What happens on Hajj

Each religion has certain rules that the believer is meant to abide by. Christians follow the Bible, Muslims follow the Qu’ran. Different religions have sacred places that many of the believers feel they want to visit. When Muslims visit Makkah, their religions sacred place they are called ‘pilgrims’ the journey is called ‘a pilgrimage’. In some religions it is not important commitment for believers to carry out. For Muslims it is extremely important.

The meaning of Hajj is ‘to set out for a definite purpose’. Hajj is the pilgrimage to Makkah; it is one of the five pillars. Five times a day Muslims turn towards Ka’bah (centre of Islam) in Makkah when they pray. Hajj is ‘fard’ this means it is obligatory, it is a once in a lifetime journey. Some Muslims choose to carry out Hajj more than once, but it isn’t necessary to do it more than once. In practise, about 1 in 10 Muslims manage it. Muslims that live close to Makkah are more likely to make the journey more often than Muslims that live over the other side of the world.

The Muslims, men and women that take part in Hajj have to be physically and mentally fit. They will be checked over by a doctor before taking out Hajj. Muslims should use money they have earned fairly; they cannot use winnings such as the lottery for travelling to Makkah. The family back home should be provided for, they shouldn’t be left without money to support them. Some Muslims live so far away and are very poor save their intire life to go on the journey of Hajj. Sometimes a family or community collect money together to send poor Muslims on the journey. This shows that Muslims are a caring community. Borrowing money to carry out Hajj is not allowed as it is against Muslim rules.

Muslims care for the weak and support the poor. Muslims that are too sick to carry out the journey can give their Hajj savings to charity or they can pay for a substitute to go to Makkah in their place. The substitute must have already completed Hajj them selves.

Muslims that genuinely cannot make the journey have to declare that it is Niyyah, their unquestionable heartfelt intention, to go on Hajj. The duty is then considered to have been accomplished. This shows that Hajj isn’t just about doing the physical journey. It is about the journey within.

Children shouldn’t go on the journey of Hajj, as they are not able to understand it. It is not just a journey but it is also a journey within your mind body and soul.

The Qu’ran calls Muslims to ‘complete the Hajj or Umrah in the service of Allah’ (Surah 2:196). Hajj is the greater Pilgrimage and can only be taken in Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. ‘Umrah is the Lesser Pilgrimage, which can be taken at any time.

The first step of Pilgrimage is when a Muslim declares the Niyyah, purpose, of going on Hajj and puts on the Ihram. ‘Oh God, I intend to perform the Hajj and I am taking Ihram for it. Make it easy for me and accept it from me.’

The Ihram is a white seamless garment similar to what Muhammad wore and the prophets before him.

At certain places called miqat, which mark the boundary, which is 10 miles outside of Makkah, the sacred city. Muslims change into their pilgrim clothes, Ihram, which consist of two simple white sheets for the men. One sheet is tied around the waist and the other is thrown over the shoulder. Women can wear any clothes but must cover everything except their hands and faces. Ordinary clothes, personal belongings, jewellery and money must be left behind. When they put on ihram Muslims say two rakahs of prayer and ask Allah to help them perform Hajj. Usually Muslims perform ghusl (a sacred purifying wash) before changing into pilgrim clothes. Muslims who live in Makkah begin their pilgrimage when they put on ihram.

The dress code is extremely important as it symbolises equality. All Pilgrims should dress equally before the eyes of Allah. This enables Muslims not to be distinguished between the rich and poor. Poor and rich people unite together. It reminds Muslims that they have left behind life at home and should only think about God. Glasses and hearing aids are allowed and unintentional breaking of the restrictions are excused. The items that follow are not allowed;

* No perfume, no soap, nor in food.

* No jewellery, except women’s wedding rings.

* No wearing of gloves, though hands may be wrapped in cloth.

* No deliberate cutting of hair, fingernails, so as not to interfere with nature.

* No uprooting plants or cutting down of trees on the journey.

* No hunting nor bloodshed, except in dealing with bedbugs, fleas, snakes and scorpions.

* No carrying weapons.

* No sexual relations, no kissing or flirtatious thoughts.

* No engagement or taking part in weddings.

As pilgrims to Allah, they must forget about everything that would lead to dishonesty, arrogance and aggression. They must also forget the worries and pleasures of normal life. Pilgrims must be single-minded and not let anything distract them. They shouldn’t argue or lose their tempers or be irritable. Peace should be in their hearts and minds and accepting the troubles that they are faced with on the journey shouldn’t be complained about. During the journey of Hajj pilgrims should be thinking about Allah all the time.

From the moment pilgrims have changed into their ihram they should recite the Talbiyah, the words which are recited all through Hajj.

‘Labbayka Allahumma Labbayka- Here I am, O Allah, here I am!’

Muslims believe that just outside Makkah Adam (the prophet) and his wife Eve first met on earth on the mount of Arafat after having been banished from paradise. The plain of Arafat is where Muslims meet on the day of Hajj. The rituals of Hajj remind pilgrims of the cycle of life from the beginning to the end. The gathering at Arafat symbolises the gathering on judgement day

Makkah

The pilgrims start their journey at Makkah, here they walk 7 times around the Ka’bah. The Ka’bah is the building in the centre of the great mosque in Makkah. It is a cube shaped structure made from granite stone, covered with a black cloth and it is inscribed with verses from the Qur’an. The cloth covering is renewed every year. It is believed that the Ka’bah was built by Adam the Prophet. Abraham and his son Ismail rebuilt the first place dedicated to the worship of Allah.

They then jog between two small hills Safa/ Marwa. They do this in memory of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael. There is a story behind this; She ran between the hills, searching for water. During that the baby dug his heels into the sands and found a spring of water.

Arafat

Muslims believe this is the most important day of Hajj. It is some way out from Makkah, in the desert. Thousands of tents a put up to protect the Muslims from the immense heat of the sun. Muslims spend the whole day in devotional prayers and listening to sermons. Muslims believe that there is no day when Allah is more likely to listen to prayers than the day of Arafat. Muslims that are not on pilgrimage like to spend the day fasting. The pilgrims spend part of the time on a small hill called Mount of Mercy. Here they ask God to forgive their sins. From Arafat pilgrims move on in the afternoon to Muzdalifah, this is where they spend the night and gather pebbles for the ‘stoning of the devil’ in Mina, which happens at the end of Hajj.

The pilgrims take off their sandals and stand on hot sands to get rid of all their sins this is called Wuquh. The reason for this is to go through a pain threshold to show that they are devoted to Allah. Pilgrims are trying to overcome pain with power over mind. This means that their sins are forgiven.

Mina

At Mina the pilgrims throw pebbles at stone pillars representing the devil who tried to tempt Abraham away from the command to sacrifice his son Ismail. In memory of Allah’s mercy of allowing Abraham to bribe the sacrifice of his son with the slaughter of a ram. Muslims sacrifice animals at Mina to show they have achieved Hajj. Nowadays, however, most pilgrims pay selected officials to do the slaughter for them. Some of the meat is eaten and the rest is then loaded quickly onto refrigeration trucks, which is then distributed to the poor.

After these rituals have been completed the pilgrims take off the Ihram and put on ordinary clothes. On this day Muslims all over the world celebrate the festival of sacrifice ‘Id al-Adha’. The pilgrims pay another visit to the Ka’ba and can spend another two days at Mina stoning the devil, this isn’t always possible for the Muslims as some are in a hurry to return to their jobs.

After Muslims have done their final farewell visit to the Ka’ba, pilgrims can go back home, but it is traditional that they first travel to Madinah to pay a visit to the mosque and the tomb of Prophet Muhammad.

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