The Hidden Acts of The Pilgrimage -1-

Abu Haamid al-Ghazaali

June 10, 2023

Know that the Pilgrimage begins with understanding — I mean [by that], understanding of the position of Pilgrimage in Islam. Then [follows] a longing to [perform] it, then the [actual] decision [to proceed], then the severance of any relation that may hold one back, then the purchase of ihram garment, then the purchase of provi­sions, then the hiring of a camel. Then [comes] the [actual] departure, then the journeying in the desert, then the sanctification al Miqat and the [chanting] of the talbiya, then the enterance into Mecca and the fulfilment of the acts [of Pilgrimage] as previously [mentioned].

There is in each one of these things a remembrance for him who will remember, a lesson for every one to learn, an exhortation for every true disciple, and instruction and direction for every intelligent [person]. Let us [now] indicate the keys to each of these things, so that one the door is opened to them and their causes are known their secrets will be revealed to every pilgrim according to the clearness of his heart, the purity of his inner [self] and the abundance of his intelligence.

1. As for understanding:

Know that there is no access to God Most High except through disdain of bestial passion, avoidance of idle pleasures, and contentment with the bare necessities of life and devotion wholly to God Most High on every [occasion], whether one is active or at rest. It is for the sake of this that the monks of the previous religions isolated themselves from other people and lived on mountain-tops, preferring savagery to human society in order to keep company with God Most High. They abondoned present enjoyments for the sake of God Most High and took upon themselves strenuous tasks out of craving for the world beyond. God Most High has praised them in. His Book saying, “That is because amongst them are savants and monks and because they are not proud” (5:83).

When all this passed away and the people began to follow their lusts and forstook [the path of] devotion to the service of God Most High, turning [rather] away from Him, He the Most High sent His Prophet Muhammad –God bless him and grant him peace– to restore the heavenly way [of life] and to set the Law of [previous] Messengers once again on its course. People of the [previous] religious asked him about monasticism and itineracy in his religion. He –God bless him and grant him peace– said, “For us God has replaced there [things] with holy war and with the magnification of God on every high place” — that is, with the Pilgrimage. Once, upon being questioned about itinerants, he –God bless him and grant him peace– said “They are the ones who fast.” So, God Most High has blessed this community by making Pilgrimage a monasticism for them. Accordingly, he has exalted the Ancient House by joining it to his lofty Self, and by es­tablishing it as a destination for His slaves, making its surroundings a sacred enclosure (haram) for His House, thus exalting it. He has made ‘Arafat as a water-chute to the courts around its pool has heightened the inviolability of the place by forbidding its game and trees, and has made it on the model of the castles of kings. [Therefore] visitors from all directions go to it dishevelled, dusty, humble be­fore the lord of the House, submitting themselves in obedience to His Majesty and in passivity to His Glory, confessing that He is above being confined by a house or encompassed by a town; for this demonstrates most eloquently their bondage and slavery and most perfectly their submission an obedience. Accordingly, He assigned to them, in [the House] some acts which involve no fraternizing among people and whose meaning no intel­lect can find out, such as casting pebbles at stones and running to and from repeatedly between Safa and Marwa for example. It is through such acts that perfect bondage and slavery is manifest. Zakat is kindness; its meaning is understood and intellect has an inclination to it. Fast­ing is a break with bestial passion, which is the tool of the enemy of God, and involves concentration on worship by abstaining from [normal] occupations. Bowing (Rukn’) and prostration (Sujud) in prayer [express] submission to God Most High through acts which represent the [outward] forms of submission; and souls have fellowship through [common] glori­fication of God Most High, But the running to and fro [between Safa and Marwa], and the casting of stones and similar acts afford no [obvious], benefit to souls nor any natural sociobility; nor is the intellect able to discover their meaning. Therefore, there is no impetus to perform them other than the mere command [of God] and the intention to comply with that command, it being a command which requires obedience pure and simple. In such obedience the intellect desists from its [normal] operations and the soul and the [innate] disposition are detracted from their [proper] social course. For whatever the intellect understand, to that is nature inclined; this inclination thus cooperates with the command and together with it incites to action. Thus perfect bondage and slavery are hardly manifest. For this reason, he –God bless him and grant him peace– said, with special reference to Pilgrimage, “Here I am in Pilgrimage, truly in devotion and slav­ery.” He did not say this of prayer or anything else.

If the wisdom of God Most High has decreed that the salva­tion of people shall require that their acts be contrary to their nat­ural inclinations and that the reins [of those acts] be in the hands of the Law such that they feel uncertain of themselves in [performing] these acts, in accordance with the requirements of submission and ser­vitude — for that whose meanings cannot be discovered is the most consummate of all the kinds of worship in cleansing souls and turning them away from the requirements of nature and ethics to the require­ments of servitude: if you perceive this, you will understand that the surprise of people concerning these strange acts originates from the confusion about secrets of worships. This amount [of explanation] is enough to understand the underlying principles, of the Pilgrimage, if God wills.

2. As for longing [to perform the Pilgrimage]:

This results from understanding and from the realization that the House belongs to God Most High, that it was established on the analogy of a royal palaces such that whoever visits it is [in reality] visiting God Most High and whoever betakes himself to the House [while] in this life is worthy not to have his visit wasted, for the object of the visit, which is the vision of God Most High, will be granted to him in its fixed time in the Eternal Residence. For the finite and perishable eye is not prepared, while still in this life, to receive Light with which to see the Face of God Most High; it is not able to bear that Light, nor is it fit, because of its finiteness, to be adorned [with that Light]. But when it is granted immortality in the life to come and freed from the cause of change and mortality, it becomes ready for the vision and the Sight. And because of [its intention] to visit the House and to look at it, it deserves to meet the lord of the House by virtue of Gracious Promise. The longing to meet God Most High most surely makes one long for the means of that meeting. Besides, every lover is longing for everything that has any connection with his lovers the house is connected to God Most High; therefore it is pro­per for [the pilgrim] to have a keen desire for it just because of this connection, quite apart from any desire to receive the great re­ward which has been promised to him.

3. As for the decision [to proceed with the Pilgrimage]:

Let [the pilgrim] know that this decision means separation from his fam­ily and country as well as the abandonment of bestial desires and pleasures as one directs one’s attention to visiting the House of God Most High. Let him realize the importance of the House and the gran­deur of the Lord of the House, Let Kim [also] know that he has intended to do something of an extremely lofty and serious nature, and that whoever seeks after an important thing jeopardizes another thing. Let him [further] be sure that his decision is sincere in the Face of God Most High and far from the contaminations of hypocrisy and fame, and let him realize that [God] does not accept anyone who goes to Him or [acept] his deed unless he is sincere, and that it is a most despicable thing to go to the palace of king and his family while in reality one’s aim is something else. Therefore, let [the pilgrim] rectify his intention in his mind; such rectification is through sincerity which is the avoidance of everything that contains hypocrisy and fame, let him [finally] take that which is inferior in exchange for that which is superior.