Seeking Forgiveness: One of the sublime purposes of Hajj

Imam A. Rashied Omar

 We have reached the lunar of Dhu al-Qa`ida. The lunar month of Dhu al-Qa`idais the tenth month in the hijri calendar and marks the first of the three months of hajj.

Allah, the Sublime, proclaims in the Glorious Qur’an in surah-al-Baqarah, chapter 2, verse 197:

The Pilgrimage (hajj) shall take place during the well-known months.

In a prophetic tradition (hadith) recorded in the authentic collection of Imam al-Bukhari, the companion, `Abdullah ibn `Umar informs us that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) declared that the well-known months referred to in this Qur’anic verse are the consecutive lunar months of Shawwal, Dhu al-Qa’idah and Dhu al-Hijjah.

Since the month of Shawwal marks the beginning of season of hajj it is time during which we bid farewell to our relatives and friends who are responding to the call of their Lord to undertake the sacred journey of hajj.

According to the famous classical commentator of the Qur’an, Isma`il Ibn Kathir (d. 1373) when the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) was first asked to make the adhan to call people to come to visit the sacred ka`bah and perform the hajj, he saw no living being in sight in the deserted valley of Makkah. Ibrahim (pbuh) was thus concerned as to who would hear his adhan and so he said:  “O Lord, how can I convey this call to people when my voice will not reach them?”

Allah, the Sublime, then reassures him with a promise that the response to this call to hajj will be an overwhelming one. This Divine promise of an awesome response to the call to hajj is recorded in the Glorious Qur’an in surat-ul-Hajj, chapter 22, verse 27, where Allah, the Most High, proclaims: Call people to perform the pilgrimage (hajj).

They will respond to this call; on foot and with every conceivable kind of transport, they will respond to the call by coming from every nook and cranny of the earth.

According to another classical commentary of the Qur’an, Tafsir al- Jalalayn, when Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) ascended the mountain of Abu Qubays and he called the people unto the hajj, he turned his face to the south and north, east and west; and all those for whom the hajj was destined in the loins of their fathers and in the wombs of their mothers, answered: Labbayk AllahummaLabbayk – At your service, O Allah, at Your service!”

During the next few weeks we will witness people from our small corner and every other corner of the earth, responding to this original azan call to hajj made of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh). We make du’a that Allah, the Most High, grants them and all the other pilgrims good health and the strength to fulfil all the rites (manasik) of the hajj, insha-Allah.

There are few things that bring Muslims together in love and solidarity the way bidding farewell to pilgrims does. We congregate and gather together at the homes of the departing pilgrims to offer them a du’a (prayer) for their wellbeing and to wish them a safe journey and a successful hajj: a great cultural tradition indeed.  

This cultural tradition can be exhausting but it is also an awesome and overwhelming experience. The key idea behind the hajj greeting tradition is that the departing pilgrim asks their relatives and friends to pardon him or her for acts of transgressions against them. The magnanimous gesture of the pilgrim to ask for forgiveness is reciprocated by his or her relatives and friends.

This greeting ritual encapsulates the Islamic concept of forgiveness – the idea that the pilgrim cannot reconcile himself with God without first reconciling with his loved ones, friends and even enemies. This sublime teaching of forgiveness is usefully illustrated in the both the Glorious Qurʿān and the legacy of the Prophet (pbuh). For example in sūrah al-Nūr, chapter 24, verse 22, Allah, the Sublime, describes this magnanimous dispositionof the believers as follows: Let them (the believers) pardon and forgive others.Do you not wish that God should forgive you? God is most Forgiving and all-Compassionate

In the ḥadīth literature we find the following inspirational story, which further illuminates this Islamic norm of magnanimity and forgiveness. It is reported that the Messenger of Allah was once seated in a gathering with his companions when the Prophet remarked about a very ordinary looking man, that he was ‘a man of paradise’. A companion, who was curious as to why the Prophet would say that, observed this man for three days and saw nothing unusual about him. Finally he told the man what the Prophet had said and asked him what was so special about him. The man thought for a long time and said, ‘There might be one thing — before going to sleep every night I forgive everyone and sleep with a clean heart.’

The moral of this story is clear.

Forgiving others and having a clear conscience, i.e. trying one’s best not to transgress against the rights of others and seeking their forgiveness for willingly or unwittingly doing so, is one of the most valued ethico-moral characteristics of an upright Muslim.

In conclusion, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has informed us in a hadith that whoever performs the hajj to the best of their abilities and seeking thereby the pleasure and Grace of Allah, will return back home purified from all sins like the day his mother gave birth to him or her.

We make du’a and pray that Allah, the Hearer of all supplications, pardons all our prospective hujjaj and grants them accepted hajj mabrur, insha-Allah.

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