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Hajj: Islamic Pilgrimage

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The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language). The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar.

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Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year. Ihram is the name given to the special state in which Muslims live while on the pilgrimage. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham (Ibrahim).

Pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj. On the first day of the Hajj (the 7th day of the 12th month in other words, Dhu al-Hijjah), the pilgrims perform their first Tawaf, which involves all of the pilgrims visiting the Kabah and walking seven times counter-clockwise around the Kaaba. They may also kiss the Black Stone (Al Hajar Al Aswad) on each circuit. If kissing the stone is not possible because of the crowds, they may simply point towards the Stone on each circuit with their right hand.

In each complete circuit a pilgrim says “In the name of God, God is Great, God is Great, God is Great and praise be to God” (Bism Allah Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar wa lil Lahi Alhamd) with 7 circuits constituting a complete tawaf. The place where pilgrims walk is known as “Mutaaf”. Only the first three shouts are compulsory, but almost all perform it seven times. The tawaf is normally performed all at once. Eating is not permitted but the drinking of water is allowed because of the risk of dehydration. Men are encouraged to perform the first three circuits at a urried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace. After the completion of Tawaf, all the pilgrims have to offer two Rakaat prayers at the Place of Abraham (Muqaam Ibrahim), a site inside the mosque that is near the Kaaba. However, again because of large crowds during the days of Hajj, they may instead pray anywhere in the mosque. Although the circuits around the Kaaba are traditionally done on the ground level, Tawaf is now also performed on the first floor and roof of the mosque because of the large crowd.

After Tawaf on the same day , the pilgrims perform sa`i, running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment of the frantic search for water for her son Ishmael by Abraham’s wife Hagar. The back and forth circuit of the pilgrims used to be in the open air, but is now entirely enclosed by the Masjid al-Haram mosque, and can be accessed via air-conditioned tunnels. Pilgrims are advised to walk the circuit, though two green pillars mark a short section of the path where they are allowed to run. There is also an internal “express lane” for the disabled.

The safety procedures are in place because previous incidents in this ritual have resulted in stampedes which caused the deaths of hundreds of people. As part of this ritual the pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam Well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque. After the visit to the mosque on this day of the Hajj, the pilgrims then return to their tents. The next morning, on the eighth of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims proceed to Mina where they spend the night in prayer. On the ninth day, they leave Mina for Mt. Arafat where they stand in contemplative vigil and pray and recite the Qur’an, near a hill from which Muhammad gave his last sermon, this hill is called Jabal Al Rahmah (The Hill of Forgiveness, Mount Arafat). This is known as Wuquf, considered the highlight of the Hajj. Pilgrims must spend the afternoon within a defined area on the plain of Arafat until after sunset. No specific rituals or prayers are required during the stay at Arafat, although many pilgrims spend time praying, and thinking about the course of their lives. A pilgrim’s Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Arafat.

As soon as the sun sets, the pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, an area between Arafat and Mina, where they gather pebbles for the next day’s ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan). Many pilgrims spend the night sleeping on the ground or back in their tents at Muzdalifah before returning to Mina. At Mina the pilgrims perform Ramy al-Jamarat, throwing stones to signify their defiance of the Devil. This symbolizes the trials experienced by Abraham while he was going to sacrifice his son as demanded by Allah. The Devil challenged him three times, and three times Abraham refused.

Each pillar marks the location of one of these refusals. On the first occasion when Ramy al-Jamarat is performed, pilgrims stone the largest pillar known as Jamrat’al’Aqabah. Pilgrims climb ramps to the multi-levelled Jamaraat After the Stoning of the Devil, the pilgrims perform animal sacrifices, to symbolize God having mercy hich allows an animal to be on Abraham and replacing his son with a ram, which Abraham then sacrificed. Traditionally the pilgrims slaughtered the animal themselves, or oversaw the s Tawaf al-Ifadah, which symbolizes being in a hurry to respond to God and show love for Him, an obligatory part of the Hajj.

The night of the 10th is spent back at Mina. On the afternoon of the 11th and again the following day laughtering. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Mecca before the greater Hajj begins, w slaughtered in their name on the 10th, without the pilgrim being physically present. Centralized butchers sacrifice a single sheep for each pilgrim, or a cow can represent the sacrifice of seven people. The meat is then packaged and given to charity and shipped to poor people around the world.

At the same time as the sacrifices this or the following day the pilgrims re-visit the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca for another tawaf, to walk around the Kaaba. This is called the Tawaf az-Ziyarah or the pilgrims must again throw seven pebbles occur at Mecca, Muslims worldwide perform similar sacrifices, in a four day global festival called Eid al-Adha. On at each of the three jamarat in Mina. Pilgrims must leave Mina for Mecca before sunset on the 12th. If they are unable to leave Mina before sunset, they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th before returning to Mecca.

Cite this Hajj: Islamic Pilgrimage

Hajj: Islamic Pilgrimage. (2017, Mar 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/hajj-islamic-pilgrimage/

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