Hajj season is upon us and some people will never be able to go to Hajj due to not being able to afford it. Many Muslims wonder how they can reap the benefits of Hajj or get some of the rewards without actually participating.
I sympathise with those people and I pray that Allah will give them better circumstances and help them to perform the Hajj and get this wonderful experience. We hear a lot about the experience and I can imagine that some people are listening to our sermons where we talk about the great experience of Hajj, and they think to themselves, “ I'll never be able to go there." Although we pray that Allah may make this experience possible for them, what can they do to ensure this possibility for themselves? There are many things to do during the season of Hajj even when you are not attending. You can practice gratitude and actively practice a feeling of fulfilment in your life.
I love to play ping pong, so sometimes I just imagine myself taking a nice ping pong shot. I'm thinking it through and I get some pleasure from thinking about the way I'll smack the ping pong ball. Similarly, when I think about Hajj, I start thinking of where the pilgrims are going to be and I imagine myself being a part of that.
That gives me a similar type of satisfaction and spiritual high. You can visually and creatively see yourself there and going through the motions, and getting closer and closer to God through all of these various practices and rituals of the Hajj.
You can also make sure to follow the dates and know the month of al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar, which is the month of the Hajj. Thus, you will know when announcements are bandied about that we have gone into the new month and the moon has been seen. Afterwards, the Hajj will start to be performed exactly on the eighth. The pilgrims will enter the state of ihram, and for men, that state of sanctification. For men, that will mean that they don two pieces of clothing that are not fitted to the form of the body but are instead simple sheets of cloth that are draped around them. They will go to Muna, just outside of Mecca, where they will camp for about five days and live in tents.
On the ninth day, they will go to another place, called Arafat, and they will supplicate to God and they will pray on Arafat. There, too, they will be in tents for some of the time, but in the afternoon period, when the heat of the sun is not so intense, they will then come out into the open and they will raise their hands in supplication before God, praying for themselves and the entire world.
We can see ourselves being part of their practices and rituals.
One way of being part of that, even from a distance, is that from anywhere in the world, we can observe a fast on that day, which is known as the day of Arafat. The next day is the day of Eid, which is a celebratory day for people everywhere. However, we can also think that this is closely connected with the pilgrimage, because, on that day, we will be offering a sacrifice commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham and the pilgrims will be offering their sacrifices there, in the environments of Mina, yet we will be doing it around the world. In that way, we are connected with the people who are performing the Hajj. In one way or another, we can feel that connection and that spiritual upliftment that comes with the Hajj, even if we cannot afford to make it.
As a consolation, weirdly, it is better that we are not obligated, because if you're obligated, then you have to go. Some people are obligated and they are still not going, so that means it is a double blow against them. Since if they were not obligated, they were free. Now that they are obligated, they have to go. Some people go, but they do not perform the rites properly, so they were obligated to go and do it, but they didn't do it right, meaning that they did not fulfil their obligation. It is better to not have the obligation in the first place. Oddly, we can say that you're probably better off, even though it is not what many of us desire. We desire that Allah will give ample provisions to people and they will be able to go, and Allah will take them there and give them the experience of performing a righteous Hajj. A Hajj that is accepted and they would come back with all of their sins forgiven, and that they will pray, in the meantime, for us and the rest of the world.