Haj Pilgrimage.

I was asked about Haj few days back by one of my friend Lenie, you can know about her from this website. I want to take this opportunity to thank her for giving me such a wonderful idea to write for this amazing spiritual trip to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

Introduction:

The foundation of Islam is based on five acts, that are performed during our daily life. These acts are considered mandatory for all the Muslims to fulfill. A life of believer is supposed to be according to these deeds. These acts also called the pillars of Islam. These five important deeds on which the building of Islam is standing are:

1.       Faith (Shahadah): This is acceptance and declaration of the fact that there is one God in the universe (Almighty Allah) and Prophet Muhammad ( Peace and blessings be upon him) is His messenger.  It is submission to the will of God.
2.      Prayer(Salat): The ritual prayer (compulsory congregation) that Muslim offers five time a day from dawn to dusk. According to a specific method on specified time.
3.      Alms-giving(Zakat): Zakat (charity) is obligatory for all rich Muslims who have large sums of wealth by the end of year, left with them. They are asked to give away 2.5% of their savings to the poor and needy. This charity goes to needy that can be from the  relatives or out of family.  
4.      Fasting(Sawm): This ritual practice is obligatory  during holy month of Ramadan. Every Muslim , male and female is abstain from food from dawn to dusk. Muslims fast for 30 days in Ramadan.
5.      Hajj: The pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to Makkah, Saudi Arabia which is mandatory for  every Muslim that can bear the cost of the travel and is strong enough to perform this ritual prayer, once in life time.

In this post I will try to write about to the method by which we perform Haj.

What is Haj? What are the feelings of Muslims for this pilgrimage? What are the duties that a Muslim has to fulfill? What this spiritual trip teach Muslims?

The Pilgrimage (Haj):

 The journey for which every Muslim, regardless of gender; male or female, young or old, long for from the time when realize about Islam and its five pillars. This amazing trip need a lot of time , passion and effort. This spiritual journey helps to confirm our commitment to the will of God. Many Muslims throughout the world spend large sum of money and wait for many years to perform this religious duty. The aim of this effort is to show the importance of command a Muslim is given from God. A Muslim leaves behind family, friends, joy, luxuries and all facilities of life and travel in simplest dress to a far of land just to make it clear that he /she is ready to leave everything behind when it comes to duty that is mandatory. Muslim is fully prepared about all the hardships he/she has to face in the way. Keeping in mind each problem; little or big, brings rewards from God and improves grades. 

Hajj is a spiritual ritual that is performed during the last month of Islamic Calendar Zil-Haj. It is a set of different elements or deeds, that are performed from 8th Zil-Haj till 12thor 13th. The present set of elements descend from Prophet Muhammad but date back to Prophet Abraham who first build Ka’aba, with the help of his son Prophet Ismail. He then called people to performed Haj as God commanded him.

The set of rituals(Haj rights) performed at present during five days on different places in Makkah involves.

  • Visit to Ka’aba (House of God)
  • Mina ( The place where people dwell for few days. They stay at night in Mina in big tents excluding one night that they pass overnight in Muzdalifah)
  • Arafat and
  • Muzdalifah

This year 2014, 2 million people are performing Haj. The picture from arabnews facebook page shows the massive gathering and enthusiasm of people during hajj. 


 It is  the duty of every Muslim, who has power and wealth, to perform hajj at least once in his/her life time.
First four deeds can be performed anywhere. A Muslim’s journey starts with fifth act, which is Hajj. This act can only be performed in Makkah and its surroundings. It is commonly believed that hajj is the name of prayers 27/7 for 5 days. The people who come from Saudi Arabia perform their Hajj in 5-7 days but for rest of the world it takes 40 days. The rituals are performed during 5-7 days but the people from outside Saudi Arabia stay in Saudi Arabia for 40 days on their Hajj trip. A person can offer verbal or oral prayer during Hajj all the time. But Hajj is not complete without the specified rituals that we have to perform at the specified point around Makkah. It’s not like that you will be sitting on your praying mat for 5 days and Hajj will be done. It is told to be hardest of all the Ibadah ( prayers). You have to accomplish all the elements during 5 days. Each and every person is like running from place to place trying to complete all events during specific time. 

Hajj starts with Niyaah ( intention). First Ihram is worn ( two white long, unstitch  cloth for men-traditional white robe) and women wear normal dresses with abaya, you can check the details of dress code for Muslim women here. . During hajj millions of people travel from across the world towards Makkah and it is believed to be the largest congregation or gathering of people from all parts of the Muslim world in Makkah to perform religious ritual prayer. When any Muslim enters in Ihram then few acts that are legal in normal life are forbidden.

Hajj is believed to be a hard prayer , so it is better to fulfill this duty during young age.  Muslims are asked not to cut hair , not to remove Ihram until hajj is complete(it depends on the type of Hajj that is being observed)  and not to have sex, not to cut nails until sacrifice is done. Females are asked not to cover their face , hands and feet during Hajj. Men are also forbidden to cover heads with any cap etc.

There are three different types of Hajj.

  •  Hajj-e-Tammatu
  •  Hajj-e-Kiraan
  •  Hajj-e-Ifrad.
 The way of performing Haj is almost same but these types differ depending on how long a particular person will remain in Ihram. Let us see the different ways to wear Ihram.

Hajj-e-Tammatu:
If pilgrim has intention to perform this Haj then, he should wear separate Ihram for the Haj and the Umrah. Most of the Muslims perform Haj by this method.
Hajj-e-Kiraan:
In this particular type , only one Ihram is worn for both Haj and Umrah.
Hajj-e-Ifrad:
This is most rewarding way to perform Haj. One has to wear Ihram just for the Haj.

Different people perform Haj according to way that suits them.  Any Muslim who travel with the intention of Hajj perform different acts in 5 days. The first step is to wear Ihram on specified place.  A man is supposed to remove all stitched clothes and cover himself with two white long pieces of cloth. One piece is used to  cover legs and lower abdomen and other piece covers the upper part of body while one shoulder is left naked. Females wear normal dress. Then pilgrims travel to Makkah to perform Umrah. After Umrah pilgrims head towards Mina.
Mina:
Pilgrims stay in Mina at the night. Mina is situated 5 km to the east of the Makkah. Mina almost covers an area of 20 square kilometer. This city comes to life during Haj (pilgrimage) when it hosts 100,000 people temporarily in air-conditioned big tents. These tents have accommodation for large number of pilgrims under them. In this picture you can see white rows on back side , that is Mina. Those white rows are of tents. In the morning after prayer(Fajar) all the pilgrims move towards Arafat. Image is taken from Arab news.

Arafah:
This marks second day of Haj on 9th of Zil-Haj (Islamic calendar). This is the most important act and day in Haj. If any pilgrim do not join on this day, the Haj does not remain valid. All day the pilgrims stay in a wide , barren ground.  Pilgrims pray from God and ask for forgiveness of the sins and pray for mercy from God. They regret their sins and decide not to repeat them. The pilgrims repent and turn to God. 

People pray near Jabal-e-Rehmat (the Mount of Mercy). Jabal-e-Rehmat is a  granite hill which is situated in the plain of Arafat. This is the place where the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad ( may peace be upon him) delivered his last Sermon. It is believed that on this day of last sermon God completed the religion of Islam for Muslims. God completed the revelation of Holy book Quran and offered the religion of Islam for the people of the world.  This is most important rite of the Hajj. Later there is sermon from Masjid-e-Nimrah and Muslims offer two prayers of the day together ; the prayer for noon and after noon, these prayers are offered at noon time. On the day of Arafah, a pilgrim is considered to be Standing in front of God. It is the most significant day of Haj. After sunset pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah without offering their Magrib (evening) prayer.


Muzdalifah:
Then all the pilgrims leave Arafah and move towards Muzdalifah. It is situated at the distance of 8-km from Arafah. The pilgrims are taken from Arafah to Muzdalifah by buses and  trains and many walk till Muzdalifah , where they spend all night under sky and cannot take shelter under cover. This is a vast ground where all night people stay after offering their prayer for Magrib(Evening) and Eshaa (Night) together and afterwards the pilgrims take rest and sleep.

Devil’s Stoning:

After spending night here, the pilgrims leave for Mina to throw stones at devil(Satan) in morning. This stoning of Devil takes place at Jamrat. It is also named as Ramy al- Jamrat. The pilgrims collect pebbles from Muzdalifah to throw on shatan.  The stoning of Satan (Jamrat al-‘Aqabah ) is done on 10th of Zil-Haj. The pilgrims have to stone three shatans at Jamrat. Each devil is stoned with seven pebbles. This stoning of three Jamaraat is done for three consecutive days on 11th and 12th of Zil-Haj, and also on 13th of Zil-Haj, if the pilgrim did not leave Mina then stoning must be finished before noon. Hair can be cut or shaved and nails are clipped after stoning of Jamaraat. 

Sacrifice:

When pilgrims are done with stoning , they move on to the next step of slaughtering of animals to commemorate the sacrifice by Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ismail. Once slaughtering is done on the 10th of Zil-Haj by trained people on specific places, the meat is then sent to needy or poor people  around the world as a charity.

When the sacrifice is being done in Makkah during Haj, Muslims from all over the world also observe and perform the sacrifice at their homes. The slaughtering around the world takes places during three days and the universal event is called Eid-al-Adha. This is a day of festivity for all Muslims around the world.

Hair cut:

After the sacrifice of the animals,  pilgrims shave their heads and females trim their hair, by an inch from the tip.
Tawaf :

On same day pilgrims again visit Haram (Grand Mosque in Makkah) and do Tawaf al-Ifadah (farewell Circumambulation  of the Kaaba). This Tawaf has its significance and indicates that pilgrims respond to will of God. The pilgrims return back to Mina contented with the fact that they are almost around the corner. 
After the stoning for three consective days pilgrims go for Tawaf al-Wida, before returning to their homes. This Tawaf indicates the farewell.

The Haj ends with these rituals and the state and obligation of Ihram ends here. Pilgrims can use perfume or perfumed products like; soap , shampoo. tissues, creams etc. But intimate intercourse is still forbidden until the end of last Tawaf. Pilgrims sleep in Mina on 11th ,12th and 13th of Zil-Haj.  

Pilgrims emphasize on more worship during Arafat and cry during prayers and ask for forgiveness , as it marks the most significant of all days during Haj.


Allah was happy with His prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail and during the hajj  Muslims from all over world remember and revive the sacrifice of the Prophet and his son. The pilgrims then go to Madinah, the place where our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) lived after migrating from Makkah. The place where he lived, died and then was buried. Visit to Madinah is not part of Haj but when Muslims travel till Makkah then they deem it necessary to visit the place of their beloved Prophet.  They walk in the streets he had walked years ago. People say him their salaam.

Teachings:

The annual event of Hajj teaches us a lot of good deeds,  some of the benefits are as follows;
  • It teaches the brotherhood to Muslims.
  • It stands for equality of mankind. It teaches that all human beings have no difference on the basis of the color , race or tribe.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: O people! Verily your Lord is One and your father (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab, and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab; a white man is not better than a black man and a black man is not better than a white man – except in piety (Reported by Imaam Ahmad, 22391; al-Silsilat al-Saheeh, 2700).
  •  It teaches us human rights. When there is  world’s largest spiritual congregation to perform ritual prayers, everyone have to be careful about other. It also indicates the unity of Muslims.
  • It teaches us that the doors of mercy of God are never closed.
  • It helps to strengthen faith.
  • Muslims also remember Doom’s Day when all human beings will be standing in front of God , waiting for their turn to know their result.
If the Haj becomes mabroor ( accepted) then pilgrim return home without the burden of sins on their shoulders and Allah grant them  forgiveness and make them pure and innocent.
These rituals of Islam have an everlasting effect on each of its believer and influence their lives in every single possible way. This is a season to bring good in after life. This is best time to turn to Allah by submission , obedience of his commands, by performing good deeds, repentance of our sins and by asking for forgiveness and trying to run away from sins as far as you can. 
It is necessary the recite the Talbiyyah during this trip : 
“Labbayka-Allahummma labbayk, Labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk. Innal-Hamda wanni’mata laka wal-Mulk, laa shareeka lak!” 

“Here I am O Allah! Here I am! Here I am, there is no partner for you, here I am! Surely, all praise, blessings, and dominion are for You. There is no partner for you!” 
I took this from Here. 

This is very nice video that shows how to perform Hajj ( in 120 Sec.) The video is in Arabic but you can have idea about the rituals. 
Hajj is something really amazing and the feelings can not be experienced just by reading a post. You need to have spirit to visit and what you can experience personally is beyond description. The feelings that you have during these few days and before coming for Haj and after when you are leaving are amazing. The feelings totally change your way of life , you way of thinking and your attitude towards life. It is a wonderful experience of life. According to Arab News 2 million ‎Muslims have arrived Makkah,Saudi Arabia to perform Haj this year 2013, there are 1.4 million people who traveled from abroad. 
Many are performing Hajj now a days and I pray for them that, May God accept their Ibadah and give a chance to every Muslim to visit this place at least once in life time. 
May Allah accept our prayers and forgive our sins. 
Note:
Any local or international Haj pilgrim, coming for Haj, is asked to take vaccination against meningitis.
I have some very helpful links here that will help you through this journey.
For some amazing photos check this.

The images are taken from;
http://jstours.com/article.php?aid=steps
http://friendsofdeoband.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/takbir-and-talbiyah-during-the-days-of-mina-and-arafah/
http://quranforkids.com/Media/Pictures/tabid/237/SelectedModuleid/592/SelectedTab/237/RefTab/237/ItemID/1545/AlbumID/70/Default.aspx
http://www.kapl-hajj.org/train.php
http://www.eranos.freeserve.co.uk/reweb/islam/IS10.htm
Facebook page of Arab News. 
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