Hajj (The highest form of Islamic Pilgrimage!)
Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca is popularly described as Hajj, Saudi Arabia which is the holiest city for Islamists. This is considered as a mandatory religious duty of every Muslim at least to take it once in his lifetime. Hajj is a pilgrimage made to "House of Allah" which is known as Kaaba in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This is one of the largest gathering of Muslims in the world and among the five pillars of Islam along with Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm. This usually takes place between 8th to 12th days in the last month of Islamic calendar- Dhu al-Hijjah. Taking up this tour of Hajj, demonstrates their submission to Allah.
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According to Quran, Hajj traces back to the time of Abraham. The Sahaba has it that Allah ordered Abraham to leave his wife Hajar and son Ismail to themselves in the desert of Mecca. Hajar ran seven times in between Safa and Marwah but couldn't find any, on returning she noticed the baby Ishmael scratching the ground with his leg from where a fountain of water sprang. Later Abraham and Ismail together built the Kaaba as commanded. It is said that the Black stone attached to Kaaba was brought by archangel Gabriel.
It is also believed that pre-Islamic Arabia, Pagan Idols surrounded Kaaba which were all cleansed by Muhammad S.A.W (peace be upon him) from Medina to Mecca and then deconsecrated the building to Allah. Muhammad S.A.W (peace be upon him) established the pattern and rites of Hajj which was instructed to many followers on his last and only pilgrimage. In medieval times pilgrims from Syria, Egypt, and Iraq would travel in groups and caravans. These Hajj caravans were escorted by military force and Physicians which were done to protect the caravan from robbers and natural calamities. There were records of these Hajj-travels of medieval time maintained properly, which used to occur in well-established routes such as ancient King's highway also called Arabic darb al-hajj, lit. "pilgrimage road".
TIMING OF HAJJ
Islamic calendar based on the Lunar year determines the time of the Hajj usually starting on 1st and ending on 10th day of Dhu al Hijjah, which is the last month of the Islamic calendar. The 9th day among these 10 days is called as Day of Hajj, Day of Arafah.
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RITES AND RITUALS OF HAJJ
Detailed rites of carrying a Hajj is described in Fiqh literature, expert guidebooks and handbooks are followed by pilgrims for the successful performance of rites and rituals. People follow the model created by Muhammad S.A.W (peace be upon him) as well as honor the events linked with Abraham.
Ihram is believed to enter into a state of holiness, which means to show equality in front of god and no difference between rich or poor. The garments of Ihram are seen as the contradiction of that individualism, it is also a reminder of shrouds worn after death. Men must wear two white seamless cloths, one wrapped around the waist that must reach below the knee, other draped over the left shoulder and tied at another side. Women must cover hands and face, follow the Islamic condition of public dressing. Pilgrims also refrain from these activities- killing animals, covering head (for men) or the face and hands (for women); getting married; clipping the nails, shaving any part of the body, or carrying weapons, having intercourse; using perfumes, damaging plants.
First day of Hajj, which is the 8th day at Dhu al-Hijjah pilgrims are reminded of their duties, confirm their intentions of Hajj and prohibitions of ihram starts now. This day is called Tarwiyah Day, which means to thirst quench in the Arabic language. This is the first day of the Hajj ritual.
Tawaf is a ritual that involves walking seven counterclockwise around the Kaaba. On arrival at the sacred Mosque, pilgrims perform an arrival tawaf which is known as welcome tawaf. Each circuit starts with kissing or touching of the Black Stone, since it won't be practically possible because of the crowd, one can simply point towards the stone with their hand in each circuit. Pilgrims can consume water but eating is prohibited. Tawaf is followed by two Rakaat prayers at Place of Abraham, a mosque near Kaaba after which pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam well.
This rite is the demonstration of the oneness of God, Tawhid. The heart and soul of pilgrim should move around Kaaba, no worldly attractions must distract him
Tawaf is followed by running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah that can be accessed through air-conditioned tunnels enclosed by the sacred mosque. After which male pilgrims shave their heads and women generally clip a portion of their hair which completes the Umrah.
Pilgrims proceed to Mina after their morning prayers on the 8th Dhu al-Hijjah, where they spend the whole day offer noon, afternoon, evening ad night prayers.
Day of Arafah, 9th day of Dhu al-Hajj is called the day of Hajj. On this day pilgrims arrive at Arafat which is a plain barren land at a distance of 20km from Mecca. Here pilgrims listen to the sermon delivered from Islamic scholars, repent on the past sins and seek the mercy of God. One of the most significant rites of Hajj is known as standing before god. A Hajj is considered invalid if an afternoon is not spent at Arafat.
People leave to Muzdalifah after Arafat without praying. On reaching the destination, they conduct a join prayer of Maghrib and Isha, spend the night praying, sleeping under the open sky and collecting pebbles for the next day's ritual of the stoning of Devil.
On the 10th day of Du al- Hajjah, pilgrims spend the night at Mina. Pilgrims perform the symbolic act of stoning the devil in which seven stones are thrown from sunrise to sunset at the largest of the three pillars, known as Jamrat al-Aqabah. These pillars are known to represent Satan.
Animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of Ibrahim and Ismael. Traditionally this used to take place by the pilgrims slaughtering the animals whereas now they can buy a sacrifice voucher, which allows the sacrifice in the name of Allah without the physical presence of the pilgrims. During the time of these sacrifices in Mecca and Medina, Muslims across the world celebrate this three day festival of Eid al-Adha.
After the ritual of animal sacrifice another important rite of Hajj is shaving head or trimming hair on the day of Eid Al Adha.
On the following or the same day, pilgrims visit the sacred mosque and offer prayers known as Tawaf al-Ifadah which is an obligatory part of Hajj.
On the 11th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, pilgrims throw seven pebbles at each of three pillars in Mina, commonly known as "Stoning of the Devil". This goes on from sunrise to sunset.
On the 12th day of Dhu al- Hijjah, the same process of stoning as on the 11th day takes place. Pilgrims may leave to Mecca from Mina on this day before sunset, failing to which they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th day before returning to Mecca.
Another farewell tawaf is performed before leaving Mecca called Tawaf al-Wadaa. This means to bid a farewell.
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Hajj has social as well as religious significance, the obligation of performing which will only be fulfilled only at the right time period it is supposed to be performed. Hajj is an obligatory duty of every Muslim apart from which it is also an opportunity of self-renewal and refined merit. This is a reminder of Day of judgment when they will have to stand before god. Pilgrims can prefix their name with title Al-Hajji after their successful completion of the pilgrimage, which also brings up their social status. Hajj also brings together and unites the Muslims from different parts of their race, color, and culture which reciprocates equality. A study also shows that Hajj increases equality and harmony among ethnic groups, favorable and accepting attitude towards women, more peace and harmony among different religions.
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