The Importance Of The Hajj For Muslims
When someone decides to embark on a pilgrimage, it’s an opportunity to pursue moral contentment and spiritual satisfaction. Typically, it is a journey to a place of comfort, a location of significance to a person’s beliefs and faith. Within the Islamic belief system, there are five central pillars, one of them being the Hajj. A journey that every Muslim must undertake at least once in their lifetime. In calling Muslims to perform the hajj, the Quran says, “Proclaim to men the pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path.” The Hajj has a profound religious significance, with the Prophet Muhammad once walking the route that nearly 2 million Muslims walk each occasion. Experiencing the Hajj is truly a once in a lifetime experience, it’s an opportunity to be a part of a community, regardless of any physical or spiritual prejudice, allowing all pilgrims to fully indulge themselves within one culture, under one roof.
Islamic writers claim that the prophet Abraham, was commanded by God, to build the Kaaba, in Mecca, to serve as the destination of pilgrimage. Along with his son Ishmael, they raised the foundations of the house, and after placing the Black Stone in the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, Ishmael and Abraham received a message from Allah, telling both of them to proclaim the pilgrimage to mankind. However, it is said to be that around 632 CE, the prophet Muhammad established that the Hajj would be centred around the Kaaba.
The Hajj is deeply intertwined within the Quran, with multiple references made over the entire sacred text. “We have rendered the shrine a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham’s shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ishmael: ‘You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate” (Quran 2:125). Within the Quran, the importance of the journey to Mecca is the most prevalent and established pilgrimage mentioned in the text, being referenced thirty-one times.
Muhammed Ali, one of the greatest boxers and pure athletes of all time, during a time of prejudice, stood for what he believed, and fought for religious and racial freedom. After retirement, Ali made the visit to Mecca and took part in the Hajj. After experiencing his pilgrimage to the Kaaba, he said this, “Everything I do now, I do to please Allah. I conquered the world and it didn’t bring me true happiness. The only true satisfaction comes from honouring and worshipping God. Being a true Muslim is the most important thing in the world to me. It means more to me than being black or being American” (Muhammad Ali).
All Muslims follow a very strict routine in the weeks and months leading up to the Hajj. The Hajj directly correlates to Lovat’s Ritual Theory of five simple steps. Firstly, you must confess any wrongdoings to Allah, these requests are accepted by Him, making yourself pure of spirit and purified of any deeds performed, signifying the entry within Lovat’s Ritual Theory. Secondly, you must be grateful to Allah, Muslims must keep Him within their spirits and thank Him frequently for blessing you with the opportunity, this is the second step of Lovat’s Theory, the preparation. When the pilgrimage begins, men must wear an Izar, wrapped around the wait and covering down to your feet, along with a Rida, which covers the left shoulder the entire journey, underwear, socks and any items that cover your head are prohibited. Women must wear a robe, black or white, and your hands and face should remain exposed.
The Hajj officially begins on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and lasts for five days. There are six major steps that all Muslims must follow chronologically. They begin by circling the Kaaba seven times, and then they walk to the Mina, to pray and read the Quran. After reciting multiple passages from the Quran, all pilgrims then trek to Mount Arafat, indicating the climax of the pilgrimage, where they pray from noon until dusk, particularly regarding the prophet Muhammad, as that is where he preached his last sermon. The next stage of the pilgrimage is visiting Muzdalifah, where all Muslims pick up 49 rocks needed for when they return to Mina. All pilgrims then throw rocks at the pillar in Mina, which represents the devil and the celebration of the ritual. Finally, after arrival in Mecca, the Kaaba is circled seven more times, symbolising the end of the Hajj and the return to the ordinary world.
Whilst there are multiple symbols associated with this pilgrimage, such as symbolising the lessons taught by Muhammad and Abraham, the most prevalent and common symbol is unity. ‘What unity is deeper than that one of the pilgrims when they stand at the mountain of Arafat with bare heads and simple white clothes? There is no difference between the rich and the poor, the ruler and the subject, men and women, Arabs and non-Arabs. All of them are the same, like the teeth of the hair comb. They direct themselves towards Allah, humble and submissive’.
This sense of unity is also present in the Quran, stating, “The believers are but a single brotherhood”. Regardless of any social boundaries, ‘it is a great blessing for a person to have the ability to enjoy this atmosphere of complete peace’.
In conclusion, experiencing the Hajj is an opportunity to begin anew, cleaning the slate of one’s shortcomings and mistakes that have occurred in the past, as the Prophet Muhammed once said, ‘One who comes to this House for Hajj and avoids all lewdness and sins, he returns as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.’ Muslims also find a sense of purpose during the pilgrimage, as they perform acts of worship and ultimately renew their sense of ambition and desire. The Hajj makes all pilgrims feel the true significance of life on Earth, by stripping away any social barriers, or preconceived ideas, making the pilgrimage a truly immersive experience.
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