November 18, 2008

Tribute to the Pilgrims

In the last few weeks, I have been congratulated quite often for my recent marriage. Marriage certainly is a big step in life, and is worthy of celebration. But is it really that special, in comparison to other accomplishments in life?

My closest friend is leaving for Hajj in less than a week. Thinking about the journey he is about to undertake, I can't help but think that his journey, and that of every other pilgrim, is far more worthy of celebration than any marriage. We put so much emphasis on marriage, forgetting about the more important things in life.
  1. Hajj is mandatory (fardh), while marriage is sunnah. Completing Hajj is establishing a pillar of Islam; it is the very foundation of one's deen.
  2. Both marriage and Hajj are once-in-a-lifetime experiences for most people, but Hajj is such an experience that cleanses a person spiritually and can change a life completely. Generally, marriage will also change a person for the better, but it occasionally brings out the worst in people. There is no guarantee that marriage will provide the spiritual renewal that Hajj provides.
  3. Hajj is a privilege that very few get to experience. Assuming an average adult lifespan of seventy years, and an average of two million new pilgrims per year, approximately 140 million Muslims will go for Hajj during the life of an average person. This makes up only 10% of the entire Muslim population - meaning 90% of the Muslims of the world do not get such an opportunity. On the other hand, most people get married eventually, and it is not even something exclusive to Muslims. Most people get married eventually.
Of course, they are not mutually exclusive, so the pursuit of one should not prevent the other. Those who have experienced both are truly lucky. But we must not forget what a privilege the experience of Hajj is, and must confer the appropriate respect and honour to the Pilgrims. They are far more worthy of respect, and deserve all the recognition we can give them.

6 comments:

  1. Assalaamu'alaykum wa rahmatuLlah

    While I get your point, I think your comparison is missing the point of both life events. Let me tell you why...

    First, I agree that some people go overboard in the name of celebrating marriages, but the festivities in celebrating a marriage (all within shari'ah guidelines) are important in their own right. A shaykh recently mentioned in a lesson that marriage is considered a mu'jiza and an ayah -a miracle and a sign - from Allah. And that is no light matter. Marriage is not only about the bride and groom as it often impacts entire families and communities.

    Hajj is a blessing no doubt. But hajj is probably not celebrated as marriages are because hajj impacts mainly the pilgrims. It's Eid that communities celebrate, and while communities always welcome hajjis home with du'as and love, the impacts of hajj are very personal to the pilgrim himself. What is the prophetic example for "celebrating" the hajj? We don't "celebrate" individuals' spiritual journeys but we celebrate Eid.

    And while I also agree with you that hajj is source of spiritual renewal, it may not be for all. There are some who don't returned changed...I mention this point not to speak in a way that wouldn't befit the hajj experience, but I mention it because I've met some who have returned from hajj unsure of what the experience meant to them spiritually.

    What does it mean to celebrate a person's hajj? Is hajj more worthy of celebration because as you've described it, it's harder to come by? SubhanAllah... this logic doesn't add up to me when it comes to spiritual progression because don't forget, hajj is not fardh unless one has the means, and many who haven't been don't actually have the means. And yet salah, in all its regularity, is fardh for us all, every, single day.

    You also say, "They are far more worthy of respect, and deserve all the recognition we can give them." I don't think it's an issue of respect. Hajj needs to be a humbling experience, and coming home to throes of people trying to 'give them all the recognition they can" is... well it doesn't make sense to me.

    No doubt, I think we should reflect on hajj and consider all the rites of hajj that the pilgrims go through as they go through them. And we should receive the hajjis home with happiness for the great blessing they've received, as well as with love, sincerity, and du'as for the acceptance of their hajj, insha'Allah.

    The comparison of hajj and marriage doesn't work, though your points are taken. To compare hajj to marriage is like comparing a rare diamond to petroleum. Both are valuable, both have their benefits, and both have their struggles in acquiring and fulfilling the obligations that they necessitate. The outward beauty of a rare diamond is comparable to the spiritual fruits of hajj, just awesome (insha'Allah!), and yet making it through each day, trying to improve ourselves throughout our lives, is made practically easier (insha'Allah!) by marriage, just as petroleum can be used in various ways (as a product/source of energy) to help improve one's life. And, as I see it, our spiritual progression has as much to do with our daily efforts as it does with rare gems that Allah sends our way.

    Perhaps you're simply trying to make the point that as communities we need to reframe our approach to both hajj as one phenomenon and marriage as another (entirely unrelated and incomparable in terms of "true" value) but let's make this reframing about our individual choices in respond to the life events of others in appropriate and praiseworthy ways rather than getting involved in how these events directly impact those involved.

    You've experienced both hajj and marriage, masha'Allah... I've experienced neither. Perhaps I'm missing something and my view as an outsider is completely off, wa Allahu'alim. May Allah put khayr in both life in events for all those who experience them, ameen.

    Sorry for making this too long.

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  2. Your wedding was SOOOO last month... enjoy the honeymoon period and get back to writing the holier-than-thou material we're all used to reading. :P
    (that was a joke of course)

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  3. i dont think you can really compare marriage with going to hajj. i think like all special occassions it should be given the celebration and the importance that it is due, nothing more, nothing less.

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  4. I sort of missed the comparison between the two as well.

    Besides, hajj is a 'celebrated' event too, at an individual level, as well as at a society level.

    Mosques all around hold collective duas for those performing Hajj, and when a person leaves for Hajj or arrives back after it, all his relatives and friends come to 'congratulate' him. How else would you celebrate something like Hajj, which is very much a spiritual experience?

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  5. Asalamualikum,

    one more thing which i would like to add, who said marriages don't add to your spiritual being? talking strictly about islamic way of living, i firmly believe that it does, being a protection from lusts and prohibitions, a similar to FAST (We see Muhammad SAW telling people to marry or fast, proving it to be more or less equal in protection). And Hajj, as you have mentioned, is a new era of spiritual being, i agree, but mostly don't change even after observing and being a part of most iman-rejuvenating ritual, just like people dont get more spiritual once they're married!

    marriage and hajj can not be generalized, it depends a lot on the person how to derive the maximum benefit from it for him/herself...

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