The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca

The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca

The Hajj is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, which every Muslim must follow, in order to fulfill the obligations towards this religion. The following article provides some information about its origin and significance.
The Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which are the five duties that every Muslim must follow in order to be a true follower of this religion. It is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is the holiest city for all Muslims in the world. Every able-bodied Muslim is supposed to manage at least one trip to Mecca in his lifetime. However, if he can't do it himself, he can also make someone else go on his behalf. In fact, Islam says that an individual should not make the pilgrimage to Hajj, if it causes inconvenience to his family members or friends. The Hajj pilgrimage begins from the 7th day of Dhu al-Hijja, which is the last month of the Islamic calendar, and ends on the 10th day of the same month.

Origin

Kabah is the famous and distinct cube-shaped holy building in Mecca. Every Muslim must face this structure while offering prayers. It is believed that God asked Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail to build the Kabah as the point, where believers from all over the world would converge to show their faith in the Almighty. Before the Prophet Muhammad made his pilgrimage in the 7th century, tribes from all over Arabia (some were even following Christianity), are believed to have made annual pilgrimages to this holy site. Referred to as the Days of Ignorance, the Kabah contained numerous idols and totems of the different tribes during those times. However, when the Prophet Muhammad made his first pilgrimage from Medina to Mecca with his Muslim followers, he cleansed the site of all the idols, and reinstated the Kabah as the house of a single God. Since then, the Hajj has become one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Performing Rites and Rituals

The rites of the Hajj celebrate the various acts of Prophet Ibrahim, his wife Hagar, and their son Ismail, which signify their faith in God. However, it is also perceived as an act, in which the Muslims from all over the world show solidarity with each other, and for their faith in a single God, the Allah. The following rituals are performed in this pilgrimage:
  • The Ihram: As soon as the pilgrims arrive at the boundary of Mecca, they enter the state of Ihram or purity. In this state, men wear two white and seamless sheets of clothes that cover their bodies, and a pair of sandals. Women are expected to wear the modest hijab, which would leave their hands and faces uncovered. This ritual also reinforces equality of all, in the eyes of God, by removing any external indicator of cultural or financial differences.
  • The Umrah: On the first day of this pilgrimage, the Hajjis (the pilgrims), offer their fist Tawaf, which is the act of walking around the Kabah, seven times in anticlockwise direction, and kissing the Black Stone after each round. After this, on the same day, the pilgrims walk between the hills of Safa and Marwah, seven times as an imitation of the act of Hagar who frantically searched for water for her thirsty son. They also drink the holy water from the Zamzam Well, which is believed to have been revealed to Hagar by an angel.
  • Travel to Arafat and Muzdalifah: The pilgrims spend the second day in Mina. On the third day, they reach Arafat, where they recite the Holy Quran near Mount Arafat, from where Prophet Muhammad is supposed to have preached his last sermon. Known as the Wuquf, this ritual is believed to be the most important aspect of the Hajj. As soon as the sun sets, the pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah, where they collect stones for the next ritual in Mina.
  • Ramy al-Jamarat: At Mina, the pilgrims perform Ramy al-Jamarat, which is also known as the "stoning of the Devil", wherein they throw seven pebbles at the pillars erected in Mina. This act signifies the refusal of Abraham to listen to the Devil, who tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son to God.
  • Eid al-Adha: After the Ramy al-Jamarat, the Hajjis sacrifice an animal to God in remembrance of the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael. It is believed that just as Abraham was going to behead his son, God replaced him with a ram.
  • The Last Tawafs: On the 11th day, the pilgrims perform another Tawaf az-Ziyarah at the holy mosque in Mecca. At afternoon, they again throw seven pebbles at the pillars in Mina. On the twelfth day, before leaving Mecca, the Hajjis perform the Tawaf al-Wada which is the last Tawaf.
For the last 14 centuries, Muslims from all over the world have been flocking in millions to the city of Mecca to make the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, and the number keeps increasing every year. Although it is necessarily a pilgrimage for the Muslims, it symbolizes the virtues like self sacrifice and faith in the Almighty, which are preached by every religion in the world.
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