Welcome Home Hujjaj
Growing up in mid-Missouri, when checking out gallons of milk, and heads of cabbage, at the grocery store, the cashier would often ask, “Where y’all from?” Once my dad answered, “Adam and Eve.” The cashier tried again, “I mean, where are you really from?” My dad persisted, “Adam and Eve. Same place as you.”
Every year, millions of Muslims gather in Mecca to celebrate our origins, the purpose of our creation, and to renew our submission to God, as He taught Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and all of the prophets. This journey is called Hajj, and is an obligation for every able-bodied Muslim to fulfill once in a lifetime. Hajji means “one who has completed Hajj” and Hujjaj is the plural of Hajji.
This year, my brother made this journey. When he first arrived in Mecca, he sent us a picture of himself shrouded in two white towels and beaming in sight of the Kabaa, The House of God:
During Hajj, everyone wears the same thing: two seamless pieces of white cloth. Regardless of income, race, ethnicity, social status, prestige, or any other ordinarily-stratifying factor, men shed the clothes of this world and wrap themselves in white cloth, identical to the shrouds in which we bury the dead. This attire reminds us of the ephemerality of life. It reminds us that we are of dirt and that we will return to dirt. God says in the Holy Qur’an:
By the Promise of Time, Verily Man is in loss, Except those who have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy” .
Each pilgrim adopts moments from the life of Abraham as their own: walking around the Kabaa seven times, running back and forth between Safa and Marwa, standing vigil on Mount Arafat, stoning the Devil, shaving the head, and sacrificing an animal.
A successful Hajj is life-changing: God forgives the Hajji of all sins and gives him or her the chance to start anew.
This year, 3.2 million people from all across the globe gathered in Mecca for Hajj. It is difficult to fathom men and women in the millions. Recently, I ran in the Baltimore Running Festival, in which over 20,000 people participated. I felt a sense of solidarity in being a runner, doing the same thing at the same time and place among thousands of strangers.
In Hajj, one does the same thing at the same time and place among millions of brothers and sisters in Faith. Malcolm X famously describes his experience:
During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) — while praying to the same God — with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white.
We were truly all the same — because their belief in one God had removed the “white” from their minds, the ‘white’ from their behavior, and the ‘white’ from their attitude.”
The complete devotion to God returns the Hajji to the purpose for which we were created. God explains in the Holy Qur’an:
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” [49:13].
While we are all from Adam and Eve, our differences are a source to bring us together in the service of God. The Hujjaj have changed back to ordinary clothing, from suits and ties to loose dress-like garments. They have traveled back to their home countries, from the deserts of Arabia to the USA. Soon they will return to work and school. When a successful Hajji settles back into routine, he/she performs each act with an increased sense of God-consiousness.
As we welcome home the hujjaj, we also review our goals and renew our dedication to God. We remember that we are home for just a little bit. The eternal dwelling place will return us to our origins, and hopefully join us with the ranks of Adam and Eve, and all of the righteous who beat us Home.