This instrospective article has been exclusively written for IndianMuslimObserver.com by New York-based Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Head of Islamic Finance and OIC Countries, Thomson Reuters. He has rightly observed: “The post Hajj period is what the Hajj is about, as the ‘reborn you’ is closer to the reflection of ‘ideal you’ in the mirror. There are some/ many ‘Hajj Muslims’ that become role models for the family, community, and country, hence, the redemptive aspects of the Hajj are met. However, for others, it’s a continuous internal struggle to find the Hajj equilibrium.” I personally thank Mr. Siddiqui for writing this article for the benefit of our readers. — Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor, IndianMuslimObserver.com
By Rushdi Siddiqui
The Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca is the fifth of the five obligatory pillars for Muslims. It is a human-defining, behaviour-refining and life-revitalizing moment that is supposed to endure until our last breath.
It is an explicit acknowledgement of the historical link to our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and those Prophets before him, including Prophet Abraham. It is a character building pillar that changes our outlook: from whom we are to what we represent and, finally, how we treat family, friend and foe.
Yet, as human beings with shortcomings that we attempt to overcome everyday, the post-hajj period is the real ‘test’ of ‘taqwa,’ an awareness (to surroundings and people), appreciation (bounties of the Almighty) and admiration (of the Almighty), must be passed. It is in this period of time till we meet our Maker that one truly understands the formalism (instructions) of the Hajj versus the much sought after spiritual connection of the Hajj.
All Muslims are the same in following the five pillars of Islam: belief in oneness of God, establish daily prayers, pay Zakat (alms), fast during month of Ramadan, and perform the Hajj (if one has the financial means and physical/mental capacity). However, not all Muslims are the same in interpreting their belief systems.
Muslims are not monolithic. There are many kinds of Muslims, and a lay-man-connecting-to-masses may well categorize them into two well-buckets: (1) religious and (2) religiously aware. Its accepted that one can be both religious and religiously aware, but, for purpose of highlighting without causing division, it’s a dichotomy that is often raised by non-Muslims.
They may be intellectuals, idealists, secularists, or people with challenging encounters with, say, ‘hardliners,’ like the moral police, however, the common denominator is they are all Muslims. These people may well have the best of intentions for their ‘brothers and sisters,’ however, a disconnect typically arises based upon reading and interpretations of the texts and the texts in context.
QUERY: Isn’t the job of passing judgement taken by the Creator and not creations? What does the post-hajj period mean for such people?
The excitement and exuberance in preparing to be invited to the House of Allah cannot be articulated with present day secular language. The preparation entails the easy (asking friends and family about the Hajj), the challenge (packing and physical), and the difficult (emotions and away from families, especially for single mothers with small children).
When the date of departure is far away, its an excitement and proudness of enrolling in an ivy league Hajj school, but, as the day arrives, the Ph.D defence is laden with so many raw emotions and to do check-lists, including ‘… did I seek forgiveness …’ from all those who I may have inadvertently hurt? However, the nerves calm (temporarily) after we see a sea of like people at the air or seaport. The unity and simplicity of the outfit combined with the purity of thought, of hundreds of thousand Muslims at thousands of terminals around the world without a single dress rehearsal, has to be one the wonders of the secular Earth.[Even the people at airport check-in counters and immigration officers at departures have a smile and mannerisms that convey ‘… please pray for me also….’ It’s a shame that such good feelings towards their fellow kind is not rolled over the other 330 plus days.]
Feeling the Hajj
The Hajj is a highly personal experience laden with variety of raw emotions (some not comprehensible), physical endurance of a tri-athlete (brink of exhaustion), stampede like crowd chaos (near life threatening encounters), etc., combined with hygiene challenges on food, restrooms, and so on.
However, the human spirit cannot be held down by these ‘distractions,’ as the adrenalin of seeing Masjid Haraam and the Holy Kabaa transforms the weak into having the strength and charisma of ‘The 99,’ superheroes based on Islamic culture and the religion.[QUERY: For those purchasing the premium hajj package, one wonders if they miss out on ‘enduring the hardship’ of the once in a lifetime experience? Or selected political leaders that get the ‘escort hajj,’ can it be said they can relate to the hardship of the ‘man on the street?’]
When exactly does post Hajj begin for an individual? In what way does this really manifest and what are the KPIs and measures to these manifestations? How starkly different are we suppose to be as a person post-Hajj? Should there be external indicators or are the real true indicators so internalised that it is known to us and our Almighty?
This debate has been around so extensively in many parts of the world that some demonstrate “a new person” struggling to keep pace with coherence and external pressures. Yet, there are those who seemingly remain the same, but have deeper connect to nature and the Almighty; their purpose in life changes, and more importantly they cease to live for rules and traditions of the moment or times. They stop living for others. They elevate themselves to a higher order spiritually, detaching themselves from their surrounding, yet still remaining well in touch with their surroundings.
Thus, the post Hajj period is what the Hajj is about, as the ‘reborn you’ is closer to the reflection of ‘ideal you’ in the mirror. Thus, there are some/ many ‘Hajj Muslims’ that become role models for the family, community, and country, hence, the redemptive aspects of the Hajj are met.
However, for others, it’s a continuous internal struggle to find the Hajj equilibrium. Is it because they were too young to perform the Hajj? Old enough, but immature? Incorrect rationale (peer pressure)? Ill prepared on the post hajj behaviour modification? Or lack a support system?
Some examples of challenges in the post Hajj environment, either few days, weeks, or months may include:
-Inability to wear Hijab
-Inability to establish regular prayers
-Inability to detach from a secular lifestyle
-Inability to understand patience, tolerance and peace towards others
However, are they ‘non-conforming’ Muslims? The answer lies only with
The Hajj is about getting to your “real self” which most fail to get to know. It is about getting to the “self,” as part of spiritual self actualization, that will ultimately face the Almighty to account for the journey we have each chosen to live in this life. This pilgrimage, as with other four pillars in Islam, is meant to take us closer to that self.
To set on this pilgrimage is to set ourselves to really dissecting who we really are as a person beyond the trajectories that binds us externally, beyond the many facets of life which sometimes define us. Haj is simply about “us”. That has to be the ultimately purpose and outcome of this once-in-lifetime journey to the House of Allah. Ameen.
Rushdi Siddiqui is Global Head of Islamic Finance and OIC Countries, Thomson Reuters. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org