There are Five Pillars of faith in Islam, and the last one is to perform the pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. All Muslims are called to performed the Hajj at least once in their lifetime, if they are financially and physically able to do it. This is told to Muslims in the Quran. Below are a couple of verses from the Quran stating this:
“Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Mecca) for Allah.” (Surah Al-Baqara – 2:196)
” … And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allâh, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence) …” (Surah Al-E-Imran – 3:97)
The pilgrimage is performed during the first ten days of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, or about 2 months after the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting.
The Kaba, which is the Muslims’ House of God, resides within the Al-Haram Masjid in Mecca, and is it the central focus of the pilgrimage. The Kaba is believed to be the building that Abraham erected in honor of God. The Quran tells Muslims that Abraham was instructed by God to build the Kaba: “Allah hath appointed the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, a standard for mankind, and the Sacred Month and the offerings and the garlands.” (Surah Maeda: 5:97) The following verse is another example: “And when We made the House (at Mecca) a resort for mankind and sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).” (Surah Al-Baqara: 2:125).
The Hajj itself is a series of several rituals. Below is a simplied list of the main rituals:
- Men put on a special garment (white, unstitched cloth).
- Walk around the Kaba seven times while reciting prayers and Quranic verses, then offer two formal prayers near the Kaba.
- Travel to the Valley of Arafat and offer the Zuhr and Asr prayer there. Contemplate the sacrifice Abraham was willing to make for God by sacrificing his son there and reflect on the Day of Judgement that is to come.
- Travel to Mina and throw stones at the “devil,” which is a stone pillar called Jamaratil Uqbah.
- Offer a sacrifice of a goat or lamb, called a Qurbani, which will be distributed as food to poor people.
- It is preferred for men to shave their heads and women to cut a lock of hair. This is to symbolize the cleansing of the soul from having performed the pilgrimage.
- Celebrate the Eid Al-Adha on the last day.
All men are required to wear the same clothing during the entire Hajj – a plain piece of unstitched cotton cloth. Women are allowed to wear their traditional outfits from their culture (these should be simple outfits), but a lot of women will purchase white cotton outfits to wear. All those performing Hajj must refrain from intimate relations with their spouse and abstain from fighting, arguing, killing or hunting living things, and avoid the use of perfumes and the cutting of hair and nails.
The basic principles behind Hajj are to remember that all men and women are created equally in the eyes of God, thus the use of the same clothing for the men. It does not matter what kind of material wealth a person possesses in this world — in the end all people are the same in God’s eyes – stripped of all earthly possessions. Another reason for Hajj is to go back to a simple, pure “being” and concentrate of God alone — to become as close to God as possible through the rituals of the pilgrimage and through dedicated prayer and contemplation. Imagine over two million people from many different countries and all different socioeconomic classes, coming together in one place to praise and worship God in unity?
When a Muslim has completed the Hajj, they are called a Hajji (male) or Hajjah (female), which simply means, “one who has performed the Hajj.” It is a journey that most Muslims will only be able to perform once in their lives, because it is a hard journey to make physically and financially. For some, it is a journey that they save up for over many years.
Hajj is a beautiful display of the kind of unity and equally that God wants to see in this world. It is a journey for the soul …