"And proclaim among men the pilgrimage; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path, that they may witness advantages for them and mention the name of Allah during stated days." (Qur'an 22:27)
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) has said: "By Allah, by Allah, keep the House of your Lord in mind. Do not disregard it as long as you remain (alive) because surely if it is ignored, then He shall not look towards you (with His Mercy)." (Forty Ahadith on Hajj)
Hajj – the central pillar of the Ummah's unity and Islam's strength – is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to afford it. Hajj is a hope for salvation in this global society of corruption and moral pollution. We know that the world in which we live in man's spiritual assets are being plundered. The sublime spiritual virtues, being the only source of human dignity and a criterion for humanity, have lost their value and are gradually being removed from man's life. A beastly atmosphere is turning the world into a quagmire. The freedom-fighting and hearty human beings are naturally living in depression under such circumstances. Like taking a breath in a polluted environment, living has become painful for them. Hence they are always looking for a chance to hear a heavenly and divine call amidst the mammonists' yells, so that it will remove fatigue from their lives and depression from their hearts, take them above this boring world, and satiate them with the elixir of nearness with Allah, prophets and saints. And this all is done by the call of pilgrimage: Hajj. As Hajj enlivens the soul and makes the heart replete with enthusiasm and zeal for the Lord of the worlds, it makes us realize His glory and high status.
The Ka'ba is a place for the rest of hearts. This is a place where spiritual food is provided to starving and dying souls. It is a spiritual sanctuary for human society in this corrupted and stormy world full of deceit and deception. Those of us who are fed up with wearisome accounts of profits and loss, those of us who want a happy and content life for ourselves and others, and those whose hearts can no longer tolerate and endure the burden of materialism, will find such tranquility in the Ka'ba that our hearts will experience true bliss and our souls will feel true happiness. We will feel content and wealthy, and we will have no need for anything else after making ourselves a refugee in this grand refuge known as the house of Ultimate Refuge of all believers.
Hajj Is a Reflection of Man's Gratefulness to Him for His Favors
"In it are clear signs, the standing place of Ibrahim, and whoever enters it shall be secure, and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) every one who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above any need of the worlds." (3:97)
This verse of the Noble Qur'an reveals the Allah's right over humans. Allah, who has granted so many rights to us, has the right that the person who has received so many gifts and favors from Him should pay a visit to His House to show gratefulness to Him. It is our duty to make the pilgrimage to His House to offer thanks to the One who has granted us so many favors that we cannot even count them:
"And He gives you of all that you ask Him; and if you count Allah's favors, you will not be able to number them." (14:34)
Surely such a Benefactor has a right that His House should be visited and that we thank Him! But this thankfulness benefits man and not Allah, as He is above the need of the worlds, and He is the Self-Sufficient, Gracious and Praised One. Thanking Allah is a cause of increasing His favors upon us, and also thanking and praising Him makes us distinct from animals. By inviting us to the acts of worship, especially visitation to His Sacred House, Allah has bestowed great grace upon us by giving us dignity and preventing us from falling into the state of an animal.
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (peace be upon him) says: "When a person intends to go on Hajj, for every step he takes in preparing for his journey Allah will write ten good deeds for him and will write off ten of his wrongdoings and will elevate him ten scales until he completes his preparatory affairs."
According to another tradition from Imam Baqir, Hajj is the market of the hereafter: "Hajj and Umrah are two markets of the markets of the Hereafter. Those who enter into them are Allah's guests. If Allah preserves his guest's life, he will live free from sins and if He makes him die, he will be admitted into Paradise."
If one forsakes Hajj while being capable of it, it is counted as a major sin. Addressing Imam Ali, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) says:
"O Ali, one who forsakes Hajj while having the means (to perform it) is unbeliever, for Allah Himself has said: 'And pilgrimage to the House (Hajj) is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, upon everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves then surely Allah is Self-Sufficient above any need of the worlds.' O Ali, anyone who delays Hajj until he dies, Allah will raise him as Jew or Christian on the Day of Judgment."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says: "He who dies before he performs the obligatory Hajj while he was not too needy, too ill, or too persecuted to perform it, will die as non-Muslim (i.e. Jewish or Christian)."
We must remember that acceptance of our Hajj and of all other forms of worship is dependent upon the attention and sincerity we have for that particular act. Acceptance is also influenced by whether or not we worship with understanding its philosophy and comprehending its goals. If we are unmindful of our worship then it is of no benefit, as it only adds to our fatigue and we are deprived of the spiritual benefits which we are supposed to gain from that particular act of worship.
Imam Sajjad (peace be upon him), upon meeting a man who had performed the Hajj rites, posed the following questions:
"Were you thinking of abandoning sin and living a pious life until the end of your life when you got into the stage of Ihraam, saying 'Labbayk'?
Did you pay to the aim of the act you were doing?
Were you such and such in Tawaf, Wuquf and Al-Mashar, Ramy and Mina while you were shaving your head and offering sacrifice?"
The man's answer was in the negative. Then Imam said:
"Since you have not performed those acts to materialize their objectives, actually you have not performed the Hajj; that is to say, the results of the Hajj rites have not been obtained. In this case, you neither reached Mina, nor did you throw these pebbles on Satan, nor did you shave your head, nor did you perform the rituals of the Hajj, nor did you offer prayer in Kheif Mosque, nor did you perform the Tawaf al-Ifdha, nor did you offer sacrifice for the Lord. Go back, you did not perform Hajj."