4th March 2001

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A Muslim's act of devotion

At this time of the year a large number of people gather at one place,
at one time for one purpose - to perform Haj and submit themselves,
in accordance with Allah's command.

By Ayesha Yusuf

People the world over journey to various places, for diverse reasons. However, Haj is quite a different journey - a journey that is undertaken solely for Allah's sake, and to fulfil a duty commanded by Allah.

At this time of year Muslims converge on the holy city of Mecca to perform Haj, one of the five principles of Islam. Haj is incum bent on every Muslim, who has the means and ability to perform it. This is the only place in the world, where a large number gather at one place, at one time for one purpose - to perform Haj and submit themselves, in accordance with Allah's command. Haj also commemorates the sacrifice made by Prophet Ibraheem at Allah's command, to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

One who undertakes this journey has to prepare himself. He has to be committed to Taqwa (Remembrance of Allah) and be in complete submission to His will.

The Haj pilgrim sets out with strong conviction's regarding of his duty to Allah, leaving behind his kith and kin, spending his wealth and undergoing the rigours of travel, and all that forms the ritual of Haj with devotion to his Creator.

The physical demands of Haj, involve Tawaaf, circumambulating the Holy Kaabah seven times, and Sai, walking between Safa and Marwa. Sai brings to mind the time Prophet Ibraheem left his wife and infant son Ismael alone in the barren desert, in compliance with Allah's command. For when she ran out of water, she ran frantically between the two mountains of Safa and Marwa and after running seven times, between the two mountains, she came upon the spring of Zam Zam bubbling at the feet of the infant.

The spring of Zam Zam exists even today.

After the pilgrim has done the Sai, he or she drinks his or her fill of the water, which is now released by connecting pipes to various points, for the use of the pilgrims.

After Tawaaf and before Sai, the pilgrim should pray two rakaats, behind Maqaam Ibrahim or in its precincts.

Ihram is a state of entering religious purity. The pilgrim puts on special garments which are also called Ihram at or before one of the five boundaries (Meeqaat) and makes known his intention to perform Umrah or Haj. It is recommended that moustache, finger and toe nails and unwanted hair be clipped or shaved beforehand, so that one is not obliged to do so during the state of Ihram. Once Ihram is worn the Muhrim should begin to recite aloud the Talbeeyah. "Here I am O Allahl Here I am. Here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Surely all praise, grace and dominion is yours, and you have no partner".

The Talbeeyah is a reaffirmation of the pilgrim's belief in Tawheed (Oneness of Allah) and a confirmation of submission, spiritual and physical, to Allah's command.

As the pilgrim steps with his or her right foot into the Masjidul Haraam it is recommended to recite the following dua "Oh Allah! Open the doors of your mercy for me…." The pilgrim remembers Allah and his blessings, and seeks forgiveness in his own words. On the eighth day of Zul-Hijja, the pilgrim puts on Ihram, and leaves for Mina, where he spends the whole day and night in prayer. On the ninth day after Salaat-ul-Fajr in Mina he leaves after sunrise for Arafat, which he should enter around noon.

This is the day, at Arafat, when the pilgrim strives to seek forgiveness and Allah's favour, in personal prayers and guidance. After sunset the pilgrim leaves for Muzdalifa.

The pilgrim picks up seven pebbles at Muzdalifah, and more pebbles could be collected at Mina, in order to throw them at the three pillars of Jamrah.

This stoning of the Jamrah (on the 10th, 11th and 12th of Zul Hijjah) symbolises Prophet Ibraheem taking his son Ismael with the intention of making him a human sacrifice for Allah's sake and Satan's bid to make him give up his intention.

On tenth of Zulhijjah after returning from Mina, the pilgrim sacrifices an animal. This commemorates the spirit of supreme sacrifice made by Prophet Ibraheem. This act of sacrifice symbolises and confirms the fact that all man's possessions truly belong to Allah, and that he is prepared to give all away for Allah's sake.

The Holy Prophet further clarifies that the spirit of sacrifice, is of greater importance to Him than the act of sacrifice. On the 12th after the final casting of the seven stones at the Jamrah, the pilgrim returns to Makkah to perform the ~farewell Tawaaf known as Tawalfal - Widaa.

The Haj that is graced by Allah's acceptance, has a lasting effect on those who perform it. A deep spiritual transformation takes place in the individual and it can be observed in his or her life.

There are greater merits of Haj, two of which all sincere believers yearn for: self-purification of sins and a guaranteed place in paradise.

The Holy Prophet (Sal) expressed these as firstly, "The person who makes pilgrimage to Allah's house and without committing any acts of evil, or disobedience to Allah, will return home as pure as he was the day he was born. Secondly that the reward for a Haj Mabroor accepted into Allah's grace is nothing less than paradise.

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