By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The Haj season is once again upon us, where millions of Muslims travel to Mecca and Medina to perform the Haj rituals, which is a mandatory obligation upon each Muslim at least once in a lifetime, if he/she becomes physically & financially capable. However, over the years the true meaning of Haj had been altered by many distractions and desires, which eliminate the beauty of this spiritual journey that many people pay thousands of dollars for. It is believed that once a person completes the rituals of Haj, he/she become free of sins or according to some narrations, like the day he was born. However, we witness this privilege does not deter many of the pilgrims from repeating the same wrongdoings over and over again. Many individuals travel to Mecca and Medina for commercial purposes to buy cheaper products, which they can sell at higher prices in their countries. Others use the Haj journey as a social exposure to serve their personal image in the public, and meanwhile they commit some of the most horrendous sins and crimes against other Muslims. However, there are many Muslims, who try to make their Haj experience a life-changing experience, where their entire conducts, actions, deeds, desires and priorities are changed. Nevertheless, the Haj journey of one specific man in history marks the true purpose of this holy journey, which placed him as one of the most honorable men in history.
Ali Ibn Yaqtin was one of the pupils of Imam Al-Sadiq and a loyal follower of him, who was known to be among the most pious and humble men during those times. It is narrated that once the season of Haj had arrived, Ali found out that Imam Al-Sadiq is going to Haj as well, therefore, he decided to accompany the Imam as well. He had saved up some coins for his journey for a long time, and he was counting the days to arrive in Mecca and meet with his Imam and take advantage of his time with him in Mecca.
Ali started his journey to Mecca and all he was thinking about, was performing the Haj with his Imam. During his way to Mecca, Ali met a woman who was placing a dead animal inside a bag. The scene was very unusual for Ali, as he knew that eating a dead animal was prohibited in Islam, and it did not seem like that woman had hunted that animal, since it was obvious the animal had been dead already. Ali approached the woman and said to her: Peace be upon you, O’ sister. What are you doing with this animal? She replied: I am taking this animal to my home to cook it for my children. The answer of that woman shocked Ali even more, which mandated him to ask the woman: don’t you know that eating the meat of a dead animal is (Haram) prohibited in Islam?
The woman replied: I am a widow with little children in the house, and I have no means to provide for them, therefore, I am obliged and compelled to use this dead animal for my children, as we have not eaten anything in several days. Therefore, the rule you mentioned doesn’t apply to us.
Ali was shocked, as he had never seen a person so desperate, where he/she is willingly eating the meat of a dead animal, which meant he had to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. Ali looked upon the sky and said: O’ Lord, you are well aware about my intention and how I wanted to perform Haj with the Imam of my time, but this woman is more merited to have the coins that I have saved for Haj journey.
Ali looked at the woman and said: please leave this dead animal and take these coins and use them to provide food and other necessities for your children. The woman was very happy and in disbelieve, as she could not believe that someone would donate his entire earnings to her. She thanked Ali and left, and Ali had to return to his home without ever reaching his destination.
Once the Haj rituals were over and everyone had returned to his home and family, friends and neighbors of Ali Ibn Yaqtin started coming to his house to congratulate him for his Haj journey. In addition, other pilgrims, who had already been to Mecca that year, were coming to Ali and congratulating him as well, which made Ali even more surprised. Ali was telling them that he did not go to Haj that year, and he never reached Mecca. However, they were telling Ali that they had seen him in Mecca during all the rituals, and some of them even told him, they spent time with him in certain places.
Ali was speechless and did not know how to reply to all of those people. However, Imam Al-Sadiq was back from his Haj journey as well, and believers had decided to go and visit him in his house. Once they got to the house of the Imam and met with him, they told him about Ali’s denial and how he was saying he did not perform Haj that year and he never reached Mecca. Imam Al-Sadiq replied: This year the only people, who truly performed Haj were Ali, my camel and I. However, Ali is right, and he told them the story about the woman, and how Ali donated all of his coins to her. Therefore, Allah appointed an angel resembling Ali, who performed Haj on his behalf this year.