By His Eminence the religious authority Sayyed Mohammad Husein Fadlullah
Upon studying the religious duty of pilgrimage in Islam, we can notice that Allah, the most Exalted, has gathered all the meanings and values He wants for man to learn and live as he practices his religious services; for instance, in pilgrimage one can observe another type of fasting and prayers so to speak, even alms tax will be of another characteristic, all of which are not only laden with the significance of openness to Allah, praised be the Lord, but also with all the symbols which stand for the struggle of man against all deception and deviation.
This matter suggests that Allah, praise be the Lord, through pilgrimage wants for Man, during an interval of time, an active spiritual journey represented in the practical life of Man so that he or she would set out for life after they return from pilgrimage and turn the general concepts acquired during pilgrimage into practical steps and approaches toward life wholly.
What do we find out if we want to reach out to the concept of pilgrimage and try to bring out some spiritual, intellectual, and practical indications?
The significance of Al Ihram (consecration):
Upon setting out, Al Ihram for a pilgrim signifies keeping one's self during this journey from numerous things he is familiar to such as food, clothing, ornaments, things you protect your body with, things you use to serve your relations with others such as your style in bringing motion to the point of excitement; in fact, you prevent yourself from certain things which somehow differ from what you ordinarily quit during the days of fasting, yet those things during Al Ihram and during fasting have something in common.
Actually, they both represent Man's turning against his being a slave for his habits and Man's attempt to win his freedom so that his needs cannot pressurize him, nor can his habits control him. During pilgrimage, Man takes off his clothes and is satisfied with two unsown cloaks representing both a shroud and the aspect of similarity to all people that class distinction totally disappears while in the Ihram. As a result, the pilgrim in Ihram is given a sort of equality that while dressed in it, it may seem to him valueless and that he may be satisfied with little clothing during the process of worshipping.
By that he will be far from the familiar clothing for quite a while during which he may acquire the concept of his being capable to dispense with it in many instances. As a matter of fact, clothing is meant to cover or hide the body so that Man is given a reasonable form and shape, but it is never meant to give him a social value, which he may misuse and create a privilege for himself. After this, we notice Man accomplishing his Ihram by moving from the formal stage to the functional stage, so what does he do?
In the following moments, he listens through his heart to Allah calling Ibrahim (p.): " Once you call upon people for pilgrimage, they will come on foot." ( Al Haj: 27). It is a call from Allah inviting people to come. Allah, the most Exalted, says Oh Ibrahim! Tell them that Allah invites you to visit Him, to practice His religious ceremonies, to contemplate and think over all your past and future life. Tell them that Allah, the most Exalted, wants you to leave your families, your houses, your habits, and circumstances in order to come to Him occupied only with compliance and obligation. Oh Ibrahim ! Tell this to all men of your time and all the posterity to come.