The most direct translation of this word is "travel". The Qur'an provides more insight:
“Say: Travel in the earth and see how He makes the first creation, then Allah creates the latter creation; surely Allah has power over all things.” – 29:20
In every way it is a blessing to travel. In the Shadhili tariqa, the masters never slept in one place for more than three weeks, so as not to take what was around them for granted. Haraka ma’a-l-baraka: movement is with blessing. Man must change, he must move on so that he does not become a slave of outer habits and become fixated. Man is attracted to fixation because he loves the permanent, the ever-fixed within him. But to desire preservation of outer fixation is ignorance. The outer can never be fixed. No sooner does man try to control an event than he finds it beyond his power to do so.
Man wants to know the permanent but he mistakenly tries to bring it about in his environment by establishing rigid habits. At the lowest, most superficial level, travel disturbs this tendency. The earth would be sterile if it were not disturbed, if it were not plowed. The same thing applies to man’s heart. If it is not disturbed, if it is not cut off from its desires and attachments, how can it resonate and keep turning? At first one resents being cut off, but the purpose of one’s life is to move both outwardly and inwardly; outwardly by having dynamic attitudes toward the world and the earth, and inwardly by being willing to turn away from what the self desires.
The word hajj literally means "endeavor, aspiration, intention, destination, object, goal, aim". In Islam it means: ‘to intend to go to the House of Allah to carry out specific rituals which are to be executed within a certain time frame.’
In a spiritual sense hajj is endeavoring to reach a station whose meaning, magnitude and true essence cannot be expressed or explained because of the lack of words to describe it. For this reason there are few who speak of it. In The Lantern of the Path, Imam Ja`far al‑Sadiq said:
"If you want to make the Pilgrimage then empty your heart before your departure of every distraction and concealing veil and turn all your affairs over to your Creator and trust in Him…"
"…then wash your sins away with the water of sincere repentance and don the garments of truth, purity and humility."
This is the voluntary visit to the Ka`bah at other times of the year. The word `umrah is from the Arabic three letter root `AMR, which means to construct, build and inhabit, implying ‘flourishing, inhabiting, giving life to, populating, and building’. Thus, `umrah means to cause to flourish and to be enlivened by one’s presence at the Ka`bah.
The Ka`bah is a metaphor for divine impenetrability and for this reason there is no fear for the one who is present there. It is the Fortress of Eternal Truth – everlasting and perfect. Whoever performs the `Umrah is not obliged to perform the Pause at `Arafah, but only the Tawāf and the Hastening Between Stations, and does not leave Makkah before visiting the House many times. This represents the passion for Allah’s Names and Attributes which encompass the universe and the Ka`bah is its centre.
Going to Madinah and to the Presence of Muhammad is not considered complementary to the House of Allah, because the prophetic presence is a manifestation of the Presence of Oneness. The enlightened seeker sees through the Muhammadi Presence, and his spiritual insight witnesses the Presence of Oneness – the Unique Absolute One. As his outer is within the shari`ah, his soul is within the tariqah and his Innermost is within the haqiqah. Reflecting upon ‘Muhammad the Messenger of Allah ’ will reveal that ‘Muhammad’ represents the Physical Universe and the ‘Messenger’ (rasūl) represents the Spiritual Realms, and that ‘Allah’ represents the Realm of Power. Thus, whoever knows the haqiqah of Muhammad knows the entire truth.
The muhrim (one who is in a state of ihrām) journeys in a state of complete obedience, calling out the words of the talbiyah: "Labayka" (Here I am, at Your service!), until s/he arrives at the Ka`bah, the House of Allah, which is a state of Oneness. Then s/he discontinues the call because of having completely vanished within the House: his/her presence melts into the unique oneness of the House, which is the focus of all creation. The black stone is a metaphor of universal relationships. It is a representation of star dust which is the structure of our earth and our bodies.
This is considered the first of the four spiritual Pillars of the Pilgrimage. It is the act of entering the process of the Pilgrimage. It is thus called because the person making the pilgrimage abstains from shaving, cutting fingernails, hunting, and having sexual relations.
It also refers to the donning of a garment, usually of white cotton, wool or linen, worn during the performance of the Pilgrimage. Its significance is that all things which are permitted (halāl) are forbidden (harām), in addition to what is already forbidden, to the person of this station while he is wearing the white garment, out of reverence for the sanctity of Allah.
The people of gnosis consider it to mean the exodus from every circumstance, whether it be exalted or lowly or whether it be related to time or space. This is often referred to as ‘Freedom from Surroundings’. If the person of this station does not exit from the limitations of time and space and from the external world of phenomena he will not arrive at his destination. All human experiences occur within the realm of phenomena. Outside of it there is no time or space, because Allah existed when there was no time and no space, and He remains unchanged. This entire realm of existence, with respect to His Magnitude and Glory, is no more than a mustard seed or smaller.
This is the second of the four spiritual Pillars of Pilgrimage. The word in this context signifies the return to the Manifestation of the Essence which is worthy of Divinity (ulūhiyah), and which is described in terms related to meaning and spirituality, travelling through the realm of meaning, and the various qualities of the manifestations of the Creator and the creation.
The tawāf is also a journey of reflection into the inter-relatedness of the seven key Attributes (Living, Knowing, Willing, Able, Communicating, Seeing, Hearing), the characteristics of their composition, and the dependence of one upon the other. When the pilgrim enters the Sanctuary he finds the six directions (i.e. north, south, east, west, above and below) all facing towards the Ka`bah. If it is like this for the seeker, how is it for the Master who has vanished within the Essence of his Creator and who represents Allah in his words? Everything which issues forth from the tongues of the Masters comes from the beams issuing forth from the Presence of the Unique Oneness.
This is the third of the four spiritual pillars of the pilgrimage. Hastening between the stations of the Pilgrimage, which are called Safā and Marwa, refers to the fluctuation of the Master between Allah’s Beauty (jamāl) and His Glory and Majesty (jalāl) to the point where Glory becomes the essence of Beauty because of his having abandoned his self, not to mention his own will and freedom of choice. This fluctuation between Beauty and Majesty represents the Masters’ rank of perfection. Their movement represents the Hand of Allah’s concern and His protection in both states. In spite of the lofty position of the Masters, they are not seduced by what they have already attained from the tawāf and their immersion in the Presence of Oneness. Majesty and Beauty do not affect them because they are part of them, in contrast to others for whom this state would represent a tribulation.
He who is with Allah loves Allah’s constriction as well as His expansion, and sees both of them as being natural occurrences like night and day, as they are both necessary conditions of experiencing being-ness. Constriction is an attribute of the physical while expansion is an attribute of the spiritual. The Master lets the station seek him out and does not try to seek it out. The station was created for him he was not created for the station. He is concerned exclusively with the glorification of Allah and allows everything else to serve him in his dedication.
This is the stopping place or Pause of the Pilgrimage on the plains of ‘Arafat. As the Prophet said:
"The Pilgrimage is `Arafah."
After completing Tawāf and Sa`y, the Master is overcome by a state above which there is no higher condition or increase, which is the abandonment of anything known to him beyond the ability to describe. In this station of absolute abandonment, he is ordered to give up his physical form, his soul, his self, his reasoning, the names as well as the Attributes, and anything which has the scent of manifestation; he is commanded to gatheredness and to enfold the outward within the inward and the inward in the outward. When he has realized this state then he has completed the climb up the mountain, which is referred to as the Pause. It is also referred to as ‘The Blindness’ because it is absolute non‑existence, witnessing neither creation nor Creator.
The Pause is a station beyond reasoning, and therefore impossible to express, that it has been called the ‘obscure’, the ‘amazement’, the ‘bewilderment’, the ‘obliteration’, and the ‘Realm of Lāhūt’ (Pure Unity). People of Allah are in wonderment at the mention of it, unable to describe it as if they were deaf and dumb and powerless to reason.
`Arafah, then, is the station of the Pause and the final goal of total annihilation (or complete vanishing from existence). The Pause occurs after zuhr (midday prayer time) and after the vanishing of existence (zawwāl):
"When the sun is rolled up and the stars are cast adrift." Qur'an, 81:1‑2
This is the station of obliteration and blindness, of which the Prophet said:
"Indeed, it is the station of blindness (with) no atmosphere above it or below it."
As this station is incomprehensible and full of awe one must exit from it as soon as possible, remaining merely for a pause. The seeker must then hasten to the place of nearness: Muzdalifah.
"Flee from it (`Arafah) to the Place of Nearness (Muzdalifah) lest you vanish within it."
Thus, it is cried out in bewilderment:
"O my Lord, from the standpoint of the Truth of Existence, You are the Worshipper and You are the Worshipped, You are the Witness and the Witnessed."
After this, the seeker must hasten to Makkah, which is referred to as the Presence of Oneness, in order to cease his wandering, attain a sense of security, bathe, and pray his sunrise prayer. This concludes all four spiritual Pillars of the Pilgrimage.
Aṣ-ṣafā and Al-marwah¶
Throughout your life you run back and forth between two opposite things, like aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah. Aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah are two clusters of rocks between which the pilgrim runs back and forth. They are the scene of Hajar’s running to and fro in search of water, after being left alone with ‘Ismail in the blistering heat and wilderness of Mecca. They figuratively bracket all human efforts, from hunger to fullness, from illness to wellness, and man’s patience and tawakkul (trust, confidence) in Allah are tested through running between them. Aṣ-Ṣafā and al-Marwah, and the practice of sa’y (running between the two of them), are indeed true signs of Allah. Man performs sa’y throughout his life in his constant search for true contentment, seeking it outwardly, not knowing that the access to it is already within him.