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Welcoming Home the Pilgrims (Hujjaj)
Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
As we eagerly await the safe return of our pilgrims, Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar discusses the meaning of ‘hajj mabrur’, the greeting with which we welcome returning hujjaj.
At this time when are welcoming back our pilgrims (hujjaj) it is fitting and appropriate to reflect on the meaning of the Arabic words “hajj mabrur,” the hallowed words with which the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) advised us to welcome home our returning pilgrims. It is only by understanding the meaning of the word ‘mabrur’ that we are able to appreciate the great blessings and benefits (manaf`i) with which the hujjaj return home.
The Meaning of Hajj Mabrur
Linguistically the Arabic word mabrur is derived from the root word “birr” meaning virtuous conduct or displaying goodness or kindness of the highest order, towards others.
Birr is the same word that is used to describe the Muslim’s loving kindness he or she is expected to display towards their parents (Quran 19:14).
In surah al-Baqarah (The Cow), chapter 2, verse 177, Allah, the Sublime, usefully defines the true concept of “birr” when He proclaims the following:
It is not virtuous conduct (birr) that you merely turn your faces towards the East or the West; Rather virtuous conduct (birr) is - to believe in God and the Last Day, in the Angels, the Scripture, and the Prophets; And [virtuous conduct] is to spend of your wealth, out of love for Him (God), for your family, for orphans, for the needy, for travellers, for beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; And to perform regular prayer, and to pay the prescribed alms; And [virtuous conduct] is to fulfil the contracts and promises which you have made; and to be resolute and patient in misfortune, adversity, and times of danger. Such are the people who are sincere, and they are the truly God conscious.
It is however in the prophetic traditions (ahadith), that the word birr is used specifically in relation to the hajj.
In a hadith, recorded in the authentic collections of Al Bukhari and Muslim, the companion Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once described the great blessings and rewards of the hajj in the following way:
All sins committed in between the performance of one `umrah (minor pilgrimage) to the next are expiated and erased, and the reward for a divinely accepted hajj (hajj mabrur) is no less a reward than paradise.
In a further hadith, recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad, Al-Tabarani and Al-Bayhaqi, the companion Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that on hearing about this immense reward for hajj, someone asked:
O Messenger of Allah! What makes a Hajj mabrur? The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) replied:
It is to provide food for the needy; to speak kindly to people; and to spread peace in the world.
We can interpret the above hadith to mean that a hajj mabrur -a divinely accepted pilgrimage- is measured by the extent to which the pilgrim’s participation in the hajj has transformed and changed their character, making them into more loving and caring human beings.
In other words, hujjaj are in effect special human beings who are adorned with the characteristic of mabrur, meaning that they make every effort to be in solidarity with the poor, they try their best to always speak kindly and gently to others, and they strive to support causes that promote peace on the earth.
This socially conscious understanding of the meaning of hajj mabrur is consistent with what I believe to be the underlying purpose of the pilgrimage (maqsad al-hajj), which is to enable and inspire us to ever higher levels of loving and compassionate behaviour towards each other and indeed all of humanity. We need to remind ourselves that the greater the love and compassion we cultivate for others, the closer we draw to our Creator, and Sustainer, Allah.
This is also related to a core message of Islam, namely that salvation (falah – success in this world and in the hereafter) is attained through developing and nurturing good and sound social relations.
In conclusion, I urge each one of us to make every effort to greet returning hujjaj personally and ask them to share some of the great blessings (baraka) of their sacred experience. For indeed, the hujjaj have returned after being guests of Allah (duyuf Allah) and have been spiritually replenished and socially conscientised.
We pray that Allah, the Most Compassionate, grants all of our brothers and sisters who have been blessed to perform the pilgrimage to Makkah, a hajj mabrur, a hajj that is graced with divine acceptance.
We pray that Allah, the Most High allows the pilgrims to return to their homelands as true ambassadors of Islam, insha-Allah.