Translated Speech of
His Eminence Ameer Muhammad Akram Awan
Shaikh Silsilah Naqshbandiah Owaisiah
...of the poor and the rich
Performance of Hajj is a lifetime ambition of all of us and we make all possible efforts for its fulfilment. Every year, millions of Muslims of diverse colours, languages, nations and countries converge at Makkah to discharge this obligatory religious duty. But, what is Hajj?
Hajj is one of the five basic pillars of Islam. The first pillar is Kalimah (proclamation of Faith), which comprises profession of Allah's Absolute Divinity and Prophethood of the holy Prophet Muhammad-saw. The second pillar is the daily five Salah (prayers), third is the fasting during the month of Ramadhan, the fourth is Hajj and the fifth is Zakat (payment of poor-due). Hajj and Zakat are mentioned at serial four and five respectively because they are not obligatory for all Muslims except those who possess sufficient financial resources. Hajj is obligatory for only that Muslim who can sustain it both physically and financially. He should be healthy enough to perform all of the rituals properly and be wealthy enough to bear all of his expenses himself and arrange sustenance for his family for the period of his absence. If he is unable to fulfil both conditions simultaneously, he is absolved of this religious obligation. Similarly, only that person is charged with Zakat who accumulates a certain amount of wealth over a year. Thereafter, he is required to pay one rupee per forty un-spent rupees to the poor and the needy. It is also not necessary to pay the Zakat in the month of Rajab only. It is payable whenever the un-spent amount has remained in one’s possession for one complete year. This may occur at any time of the year, whether in the month of Sh'aban or Ramadhan. Therefore, in Islam, Zakat is collected and distributed throughout the year, because it is payable by different people at different times. It is also payable for the ornaments (silver and gold), animals and business according to the prescribed rates. In the earlier times, due to the paucity of the means of communications, the government dispatched the tax collectors in the month of Rajab, so that everyone in the distant areas knew about their arrival and could deposit the Zakat with them. Therefore, it is not correct to maintain that Zakat is payable only in the month of Rajab.
Similar is the case for Hajj. Every Muslim, who can afford it, should visit the House of Allah and perform its rituals there. Every worship has an inner reality and an outer form. The reality of Hajj, expressed in plain words, is the unqualified surrender before Allah. Whatever an individual may have done in his past, be it good or bad, right or wrong, he now divorces his self importance, enshrouds himself in two un-sewn sheets of cloth, offers two cycles of prayers, comes to the House of Allah and throws himself before his Rabb in total surrender and submission. He acknowledges all his past crimes, entreats Divine forgiveness and promises with his Master to spend his remaining life according to His Injunctions. This acknowledgement and declaration of surrender is the real Hajj. Such surrender is only once, therefore, only one Hajj is obligatory during one's lifetime. However, if he does not honour this covenant with his Rabb, the performance of Hajj ten times over won't make any difference to him. He will not change and will remain the same.
But, is Hajj the exclusive privilege of the affluent Muslim? No! While the rich avail this opportunity normally once during their lives, the poor are entitled to this honour every week, on Fridays. It is a grand Divine favour! I fail to understand why we don't believe this? After all, who told us that Hajj means the performance of certain religious rituals in the House of Allah, at Makkah? Obviously, it has been stated by the Messenger-saw of Allah. Now, when the same exalted Messenger-saw of Allah states that if we do not possess the resources to visit Makkah, we can still perform the Hajj on every Friday, what reason do we have to disbelieve this statement?
The holy Prophet-saw has said that anyone who engages himself in Allah's Zikr or recitation of the Quran, after the morning prayers in the mosque and then offers two or four Nafal (supplemental prayers) before leaving, will earn the reward of one Hajj and one Umrah (minor Hajj). A Muslim, can therefore, perform one Hajj and one Umrah everyday, without any journey, expenditure or effort. Similarly, a Muslim leaves his job, prepares himself and offers congregational Friday prayers in the mosque. According to the holy Prophet-saw that is the poor man's Hajj! If he is unable to perform Hajj everyday, he can at least do it once a week. If we don't trust this, what proof do we have that we can perform Hajj in Makkah? Obviously, both facts are based on the statement of the holy Prophet-saw. If we believe his one statement, why don't we believe the other?
The second point which merits consideration is that every action is the outcome of an inner motive. If the motive is not satisfied, its related effort becomes doubly tiresome and fatiguing. Let's say that some people come here to meet me on a Friday, when by chance I am not present. They may offer their Friday prayers here, but would return disappointed because they had come with a definite purpose. Non-achievement of this aim would render their journey doubly fatiguing. But if they had achieved their aim and had met me, they would have felt that their effort had been duly rewarded and they would have returned satisfied. Similarly, the real purpose of Hajj must be achieved; otherwise all the physical and financial efforts would cause us only fatigue and disappointment.
During Hajj we need to place all our previous deeds before Allah and submit: "O my Rabb! This is the doing of my whole life. I am Your humble slave. I surrender my will and purpose before You. Now, my thought and actions will be subservient to Your Will. I shall do what You permit and refrain from what You prohibit. Today, I end self rule and accept Your Absolute Sovereignty". If we don't achieve this and perform Hajj fifty times, we actually gain nothing but would rather render ourselves blameworthy for lying before Allah. We did not reform ourselves even after so much physical and financial hardship. We had made a false covenant with Allah and did not keep it. We did not care about our promise and shamelessly turned back on our words.
Allah has placed Hajj at the fourth priority. But have we attended to the first three obligations? Have we climbed the first three steps before attempting the fourth? Have we constructed the other three walls of our religious house before starting the fourth? Do we intend starting them today alongside the fourth? If they already did not exist, how can we try to put the roof only on one wall?
Islam is a simple, direct and practical religion, free from all types of doubts and deceptions. The basic difference between Islam and false religions is that, Islam establishes a direct link between Allah and His slave, whereas all other religions block this direct communication. In Hinduism, a commoner Hindu can only approach a Brahmin; he has no access to the false deities and powers; this is the problem of the Brahmin alone. Similarly, in the Buddhist cult, a common person has no access beyond the Buddha. In Tibet, one can only see the lama, after that he has no access to his so called god. Even in Christianity, one can only go to the priest or the pope; beyond that is the realm of Christ or God. Also in Judaism, a common man cannot speak directly to God; he has to confide in the rabbi, who would communicate on his behalf.
Islam is the only religion which places every man face to face with his Creator. It is not the religion of any spiritual leader, religious scholar, monarch or land lord. It is the religion of every Muslim, rich or poor, alike. Every Muslim has a direct relationship with Allah and His holy Prophet-saw. Our division in numerous religious sects is the result of our effort to equate ourselves with Allah and the holy Prophet-saw. We preach to people to follow Allah, His Messenger-saw and us. We covertly desire that people accept and follow our personal interpretation of the religion. Similarly, the other sects exhort masses to follow their way and interpretation. Now why should anyone follow you or me? Everyone has the right to have his own choice and opinion. Religion denotes his relationship with Allah and the Prophet-saw. He has the right to maintain and claim it in his own way. He has an equal right to stand before his Rabb and communicate with Him directly. How can anybody close the door which Allah has kept open for His slaves?
The greatest favour of the religious scholars is the communication of Divine Commands and instructions of the holy Prophet-saw to us in their pristine purity. But, if they colour the religious teachings with their own interpretation, we would not accept anything from them and instead would turn to someone who presents pure religion. Similarly, the Mashaikh (spiritual guides) are the custodians of Prophetic blessings. If they really possess that treasure, then we are sure to get some Light and love in their company. But if they, too, distribute rancour and hatred, where from would we get the love? Islam is the Message of love. It enjoins kindness even for a disbeliever and prohibits oppression and transgression against an infidel. We cannot cross the bounds of justice especially when dealing with Muslims. But if we are not prepared to restrict ourselves within the Divine limits, then in my opinion, this effort entailing expenditure and hardship would bear no fruit.
I am not trying to dissuade you from Hajj. You must perform Hajj, but you should first prepare yourself here consciously and deliberately for the absolute surrender before Allah. If you cannot reach His House in Makkah, then speak to Him from your mosque. That, too, is His House. "Oh my Rabb! Had You given me the resources, I would have come to Your House and surrendered myself there. Now, I accept my humbleness and surrender before You here, earnestly and completely!" We should lower ourselves before Allah and not place ourselves against Him. We must acknowledge His supremacy over us. This is obligatory! If we don't achieve this, we have hardly any right to be called Muslims. Previously, disbelievers were impressed by the conduct of Muslims and embraced Islam, but now even Muslims feel averse to the religion due to the behaviour of fellow Muslims. When our children grow up, they overtly, criticise our conduct. "Look at our elders!" they say, "they tell lies, work corruption, deceive others but advise us to become good. They remain in clubs themselves but ask us to stay at home. They themselves gamble but expect us to save money." When our own children abhor the paradox in our speech and conduct, how can any non-Muslim be impressed by us. Our children trust us as long as they are young but when they grow up and observe our character, they develop genuine doubts about the truth and veracity of the entire religion. They remark scornfully, "If, what our elders prohibit us from, was really bad, they wouldn't be doing it themselves."
Religious scholars maintain that it is better to remain in the country and send the heart to Makkah rather than to visit Makkah and leave the heart behind. May Allah accept the Hajj of those whom He has called to His House. He has, however, not deprived us, who are here. In His Infinite Mercy He has blessed us to join those who are there. His Abounding Grace is equally showered on all.
We should stop criticising others and take account of ourselves. Can we indulge in vice on the pretext that the whole society is corrupt? Can we justify our bad conduct on the plea that others are equally bad? Has it ever happened that someone chose to drown himself just because others were drowning? Does anyone willingly burn himself with others entrapped in fire? Then, why do we advance this excuse to justify our character shortfalls? We are responsible for ourselves. We should present ourselves before Allah, submit to him and earnestly beg forgiveness. We should try to protect and rescue at least ourselves from Divine retribution. If someone does not try for his salvation, he is doing himself a great harm. How can anyone expect any loyalty from someone who is not sincere to even himself? A person, who is content with his own losses, would never care about others.
Let's entreat Allah to grant us the honour of visiting His House. Although we are physically thousands of miles away, but our hearts are not away from it. Allah is not far from us. If He can shower His blessings there, no one can stop Him from doing so here. Prophet Ibrahim-as was rewarded for his grand sacrifice when he put his knife on the throat of his son Prophet Ismail-as. Allah graciously allowed this Ummah to share this great reward, only at the cost of slaughtering an animal. If He has blessed those who have gone there, He has not forsaken us, who are here. On the other hand, we do not care for ourselves. We don't bother about our benefit or loss. We are blinded by the pursuit of vain desires and, in that frenzy, we forget that a flashy object can also be a snake and a piece of burning coal can look like a ruby.
Wherever we are, we should turn towards Allah and implore Him to accept our repentance and grant us the honour to visit His House and perform the rituals of Hajj, and visit the tomb of the holy Prophet-saw. He is able to do everything and can shower His blessings on everyone. We should become His obedient slaves so that He is well pleased with us. Every beat of our hearts should glorify His Name. Every organ of our body should become subservient to His Commands. Our foreheads should be constantly bowed at His door and our hands should remain raised in supplication before Him.
Our Rabb! May we live with this and die on this and be raised along with people of such virtues! Ameen!