Understanding Islam: The Spirit of Hajj

Understanding Islam by Muhajid Navarra

Hajj season is on. Hajj is the yearly pilgrimage of Muslims towards the holy city of Mecca especially upon those who are physically and financially capable. During Hajj, millions of Muslims gather to perform acts of worship in one place and in one time and they come from many different nations of the world and many different social levels. Hajj is the ultimate show of many of the virtues that are upheld by Islam and by mankind as a whole. 

EQUALITY: Hajj is a display of equality. When people assemble for Hajj after arriving from their different destinations, they leave most of their material possessions at home and in Mecca, they take off all the clothes that signify their social status to wear simple white cloth for men and plainclothes for women. When the Muslims enter the state of Ihram or state of devotion for the performance of Hajj, they are prohibited from wearing perfumes, sexual intercourse with their spouses, shaving of the head, cutting of nails, hunting and others. 

They are now one with the international community of Muslims who do the same things they do, say the same things they say, all for the pleasure of their Lord. 

REMEMBERING PROPHET ABRAHAM AND HIS FAMILY: We may say that much of the Hajj if not the whole of the Hajj is about remembering Prophet Abraham and his family. Prophet Abraham moved to Mecca with his wife Hajar and his first-born son Ishmael to obey the orders of Allah which was by that time an uninhabited desert with no people, food or shelter. 

THE LOVE OF A MOTHER: Soon after their arrival in Mecca, Prophet Abraham immediately left his wife and child in this barren desert without fear and with full reliance on his Lord that his family shall be taken care of. Abraham prayed to his Lord, ‘’O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivatable valley by Your Sacred House so that they may perform prayers. So fill the hearts of men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.’ Quran 14:37

He left his family with only a few provisions and these provisions soon ran out. Hajar, being alarmed, ran in between the two hills of Safa and Marwa to look for food and water. After the seventh time of climbing and going down in between the two hills, she saw an angel that assured her of Allah’s promise and water from a well gushed forth. This is the well of Zamzam that flows with water until today. Her running in between the two hills is reenacted every Hajj and during the minor pilgrimage which is known as Omrah in a ritual known as Sa’i. 

THE FIRST PLACE OF WORSHIP BUILT FOR MANKIND: Abraham returned a few times to Mecca to visit his family and in one of those times, when his son Ishmael was already a grownup, they rebuilt the Ka’bah which was originally built by Adam but was lost during the flood in the time of Noah. While Abraham was building the Ka’bah, an angel came and gave him the black stone which he laid on its eastern corner. 

A GOD-CENTERED LIFE: One of the main acts of worship in Mecca is that which is done around the Ka’bah. This act is called the tawaf and it is the circumambulation of the Muslims around it seven times in a counterclockwise manner. This ritual walking around this shrine that is dedicated to the worship of God is a reminder that all Muslims should live a God-centered life where one’s existence is dedicated to the Him alone which renders any material interests as secondary or even irrelevant. 

REHEARSAL FOR JUDGEMENT DAY: Another important act of worship during Hajj happens on the 9th day on the month of Dhul Hijjah or the month of the Hajj. This day is called the Day of Arafah, where the Muslim pilgrims go the plains of Arafah to attend the rituals such as the Khutbah or sermon for Hajj and others. 

It is a huge gathering in an open place where people from different nations, social status, and languages converge in a gathering that will be unmatched except by the gathering of people on Judgement Day. The pilgrims will be spending this day supplicating to their Lord the way they will be supplicating in Judgement Day. 

THE SACRIFICE: One of the trials that God gave Abraham was by ordering him to slaughter his first-born son Ishmael. This has been a very difficult trial for Abraham that he even consulted his child about it, who answered in the affirmative that they must obey the commandments of their Lord. Abraham was already cutting the jugular vein of his son but his knife miraculously did not cut his son’s throat. Allah then spoke to Abraham and told him that he has passed the trial and Ishmael was instead ransomed by a fat sheep to be sacrificed in exchange. 

This ritual of sacrifice is also commemorated yearly during the culmination of the Hajj which is known as the Day or Feast of sacrifice. Muslims, among the pilgrims and those who are not in the pilgrimage slaughter camels, cows, goats, or sheep if they are financially capable. The meat that comes from this sacrificed animal will then be distributed to the Muslims especially the poor. 

DRIVING AWAY SATAN: One of the last rites of Hajj is the throwing of stones in the Jamarat. This throwing of stones is in commemoration of the time when Abraham was about to slaughter his son Ishmael in compliance with his Lord but Satan was following him and persuading him to disobey. 

The great deceiver tried to talk to Abraham but he is pelted with stones by Abraham each time he even tried to approach. The throwing of stones in the Jamarah is a reminder to the Muslims about their relationship with Satan which is that of mutual animosity and distrust.

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