The Significance of Hajj

The Significance of “Hajj”

Al-Azhar Magazine

Pilgrimage is a unique journey through which the Muslim reaches, with his soul and body, “the land made safe” (Mecca). There the visitor goes round the sacred house (Ka’ba), which is the symbol of unity of Islam and Muslim. Every Muslim should face the direction of “Ka’ba” every day in his prayers, and should visit and go round it once his lifetime.

“Ka’ba” or the ancient house, as it is sometimes called in the Quran, is the first place of worship for mankind. It was built by the Prophet Abraham, and his son the Prophet Ismail. Abraham is known in history as the first enemy to polytheism, the destroyer of idols, the symbol of Unitarian faith, and the father of the upright religion “hanifiyya”. No wonder that Abraham is linked to the Muslim nation with strong bonds. The Holy Quran says:

مَاكَانَ إِبۡرَٲهِيم ُيَہُودِيًّ۬ا وَلَانَصۡرَانِيًّ۬ا وَلَـٰكِن كَانَ حَنِيفً۬ا مُّسۡلِمً۬ا وَمَاكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ )67)

“Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters.” (3:67)

Under such spiritual and historical considerations which attach Muslims to the Sacred House and its first builder Abraham, God, the Almighty, enjoined pilgrimage on every Muslim who is able to perform it. The Quran says:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيۡتٍ۬ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِى بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكً۬ا وَهُدً۬ى لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (٩٦) فِيهِ ءَايَـٰتُۢ بَيِّنَـٰتٌ۬ مَّقَامُ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ‌ۖ وَمَن دَخَلَهُ ۥ كَانَ ءَامِنً۬ا‌ۗ وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ حِجُّ ٱلۡبَيۡتِ مَنِ ٱسۡتَطَاعَ إِلَيۡهِ سَبِيلاً۬‌ۚ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَنِىٌّ عَنِ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (٩٧)

“Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Mecca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples; (96)Wherein are plain memorials (of Allah’s guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever entereth it is safe. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither. As for him who disbelieveth, (let him know that) lo! Allah is Independent of (all) creatures. ” (3:96-97)

The pilgrimage was enjoined in the ninth year after Hijra. The first objective of all kinds of worship is obedience and gratitude to God. They are prescribed for ourhappiness here in this life and in the life to come. The Quran says:

وَأَذِّن فِى ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلۡحَجِّ يَأۡتُوكَ رِجَالاً۬ وَعَلَىٰ ڪُلِّ ضَامِرٍ۬ يَأۡتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ۬ (٢٧) لِّيَشۡهَدُواْ مَنَـٰفِعَ لَهُمۡ وَيَذۡڪُرُواْ ٱسۡمَ ٱللَّهِ فِىٓ أَيَّامٍ۬ مَّعۡلُومَـٰتٍ عَلَىٰ مَا رَزَقَهُم مِّنۢ بَهِيمَةِ ٱلۡأَنۡعَـٰمِ‌ۖ فَكُلُواْ مِنۡہَا وَأَطۡعِمُواْ ٱلۡبَآٮِٕسَ ٱلۡفَقِيرَ(٢٨)

“And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine. That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.”(22: 27-28)

Pilgrimage is a spiritual provision for the Muslim. It fills his soul with obedience, fear of God, repentance from sins, love for the memory of the Prophet and the early believers who helped him, and the brotherly feelings. Pilgrimage also is real education by travel, and thus it adds to man’s knowledge and experience.

Pilgrimage, moreover may be considered a world conference for all Muslim nations; a Congress that is called for by God, the Almighty, for the noble purposes. There around and inside the sacred house, the Muslim meets his brothers in religion from all world continents. There will be no distinction between the one and the other. Differences of colour, race and nationality are levelled off, and the real bond between the Muslims is sincere brotherhood.

In the congress of pilgrimage Muslims forget all national and international disputes. The scholars of Islam realized the opportunity of their gathering for pilgrimage to exchange ideas. Caliphs, in the past used the season of pilgrimage to meet their subjects from remote places and investigate their problems. This pilgrimage is to be performed in the first nine days of Dhulhijja. The Holy Quran honours the months of pilgrimage and calls them the Sacred months because fighting, war and aggression were prohibited in these months since the building of the Sacred House.

The months of pilgrimage are Shawwal, Dhul-Qa’dah, DhulHijja and Muharram. This tradition was meant to give security to the pilgrims and visitors to Mecca. The Holy Quran says

إِنَّ عِدَّةَ ٱلشُّہُورِ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ ٱثۡنَا عَشَر شَہۡرً۬ا فِى ڪِتَـٰبِ ٱللَّهِ يَوۡمَ خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲت وَٱلۡأَرۡض مِنۡہَآ أَرۡبَعَةٌ حُرُم ذَٲلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلۡقَيِّمُ فَلَا تَظۡلِمُواْ فِيہِنَّ أَنفُسَڪُمۡ وَقَـٰتِلُواْٱلۡمُشۡرِڪِينَ كَآفَّةً۬ ڪَمَا يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُمۡ ڪَآفَّةً۬ وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ مَعَ ٱلۡمُتَّقِينَ

“Lo! The number of the months with Allah is twelve months by Allah’s ordinance in the day that He created the heavens and the earth. Four of them are sacred: that is the right religion. So wrong not yourselves in them. And wage war on all of the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).” (9: 36)

Besides the temporal sacredness, there is a sacredness regarding the locality of the sacred House “ka’ba” and the Sacred town “Mecca” which extends over to include even the trees and animals of the area. So these sacred months are considered as a truce for all humankind.

There are basic actions and devotions to be performed in pilgrimage according to the order and system which was performed by prophet. The first thing to be done in pilgrimage is the entry into the state of “Ihram”. Ihram has two aspects: the first is to declare the intention to perform pilgrimage for the sake of God. The intention combined with casting off all seamed and sewn clothes, shaving the head and shunning all kinds of luxury, ornaments, obscene talk and offences. The second aspect of Ihram is the call of Talbiya. Entering the state of Ihram the Pilgrim shall raise his voice and say: “Here I am, O my Lord at your presence”.

This is a sign of obedience to show that the pilgrim resigning himself completely to the ordinance of God; that He, the Almighty is the sole owner of kingdom and favours and that to Him only is the praise and gratitude. When the Pilgrim reaches Mecca, goes to the sacred Mosque and goes round it seven times for salutation beginning from the side of the black stone. This stone is an ordinary one put by the prophet Abraham in its specific place to be a mark of the beginning encircling ka’ba. The next step is running between Safa and Marwa seven times beginning with Safa and ending with Marwa. Then the pilgrim starts for going to ‘Arafah or Arafath’. Provided he reaches his destination on theninth day of DhulHijja. The devotion of standing at Arafath is the most important of all pilgrimage actions, so that the Prophet is reported have said : “ pilgrimage is standing at Arafath”. When the Pilgrim leaves Arafah, he passes by the place known as “Muzdalifah” which is referred to in the Holy Quran as the Holy Monument. The pilgrim reaches the area of ‘Mina’ on the morning of the tenth day of the month of Dhulhijjah which is called ‘yawm al-Nahr’ or the slaughter Day, in which the pilgrim casts seven stones known as “Jamarat Al Aqaba”.

Throwing these stones, the pilgrim now is allowed to shave or cut short his hair. He is able to slaughter his offering if that is required of him. Then, he goes round Ka’ba in seven circuits called “Tawwaf Al Ifada”. But when the pilgrim intends to go back home he has to go round Ka’ba again as a farewell to the Sacred House. It is called “Tawwaf al Widaa’” or the “Farewell circuits”. By farewell circuits the pilgrimage ends and the pilgrim returns back home with heartfelt pleasure and satisfaction.