Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Almighty Allah during the time of Holy Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim – Peace be upon him). Muslims believe in all the prophets sent by Almighty Allah starting from the first Prophet Adam (Peace be upon him) to the last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). All of them [...]

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Hajj: The journey of a lifetime


Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Almighty Allah during the time of Holy Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim – Peace be upon him). Muslims believe in all the prophets sent by Almighty Allah starting from the first Prophet Adam (Peace be upon him) to the last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). All of them had a common mission – To guide mankind on the right path.

Muslim worshippers circle around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye

The ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam are the foundation of a Muslim’s life. They are the belief in the oneness of God and his last Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the five daily prayers, giving alms to the needy, self-purification through fasting; and finally the pilgrimage to Mecca or the Hajj.

Hajj is a mandatory duty on all Muslims capable of making the journey both physically and financially. Hajj consists of several rituals meant to symbolise the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials and tribulations of Abraham (Peace be upon him) and his family. Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him) had been commanded by his Lord to leave his wife Hagar (Hajara) and his new born son Ishmael (Ismail) in the uninhabited barren valley of Mecca.

In the valley, they depleted their supplies and ran out of water. Hagar had to run between the hills of Safaa and Marwah in search of water leaving her baby Ismail in the valley. As the Almighty willed, miraculously, a spring started to gush and spurt out water from the ground near the feet of baby Ishmael. This spring came to be known as Zam-Zam.

Holy Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him) and his son Ishmael were again commanded by Almighty Allah to rebuild the house of worship, exclusively for worship of Allah. Both the father and the son painstakingly completed the cubic-shaped building which came to be known as “Kaaba” in Mecca. Even during the pre-Islamic era, Kabah had been revered by different people who frequented and encamped there. They circumambulate the Kaaba as part of the rituals. With the passage of time, the main goal and the form of Haj changed or were distorted. As ordained by Almighty Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), who was a descendant of Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him), later eradicated false rituals and revived the purest form of Hajj, preserving the sanctity.

Muslims from all over the world take part in this largest gathering on Earth, the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. For more than 14 centuries, countless millions of Muslims, men and women from all over the world, have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. This is a religious obligation that every Muslim must fulfil at least once in his or her lifetime. The pilgrimage is centred on Mecca, Islam’s holiest site and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Religious observances associated with Hajj could be considered as the spiritual climax of Muslims, as they enter in to a sublime state of total devotion, piety and purity.

During the performance of Hajj, people, irrespective of their colour, gender and social status will stand before Almighty Allah, seeking forgiveness and the acceptance of their good deeds. According to the revelation in the Holy Quran, Hajj reminds us of the life hereafter, especially the gathering on Judgment Day when people will be resurrected and will stand before their Lord, awaiting the verdict on the good or bad deeds they committed during their worldly life. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has said “God does not judge according to the shapes and appearances of your bodies, but the Almighty scans your hearts and minds to judge your deeds”.

The pilgrims – with men dressed in two pieces of unstitched cloth – perform the same rituals, say the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, for the same goal. The Hajj pilgrimage enables Muslims from all around the world to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship the One God. This demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind, which is the most loud and clear message of Islam, signifying that there is no place for superiority on the basis of race, gender or social status.

Another feature of this journey is that Hajj provides a unique opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their lives, contemplate the greatness of Allah and to return to their families and homes spiritually enriched and cleansed of sins. According to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), a person who performs Hajj properly (Hajj mabroor) returns home as a newly born infant, devoid of all sins.

The rites of the hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include circumambulating counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building which symbolises the Islamic direction of prayer better known as Qibla, running back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah as did Abraham’s wife Hagar during her search for water, drinking from the Zam-zam Well, standing together on the wide plains of ‘Arafat’ (a large expanse of desert outside Mecca) and joining in prayer for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of Judgment and throwing stones in a ritual stoning of Satan.

It was on a Hajj day that Holy Prophet Muhammad, in his final year of life, gave his farewell sermon. He stood on the plain of Arafat and proclaimed the completion of his mission and announced the proclamation of God: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam, or submission to God, as your religion” (Quran 5:3). The holy prophet laying emphasis on the importance of Arafa has stated that “Hajj is Arafa”.

The culmination of Hajj is marked by the Hajj festival or better known as Eid-ul- Adha. Muslims all over the world celebrate this day with special prayers and sacrifices. Pilgrims in Mecca sacrifice a sheep or goat, in remembrance of Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him) and share the meat with the poor. This re-enacts the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, when commanded by the Almighty to test his faith. Almighty God then provided a sheep to Abraham as a substitute for his son for sacrifice. This act demonstrates Prophet Abraham’s ((Peace be upon him) unswerving faith and total submission to Almighty God’s command.

(The writer is in Saudi Arabia, performing Hajj)

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