By Calisha Bennett
A Muslim pilgrim is in pursuit.
“And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].” (Quran 2:125)
She packs her bags in preparation to depart. A few simple items of clothing as she realises there is no need for fancy outfits in this time of travel. There is no need to ‘dress to impress’ where she’s going. The goal of this journey is simplicity and disconnect from the material. She packs her personal care items and toiletries, most are unscented as the requirement in her sacred journey is one where she is required to be non-perfumed. She packs her duaa book, her Quran and her notebook. She’s done a tonne of Islamic reading and historical studies, she’s watched lectures and how-to videos, she’s spoken to pilgrims who have gone before her and asked them for their insights and advice. She’s written step-by-step instruction notes to use throughout the journey. She’s written a long duaa list and packs a few envelopes and folded papers containing the duaas of her loved ones and friends. Most importantly, she takes with her the intention of completing an accepted pilgrimage which is full of good deeds, sacrifice, worship and ultimately of constant connection to her Lord. Her luggage is quite minimal she realises, as she heads off to embark on what will be the most important journey of her life.Funny how little relevance her worldly possessions hold for such an important journey.
Inshaa’Allah this Muslim pilgrim is ready for the pursuit of her Lord’s forgiveness, reward and acceptance:
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” (Quran 22:27)
As she heads to the airport she reflects about those whom she is leaving behind and she struggles to fight back the tears which inevitably flow. Her family members and her aging parents, her siblings and friends are all left behind. And her children…..oh her precious children, whom have always needed her so close by for their care – she’s left them behind too. With a heavy heart she has left them behind in the care of her family – and ultimately in the care of Allah SWT. In the feelings of fear and apprehension for what she leaves behind, she reminds herself that:
Aisha RA reported: I said, “O Messenger of Allah, shall we not attend the expeditions and fight in jihad alongside you?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No, rather the best and most beautiful jihad for you is the Hajj, a righteous pilgrimage.” (In another narration, the Prophet said, “Women must perform a jihad in which there is no fighting: the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.”) Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri
She reflects about how the journey of Hajj is so similar to the journey of departure from this world. The journey of death. The farewells to the loved ones, the leaving behind of the worldly possessions that have been counted and collected for so many years and the packing of one’s most important luggage – the good deeds which have been intended and actioned purely for the sake of The Lord Allah, SWT. Despite the initial thoughts and apprehensions this Muslim pilgrim, this believing woman, is ready for the pursuit of her Lord’s love.
She is seeking His forgiveness, His reward and His acceptance. Throughout her pilgrimage journey she witnesses and experiences many, many things. She sees the countless people from countless races coexisting in respect and harmony. She hears the constant hum, the chanting and whispers of the praises of the Lord echoing through the air. She witnesses the worshippers who bow, prostrate, sit and stand for hours on end in worship, remembrance and supplication in the Holy Mosques. She gazes in awe at the concentric circles of millions upon millions of believing pilgrims in their circumambulation of the Ka’bah. She sees the tear stained cheeks of the pilgrims after standing for the day in duaa at Arafah and their dusty, dishevelled faces at sunrise after spending a night under the stars in Muzdalifah. She witnesses all of this and so much more. She observes the goodness and beauty of the Ummah in it’s God-consciousness, it’s kindness, mercy, generosity and humanity.
She also witnesses it’s dark side. It’s heedlessness, selfishness, greed and harshness. She is reminded that despite the undeniable perfection of the religion of Islam, it’s Muslim adherents will always possess many imperfections. She knows that it is the responsibility of believers to stay focused on their own personal relationship with Allah and not to get caught up with complaining of the faults and fitnah of the Muslims. She is seeking to free her soul from the pains and stains of her worldly existence. She is seeking to purify herself from the spiritual discolouration of her soul with the hope of trying to return it to the purity in which the Almighty had created it. She is seeking her Lord’s forgiveness. She is seeking her retribution. She is seeking to acknowledge her evils, her mistakes, her faults and her helplessness before her Lord.
“Then depart from the place from where [all] the people depart and ask forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 2:200)
The pursuits of Hajj are what our pursuits of life should be.
To live life following the guidelines of the Almighty Lord. To do things in the way most pleasing to Him, with the hope of His acceptance and reward. To seek His forgiveness for mistakes and shortcomings all along the way. To be in control of one’s emotions and reactions through deeper connection and submission to the Lord.
Upon return the believing pilgrim doesn’t feel the same.
She is seeing the world and her life through a new lens. A lens of detachment, of simplicity, of deep realisation. What she thought mattered so much, now doesn’t really matter so much after all. Food and drinks don’t taste the same. The laughs with friends don’t feel the same. Her thoughts about money and shopping don’t feel the same. The worldly interactions and pursuits simply don’t feel the same. Her hunger for the world’s illusionary indulgences is no longer overriding her spiritual hunger. She no longer seeks fulfillment and comfort through them. Her comfort and fulfilment now comes from her prayer, from her study of Allah’s Book, from thikr and solitude.
“And when you have completed your rites, remember Allah like your [previous] remembrance of your fathers or with [much] greater remembrance. And among the people is he who says, “Our Lord, give us in this world,” and he will have in the Hereafter no share.” (Quran 2:200)
Forgiveness, Reward, Acceptance.
The pilgrim’s pursuits are simple. And they are purely between her and her Lord. The results of her journey will not be known or seen in this life. For a pilgrim’s pursuit continues lifelong.
About the author:
Calisha Bennett is the daughter of an Australian convert father and Cocos Islander mother. She is a home-schooling mother of 5 with over a decade of experience as an active speaker, community teacher and mentor of Muslim women, converts and youth. She has a background in Quran Tajweed, Islamic Shariah, youth work, education, coaching and fitness studies. She is the founder of Developing Diamonds which provides identity and success coaching, workshops, courses and retreats for Muslim women around the world. To find out more visit: www.developingdiamonds.com.au