The Fifth Pillar of Islam

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by Hazrat Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi Saheb R.A

Farewell Hajj

The holy Prophet had not performed the Haj since his migration to Medina. He set out for Mecca with the intention of performing the Haj in the month of Zil-Hijja in the tenth year of Migration. The whole of Arabia was stirred as the news spread and about a hundred of thousand of Muslims thronged to Mecca to join him on the Pilgrimage. This pilgrimage is popularly known as the Farewell Haj for it was not only the first but also the last Haj performed by the sacred Prophet and in it he bade farewell to his followers and imparted to them his last advice and testament.

The Farewell Haj is worthy of being remembered as a portent of Allah and a miracle of the holy Prophet. It is unique in many ways and commands a distinctive place among the acts of religious devotion performed by the Divine Apostles. It is also of unequalled significance in the sense that a vast body of men were afforded the opportunity of associating themselves with the Prophet, of emulating his example, carrying out his instructions, observing his movements and recording the minutest details of his daily life. From one generation to another, the Ummat has striven hard to obtain guidance from it and to evolve rules on the basis of every single item of what the Prophet said or did during the blessed journey.

The Muslims have spared themselves nothing by way of time or industry in the compilation and preservation of the record of this Pilgrimage. They have brought to bear a rare power of observation and sense of understanding and responsibility to this task. But it has not merely been an intellectual accomplishment for we have enough experience of how important details are left out of biographies and travel-accounts of great men. It is, in fact, a marvel of love, of the tender emotion which is always alive, alert and watchful and to which even a particle of dust bearing an association which the beloved is more precious than gold.

Throughout the long and hallowed journey love remained a close companion of intellect. From the time the Prophet announced his decision to go on Pilgrimage till his return to Medina this fellowship was not broken for a moment. The two kept a close watch on all his sayings and doings and have left behind for the Ummat and the succeeding generations a record so complete and accurate that from it a Muslim can know clearly about everything that took place during the whole course of the Pilgrimage how did the Prophet travel from Medina to Mecca, what happened during his visits to Mina and Arafat, and on his way back to Mecca, and, finally, on his return journey to Medina. In the mirror of it he can see the Prophet talking, preaching and exhorting, doing the Sa’ee, performing the Tawaf and completing the other rites. Thanks to it, he can participate, intellectually and spiritually, in all these events and incidents. As a Muslim reads the account of the Farewell Haj the invisible becomes the visible for him and the past the present.

From all pointers and attending circumstances this Haj of the Prophet was destined to take place the way it did. It was not a chance occurrence but had come to pass designedly and at the most appropriate time. That it materialised so late was not without significance. It was when Islam had spread throughout the Peninsula of Arabia, the number of Muslims had swelled, faith had grown in strength and love had mellowed, the minds and hearts of men had become receptive and they were willing to learn and imbibe new knowledge, the hour of the Prophet’s departure from the world was drawing near and it seemed necessary that he bade farewell to his followers. It was in these circumstances that the holy Prophet undertook the Pilgrimage so that he could meet the Muslims and inform them, for the last time, about the mode and formalities of worship, fulfil his mission as a witness of Allah and take from them the pledge of adherence to the Divine path and the way of the Islamic Sharint after he had passed away, and demolish the last vestiges of idolatry and paganism. The Farewell Haj was, indeed, the equivalent of a thousand sermons and exhortations.

It would be a sheer waste of time to try to find a parallel of the wonderful manner in which the minutest details of the happenings in the entire course of the Farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet have been preserved in the descriptions of the journeys undertaken by other men of eminence, both temporal and spiritual. The record made available by most of the communities of their Apostles is defective and incomplete. What we know, for example, about the life of Jesus does not, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, cover more than fifty days of his career on earth.

Since the Haj is performed only once in a year and in view of the promises of an immense reward and forgiveness it carries and the extraordinary preparations that are made for it and hard ships borne and the exceptional restrictions that are placed on the pilgrims and the unusual rites that are to be carried out it is essential that one should do one’s utmost to learn and perform the Haj in the best of manner by following the example of the sacred Prophet and conducting oneself in accordance with the standard set by him. In this lies the primary importance of the Farewell Haj and it will continue to serve as the criterion of perfection for Muslims for all time to come.