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December 2005
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Our Dialogue

Grand Pilgrimage or Haj-e-Akbar
By Adil Salahi

Q. The Prophet (Pbuh) offered only one pilgrimage after Prophethood. How many people offered the pilgrimage with him on that occasion? Was it a grand pilgrimage, that is Haj-e-Akbar?

A. The most authentic account of the Prophet’s (Pbuh) pilgrimage in the 10th year of his emigration to Madinah is that reported by his companion, Jabir bin Abdullah (RA). He states that when the Prophet (Pbuh) intended to offer the pilgrimage he made his intention clear to all people, and people started to come to Madinah to join him on his pilgrimage in order to offer the rituals of pilgrimage in the same way as the Prophet (Pbuh) did. Jabir describes that when they started their long journey they formed such a large group that he could not see the end of the people either to his front or to his back or to his left or to his right. Other reports suggest that the number of pilgrims who went to Makkah with the Prophet (Pbuh) was about 1,00,000. This is obviously a rough estimate. No one can give any figure with any measure of accuracy. Many people use the term “Haj-e-Akbar” as denoting a pilgrimage when attendance at Arafat happens to be on a Friday. This is a mistaken notion. The term occurs at the beginning of Surah 9 in the Qur’an, where the Prophet (Pbuh) was instructed to make a declaration to all people in Arabia, using the occasion of pilgrimage in order to ensure that all Arabian tribes, wherever they lived, would hear of it. This particular term may be rendered in English in either of the two forms. “The day of grand pilgrimage” or “the grand day of pilgrimage.” This ambiguity led certain people to associate what they term as “grand pilgrimage” with Friday. They claim that if a person offers the pilgrimage in a year when attendance at Arafat coincides with a Friday, he receives the reward of seven pilgrimages. This is the reason which makes many people exert a special effort to go to pilgrimage when it is certain that the day of Arafat will fall on a Friday. In all this, people are mistaken.

The Qur’anic term to which I have referred means actually “the grand day of pilgrimage”, which means the day after Arafat, that is the day of sacrifice. There is a measure of disagreement among scholars whether the term actually refers to the day of Arafat or the day of sacrifice. Whichever way we understand it is not particularly important. All days of pilgrimage are great days. Similarly, pilgrimage is the same whether it occurs on a Friday or on any other day of the week. What actually matters in gaining more reward from Allah is to make the pilgrimage pure, that is to say, to refrain from everything Allah has forbidden or discouraged, and to do everything we are required to do without hurting or causing harm to anybody. There is certainly no basis for the claim that the reward for a pilgrimage when the day of attendance at Arafat is a Friday is seven times more than the reward of other pilgrimages. The reward of a valid and correct pilgrimage, properly done for the sake of Allah, is forgiveness of all past sins. This applies to all pilgrimages.

Having said that, we have to remember that every Friday is a blessed day, which includes an hour when prayers are answered. If the day of Arafat coincides with a Friday, then the blessings are more than doubled. On the occasion of Arafat all prayers are answered. When that is coupled with the blessed day of Friday and its special hour, the greatness of the day is limitless.

Children and Hajj

Q. I have three sons aged 15, 17 and 6 years. I intend to go on pilgrimage with my family. As the children are not earning, I will bear the expenses. Would this count as their obligatory pilgrimage or would they be still required to go on pilgrimage in future, paying for it from their own earnings?

A. It is not a condition for the discharge of the obligatory pilgrimage that a person should have earned the money with which he covers his expenses. Millions of Muslim women have over the centuries offered the pilgrimage with their expenses being paid by their husbands, fathers or brothers. No one has ever suggested that such payment makes the pilgrimage less valid or not discharging the duty binding on every Muslim to do the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime.

As for your children, you will do very well to take them with you, although I am not keen on the idea that a 6- year old boy goes on pilgrimage. It is too tough for him in this tender age. However, if you take him with you, his pilgrimage is valid. You receive a reward for doing so, but his pilgrimage does not count towards the discharge of his obligation to do the duty of pilgrimage when he grows up.That is because this duty does not apply to him yet. It is not possible to do a duty which is not due yet. This is like offering Zuhr prayer before it has become due at noon, or offering Maghrib prayer before the sun has set. That is not possible. As for the other two children, their pilgrimage with you, at your expense, counts as fulfilment of their obligatory pilgrimage, that is Hajj fardh, as this is already binding on them. As you are aware, Islamic duties like fasting, prayer and pilgrimage, become applicable to a person when he or she has attained puberty. When I say that the pilgrimage is binding on them, I do not forget that this must be qualified with the condition of ability. However, since you are paying for them, they may go and discharge this very important duty.

Right Way to Wear Ihram

Q. What is the correct way of wearing ihram garments during tawaf and prayer?

A. A man who is in the state of consecration, or ihram, must wear two garments which are untailored. He wraps one round his body from the waist down to well below his knees. The other he throws over his shoulders and brings it forward to cover the upper part of his body. Uncovering the right shoulder is recommended only during the first three rounds of the first tawaf, which is performed on arrival. In all other times, it is better to cover both shoulders.

Significance & Observations of Hajj

“And proclaim the Pilgrimage among mankind: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep (valleys) and distant mountain highways.” (Al-Quran, 22:27)

“In it are Signs Manifest: (for instance), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it (the Haram at Makkah) attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men (and women) owe to God, - those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of his creatures.” (3:97)

“The months of Hajj are well known. Whoever intends to perform Pilgrimage in these months shall abstain from sensual indulgence, wicked conduct, and quarrelling; and whatever good you do, Allah knows it. Take your provisions for the Pilgrimage – but in truth the best provision is piety. O men of understanding, beware of disobeying Me.” (2:197)

“It is no offence for you to seek the bounty of your Lord during Pilgrimage. When you hasten back from Arafat then remember Allah at Al-Mash’ar al-Haram (Muzdalifah) and remember him in the manner He has directed you, for before this you were surely in error.” (2:198)

“For me, I have been commanded to serve the Lord of this City, Him Who has sanctified it and to whom (belong) all things: and I am commanded to be of those who bow in Islam to God’s will.” (27:91)

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Q. I wish to perform the pilgrimage on behalf of my wife who lives back home. She suffers from ill-health which makes travel very hard for her. She has no financial capability to meet her expenses if she wishes to go. The same is true of my mother. I have no means to meet the expenses of either my wife or my mother for the pilgrimage. In these circumstances, can I perform the pilgrimage on behalf of my wife?

A: According to your statement, neither your mother nor your wife is able to undertake the pilgrimage because of lack of funds and health reasons. This means that the condition of ability which makes pilgrimage obligatory is not fulfilled in both their cases. Thus if either of them dies without having done the pilgrimage and no one performs the pilgrimage on her behalf, she would not be questioned by Allah about not performing the pilgrimage. Allah has not given them the ability, so He does not ask them about it.

You would love to bring them over for this great duty, but you lack the means to do so. This does not change the situation, because even if you have enough to pay for their journey, the duty is theirs and we consider their ability, not yours. Pilgrimage of his parents is a duty of a son who stands to earn rich reward from Allah. Similarly, a husband who pays for the pilgrimage of his wife earns Allah’s reward and brings more happiness into his family life.

With all this in mind, if you wish to perform the pilgrimage on behalf of either your mother or your wife, you are actually presenting them with a gift. That is perfectly permissible and will earn you Allah’s reward. It will also count as their obligatory pilgrimage had they had the ability to perform the pilgrimage themselves. You may go ahead and perform the substitute pilgrimage on behalf of either one of them. The only condition is that you should have done your own pilgrimage, and I understand you have done that. Hence there is nothing to prevent you from undertaking your kind gesture. However, may I say that it is certainly better to undertake the pilgrimage on behalf of your wife in a subsequent year. It is always better to show kindness to your mother first.

Another point to explain is that which relates to the health condition of your wife. I have dealt with the case in general terms because her lack of ability is based on her poverty. However, if we assume that she is financially able to undertake the pilgrimage herself, but cannot do it because of her health condition, we have to look at that condition carefully. If it is curable and she expects it to be cured in a certain period of time, such as a few weeks or a few months or even a few years, then she can wait until she recovers and then performs the pilgrimage herself. On the other hand, if her condition is assumed to be incurable, then it is appropriate that she asks someone else to do a substitute pilgrimage on behalf of her. Once, this is done, her obligatory pilgrimage is deemed to have been fulfilled. Even if she unexpectedly recovers later, her duty is already done.

Free Holidays and Pilgrimage

Q.A relative of mine works for a company which provides incentives in the form of free holidays. Employees have recently been told that they may choose their place where they want to take their free holiday, including foreign travel. If an employee chooses to avail himself of this offer and do the pilgrimage or the Umrah under this scheme, is that acceptable? Is it acceptable for the obligatory pilgrimage?

A. There is nothing wrong with benefiting by such an incentive to fulfill the duty of pilgrimage or Umrah. The company is obviously offering it for hard work, and if one deserves it, he or she has certainly earned it. If the paid travel and holiday cover all the expenses of the pilgrimage, that does not affect the validity of the pilgrimage. It counts as fulfillment of the obligatory pilgrimage if the person concerned is doing it for the first time. Even if a person is paying nothing of his pilgrimage expenses out of his own pocket, the pilgrimage is valid, whether it is the obligatory pilgrimage or a voluntary one. A person may be invited, or someone offers him a gift, or he may win a prize offered in a legitimate way. All that is acceptable.

Pilgrimage for Deceased Parent

Q. Is it permissible for me to perform the pilgrimage on behalf of my father who died a few years ago?

A. It is certainly an act of real dutifulness to offer the pilgrimage on behalf of your deceased father. Since he did not offer the pilgrimage in his own lifetime, that duty would be redeemed, and he would no longer be accountable for its omission. The only condition is that you should have performed the pilgrimage on your own behalf first. The pilgrimage is a duty we owe to God and should be treated as a debt which we settle when we offer it. Thus its repayment on behalf of one’s parents is in the same way as repaying their unpaid debts. Thus when you offer the pilgrimage on behalf of your father, you settle his outstanding debt. If he had offered the pilgrimage himself, your offering it on his behalf counts as a voluntary pilgrimage for which you earn him great reward. Moreover, in either case, you earn rich reward from God for this dutiful action.

Jihad or Pilgrimage

Q. Scholars in our area differ as to which is more important: jihad against oppressive forces occupying our land or pilgrimage. Please advise.

A. Pilgrimage is a duty only on those who are able to undertake the journey. Ability includes being safe and leaving one’s family in safety. In a situation where the Muslim community is not safe because of the oppression of an occupying force, no Muslim may leave his family without protection. Moreover, the safety of the whole community is at issue here. Hence, all resources should be put into the effort to liberate the Muslim community. Having said that, I may add that such efforts need not necessarily mean fighting. Perhaps the community suffering such oppression needs to make its case known all over the world and pilgrimage provides a means of publicity, either through individual efforts or through a formal delegation undertaking the publicity efforts aiming at mobilizing international support. Thus, those who travel abroad for this purpose, whether to pilgrimage or to other places, share in the jihad of their community. If we put the question for a strict ruling of which of the two modes is preferable, we are liable to have an erroneous answer.

Prophet Abraham and His Sacrifice

Q. In the Gospel it is mentioned that the son of Prophet Abraham asked to sacrifice was Issac, not Ishmael.

A. The first claim is an example of the distortion that has crept into earlier messages sent by God to mankind. The claim is absurd, because when Allah sent an angel to deliver the news to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, that she would give birth to a son, the angel also told her that this son will beget a son called Jacob. How is it possible to give such a promise and then command Abraham to sacrifice the boy Issac when he was still young? The fact is that the son who was to be sacrificed was Ishmael, as indicated clearly in the Qur’an.