Undoubtedly, Hajj is one of the greatest events in the life of a Muslim – and one filled with many lessons. From the struggles of raising the funds and getting the opportunity, to the patience that’s needed to endure the hardships of travel, and then to the incomparable spirituality felt during the five days of Hajj – pilgrims learn from the different segments of the journey, and hope that they will take those lessons home with them, to apply for the rest of their lives.
Back to reality
But for many pilgrims, those feelings can quickly fade once they arrive home, because the contrast between the lands of Hajj and the ‘normal’ home environment is as striking as day against night.
Madinah, Makkah, Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah are not the real world. Divorced from the responsibilities of family, work, and home life, the journey of Hajj is like an experience in another galaxy – one where everyone is geared towards worshipping Allah; there’s no immoral advertising, music, and images smacking you in the face every hour; and the only worry each day is making it to the masjid to get a spot for the five compulsory salaahs.
But once pilgrims arrive home, they return to the environments of hardship, laziness, and sin. And despite all the wonderful gains from the weeks they’ve just spent as guest of Allah, maintaining a spiritual high under such circumstances is difficult – if not impossible.
The maintenance plan
For a pilgrim, the effort doesn’t end when Hajj ends. Once you’ve gone on Hajj, your life’s work is not ‘done’. Your ticket to Paradise is not guaranteed. You’ve merely improved your chances of getting there – but the hard work still remains. It’s a common cliché to say that the actual Hajj itself isn’t the difficult part – but the difficult part is ‘living’ that Hajj for the rest of your life.
But how does one do that when you don’t live in the relatively ‘pious’ universe of Makkah or Madinah?
To help answer this question, Cape Town’s Imam Suyuti Institute has initiated a course titled: “Maintaining your Hajj & Umrah: Making it count for the rest of your days”.
The first run of the ten week course – which is being taught by Shaykh Riyadh Walls – has drawn a large crowd each week, with attendees eager to extract the spiritual inspiration and practical advice dished out to help them consolidate the lessons of Hajj.
Shaykh Riyadh began by sketching out the model Hajj – that of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) – before delving into inner dimensions of the journey. As explained, even if pilgrims didn’t realize the spiritual benefits of the different steps at the time, it doesn’t mean they were deprived of that goodness. Those benefits were gained – but the work is to now unlock those treasures and use them to enhance their lives.
The Shaykh then analysed Hajj as a parallel to death, explaining how Hajj is a journey to Allah in this world – before we undertake our journey to Allah in the Hereafter. Accompanying this understanding is the concept of Hajj as an expression of inordinate love for Allah – how Hajj helps us show our love, gratitude, and longing for Allah while still in this life.
The peak of Hajj – the Day of Arafah – was also discussed. For Hajjis, Arafah serves as the first day of the rest of our lives, because it’s the day when our slates were wiped clean, and our enemy – shaytaan – was disgraced by seeing all his work of misleading us decimated in the space of a few hours, by Allah’s complete forgiveness.
Shaykh Riyadh raised critical points here, reminding us that – because of this shame – shaytaan and his allies will try even harder to bring us back into lives of sin and transgression; which means that Hajjees need to work even harder than before if they are to ward off the whisperings and evil invitations of the devils.
Also covered was the understanding of Hajj as the ultimate form of repentance, and how one of the greatest ways to maintain the Hajj is to live a life of repentance – each day seeking Allah’s forgiveness for the wrongs you may have done, and each day returning to your covenant with Him.
Accompanying the knowledge and spiritual dimensions of the course, Shaykh Riyadh also helped attendees initiate a practical ‘maintenance plan’ – focusing on areas like repentance, taking care of salaah, taking account of one’s self, striving to improve in character, and repairing relationships with others.
For many Muslims, Hajj represents the ultimate opportunity to make permanent changes: to drop bad habits, pick up good practices, improve character and conduct, and become the person they dream of becoming. This is so because while other major forms of worship – such as salaah and Ramadaan – are meant to help bring on such change, they are repeated often, and risk becoming ‘routine’ – which can compromise the transformational aspects that they include. Hajj, on the other hand, comes just once in a lifetime (for most) – so it’s crucial that a Muslim makes the most of it, and uses the benefits and lessons of Hajj as the fuel that’ll drive them to Allah’s pleasure, and into Jannah.
Courses like these help remind us of where we were and what we did, as well as the promises we made to Allah, and what we need to do to fulfill those promises.
Video recordings of the course may be made available later in 2012. Contact Cape Town Muslim Events (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
And for those in Cape Town, the course’s second run begins this April, with registration closing on 4th April 2012. Registration is available online at this site.