Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
The Hajj pilgrimage takes place during the well-known months. So whoever undertakes the duty of Hajj in them, there should be no indecency, mischief, or quarreling during the pilgrimage- whatever good you do, God is well aware of it. Provide well for yourselves: the best provision is to be mindful of God- always be mindful of Me, you who have understanding-
(Chapter 2: Verse 197)
You may have noticed that when it came to fasting, God specified the month of Ramadan by name. He says in verse 185 of ‘The Cow’: “It was in the month of Ramadan that the Quran was revealed as guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So anyone of you who is present that month should fast.” But, in the verse under study, the months of the Hajj pilgrimage –which are Shauwal, Thil Q’ida, and the first ten days of Thil Hijja- were not specified. This is because the obligation of fasting was new and had to be clarified; while the Hajj pilgrimage season was well known in Arabia and the entire region even before Islam. Allah gave us the reason for not naming the months and said: “The pilgrimage takes place during the well-known months.”
The verse continues: “So whoever undertakes the duty of Hajj in them.” This phrase is interesting because God set the duty of Hajj for us. Yet, it is you and I who commit ourselves to undertake this duty. In other words, through your planning for this trip, you commit yourself to the duty and you are bound by it.
God continues: “there should be no indecency, mischief, or quarreling during the pilgrimage.” Indecency is any lewd act of sexual nature. The eye can commit indecency by gazing at the opposite sex; the tongue can commit indecency by speaking about sexual issues or harassing the opposite sex. So any action or speech that has to do with sexual matters or may lead to intercourse is prohibited during the Hajj pilgrimage. While these things are usually allowed for married couples outside Hajj, they are forbidden for all –married and unmarried- during Hajj.
‘Mischief,' on the other hand, is prohibited at all times. So, this is a double warning from our Lord that even if you occasionally commit mischief outside the Hajj, you should be extra vigilant during the pilgrimage out of respect for God and the sacred places. Allah wants you to break your bad habits because one of the goals of the Hajj trip is to purify yourself from all sin.
‘Quarrelling’ which is a lesser offense, is allowed in our day-to-day life. But, it is disallowed during Hajj. Our beloved prophet –peace be upon him- said: “Those of you who properly perform the Hajj pilgrimage without committing indecent acts or mischief will be cleared of their sins as if they were born today.” Note that in this narration, quarreling was not mentioned as a pre-condition to forgiveness. This is mercy from our Lord and our beloved prophet because Allah is aware of the circumstances that may face travelers during the long, hard, and very crowded trip. ‘Quarrelling’ are back and forth arguments to prove a point or express displeasure. Allah gives us some leeway in this matter because when people are placed in an over-crowded, unfamiliar environment, they often get agitated and short tempered. Arguments and quarrels are disallowed during Hajj, but allowed otherwise. God says:
Call people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good advice. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from His way and who is rightly guided. (16:125)
So even if you are away from the comforts of home, even if you are sharing accommodations and bathrooms with strangers, and even if a few people around you are rude and ignorant, you should refrain from arguing during Hajj. Allah knows these hardships and He –the All-Merciful- wants you to come back from the Hajj pilgrimage having left the best of impressions on those around you. He says: ‘Whatever good you do, God is well aware of it.’ Allah –after prohibiting you from indecency, mischief, and quarreling- is rewarding you for doing the opposite. Lowering your gaze, helping others, and speaking with kindness will earn you immense rewards from your Lord. Even if those actions are small and those around you are not aware your efforts, rest assured that ‘God is well aware of it.’
The verse continues with: ‘Provide well for yourselves.’ In the olden days, the Hajj trip was long and hard, often taken on foot, or on the backs of animals. It required plenty of planning and preparation to manage food and water supplies. Moreover, people often carried everything with them: from threads and needles to mend clothes to coffins in case of death on the road. It is very different nowadays, where people often buy luxuries and return from Mecca with gifts. Allah wants you to plan your trip well, and provide all the necessities for yourself and your family so your focus would be on worship alone. God does not want you to be preoccupied with your next meal; rather you should be preoccupied with your Lord in prayer. Those who go to Hajj with nothing, claiming that God will take care of them, often end up begging or committing theft to meet their basic needs; thus Allah reminds you of your responsibility. He says: ‘Provide well for yourselves.’
More importantly, Allah –The All-Wise- is not only asking you to prepare provisions for your daily life needs, He also wants you to prepare provisions for your eternal life needs. He says: ‘the best provision is to be mindful of God’ reminding you to properly take care of all your needs both material and spiritual. Let’s take an example from the Quran. God says in the 26th verse of chapter 7:
Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you
Take note that Allah provided us with the basics to cover our private parts and provided us with the luxuries to look good and stylish. God continues:
the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments- this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed.
If you enjoy beautiful clothes that look good, conceal your private parts, and protect you from the heat and cold, then imagine your joy with the cover that will provide you with protection from the heat of hellfire on the Day of Judgment.
This brings us back to the verse. God says: ‘Provide well for yourselves: the best provision is to be mindful of God- always be mindful of Me, you who have understanding.‘ Allah is inviting you to think about your needs in this world and the next, to prepare the provisions that allow you to focus on worship during the Hajj pilgrimage, and prepare the best spiritual provisions that earn you paradise in the hereafter.