Friday 16 August 2019

Overview Surah Al Hajj - The Pilgrimage: 22nd Chapter - Holy Quran

Surah Al Hajj is the 22nd Chapter of Holy Quran with 78 ayahs and ten rukus, part of the 17th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. The chapter gets its title from the reference to the rite of pilgrimage that Muslims believe was initiated by Abraham [verse 27].

According to the Shafi'is and Hanbalis, this is the only surah to have two prostrations of recitation (verse 18 and 77). However the Hanafis and Malikis do not recognise the second apparent sajda.

As this Surah contains the characteristics of both the Makki and the Madani Surahs, the commentators have differed as to its period of revelation, but in the light of its style and themes most are of the opinion that a part of it (verses 1-24) was sent down in the last stage of the Makki life of the Holy Prophet a little before migration and the rest (verses 25-78) during the first stage of his Madani life. That is why this Surah combines the characteristics of both the Makki and the Madani Surahs.

The sudden change of the style from v. 25 shows that probably verses 25-78 were sent down in the month of Zul-Hijjah in the very first year after Hijrah. This is indicated by verses 25-41 and confirmed by the occasion of the revelation of vv. 39-40. It appears that the month of Dhul-Hijjah must have brought to the immigrants nostalgic memories of their homes in Makkah and naturally they must have thought of their Sacred City and of their Hajj congregation there, and grieved to think that the mushrik Quraish had debarred them from visiting the Sacred Mosque. Therefore, they might even have been praying for and expecting Divine permission to wage war against those tyrants who had expelled them from their homes and deprived them of visiting the House of Allah and made it difficult for them to follow the way of Islam. It was at this psychological occasion that these verses were sent down. That is why the purpose for which Masjid-al- Haram was built has been specifically mentioned. It has been made plain that Hajj(pilgrimage) had been enjoined for the worship of One Allah. 

According to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Urwah bin Zubair, Zaid bin Aslam, Muqatil bin Hayyan, Qatadah and other great commentators, verse 39 is the first verse that grants the Muslims permission to wage war. Collections of Hadith and books on the life of the Holy Prophet confirm that after this permission actual preparations for war were started and the first expedition was sent to the coast of the Red Sea in Safar A.H. 2, which is known as the Expedition of Waddan or Al- Abwa.

This Surah is addressed to: (1) The mushriks of Makkah, (2) the wavering Muslims, and (3) the True Believers:
  1. The mushriks have been warned very forcefully: "You have obdurately and impudently persisted in your ideas of ignorance and trusted in your deities instead of Allah, though they possess no power at all and you have repudiated the Divine Messenger. Now you will meet the same end as has been the doom of those like you before. You have only harmed yourselves by rejecting Our Prophet and by persecuting the best element of your own community; now your false deities shall not be able to save you from the wrath of God". At the same time, they have been admonished time and again for their creed of shirk and sound arguments have been given in favor of Tauhid and the Hereafter.
  2. The wavering Muslims, who had embraced Islam but were not prepared to endure any hardship in its way, have been admonished to this effect: "What is this faith of yours? On the one hand, you are ready to believe in Allah and become His servants provided you are given peace and prosperity but, on the other, if you meet with afflictions and hardships in His Way, you discard your Allah and cease to remain His servant. You should bear in mind that this wavering attitude of yours cannot avert those misfortunes and losses which Allah has ordained for you.
  3. "As regards the true Believers, they have been addressed in two ways: (1) in a general way so as to include the common people of Arabia also, and (2) in an exclusive way:
The Believers have been told that the mushriks of Makkah had no right to debar them from visiting the Holy Mosque. They had no right to prevent anyone from performing Hajj because the Holy Mosque was not their private property. This objection was not only justified but it also acted as an effective political weapon against the Quraish. For it posed this question to the other clans of Arabia: Were the Quraish mere attendants of the Holy Mosque or its owners? It implied that if they succeeded in debarring the Muslims from Hajj without any protest from others, they would feel encouraged in future to debar from Hajj and Umrah the people of any other clan, who happened to have strained relations with the Quraish. In order to emphasize this point, the history of the construction of the Holy Mosque has been cited to show that it was built by Prophet Abraham by the Command of Allah and he had invited all the peoples to perform Hajj there. That is why those coming from outside had enjoyed equal rights by the local people from the very beginning. It has also been made clear that that House had not been built for the rituals of shirk but for the worship of One Allah. Thus it was sheer tyranny that the worship of Allah was being forbidden there while the worship of idols enjoyed full license.

In order to counteract the tyranny of the Quraish, the Muslims were allowed to fight with them. They were also given instructions to adopt the right and just attitude as and when they acquired power to rule in the land. Moreover, the Believers have been officially given the name of "Muslims", saying, "You are the real heirs to Abraham and you have been chosen to become witnesses of the Truth before mankind. Therefore you should establish salat and pay the zakat dues in order to become the best models of righteous life and perform Jihad for propagating the Word of Allah." (verses. 41,77, 78.)

It will be worthwhile to keep in view the introductions to Chapters II (Al-Baqarah) and VIII (Al Anfal).
Owing to the lengthy explanations of the verses, the exegesis / tafseer has been divided into two parts:
  • Part I : Rukhu / Sections 1-6 [Verses 1-48]
  • Part II: Rukhu / Sections 7-10 [Verses 49-78]
Herein under is a brief of both the parts:

Part I: Rukhu / Sections 1-6 [Verses 1-48]

Rukhu 1-3 [verses 1-25]
The chapter begins with an awesome opening that makes hearts tremble.  It addresses all mankind, calling on them to fear their Lord and warning them against what may happen on the eventful and terrible Day of Judgement.  When the details are given, we find them even more frightening.  We have a picture of every suckling mother completely unaware of the child she is nursing: she looks but does not see, moves but only aimlessly.  Every pregnant female miscarries because of the great shock that engulfs her.  All people look drunk, but they are not.  Despite this horror, we are told that some people dispute about God, having no fear of Him.  If they are doubtful about returning to life, then they should reflect on how life is initiated.  They should look at themselves, and at the earth around them.  There are numerous indications that tell them that the whole thing is very close to them, but they pay little heed to the significance of the indicators within themselves and on earth.  The One who originated life in the first instance is the One who brings it back in the final stage.  They will then be given their reward for whatever they did in this first life.  Such resurrection is dictated by the purpose of creation.

The chapter paints a picture of a type of person who weighs up faith against what profit or loss he is likely to achieve as a result.  Thus, his approach to faith is the same as any business transaction he conducts.

Faith is the mainstay of a believer’s life.  The world may be swayed and shaken, but the believer stays his ground supported by this mainstay.  Events may pull him in this or that direction, but he remains firm in his resolve.  Contrasted with this is the person who looks at faith as a commercial endeavor.

Rukhu 4-5 [verses 26-38]
It speaks about the unbelievers who turn people away from God’s path and from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca.  The reference here is to those who opposed the message of Islam when it started in Mecca, and who sought to turn people away from it.  They also confronted the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, and his Muslim Companions seeking to debar their entry into the Sacred Mosque at the Kabah.  It then speaks about the basis on which this mosque was founded when God assigned its building to Abraham and ordered him to call on all people to visit it for pilgrimage.  Abraham’s instructions were very clear: that this mosque must be established on the clear basis of God’s oneness, so as to prevent any form of associating partners with God from being practiced in or near it.  It must be kept open to all people, whether they reside nearby or come from afar.  None is to be denied entry, and none is to claim its ownership.  The chapter then outlines some of the rituals of pilgrimage and how they enhance people’s consciousness and constant remembrance of God.  It also stresses the need to protect the Sacred Mosque against any aggression by those who try to turn people away from it or change the basis on which it is founded.  Those who fulfill their duties of protecting the purity of the faith are promised victory.

In verse 34 the essence of sacrifice has been explained while in verse 38 it is explained that it is not the blood or meat that reaches Allah, but a true believer's piety. These two verses are worth pondering over to answer questions that are so frequently asked today.

Rukhu / Section 6 [39-48]
Permission is granted to the believers to fight in self defence, and for the cause of Allah. In here, the Prophet of Allah has been reassured that the attitude of the pagans to him is no different to that what was faced by the earlier prophets: "O Muhammad, "you are not the only one being denied, all Prophets were denied before you."

Part II: Rukhu / Sections 7-10 [Verses 49-78]

Rukhu 7-9 [Verses 49-72]
The Prophet is reassured that God’s power will intervene to provide him with the help he needs ensuring the failure of his enemies.  The same power intervened in the past to support earlier prophets and messengers, and to punish those who denied and opposed them.  The unbelievers are directed to reflect on the doom suffered by earlier communities; even though such reflection benefits only hearts and minds that are open and receptive.  It is not only eyes that can be blind, for real blindness is that of the heart.  The Prophet is also reassured on another count, namely that God protects His messengers from Satan’s wicked scheming, just like He protects them from their opponents’ plots.

On the Day when all dominion belongs to God alone, the believers and those who deny God’s message will end up in contrasting positions.  All this is given within the context of God’s support of His messengers, protection of His message and the reward He has in store for those who believe and those who refuse to believe.  This passage begins with a reference to those who migrate for God’s cause.

Rukhu 10 [Verses 73-78]
The section refers to their worship of deities that have no sanction from God, as well as their worship of beings they do not know.  They are criticized for being hard hearted and for their dislike of hearing the truth.  In fact, they would not shrink from attacking those who recite God’s revelations to them.  They are threatened with the Fire which will be their ultimate abode.  This is a promise that will never fail.  This is followed by an announcement to all mankind, making it clear that those whom they worship instead of God are devoid of power.  Their weakness is shown in a humble image that carries no exaggeration, but the way it is presented brings their shameful weakness into sharp relief.  They are shown as incapable of contending with flies, or of retrieving what a fly takes from them.  Yet, unbelievers claim that such beings are deities.

The passage and the chapter end with an address to the community of believers requiring them to fulfill their duties as leaders of humanity.  They should prepare themselves for their task with prayer, worship and good action, seeking God’s help and protection.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah Al Hajj with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Juzʼ / Part backwards for chapters in 30th Juzʼ / Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]
  • In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 
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