When is Hajj & What Is Hajj
The Great Islamic Pilgrimage – Hajj
The Hajj is considered one of the largest yearly pilgrimages in the world. It is an Islamic pilgrimage in adherence to one of the five pillars of Islam, which requires all able bodied Muslim to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her life. This is held on the last month of the Islamic calendar, the 12th Dhu al-Hijjah.
History of the Hajj
According to historians, the Hajj was based primarily on the Prophet Mohammed’s pilgrimage between the years 600 and 700 A.D. But if you refer to Hadith, it can be traced back as far in time when Abraham was still alive. In this version, the Hajj is a commemoration of Hagar’s passion when she and her son Ishmael were left by Abraham in the desert. When the provisions Abraham left them ran out,
Hagar ran through the desert towards the hills of Safa and Marwa to look for food and water and back to her son 7 times. When she could not find any she grabbed the baby Ishmael and laid him on the desert sands. There she begged Allah for mercy. Then the baby Ishmael cried and hit the ground with his heel and then the Zamzam Well sprang saving him and his mother Hagar.
The Preparations of the Pilgrims
The Muslims who intend to participate in the Hajj will first prepare the white clothing called the Ihram. It resembles the toga of the ancient Greeks. For their feet the would-be pilgrim will only wear sandals. All participants will be in Ihrams to show equality among Muslims before Allah. Once in Ihram, the person is prohibited from doing the following:
- Wear shoes
- Clip and polish their nails
- Wear perfume
- Harvest and damage plants
- Kill animals
- Bring or carry weapons
- Engage in sexual intercourse
- Cover ones head(for men)
- Covering of hands and face (for women)
- Quarrel, swear or say something vulgar
The Major Rituals of the Pilgrimage
The Hajj is divided into several rituals. A pilgrim must complete these rituals to be able to claim the he or she has completed the pilgrimage to Mecca.
- Tawaf – The rite of Tawaf is the walking in counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the cube structure in Mecca and a sacred Islamic site. If the pilgrim is near the Al Hajar Al Aswar or the Black Stone he may kiss it. If the pilgrim is too far he could just point towards the stone with his right hand. He must do this seven times and each time he must chant an incantation praising Allah. The Tawaf must be completed at once. Taking a break is not allowed after every circuit.
- Sai – The rite of Sai is the running seven times towards the hills of Safa and Marwah and back. This is to re-enact Hagar’s desperate search for water for her son Ishmael. This rite does not strictly require the pilgrim to run. He can walk seven times. At the end of the right pilgrims will drink from the Zamzam well.
- Arafat – This rite involves a travel from Mina to Mt. Arafat. During this journey the pilgrim will recite the Qur’an while standing in vigil and prayer. This is called the Wuquf and is a major event among the Hajja (plural of Hajji or pilgrims in Islam.)
- Muzdalifah – The Arafat rite ends when the sun sets. Next, the pilgrims go to Muzdalifah which is located between Mina and Arafat. Here they sleep on the ground before an open sky. The next day the pilgrims will gather pebbles is preparation of the ritual of stoning the Devil.
- Ramy al-Jamarat – This ritual is the stoning of the Devil. This is where the pebble gathered in Muzdalifah are for. It symbolizes the pilgrim’s defiance of the Devil and the trials one faces when obeying Allah.