Interpretation of Sura Cow - Verse 196
196. " And complete the Hajj (Pilgrimage) nad the 'Umrah for the sake of Allah; but if you are prevented (to complete it) , then (send) whatever offering (sacrificial animal) as may be obtained with ease; and do not shave your heads till the offering reaches its place (of sacrifice) ; but whoever among you is sick, or has an ailment in his head, then he (should) make redemption by fasting, or alms-giving or sacrificing. And when you are secure, then whoever enjoys from the 'Umrah to the Hajj (he should offer) of whatever offering is easily available (for him) . But whoever finds none (to give) , should fast three days during the Hajj (Pilgrimage) , and seven days when you have returned; these (make) ten (days) complete. That is for the one whose family members do not dwell near the sacred Mosque. Have awe of Allah, and know that verily Allah is severe in penalty."
The Rites of Pilgrimage
The visitors of the holy shrine of Mecca usualy perform the ceremonies of minor pilgrimage first. The rites are as follows: They put on pilgrim's garb ('ihram) from some definite sites known as ' Trysting Place '. It means that they undertake to abandon doing a series of deeds which are unlawful for the person in a pilgrim state. They cover themselves with pilgrim's garb which consists of two pieces of unsewn cloth, and they continually say 'labbaika' while going towards Ka'bah. When they reach Mecca, at first, they circumambulate Ka'bah in seven rounds. Then, they keep up a two-rak'at-prayer in a place called Maqam-i-Ebrahim (Station of Abraham) . After that, they ply to and fro between two mountains named Safa and Marwah for seven times. Finally, they, having cut a piece of a nail or some hair of theirs, take off the pilgrim's garb.
Then, again for the ceremonies of Pilgrimage, they put on pilgrim's garb and go unto 'Arafat, which is a land 24 kilometers far from original city of Mecca, in order to stay therein on the ninth of Zil-Hajjah, from noon until sunset, busy praying with invocation. After sunset, they move to Mash'ar-ul-Haram (Sacred Monument) , which is located at a distance of 15 kilometers from Mecca, where they must remain until morning. When the sun rises, they move into Mina, a land nearby there, and, on the same day, which is known as Feast of Sacrifice, they throw seven pebbles at a special Pillar called: ' Jamarah 'uqba ', and then they sacrifice before shaving their heads (while women cut off a piece of hair from their heads) . When they did their hair cut (Taqsir) , they take off their pilgrim's garb at last.
They return to Mecca the same day or after that and perform the ritual circumambulation of the Ka'bah, circumambulation prayer, running between Safa and Marwah, Nisa' circumambulation and Nisa' circumambulation prayer. On the eleventh and twelfth of the month, they throw pebbles at three special pillars in Mina which are called 'Jamarat ', one after another seven times at each pillar each day while, during the nights before these days, they have to remain in Mina.
Thus, they accomplish the rites of the formal Pilgrimage (Hajj) each of which is the survival of one historical event and that they are some effective hints and implicit declarations to the matters of refinement of character and social philosophies. (The description of each philosophy will be delivered when commenting on the concerning verses) .
Now it is necessary to notify that the verse indicates that all these actions should be fulfilled for the sake of Allah and according to His commandments, not for making display and pretence nor for the sake of idols. Therefore, the first clause of the verse proclaims that in the deeds of Pilgrimage, both the formal Pilgrimage (Hajj) and the lesser formal one ('Umrah) , no motive should interfere but seeking to be nearer to Allah. " And complete the Hajj (Pilgrimage) and the 'Umrah for the sake of Allah; ..."
Then it adds that if something like sickness and fear of enemy happens that hinders you from performing the ritual rites of Hajj and 'Umrah after you are clothed in pilgrim's garb you must sacrifice an animal as it is possible for you.
"... but if you are prevented (to complete it) , then (send) whatever offering (sacrificial animal) as may be obtained with ease; ..." It should be noted, of curse, that if the prevetion is as a result of sickness and the like and the pilgrim's garb is done for the lesser formal Pilgrimage ('Umrah Mufradah) , the sacrifice should be sent to Mecca, but if it has happened from the side of an enemy, the duty of sacrifice must be done at the same place where the prevention has occurred. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) behaved in the same manner in Hudaybiyah, too. But, if the person is in the pilgrim's garb of Hajj and becomes sick, the one must send the sacrifice to Mina.
"... and do not shave your heads till the offering reaches its place (of sacrifice) ; ..."
One of the rites that should be done in Hajj (Pilgrimage) is shaving the head (for men, and cutting some hair of the head for women) . But they must be careful that they are not allowed to do this duty before sacrificing the offering in the place of sacrifice. "...but whoever among you is sick, or has an ailment in his head, then he (should) make redemption by fasting, or alms-giving or sacrificing. ..." The exception is for the person who has an ailment or a difficulty that has to shave before the appointed time. If the person did so, (i.e. shaved his head because of ailment and the like) , it is necessary for the one to give ransom. This ransom can be three days of fasting, or feeding six indigents, or slaughtering a lamb. "...And when you are secure, then whoever enjoys from the 'Umrah to the Hajj (he should offer) of whatever offering is easily available (for him) . But whoever finds none (to give) , should fast three days during the Hajj (Pilgrimage) , and seven days when you have returned;..." When you are free from sickness and enemy and you want to perform the 'greater Pilgrimage ', you must sacrifice whatever you can from animals such as a camel, cow, or lamb. But if any of you cannot find the animal, or financially is not able to afford it, he must fast three days during the days of pilgrimage (the seventh, eighth, and ninth days) and seven days after returning from Hajj so that it makes ten days.
"...these (make) ten (days) complete. ..."
It is evident that three days and seven days make ten days, yet the Qur'an says that they are totally ten days complete. This meaning may point to the idea that the ten days can be substituted for the sacrifice completely. This greater Pilgrimage with these orders is for those who are not dwelling nearby the Sacred Mosque. (The known state among Muslim jurisprudents is that everyone who is sixteen kilometers far from Mecca his duty is to follow the rites of the ' greater Pilgrimage ', but those who are not far from Mecca by this distance, their duty is the 'separation Pilgrimge' (Hajj-i-Qir'an) . This subject is detailed in books of jurisprudence furnished with its concerning evidences.)
"...That is for the one whose family members do not dwell near the sacred Mosque,..." Finally, at the end of the verse, the command is due to piety and that believers be aware not to have any shortcoming about the divine instructions in order to protect themselves from the severe punishment of Allah.
"...Have awe of Allah, and know that verily Allah is severe in penalty." This emphasis may be for this that Pilgrimage (Hajj) is a great Islamic worship so that if the rites of it be not carefully observed and its spirit be neglected, there will be a large loss for Muslims.
This worship (Hajj) is the very one that Imam Amir-ul-Mu'mineen Ali (a.s.) has considered it the 'flag' and 'magnificent motto' of Islam. At the last moments of his life, he (a.s.) has remarked in his will, thus: " Fear Allah (and) keep Allah in view in the matter of your Lord's House (Ka'bah) . Do not forsake it so long as you live, because if it is abandoned, you will not be spared." 90
Some enemies of Islam have also said that while Pilgrimage is in process they cannot gain victory. One of the great believing men says: woe unto Muslims if they do not comprehend the meaning of Hajj, and woe unto others if they do not catch its meaning!
90. Nahjul-Balaqah, Letter No. 4
Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Quran - Interpretation of Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow)" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"
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