Al-Baqarah · Juz 2 · Qur'an Tafseer

Commercial Transactions during Hajj

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In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Tafseer Al-Baqarah Ayaat 198 – 199 (Part 1)

This ayah was revealed in a particular background of the jahiliyyah [days of ignorance] when the people of Arabia had distorted all rules of worship and social dealings by injecting in them absurd customs. They transformed acts of devotion into amusement, sadly a practice still found in the Muslim communities today. They did not even spare the sacred rites of Hajj when they added to them ridiculous doings out of their wild imagination. In the gathering at Mina they would set up special bazaars, hold exhibitions, and put up trade shows. But after the advent of Islam when Muslims were obligated with Hajj, all these absurd customs were eliminated.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,

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The word junahun [جُنَاحٌ] is from the root jeem-noon-Ha and it means to lean, incline, bend or stoop. The word is used to mean inclining toward an evil deed.

The Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum, who would stake anything to seek the pleasure of Allah and to follow the teachings of His Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, started suspecting the validity of even the acts of trading or working for wages during Hajj days. They thought that earning in this manner is a practice of the days of ignorance, perhaps Islam shall forbid it absolutely.

Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “‘Ukaz, Mijannah and Dhul-Majaz were trading posts during the time of jahiliyyah. During that era, they did not like the idea of conducting business transactions during the Hajj season. Later, this ayah was revealed.”

Abu Daw’oud and others recorded that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “They used to avoid conducting business transactions during the Hajj season, saying that these are the days of thikr [remembrance of Allah]. Allah revealed: ‘There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord (during Hajj).’

[Excellence of the First 10 Days of Thul-Hijjah]

They feared so much that a person came to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu and asked, “We are in the business of renting our camels. We have been doing it since long. People hire our camels to go for their Hajj. We go with them and perform our Hajj. Is it that our Hajj will not be valid?”

Ibn ‘Umar asked, “Do you not perform Tawaf around the House, stand at ‘Arafat, throw the pebbles and shave your heads?” The man replied in affirmative. Ibn ‘Umar said, “Someone came to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and asked the same question you are asking me. The Prophet did not reply to his question at that particular time until this ayah (198) was revealed. Then, he called for that person and said, ‘Yes, your Hajj is valid.’”

This makes it clear that a person, who earns some profit by trading or wages by working, incurs no sin. However, the practice of the disbelievers of Arabia whereby, they had turned the Hajj into a trade fair was reformed through two simple words of the Qur’an to the effect that they can earn if they have to, but let them earn what they do as a favor and blessing of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and be grateful for it. Hajj was not to be made an opportunity to mint money.

[Hajj to the House: Virtues and Secrets]

Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani is of the view that the expression “there is no blame upon you” followed by “for seeking bounty from your Lord” has a built-in hint that avoid this indulgence too, if possible. It is because indulging in anything other than ‘ibadah affects the ideal of perfect sincerity desirable in the Hajj.

This whole issue, in fact, revolves around the original intention of a person. If his basic intention is to earn money through trading or employment but he has decided to perform the Hajj as an adjunct, or both the intentions are equally kept in mind, then, this is contrary to the ideal of sincerity and it will reduce the reward of Hajj and the blessings of Hajj would not fall to his lot as they normally would. And should it be that he leaves his home with the basic intention to perform his Hajj, but runs into unforeseen problems accidentally resulting in a shortage of Hajj expenses or needs of subsistence, he then, could go for a little earning through trading or employment to meet his financial needs. This is, in no way, contrary to the ideal of sincerity. However, for one who has to do so, it is much better that he leaves the five special days of Hajj rites free of any engagement in trading or employment. Instead, he should devote these days to nothing but ‘ibadah and thikr of Allah. This is the reason why some scholars have ruled that trading or employment during these special days of Hajj is forbidden.

[Taqwa is the Best Provision]

Staying in ‘Arafat and Muzdalifah

“But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al-Mash’ar al-Haram,” it tells us that, on the way back from ‘Arafat, it is wajib [necessary] to stay overnight in Muzdalifah and to recite the name of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

The word afadtum [أَفَضْتُم] is from the root fa-ya-duad and it means to be copious, overflow, abound, flow freely or spread. When people leave the plains ‘Arafat it looks like an overflow of people!

The word ‘arafat [عَرَفَات] is from the root ayn-ra-fa and it means to know, to discern, have cognition or to become acquainted with. It is the name of a plain located outside the limits of Harum. It is a place where the pilgrims are acquainted with their Lord. This is where they realize how small and insignificant they are in comparison to the Lord Who controls everything. They realize their dependency on Him and their eventual return to Him. This is where they see a picture of the Day of Judgment where all mankind will be standing before its Lord, naked without any identity or status. Hajj in reality is the preparation for that gathering. We ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for an easy reckoning.

[O Travelers to the Haram]

All pilgrims are required to reach and stay at the plains of ‘Arafat between noon and sunset hours. This is the most important obligation of Hajj for which, if missed out, there is no alternative in the form of kaffarah [expiation] or fidyah [ransom].

Imam Ahmad recorded that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said,

الْحَجُّ عَرَفَاتٌ ثَلَاثًا فَمَنْ أَدْرَكَ عَرَفَةَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَطْلُعَ الْفَجْرُ فَقَدْ أَدْرَكَ، وَأَيَّامُ مِنًى ثَلَاثَــةٌ، فَمَنْ تَعَجَّلَ فِي يَوْمَيْنِ فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيْهِ، وَمَنْ تَأَخَّر فَلَا إِثْمَ عَلَيه

“Hajj is ‘Arafat, (thrice). Hence, those who have stood at ‘Arafat before dawn will have performed (the rituals of the Hajj). The days of Mina are three, and there is no sin for those who move on after two days, or for those who stay.”

The time to stand on ‘Arafat starts from noon on the day of ‘Arafah until dawn the next day, which is the day of the Sacrifice (the tenth day of Thul-Hijjah). The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam stood at ‘Arafat during the Farewell Hajj, after he had offered the Zuhr [noon] prayer, until sunset. He said, “Learn your rituals from me.”

[Going to ‘Arafah and Muzdalifah]

It was reported that the mount was called ‘Arafat because, as ‘Abdur-Razzaq reported that ‘Ali bin Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala sent Jibreel ‘alayhi salaam to Prophet Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam and he performed Hajj for him (to teach him its rituals). When Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam reached ‘Arafat he said, ‘I have ‘Araftu [I know this place].’ He had come to that area before. Thereafter, it was called ‘Arafat.”

‘Arafat is also called Al-Mash’ar Al-Haram, Al-Mash’ar Al-Aqsa and Ilal, while the mount that is in the middle of ‘Arafat is called Jabal Ar-Rahmah [Mount of Mercy].

Ibn Abu Hatim reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said, “During the time of jahiliyyah, the people used to stand at ‘Arafat. When the sun would be on top of the mountains, just as the turban is on top of a man’s head, they would move on. Allah’s Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam delayed moving from ‘Arafat until sunset.” Ibn Marduwyah related this hadeeth and added, “He then stood at Al-Muzdalifah and offered the Fajr [dawn] prayer at an early time. When the light of dawn broke, he moved on.” This hadeeth has a hasan chain of narrators.

The long hadeeth that Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah narrated, which Muslim collected, stated, “The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam kept standing there (meaning at ‘Arafat) until sunset, when the yellow light had somewhat gone and the disc of the sun had disappeared. Then, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam made Usamah sit behind him, and in order to keep her under control, pulled the nose string of Al-Qaswa’ so hard, that its head touched the saddle. He gestured with his right hand and said, ‘Proceed calmly people, calmly!’ Whenever he happened to pass over an elevated tract of sand, he lightly loosened the nose string of his camel till she climbed up and this is how they reached Al-Muzdalifah. There, he led the Maghrib [evening] and ‘Isha [night] prayers with one Athan and two Iqamah [which announces the imminent start of the acts of the prayer] and did not glorify Allah in between them [i.e., he did not perform voluntary Rak’ah].

Allah’s Messenger then laid down till dawn and offered the Fajr [dawn] prayer with Athan and Iqamah, when the morning light was clear. He again mounted Al-Qaswa’, and when he came to Al-Mash’ar Al-Harum, he faced towards Qiblah, supplicating to Allah, glorifying Him and saying, La ilaha illallah, and he continued standing until the daylight was very clear. He then went quickly before the sun rose.”

It is reported in the Two Saheehs that Usamah ibn Zayd radhiAllahu ‘anhu was asked, “How the Prophet’s pace was when he moved?” He said, “Slow, unless he found space, then he would go a little faster.”

Emphasis has been laid in the text on the stay near al-Mash’ar al-Haram on the way back from ‘Arafat after having spent the day there and after having departed the plain soon after sunset.

Al-Mash’ar Al-Haram is the name of a mountain which is located in Muzdalifah. The word al-Mash’ar [الْمَشْعَر] is from the root sheen-ayn-ra and it means sign or symbol.  The word al-haram [الْحَرَام] means sacred. The name signifies that this mountain is a sacred monument to Islam.

The plain adjacent is called Muzdalifah. It is wajib to spend the night on this plain and offer the combined prayers of Maghrib and ‘Isha at one time in Muzdalifah. The Qur’anic expression: “remember Allah at the Mash’ar-il-Haram,” includes all kinds of the remembrances of Allah, however, here it particularly means the offering of two prayers at one time, that is, offering Maghrib with ‘Isha. This is the special act of worship peculiar to the plain of Muzdalifah.

[Realizing the Essence and Purpose of Hajj]

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