The Hajj Pilgrimage

The Hajj Pilgrimage

The Muslims from all the countries these days have congregated at Mecca, Saudi Arabia at this time to perform one of most important of their religious obligations to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once with the condition that they have the means for it- from physical and financial point of view.

 

The Hajj PilgrimageThe Muslims from all the countries these days have congregated at Mecca, Saudi Arabia at this time to perform one of most important of their religious obligations to perform Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once with the condition that they have the means for it- from physical and financial point of view.

Performing of Hajj is spread over a period of five days. Various rituals called ‘Manasiq’ are performed during these five days which also includes Eid-Ul-Azha or day of sacrifice known otherwise mostly as BakrEid in the sub continent but observed with sacredness throughout world. With this event the hajj rituals or Manasiqs are considered over but the stay at Mina continues for another two to three day-the third day being optional.

This article briefly touches upon the important places and timings associated with formalities and rituals called ‘manasiq’.

The significance attached to each and every one of them have been explained in a book titled ‘Hajj’ written by Dr Ali Shariti-a world known Iranian literary giant and translated into English by Ali A. Behzadnia, M.D. & Najla Denny. This article includes extract form this book where necessary.

Dr Shariati opines that from the practical and conceptual point of view, Hajj is one of the most important pillars of the Islamic doctrine which motivate the Muslim nation and makes its citizens conscious, free, honorable and socially responsible.

He based this book with his experience of performing the Hajj three times and touring Mecca once. He further says that it (the book) is only the comments and interpretations of the rites by a humble servant of God. No Muslim has the right to view the rites on the basis of this writing since it is not a book on “religious jurisprudence” but rather a paper to make you think!

The readers keen to get an insight into his thoughts by reading his book are, therefore, requested to adhere to this view of the original thinker.

“In essence, Hajj is man’s evolution towards Allah. It is a symbolic demonstration of the philosophy of Creation of Adam. To further illustrate this, it may be stated that the performance of Hajj is a simultaneous show of many things; it is a “show of creation”, a “show of history”, a “show of unity”, a “show of the Islamic ideology” and a show of the Ummah”. Dr Shariati says in his introduction.

Basic purpose of the gathering of pilgrims from across the globe in millions is:

To demonstrate that “Everyone is considered equal. No discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or social status is made. In accordance to the teachings of Islam, ALL ARE ONE AND ONE IS ALL.”

The places of significance are:

Miqat-a place for rendezvous of pilgrims from various directions and changing into the state of ‘Ahram’ and dissolving his or her identity with the others and becoming part one large humanity. These are different places for people coming from different geographical locations. For Indian pilgrims it is at a place called yalmalyam if they come by passing Jeddah but from the direction of India. Pilgrims coming to Jeddah put on their ‘Ahram’ generally before arriving there.

Masjid-ul Haram (the grand mosque at Mekka where the ‘Ka’ba and the Black Stone are located),

The Haram area (precincts of the Grand Mosque),

Mashars and Mina (The base camps of pilgrims stay from eighth to thirteenth day of the month).

Arafat (a place few kilometers east of Mecca where all the pilgrims camp on the ninth day of Muslim lunar month Zilhajja-currently running- for prayers, supplications and listening sermon from a high priest of Saudi Arabia)

Important spots and symbols are:

The Ka’ba (The cubical structure which is ‘The House of God-to which the Muslims turn their faces for the five daily obligatory prayers),

The Black Stone called ‘Hajar-al-Aswad’- The ‘tawaf’ or circumbulation starts and terminates at this spot.

Safa,and Marwa ( two symbolic hillocks adjacent to the Grand Mosque and part of the ‘Haram’),

Day, night, sunshine, sunset (these timings are important as rituals are performed at a particular time-zones of these geographical events)

The idols (three in numbers) representing symbolically the devil who instigated first prophet Adam resulting in his expulsion from the heaven ‘Aden’ and subsequently Prophet Abraham to deviate from the instructions of God,

Ritual of sacrifice (Called ‘Qurbani’),

Shaving of hairs (called, Halgh and Taqseer) and

Putting off ‘Ahram’ (the hajj clothings) and wearing of normal clothing. This brings to the end certain restrictions made obligatory (A set of compulsory ‘Don’ts’) for each pilgrim and termination the ‘Hajj’ rituals.

The clothing and make up are:

Ihram ( two pieces of unstitched cloths worn by all male pilgrims- the females have simple normal clothing to maintain the serenity and sacredness of the occasion throughout the Hajj- till shaving of hairs- called, Halgh and Taqseer- both forming part of clothing and make up ).

Each pilgrim irrespective of sex plays the roles of Adam, Ibrahim (both Prophets) and Hajar ( ‘Hajra’ in Muslim parlance and wife of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, the common prophet of all the three Semitic religions-Jewish, Christianity and Islam) and Ismail-the son of prophet Ibrahim.

The important mile stones and corresponding formality of rituals associated with The Hajj are:

· Cicumbulating the K’aba seven times before leaving Mecca. Each cicumbulation starting from and ending at the place where the Black Stone is located. They are called ‘Tawaf’.

· Performing “Say’”-Running between ‘Safa and ‘Marwa’ seven times.

· Reaching ‘Mina’- The base camp on the eighth day of the month Zulhijja.

· Leaving Mina from early morning of the ninth day to reach ‘Arafat’

· Staying at ‘Arafat’ for prayers and supplications and listening of the sermon

· Leaving ‘Arafet’ when the sun is setting and reaching a place called ‘Muzdalifa’ to spend night to pray, take some rest and collect pebbles to hit the idols of the devils.

· Leave ‘Muzdalifa’ after performing dawn prayers back to ‘Mina’.

· Hit devil in a prescribed manner, go to Mecca and perform circumbulations and associated rituals and return to ‘Mina.

· Offering of the ‘Sacrifice’ as a thank to God for taking triumph over the misguiding devil.

· Shaving of hairs and leaving the status of ‘Ahram’ and reverting to normal (and) pious activities.

· Throwing the pebbles at the devil for the next at least for another two days and the third additional day if one likes.

· Going back to Mecca and performing circumbulations as prescribed.

· Leave Mecca.

During stay at Mecca, before and after the Hajj, the pilgrims may perform the lesser pilgrimage called ‘Umrah’ involving circumbulations and “Say’” as many as one wishes but after reaching ‘Miqat’ the pilgrims perform the ‘Umrah’ invariably as an act compulsory with cutiing or shaving of hairs.

The ‘Hajj’ is broadly classified into three categories

1. Hajj Munfarard- only Hajj

2. Hajj Tamattu- Both Hajj and Umrah together-in both these the ‘sacrifice is compulsory- and

3. Qarn

Invariably every Muslim ensures his or her visit to the holy city Madina (called ‘Madinatun nabavi’) either before or after the Hajj although this visit is not the part of the Hajj. The combined tour is called ‘Hajj-o-Ziyarat’.

Whereas the stages are common for all the pilgrims, minor differences may be there in their performance based on their “Maslaks’ (or Mazahibs or shools of thought).

Each place, timings and associated formalities has been elaborately explained by Dr Shariati in his book mentioned above with quotation from Holy Qur’an. Readers keen to get a firsthand knowledge may refer to the electronic copy available on web sites www.drshariati.com. A brief description will be presented at a later date.

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