The One Thing You MUST Leave Behind When Going to Hajj
If there is one thing that separates a Muslim or Muslimah from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) it is their ego! Whatever journey you are going on, ego always seems to want to travel with you. Here at Productive Muslim, as we reflect on Hajj, I aim to show you why you need to leave this kind of baggage at home.
Hajj is once more upon us and the checklist is out, as you decide what needs to be taken with you on the holiest of pilgrimages. You have gone through the useful Productive Muslim Tips for a Productive Hajj and what every Productive Muslim Should Pack articles. Twice, maybe. Qur’an, check. Travel prayer mat, check. Miswak, check. Ego, check. Uh-oh, that wasn’t supposed to be there! So you unpack everything and re-do your luggage again. Sunglasses, check. Perfume-free soap, check. Ego, check! It is that one piece of baggage we could do without! But it is still there and far from helpful when it comes to avoiding misconduct and arguments as instructed by Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the Noble Quran, “And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is [God-consciousness/righteousness]…” [Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verse 197]
So what is Ego?
What Western thinkers refer to as “ego” we -in Islamic terms- refer to as an-nafs-ul-‘ammarah, mixed with a reasonable dose of kibr (arrogance or superiority over others; pride). Now, I am not saying that we Muslims purposefully strut around with our ego on the high street or on the plane to Mecca, but if there is one thing that separates a Muslim or Muslimah from God it is their ego. So, in other words, it is better to acknowledge the existence of ego, especially if you are anything like me, fervently denying that you have a problem, especially when compared to a whole host of Muslims and non-Muslims you could name!
I mean who hasn’t ever got angry, felt a little jealous, annoyed even, when someone else got promoted, got that bigger house, better school or university grades, or seemingly nicer husband? It is perfectly human to complain about such things, right? Well, there are somethings that I shouldn’t have to do, right? This has nothing to do with ego, right? Wrong! And if that’s what you have been saying since your friend or spouse emailed you this article to read, wave to your ego for me because he or she is sitting on your lap, which means you came face to face and lost the battle… again!
No wonder the fight against ego is the greatest struggle (Jihad al-Akbar) that a Muslim can endure. It is also why Hajj is a pillar of our faith and a testament to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which demonstrates that we prefer Him over our egos.
Flattening an Inflated Ego with Every Hajj Step
In Hajj, we Muslims set out to enhance our Taqwa, to return to a purified state at one with our Creator, more aware of His Divine Nature and Presence. We are reminded on this pilgrimage of the trials of the great men and women of Islam who sacrificed their sense of self for a profound belief in God.
For evidence of this, take the re-enactment of Hajar’s exhausting and repeated run through the two hills, Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, in search for water for her baby Ismail, barefoot and alone in the desert. It is in performing the Sa’ee that we can come to appreciate how that it was only in the shedding of her ego that Hajar found her courage and faith, which led to the appearance of the Zamzam well. We are further reminded of ego’s power, human fragility and sinfulness when we shave or cut a lock of our hair on the final day of Hajj, following the completion of ramī al-jamarāt(the Stoning of the Devil).
Ego, like our hair, will grow back. To stop both from becoming unruly and tangled, they need a frequent trim and a daily brush or comb. Hajj is the ultimate conditioner. If applied right, it will make ego more manageable. It won’t, however, remove it completely. For that you need Tazkiah, specifically tazkiyatul -nafs or “purification of the self”.