What Is The Hajj?
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca. It is a lifelong goal for most Muslims. We are required to perform the Hajj at least once in our life. We can only hope that Allah blesses us with the ability and means to make this wonderful pilgrimage.
The History of the Hajj
The Hajj did not begin with Prophet Mohammad, may Allah be pleased with him. In fact, for centuries before his birth, the people of Arabia made pilgrimage to the holy Kaaba in Mecca.
Most of the people who visited the Kaaba during this time were pagans and worshiped hundreds of different idols. But the Hajj did not start out as a pagan ritual.
The Kaaba was first built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael), peace be upon them both. They built this structure to worship Allah, the only deity worthy of worship. The Kaaba is the first building devoted to the monotheistic worship of Allah alone.
After the construction of the Kaaba, Prophet Ibrahim would continue to visit the Kaaba every year. Initially, the people of Mecca followed Ibrahim and Ismail’s faith and worshiped Allah alone. But after the prophets died, and the city continued to grow, the original purpose of the Kaaba and the Hajj were forgotten.
The Hajj became a celebratory occasion, and the worship of Allah was replaced with the worship of pagan idols. The people of Arabia continued to make pilgrimage to Mecca and visit the Kaaba, but they did so only to make merry, commit immoral acts, and worship false deities.
Then Allah sent Prophet Muhammad to mankind with the message of Islam. After several years of struggle, Mecca was conquered by the Muslims, paganism was wiped, and the Kaaba was cleansed of all idols.
Prophet Muhammad reestablished the monotheistic qualities of the Hajj. Once again, the pilgrimage to Mecca was devoted towards the worship of Allah alone.
The Benefits of Hajj
Over fourteen hundred years later, millions of Muslims still perform Hajj every year. Hundreds of millions of Muslims, like myself, hope to make Hajj every year. But Allah only gives a small percentage this opportunity. This pilgrimage is a glorious occasion, and we continue to pray, hope, and save up for the day that our chance arrives.
But why do Muslims long to make the Hajj? Well, there are several spiritual benefits that come with the pilgrimage to Mecca. For one, Prophet Muhammad has stated that a Muslim who performs Hajj will return home like a newborn baby.
This means that all of our sinful deeds are wiped away after the Hajj. This gives us the opportunity to start anew a try to live as righteously as we can.
Another benefit of Hajj is the chance to see the brotherhood of Islam in action. As I mentioned above, millions of Muslims, from all over the world come to Mecca for the pilgrimage.
During the Hajj, one can see Muslims from the Middle East, and Africa, and Asia, and Europe, and the Americas all in one place. All of these Muslims are worshipping one Creator together.
This display of brotherhood is overwhelming to many. Even the late civil rights activist Malcolm X was amazed by what he saw. The following is an excerpt from a letter he wrote back home while he was in Mecca.
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.”
The Rites of Hajj
What does a person do while on Hajj? Even though there are several historic landmarks in Mecca, the pilgrimage is not a sightseeing trip. Muslims must perform various rites in order for their pilgrimage to be accepted by Allah.
Here are the basic rites of Hajj:
- Enter the state of Ihram – Ihram is a state of purification which the Muslim must observe before starting the Hajj. While in this state, Muslim men can only wear two simple white cloths. Muslims in this state are not allowed to cover their heads (men only), cut their hair, clip their nails, kill any animal, or engage in sexual intercourse.
- Tawaf – Tawaf means to circle the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction.
- Sa’iy – Sa’iy is the rite commemorating Hajjar’s search for water for her baby Ismail. Muslims are to run or walk between the two mountains of Safa and Marwa.
- Departure to Mina – After the rites of Tawaf and Sa’iy, the Muslims then leave Mecca and spend a day in Mina.
- Praying at Arafat – After the morning prayer at Mina, the Muslims head for the plains of Arafat. While at Arafat, the Muslims spend the day praying to Allah until sunset.
- Spend the night at Muzdalifah – After sunset at Arafat, the Muslims head for the area of Muzadalifah. While in Muzadalifah, the Muslims pray the last two prayers of the evening and spend the night. They also collect the stones for the ramiyal jamarat (stoning the devil).
- Return to Mina– The Muslims return to Mina and perform one stage of the ramiyal jamarat. After the first devil stoning ceremony, the Muslims sacrifice an animal, shave their head (men only), and partially leave the state of Ihram.
- Tawaf Ifadha – The Muslims return to Mecca and circle the Kaaba seven times again. They also pray at the Station of Ibrahim, perform Sa’iy again (running between the mountains of Safa and Marwah), and drink from the well of Zamzam. At this stage, the Muslims completely leave the state of Ihram.
- A third trip to Mina – The Muslims can spend up to three days in Mina. During this time, they are to complete the final two stages of ramiyal jamarat (stoning the devil). The three stages of ramiyal jamarat represent the three attempts by the devil to influence Prophet Abraham and his family.
- Farewell Tawaf – After departing Mina, the Muslims return to Mecca and perform a final Tawaf (circling) around the Kaaba. This final rite concludes the Hajj.
Hajj is an Obligation
As you can see from the many rituals of Hajj, this pilgrimage is no small undertaking. A Muslim should try to make Hajj as soon as they have the means and are healthy enough to do so.