In the Holy Qur'an where Almighty Allah has commanded Abraham to make a general proclamation of Hajj, the first reason given for this commandment is : " That they may come here and witness things that are of benefit to them". (Al-Qur'an 22:28) That is to say that they may undertake the journey and assemble here and witness with their own eyes that it is intended for their benefit only and its advantages can be noticed only when a man personally experiences it by performing the task himself. It is narrated about Imam Abu Hanifa that until he had not performed the Hajj he was doubtful as to which 'Ibadat was superior among the 'Ibadaat of Islam. But when on performing the Hajj he witnessed the numerous benefits latent in it, he unhesitatingly declared the Hajj is superior to all. Now I shall relate to you briefly its benefits.
The people of the world are usually aware of two kinds of journey. One journey is that which is made to earn livelihood. The second one is that which is undertaken for pleasure and sight-seeing. In both these journeys, a man is impelled to go abroad by his need and desire. He leaves home for a purpose of his own, he spends money or time for his own requirements. Therefore no question of sacrifice arises in such a journey. But the position of this particular journey which is called Hajj is quite different from that of other journeys. This journey is not meant to gain any personal end or any desire of Nafs. It is intended solely for Allah, and for fulfilment of the duty prescribed by Allah. No person can prepare himself to undertake this journey until and unless he has love of Allah in his heart as well as fear of Him, and feels strongly that the Fard ordained by Allah is incumbent on him. Therefore, whosoever sets out for Hajj parting from his family and relatives for a long period, allowing his business to suffer, spending money and bearing the rigours of the travels, he furnishes by his act of devotion a proof of the fact that there is in his heart fear of God and love for Him as also a sense of duty, and that he possesses the strength to leave his home, when called upon to do so, for the cause of God, and that he can face hardships and willingly sacrifice his wealth and comfort for the pleasure of God.
When the pilgrims get ready for the journey with this holy intention, his disposition assumes a different colour. His heart, which is aflame with exuberance of the love of God and which is pulsating with a longing to visit His House, starts harbouring only virtuous thoughts. he does penance for past sins, seeks forgiveness from people whom he might have wronged, tries to render his due to others where necessary so as not to go to God's court trammeled with the unfulfilled rights of his fellow beings, shuns vice and develops fondness for virtue. Then, as he steps out to begin the journey, the more he proceeds toward the House of God, the more keen he becomes to do good deeds. He is careful to see that nobody is harmed by him, while he tries to render whatever service or help he can to others. His own nature desists from abuse, indecency, dishonesty, squabbles and bickering because he is proceeding on the path of God. A man may be making journey towards the Divine Haram and yet indulging in bad habits? How can such a shameless thing be possible by anybody? Thus the entire journey of his constitutes a complete 'Ibadat. Oppression and vice can find no place in contrast to all other types of journey, this is the one which continuously keeps on purifying man's Nafs. It is like a great reformatory course to be compulsorily gone through by every Muslim who sets out to perform Hajj.
After completing a part of the journey a special boundary is reached which cannot be crossed without donning Ihram by every Muslim bound for Mecca. What is this Ihram? It is a mendicant-like dress consisting of nothing more than a simple sheet of cloth for the upper and another for the lower part of the body. It means that, irrespective of whatever position you held till now, since you have now to go to God's court, you will have to assume an ascetic's appearance. Be a beggar outwardly and try to be so inwardly too. Take off your colourful garments and gaudy costumes. Put on a simple and dervish-like dress. Do not wear socks. Keep the head bare. Do not use scent. Do not dress your hair. Abstain from every kind of adornment. Cease the man-woman relation so much so that do not even indulge in talk, sign and movement which may smack of any eagerness for, and be a reminder of, this relation. Do not hunt, and refrain from even giving a hint to the hunter about the whereabouts of the prey. When you will adopt such a posture outwardly, it will influence your mind also. Inwardly your heart will develop an ascetic attitude. Pride and vanity will disappear. Humility and peace of mind will grow. The impurities that have smirched your soul due to indulgence in worldly pleasures will be removed and a feeling of Godliness will dominate both your internal and external selves.
Soon after putting on Ihram the words that the Haji recites in a loud voice after every Salah, at the time of ascending every height and descending therefrom, and while meeting every caravan and every morning on rising from bed, are as follows : Labbaika Allahumma labbaika, labbaika la sharika laka labbaika, innalhamda wan-ni'mata laka, la sharika laka " Here, I am present, My Lord ! I am present, I am present. There is no partner unto Thee. I am present. Verily all praise is due to Thee. Every boon is Thine and Thine is the entire Sovereignty. No one is Thine partner." This, in fact, is an answer to that general proclamation which Abraham had made four thousand five hundred years ago as commanded by Allah. Forty-five centuries have passed since that proclaimer of Allah had announced : " O slaves of Allah ! Come to the House of Allah. Come from every corner of the earth, either on foot or by transport." In answer to it, every passenger to Haram-i-Pak loudly declares till today : " Here I am present, My Allah ! I am present. No one is partner unto Thee. I am present at Thine beck and call only. Praise is for Thee only. Boon is Thine, land is Thine. No one is Thine partner in anything." In this manner, with every voice of Labbaik the Hajis' relation becomes closer with that movement for the propagation of true and genuine God-worship which has been carried on since the time of Abraham and Isma'il. The gap of four and a half thousand years is obliterated from in-between. It appears as if from that side Abraham is calling on behalf of Allah and the pilgrim is replying from this side. He continues replying and goes ahead. As he proceeds, the feeling of eagerness gets intenser. At every ascent and descent the voice of Allah's proclaimer rings in his ears and he goes on and on welcoming it with Labbaik. Every caravan appears to him like a message-bearer of his Lord and like a lover, on hearing the message, he cries: " I am present, I am present." Every new morning brings for him, as it were, the Friend's errand, and getting up at dawn he starts exclaiming: " Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik." In short, this recurrent cry in conjunction with the ascetic dress of Ihram, the condition of the journey and the feeling of getting nearer and nearer to Ka'ba, produce such a psychic effect that the Haji gets lost in Divine love and his mental condition gets absolved of every thing except the Frien's remembrance.
The Haji reaches Mecca in this style and at once proceeds towards that sacred spot where he was summoned. He kisses the Friend's threshold. Then he goes round and round the focus of his belief, Imam, Deen and religion, and starts and ends every round by kissing the Black Stone. After this, he offers two Rak'as of Salutations at Maqam-i-Ibrahim. Then moving from there he ascends the hillock of Safa and when he looks from above at Ka'ba he exclaims : La ilaha ill-Allah wa la na'budu illa iyyahu mukhlisina lahud dina wa lau kariha-alkafirun " There is no god save Allah. We do servitude to no other being. Our 'Ibadat is exclusively for Allah however abhorrent it may be to the unbelievers."
Then he runs between as-Safa and al-Marwah. It seems like a demonstration of his belief that with the same arduousness he would always be endeavouring to serve his Master and seek His pleasure. In the course of this Sa'i, sometimes he says : Allah-Ummasta'milni bisunnati Nabiyyika wa tawaffani'ala Millatihi wa aizni min mudillat-ilfitani. Some unthinking people frequently raise objection in regard to the kissing of the Black Stone. They contend that this too is a kind of idol-worship, whereas it is nothing but kissing the threshold. The circumambulation of Ka'ba starts from where the " Black Stone " is fixed and during the seven rounds, it is either kissed, or a sign is made towards it at the end of every round. There is not the slightest vestige in this of worshipping it. The saying of Hadrat Omar is well-known that 'you are a mere stone. If the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) had not kissed you I would have never kissed you." " O God ! Take service from me in the same way as was the way of your Prophet, and cause me to die in the same path as was the path of your Prophet, and save me from those slips which deflect from the right path." And sometimes he says : Rabbighfir wa-arham wa-tajawaz 'amma ta'lamu innaka anta-la'azzulakramu. " O Lord ! pardon me and show mercy. Overlook those faults of mine which You know of. You have the greatest power and Your mercy too is the greatest."
After this he becomes, as it were, a soldier of Allah and now he has to live a camp-like life for five or six days. he will encamp at Mina for one day and then on the second day at Arafat where the Commander's sermon containing directions is listened to. Encampment is done in the night at Muzdalifah.
At day-break, the pilgrims return to Mina and fling stones at the pillar where the army of Ashab-i-fil (the army of elephants) had reached to demolish Ka'ba fifty days before the birth of the Holy Prophet. While flinging each stone the soldier of Allah says : Allah-o-Akbaro Raghman-lishshaitani wa hizbihi and Allahumma tasdeeqan be-kitabika wa ittib'an lisunnt-i-Nabiyyika. The idea behind throwing these stones is : " O God ! whosoever rises to destroy Your Deen and humiliate Your Word, I will fight him like this to raise aloft Your Word." Then animal sacrifice is done after stoning the first pillar in order that the intention and resolve to shed blood in the way of God are demonstrated. From there the pilgrims turn towards Ka'ba just as a soldier having performed his duty returns triumphantly to the headquarters. After doing Tawaf and offering two Rak'ats, Ihram is removed. Whatever was made Haram is, now made Halal and the Haji's life resumes normality. After returning to the normal life, the Haji goes to Mina and encamps there again, and the next day he flings stones on all the three pillars one after another. These are called Jamrat which, in fact, reminds of the destruction of that elephant army, which, in the year of the birth of the Holy Prophet, invaded Mecca just in the month of Hajj, to demolish the House of Allah, and which, by the command of Allah was destroyed by stone-raining sky-birds. After once again flinging stones on these pillars on the third day, the Haji returns to Mecca and performs seven times circumambulation of the focal point of his Deen. This is called Tawaf-i-Wada' and completing it means completion of Hajj.
From all the details you have heard you can judge that during the period of two to three months, from the time of deciding and preparing for Hajj to the time of returning home; what great effects are produced in the heart and mind of man ! The process entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, sacrifice of several worldly relations and sacrifice of many corporeal desires and pleasures------and all this simply for the sake of Allah, with no selfish end. Then, together with piety and virtuousness, the incessant remembrance of God and the longing and love of Him pervading the mind of the pilgrim, all leave a firm impression on his mind which lasts for years to come. Then, on reaching this sacred land he witnesses at every step the relics of those who sacrificed everything theirs in servitude and obedience to Allah. They fought against the pagan Arabs suffered tortures, became migrants, suffered unbearable hardships, but ultimately did raise aloft the Word of God and did not rest content till they subdued every such false power which wanted man to become subservient to other entities than Allah. A lesson in courage and determination, which a devotee of God can draw from these clear signs and sacred relics, can hardly be available from any other source. And if the attachment developed with his focal point of Deen through the circumambulation of Ka'ba as also the rehearsal of a Mujahid's life consisting of the rites (Manasik) of Hajj (such as running about, and repeated departures and halts), are combined with Salah, fasting and Zakat, and they are all seen conjointly, you will realize that these processes constitute a training or some big task which Islam wants Muslims to execute. For this reason, Hajj has been made compulsory for those who are solvent enough and are capable to undertake the to and for journey of Ka'ba so that, as far as possible, Muslims in the largest possible number remain equipped in every period after having fully gone through this training.
But you will be unable to appreciate fully the benefits of Hajj unless you keep in view the fact that each and every Muslim does not perform Hajj individually but that only one single period has been fixed for Hajj for the Muslims of the whole world, and, therefore, lakhs and lakhs of Muslims jointly perform it. What I have stated before has only brought home to you the effect produced by this 'Ibadat on every Haji individually. Now I shall explain to you in my next address how these benefits have been enhanced a hundred-thousandfold by appointing one single period of Hajj for all the world. The excellence of Islam lies in this very fact that by one stroke it achieves not only two but a thousand purposes. The advantages of offering Salah singly are by no means small but by making it conditional with congregation and by enforcing the system of Imamat in Salah and by enlarging the congregations of the Friday and 'Idain prayers, its benefits have been increased to a limitless extent. The observance of fasting separately by each person is also a very big source of reformation and training but by appointing only one month of Ramadan for all Muslims, these benefits have been increased so much that they cannot be counted. Zakat too has many advantages even if dispensed individually, but with the establishment of Baitulmal (Public Exchequer of the Islamic State) its usefulness has been increased to such a great extent that you cannot estimate it till such time as an Islamic government is formed and you witness with your eyes how much goodness and plentifulness result from collecting the Zakat of all Muslims at one place and distributing it among the deserving persons in organized form. Similar is the case of Hajj. If everyone were to perform Hajj singly, even then it will bring about a big revolution in his life but by formulating the rules for all the Muslims of the world to perform it together at one time, its benefits have been increased to a limitless degree. This subject demands a detailed treatment, so I shall explain it in detail in my next discourse.