Hajj Pilgrimage Essays

Pilgrimage To Mecca Essay

Islam, means Arabic, 'submitting oneself to God', which is one of the major world religions, and the youngest of the 3 Monotheistic religions developed in the Middle East. It is a religious and social system which is based on the teachings of Mohammed as preserved in the Koran and Sunna that generates instructions governing all aspects of the personal and communal life of Muslims. Islam reveals a religious faith and sets forth certain rituals.

There are essential Islamic practices, known as the Pillar of Islam. The fifth Pillars of Islam is the Great Pilgrimage or Hajj to the sacred monuments near in Mecca, takes place of the eighth day of the month of Hijjah on the Islamic lunar calendar. It has been taking place annually without a break for 1,400 years. Today as before, every adult Muslim is required to do at least once in a lifetime to make this journey. From before the time of Muhammad, these rituals have been divided into two groups, the 'umra'(visitation), sometimes called the 'Lesser Pilgrimage', which takes place in and near the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and can be performed at any time of the year, the Hajj (pilgrimage), which begins in Mecca and proceeds out to 'Arafat and back and is performed only on certain days of the month of Dhul-I-Hijja. Mecca marks the direction in which all Muslims pray. It is also the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad, who defined Islam, and is strongly associated with the lives of Hagar, Abraham and Ishmael, figures known to every Muslim child. For all these reasons, when time comes to make the pilgimage to Mecca, 'Hajj', is a duty and desire converge of all Muslims able to perform it ; each year over a million pilgrims arrive. The Hajj is not a single event. It is a process that changes shape over many days. It is by turns : A rite of arrival to a sacred territory , A circular, then a linear ceremony of mobile prayer, An exodus from an urban to a desert existence, A spiritual camping trip among the dunes, A daylong collective gathering, An all night vigil, A casting out of temptation and And a three day feast. In a ddition, with such large numbers of people representing over 100 nations, it is a kind of unofficial United Nations general assembly, a chance for each pilgrim to represent this homeland and take the pulse of Islam throughout the world. Pilgrims travel toward Mecca from every corner of the earth. Their routes converge a few miles short of Mecca, at the checkpoints marking the borders of the Sacred Territory. It is here at these special rendezvous points that the actuall Hajj begins. Over the course of a handful of days, the pilgrims will perform several rites, each with its own special meaning and significance. The annual Hajj is a strict appointment, beginning the eight day of the last month on the Muslim calendar. For several days and even weeks...

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A. Hajj (pilgrimage to the Holy Shrines at Mecca) is obligatory for every mature, sane and physically and financially able Muslim at least once in his lifetime.

1. This is provided that making hajj will not lead one to commit a haram action which is more serious than missing hajj.

2. One should not forsake an obligation which is more important than making hajj.

3. One should be mustati, that is, able to perform hajj physically, financially and safely, as well as have sufficient time to do so.

This means that he must have enough money to make the trip as well as being able to provide for his dependent's expenses during the trip. He should also have a proper source of income so as not to incur any hardship on returning.

B. For someone who cannot do without owning a home, hajj becomes obligatory whenever he can also afford such a home.

1. If someone provides all one's hajj expenses including one's family's maintenance during one's absence, one is obliged to make hajj. This is true even if one is in debt or has no means of income.

2. If one is mustati and never makes hajj, then becomes poor he must perform hajj, even though he may never again be mustati and making hajj is a great hardship.

If such a person is hired to perform someone else's hajj, he must go, perform that hajj, and stay in Mecca until the next year and then perform his own hajj. If such a man is too aged or infirm to go himself, he must hire someone to go in his place.

C. Hajj in some detail is explained in the annexure below.

"Labbaik Allahumma, Labbaik ! Labbaik Lasharika laka Labbaik." The chant rises to a crescendo and reaches the heavens, as the multitudes bend down in prayer surely they will be answered.

Every year lakhs of pilgrims transcend the boundaries of race, caste, colour and country, converging on the Holy city of Mecca to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage), the ultimate dream of every devout Muslim. They come, with one purpose; to absolve themselves of their sins.

Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is performed in the mouth of Zul-Hijjah, which is the last month of the Islamic calendar. A Muslim should perform at least one Hajj in his lifetime, if he has the means.

Prophet Mohammad told his disciples "perform the Hajj to Mecca if you have the means to go. Highlighting the consider­able merits of this pilgrimage, he added.

"He who makes a pilgri­mage for God's sake, and does not talk loosely, nor act wickedly, shall return as pure from sin as the day on which he was born."

The main purpose of the Hajj is to bring all the faithful to one platform, to unite them under the shadow of the Holy Kaaba.

Explaining its purpose a Haji (one who has performed the Hajj) commented, "It gives us the feeling of oneness.

We forget that we are Indian, or Egyptian, or Chinese; it is immaterial whether we are Syed or Khan. The ruler and the ruled adorn the same cloth, and obey the same command.

"Every one gathers for the same purpose-to give himself to the service of God", he added.

Thus, Hajj is an expression of belief, an acknowledgment of the command of God. "What is Thy Command?", asks a pilgrim and submits, to His call, "Here I am O Lord, in answer to your call."

Hajj is performed at the appointed time-within the first ten days of Zul-Hijjah. A pilgrimage to Mecca at any other time is called Umrah.

Hajj begins with the arrival of the pilgrim near Mecca. He divests himself of his clothes, and assumes the sacred robe, lhram.

This garment consists of two seamless wrappers, one warpped round the waist and the other thrown loosely over the shoulders, the head is left uncovered.

The pilgrim now having entered upon the Hajj, faces Mecca and makes the niyat (intention), and says, "O God, I propose to make the Hajj, make this service easy for me and accept it from me."

He then proceeds on his journey to the Holy city of Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Mohammad, and the site of the Holy Kaaba, the prime focus of the Muslim world and a symbol of the permanence of the Islamic faith.

At different places on the way he recites the hymn quoted in the beginning of the article, which means, "I stand up, I stand up!

There is no partner with Thee stand up! Verily Thine is the Praise, the Blessing and the Kingdom! There is no partner with Thee!"

Immediately after his arrival at Mecca he visits the Masjid-ul- Haraam, and then kisses the Hajar-ul-Aswad (the Black Stone). He then circles the Kaaba seven times, a proceeding which is called Tawaaf.

It is a gesture to show the Haji's readiness to obey the command of Allah. The Kaaba is said to have been built by Abraham.

The pilgrim then runs from the top of Mount As-Safa to the summit of Mount Al-Marwa seven times. According to tradition, Hajra (the wife of Abraham) ran between the two hills in search of water for her suckling son, Ishmail.

The panic, the scorching heat and the thirst-stricken baby drove her up and down the hills seven times, till the spring of Zam-Zam gushed forth from under the baby's feet.

The Holy water of Zam-Zam still quenches the thirst of millions of Hujjajs (plural of Haji) who come here every year.

On the seventh day, the pilgrim listens to the khutba, or sermon in the great mosque. On this day the ceremony of washing the Holy Kaaba is performed by the King of Saudi Arabia, the servant of the Holy Mosque.

This ceremony is attended by lakhs of pilgrims, including the vesting heads of states of many Islamic countries. After the washing ceremony is over the Kaaba adorns a new kishwa a gold-embroidered black cloth.

On the eighth day, he travels to Mina, where he performs the usual service and stays the night. The next day, after the Morning Prayer, the pilgrim proceeds to Mount Arafat, where he recites hymns and listens to another khutba.

Entry into Arafat is the most important part of the Haj, without which it remains incomplete.

According to tradition, it was at Arafat that Prophet Adam and Syyedah Hawa (Adam and Eve) found each other after their fall from Eden. In gratitude to Allah, the descendants of Adam and Eve pray to him, "O God forgive me and aid me in my repentance."

The following day, the tenth, and last day of the Hajj is the "Day of Sacrifice," known all through the Muslim world, and celebrated as Idul-Azha.

Early in the morning, the pilgrims cast seven stones at each of the three pillars in Mina, the first of which is called the Shaitan-ul- Kabeer, or the "Great Devil". This ceremony is called, the Ramyu'r-Rijaam, or casting of stones.

Both the rites of stoning the devil, Satan, and the Sacrifice are associated with ths story of Abraham.

The legend goes, that after Abraham declared his love for God, and He demanded proof of this love, in the form of the immolation of Abraham's son.

To further compound his trials Satan attempted to dissuade Abraham thrice from his resolve on each occasion Satan was stoned.

The gesture of stoning the pillars symbolises casting away the "Satan within," and fighting undesirable temptations.

After the performance of the Sacrifice, the pilgrim gets his head shaved and his nails pared, and the Ihram is removed. This ceremony concludes the pilgrimage.

Most Muslims then go to Medina, and make their salutations at the shrine of Prophet Mohammad. Though not a part of the pilgrimage, this is regarded as an incumbent duty by all, except the Wahabis (an orthodox Muslim sect).

The Haji returns a changed man, enriched immeasurably by the Holy sites, which have unfolded before his wonder-struck eyes the majesty and splendour of the Kaaba and the piety of the shrine of Prohpet Mohammad.

He is spiritually uplifted and attains the highest status in the Muslim society. Prophet Mohammad advised his followers to give due respect to a Haji: "When you see a Haji, salute and embrace him and request him to ask pardon of God for you."



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