This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Online Lecture on 12th July 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Maryam and Surah Taha and Surah Al-Ambiya’ can be found here.
Introduction: Surah Al-Hajj
In the majority of Mushaf, Surah Al-Hajj has been identified as a Madani surah. What this means is that this Surah was revealed after Prophet Muhammad SAW’s hijrah to Madinah. However, if you look closely, certain Mashaf do identify this surah as a Makki surah. Scholars say that some of the verses in Surah Al-Hajj are Makki (i.e. revealed pre-Hijrah) while other verses are Madani.
There is a difference in opinion amongst the scholars as to which verses were revealed at which point of time over the years. Certain scholars say that there are more Makki verses; hence, they name the Surah a Makki Surah. The inverse is also present. This is not a critical issue; it does not affect our ‘Aqidah. We leave the truth to Allah SWT.
Surah Al-Hajj does not only talk about Hajj. However, it was named as such because the verses talking about Hajj belong to this Surah. Before the verses of Hajj were revealed, Allah SWT opens this Surah by calling all of mankind to have Taqwa of Allah.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ
O mankind, have Taqwa of Allah SWT… [22:1]
Hajj: The Peak of Worship
We know that Hajj is one of Allah SWT’s many commandments upon Muslims. Hajj is one of the five main and foundational commands – what we call the Five Pillars of Islam. These pillars of Islam were revealed in a hadith of Rasulullah SAW: the Shahadah, the five daily Salah, fasting in Ramadhan, paying Zakat, and performing Hajj to Mecca if you can afford to do so. All Muslims, wherever they may be around the world, acknowledge, understand, and accept that Hajj is obligatory upon them. Scholars emphasise, as a reminder for us to appreciate, that Hajj is the peak of all types of worship performed by a Muslim. This is why Hajj is placed as the fifth pillar.
The first pillar is the Shahadah. Any person who wants to become Muslim needs to say the Shahadah. And next, we have Salah. Now, scholars differ in opinion of which comes next, either Zakat or Fasting. Well, that does not matter anyway. What we know is that Hajj is the final one. It is not last because it is of least importance. The fact that it is part of the pillars means that it is something that is of utmost importance. It is placed at the end because it is the peak. Only those who can afford it and have the means for it are asked to do it. Salah and Zakat can be done anywhere at any time. Fasting as well can be done anywhere around the world, even if it is only restricted to one month.
When it comes to Hajj though, the place, time and circumstances have already been pre-determined by Allah SWT. There is no Hajj except in Makkah. One cannot say, “You know what? These is a darurat situation, there are extenuating circumstances. This year, because of Covid-19, only people who are already in Makkah can perform Hajj. So just this once, we will perform Hajj in Singapore.”. We cannot propose such a thing! Likewise, it is not possible for us to perform Hajj at another time. The month of Zhulhijjah has already been assigned as the month of Hajj, we cannot postpone or reschedule Hajj.
This is why Hajj is only made obligatory for those people who have met all of the necessary conditions – people who have no barriers stopping them, whose time has come, who have sufficient supplies gathered to support themselves etc. Those who do not meet these criteria do not have to worry about carrying it out. So, Hajj is only for people who already know how to perform Salah. Those who are heading for Hajj should already have gone through some kind of training or education. They should have learnt how to purify and prepare their heart and spirit.
Hajj is the peak; it is a manifestation that reflects all your good deeds throughout our lives. When the time comes and you feel that you are ready, that you have prepared sufficiently with your worship and your faith, then you will be invited by Allah SWT to perform Hajj, all barriers in your way will be removed. So, for all the Salah that you have been performing at home in Singapore, you will be able to perform Salah in Makkah itself, right in front of the Ka’abah. You will be able to worship at the place where centuries ago, our prophet, Rasulullah SAW had himself worshipped.
Despite the immense importance of Hajj, Allah SWT started this Surah with, “O mankind, have Taqwa of Allah SWT”. Without Taqwa, Hajj would be impossible to execute well. There are people who do not perform Hajj out of their own will. Instead, they may have gone because they were being persuaded or nagged upon to do it by their family members.
People who go for Hajj because they were forced to do so, we see that their Taqwa is insufficient, their worship improper, their prayers incomplete… How many people are like these? They go for Hajj for slightly over a month, yet it is as though no difference had been made to them. Their character, personality, and attitude remain unaltered. In fact, in some cases, even their worship and good deeds do not seem to have improved at all.
During Hajj, there will be all sorts of trials. Those who have been for Hajj would know this. Even the people who have not gone for Hajj have heard stories from people who have gone. There are all kinds of problems, difficulties, and challenges that every person who goes for Hajj will experience. However, if you go for it without bringing Taqwa with you, the journey will not make any impact to your religion in Allah SWT’s eyes.
The Intense Quake
إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ
… Verily, the (violent) quaking at the Hour is surely an immense thing. [22:1]
The world “zalzalah” means a very intense shaking. From the same root word, we have the word “zilzaal” which means ‘earthquake’. The word ‘as-Sa’ah’ is one of the names used to refer to the Day of Judgement. The word ‘‘azhim’ implies something that is massive, intense, grave, and dreadful. Every single person will feel it when it arrives. There will be chaos and disorder. We should not rest at being afraid, we need to make the necessary preparations to ensure that we are ready for when it comes, before the punishment comes and it becomes too late for us to save ourselves.
Based on the many studies by scholars, they summarise this quaking to be a kind of earthquake that encompasses two events. The first is a quaking that indicates the start of the Day of Judgement. At that moment, there will still be people living on the face of the earth. When the Hour arrives, a massive quaking will occur. We now hear that whenever an earthquake appears in the news, it is something that is localised. We know the epicentre of the earthquake and we know its radius.
The earthquake does not extend beyond the stated range. The quaking on the Day of Judgement is unlike what we have experienced before. It will be an earthquake that shakes the entire planet, something that is not restricted to only certain regions of the world. When this first quake happens, there will be chaos and destruction around the world. The sun will rise from the West. All living things that exists will die at this point of time; no soul will remain alive on Earth.
After an unstated period of a time, a second quake will occur. At this point, all of the dead will return to life once more – whether they have only just died in the first quake or if they have long been dead, their bodies having been decomposed centuries before. Allah SWT will return life to all human beings and they will be reunited, huddled close together, in an extensively vast field.
يَوْمَ تَرَوْنَهَا تَذْهَلُ كُلُّ مُرْضِعَةٍ عَمَّا أَرْضَعَتْ
On the Day you will see it, every suckling woman will abandon that which she nurses… [22:2]
When this quake occurs, even mother would let go of her own child and forget about him. When we talk about the focused earthquakes that people experience today, in these cases, people seem to lose their minds because of panic. They may even let go of whatever they may be holding on to at that point of time of shock. But amongst the many things that would be in the grasps of people, there is one thing that will never be let go of regardless of what happens – that is a suckling child in his mother’s embrace. A mother would never let go of her child. However, on the Day of Judgement, when the whole Earth quakes, even a mother will completely forget her child.
وَتَضَعُ كُلُّ ذَاتِ حَمْلٍ حَمْلَهَا
… and every pregnant female will lay down her burden… [22:2]
Even pregnant women would miscarry their babies out of shock and fear of the quaking.
Mankind in a State of Drunkenness
وَتَرَى النَّاسَ سُكَارَىٰ وَمَا هُم بِسُكَارَىٰ وَلَٰكِنَّ عَذَابَ اللَّهِ شَدِيدٌ
…and you will see mankind drunken, and in no way are they drunken but the torment of Allah is strict. [22:2]
Mankind will be in a state of disorientation, stumbling about aimlessly, and yelling out incoherently as though they are in a state of intoxication. Allah SWT tells us that in fact they would not be intoxicated, they would be in a state of mental consciousness and stability but will lose their ability to think out of fear and panic. That is what will happen.
If you have ever experienced, or heard of anyone experiencing an earthquake, you would know. The earthquakes we experience up until today last only for mere seconds. Quakes that are minutes long are considered extreme. When these happen, mass destruction, deaths and losses are incurred. At times, people even forget to cover themselves up in their panic to run away.
I am reminded of a time in 1992, it was my final year of studies in Al-Azhar University in Egypt. As students, we had just finished officiating a new Singapore Student’s Association house. A week after the event, the students were excited to begin organising new activities. I remember still, how after Asar, we had been sitting around in the house when suddenly the ground started shaking. At first, we thought that a military vehicle had been passing by; sometimes the ground trembles when that happens. However, the trembling did not stop immediately. Someone outside the library yelled out “Earthquake! Earthquake!!”. We forgot everything else and just ran out barefooted. We were students of Al-Azhar; people might say that we should know how to have Tawakkal, to trust Allah SWT and not fear death.
What we witnessed that day was just mere panic. Some people ran out of their homes not even wearing proper clothing. They were in such fear. There were students who protected their modesty at every moment in public, who even at home would dress modestly. Even they did not think to cover themselves up as they ran out of their hostels. There were people screaming in fear. This was only a quake of a few seconds long. Our building did not even collapse. Yet we were not thinking of anything but to save our own lives. Imagine an immense quake that shakes the world violently. What would the state of mankind be like?
Which of the Two Quakes is this?
The scholars discuss on this issue, asking themselves which quake this refers to. Is this the first quake or the second one? There are two opinions. The first says that this is the first quake. According to scholars that hold this opinion, if we follow logic, at the second quake, there will no longer be any pregnant women. The second quake occurs when all who have died are brought back to life. Each person will rise on their own. This verse can therefore only be referring to the first quake, which occurs while human beings are still carrying out their routine day-to-day life.
The second opinion is that this chaos occurs during the second quake. Many scholars follow this opinion based on a specific authentic hadith narrated by both Bukhari and Muslim.
One out of A Thousand
It was narrated that Rasulullah SAW had been walking with his companions. They arrived at a certain location and Rasulullah SAW recited these four verses of Surah Al-Hajj. After he SAW finished, he asked his companions, “Dear companions, do you know which day this actually refers to?”. They replied, “Allah SWT and His Messenger know best.”. Rasulullah replied, “That will be the day when Allah SWT says to Prophet Adam (note that Prophet Adam AS will be present on this day), ‘Oh Adam, bring out the people of Hellfire.’. And Adam AS will ask, ‘Who are the people of Hellfire?’. Allah SWT will say, ‘For every 1,000 people, 999 people will enter Hellfire.’.” When this was said, the companions burst into tears. Some asked, “If that is the case O Rasulullah, who amongst us will not enter Hellfire?”.
Rasulullah SAW then says that at that moment when Allah SWT announces who the people of Hellfire are, that moment would be the moment when even the nursing mother would drop her child. At that moment, out of fear of saving herself, a pregnant mother would miscarry her baby. At that moment, out of fear of not being chosen amongst those who are not the people of Hellfire, mankind would fall into disarray and chaos. So based on this hadith, the scholars agree that this quake mentioned actually refers to the second quake on the Day of Judgement. This is the quake that happens when the entirety of humankind is present and awaiting judgement.
This hadith then finishes with Rasulullah SAW saying that what this means is that out of the 1,000 people, those who enter the Hellfire are the 999 people who do not belong to the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad SAW. The people from Rasulullah SAW’s Ummah who enter Hellfire are the one out of the thousand people. There is in fact another hadith that says that the 999 people are the people of Ya’juj and Ma’juj – a people who are known to be evil, cause widespread destruction, and are disobedient to Allah SWT. These are the 999 people who enter hellfire. If any of Rasulullah’s Ummah were to be included in the thousand, only a single person would be included. Only when this clarification was made, did the companions find themselves comforted and relieved.
May Allah SWT protect us from becoming amongst the people of Hellfire. May all of us who consider ourselves as the followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW be amongst those who are protected from the Hellfire. O Allah, please protect us and distance us from the punishment of Your Hellfire. Ameen ya Rabbal ‘Alameen.
The Link between the Quakes and Hajj
So if we look at Surah Al-Hajj, it begins with asking us to have Taqwa. Allah SWT describes a scene of fear, panic, and chaos. He gives us a warning of what it will be like when the moment arrives in which we will face Allah SWT’s judgement. Is there a link between this and the Hajj?
Yes, Allah SWT is giving us a warning that we will someday be gathered on the field of Mahsyar. This is what it will be like, the chaos, the exhaustion, the frustration that we will be encountering when we are experiencing Hajj in Mecca. These days, throughout the duration of our travel to Makkah, we may find ourselves in comfort and ease; we travel in air-conditioned vehicles, have food served to us on the plane, even our airport is world-class.
Years ago though, the journey to Mecca was packed with hardships including long periods of dangerous travel in the heat. Throughout Hajj, there is constant discomfort and difficulty. Being in the state of Ihram, regardless of how smelly your Ihram may become, you are not allowed to apply perfume, you cannot cut your hair or nails. There are certain rules that you need to follow. Hajj today has been regulated and streamlined to provide as much ease to the pilgrims. There are facilities, infrastructure and quotas set in place to make Hajj as efficient as possible. However, this is the peak worship of your life.
Someday, once more you will be assembled in masses in front of Allah SWT. On that day, there will be no shelter from the sweltering hot sun, there will be no ease and comfort provided. Allah SWT gives us an imagery to remind us to prepare our supplies for the day. Someone who is not sufficiently prepared to support himself and his family while he is away does not have to go for Hajj. If he cannot afford to pay for himself and to meet his family’s basic needs, if he cannot afford to prepare himself physically and spiritually for the journey, then Hajj is not obligatory for him. In order to be ready for a spiritual mass gathering in Mecca, there has to be necessary preparations done. You cannot go unprepared.
Likewise, in order to prepare ourselves for a spiritual mass gathering in the field of Mahsyar at the end of our lives, we cannot go unprepared. We need to build up our supplies. In the verse about Hajj, Allah instructs us to gather our supplies, telling us that the best of supplies is Taqwa. To go for Hajj, you need to prepare supplies, the best of supplies is Taqwa. Clothes, money, medication, and food are important but the most essential of supplies is Taqwa. So, make sure that you have that prepared.
My dearest brothers and sisters, if there is one thing that you take-away from today’s lecture, I hope that it is this: We live our lives not just for this world. We live our lives in order to make preparations for the day we will be assembled in front of Allah SWT. And for these preparations, Allah SWT requests only one thing from us. He asks us to prepare our Taqwa. Regardless of what we do in life, the busyness we occupy ourselves with day and night, what we must never forget is Taqwa to Allah SWT.
In the state of hunger, have Taqwa. In the state of difficulty, have Taqwa. In the state of happiness and celebration, have Taqwa. In the state of regret and disappointment, have Taqwa. When you are in the midst of people who please you, have Taqwa. When you are facing people who hurt you, have Taqwa. When you take a step full of confidence to a bright future ahead, have Taqwa. When you anxiously take a step of uncertainty, have Taqwa.
We are now in the end of Zulkhaedah. In a few weeks’ time we will enter the month of Zulhijjah and Eid ul-Adha. We may have prepared or planned for us to go for Hajj this year. Regardless of that, remember, how is your preparation for the final mass gathering in front of Allah? We may not in our lifetimes be invited to gather at the field of ‘Arafah in Mecca for Hajj. Nonetheless, not a single one of us will be able to run away from the mass gathering at the field of Mahsyar in the Hereafter.
May Allah SWT grant us all Taqwa in our hearts and make us amongst the believers who have gathered sufficient supplies in this world and are prepared to meet Him on the Day of Judgement.
Summary by: Arina Adom
Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.
Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.
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