MECCA: Performing the haj is a spiritual journey filled with challenges that begins long before the pilgrim boards the flight to the Holy Land, said Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Tabung Haji religious experts panel.
It starts with a strong ambition on the individual’s part to perform the haj, the fifth pillar of Islam.
“If we are categorised as those who can afford to perform haj but do not, there is a strong risk that we could be considered religiously ignorant,” he told Malaysian media here recently.
Wan Mohamad said the challenge for those who cannot afford it, meanwhile, is to work hard in honest employment and build up savings in Tabung Haji so that one day they will qualify to go for haj.
“Next is the challenge of waiting for their turn. To be a dhuyufurrahman (Allah’s guest), we are tied to certain procedures and processes, as are many fellow Muslims with the same dream and ambition. So, we must be patient,” he added.
Another challenge is to have the will to learn about the haj worship itself.
“How could we possibly perform a pillar of Islam as important as the haj without some basic knowledge? Would-be pilgrims must have a strong desire to acquire sufficient knowledge to perfect their haj.
“Although Tabung Haji (TH) does not make it a prerequisite, (and) some pilgrims opt not to attend TH courses, they will shoulder the consequences later if their worship is unsatisfactory,” Wan Mohamad said.
Once in the Holy Land, pilgrims should reciprocate their status as ‘honoured guests’ by respecting the two holy cities, which can be a challenge when exposed to different cultures from all over the world.
“I am confident that the acceptance of our haj is linked to the openness of our hearts to see and experience the diversity that is here in the Holy Land, more so when we move to the Masy’air phase of haj in Arafah and Mina,” he said.
Wan Mohamad also reminded pilgrims to focus on their worship, and not be overly distracted by other matters such as buying gifts and souvenirs for relatives and friends back home.
“Giving gifts is a noble act, yes, but remember that shopping is possible in any city in the world. You cannot perform the haj or umrah in another city other than this. We should prioritise which is more important,” he said.
Wan Mohamad said overcoming these challenges requires a very high level of patience, but the reward is also great.
“Performing the haj softens our soul and with this cleansed soul we return home — as the Prophet tells us — as pure as a newborn baby,” he said, adding that this state of purity is described as haj mabrur.