina, or Muna, means desire, hope, longing. Some texts teach that it was in Muna that Adam (peace be upon him) longed and desired to journey back home to paradise and to be, once again, in Allah’s presence. It is in Muna that the journey begins. The day spent in Muna, termed the day of tarwiyah (meaning, in part, to quench, to drink to one’s fill), is meant for our heart to focus on the aim of their journey, to gather in resolution and focus, and to begin our inner momentum toward the House of Allah.
Arafat means to know, to understand. Another verb scale conveys the meaning of perfuming, making fragrant, scenting. Arafat is the essential pillar of Hajj; without Arafat there is no Hajj. Arafat is the cleansing station outside the haram where we stand and seek forgiveness for all that we’ve committed in our lives. We beg and implore Allah to make us worthy of entering into His haram, visiting His House and being in His presence. Here, on Arafat, we learn two things. As we acknowledge our disobedience, our sins, our rebelliousness and our forgetfulness, we know our unworthiness as true servants. We reveal everything to Allah, minor or major, Who knows already but simply wants us to admit with true transparency and sincerity what we are inside of our selves.
Muzdalifa, from the Arabic root izdilaf, means to approach, to get closer. It’s is a second station of cleansing and purification. The pilgrim is now closer to the Kaaba. We remain in supplication after fajr, imploring Allah again for pardon and guidance. Some scholars have said that in Muzdalifa, Allah also forgives our violations against the rights of others. Such violations are not usually forgiven unless, in addition to seeking forgiveness, we remedy what has been violated.
Muna and the casting of pebbles
During the Hajj of Ibrahim (peace be upon him), he was commanded to sacrifice his son. Allah, of course, never intended that the slaughter take place. Allah wanted, instead, to purify and free Ibrahim from every love and every attachment besides Him. It was in Muna that the shaitan attempted to waylay Ibrahim from sacrificing his son. Ibrahim cast pebbles at the shaitan to reject his designs and prompting. In casting the pebbles, the pilgrim affirms Allah’s greatness over everything and covenants with Allah that he or she will never regress to anything which displeases Him. Casting the pebbles is the casting away of shaitan, the lower self (nafs) with its desires, inclinations and evil, and, ultimately, casting away everything besides Allah.
Ifadah means to flood, to rush, to move. The movement from Arafat to the Haram is called ifadah. The rite of tawaf that takes place after the casting of the pebbles, the sacrifice and the shaving of the head is likewise termed Tawaaf Al-Ifadah.
Sai between Safa and Marwa
Sai means to work, to strive, to act. We remember in sai the actions of Hajar (peace be upon him) as she climbed, walked and ran up both Safa and Marwa looking for sustenance for her starving child.
Days and nights in Mina
During our stay in Mina, we re-affirm and re-declare our desire and hope for spiritual freedom by casting pebbles for three days. Each casting of the pebbles cements our resolution to contain and confine both the lower self and shaitan. You remain in Muna as Allah’s guest.