The Haj pilgrimage | Sunday Observer

The Haj pilgrimage

25 June, 2023

Hajj is a sacred pilgrimage for Muslims at least once in their lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. Each year, millions of Muslims from across the world perform Hajj in Makkah.

Muslims who on their way to perform Haj or Umrah, repeat the Talbiyah Dua (intention to start worship) from the time they leave their country all the way to the holy Masjid in Makkah.

Labbayka Allāhumma labbayk. Labbayk lā shareeka laka labbayk. Inna al-hamda, wa n-imata, Laka wal mulk. Lā shareeka lak. Meaning: “Here I am, O Allah, here I am, here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise and blessings are yours, and all sovereignty. You have no partner.”

It takes place during the same time each year, in the sacred month of Dhul Hijjah – the twelfth month in the Islamic Calendar. Hajj begins on the eighth of Dhul Hijjah and lasts approximately five to six days depending on the sighting of the moon. When the new crescent moon is sighted, Muslims around the world welcome the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha.

Muslims are commanded by Allah to fulfill the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj as stated in the Holy Qur’an:

The sacred pilgrimage of Hajj comprises a series of rites and rituals – some in order – that provide a spiritual, emotional, and physical challenge for the pilgrim.

For example, a pilgrim can expect to walk between 5km-15km per day, as Hajj requires some travel between several locations in and around the vicinity of Makkah. Much of the pilgrimage takes place at the Masjid al-Haram, in Makkah where the Kaaba is located.

As the Prophet Muhammad said:

“Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene speech or do any evil deed, will go back (free of sin) as his mother bore him.”

When the pilgrim is about six miles (10 km) from Makkah, he or she enters the state of holiness and purity known as ihram and dons the ihram garments; for men they consist of two white seamless sheets that are wrapped around the body, while women may wear sewn clothes.

Ihram is the sacred state of cleanliness and dress code that Muslims observe while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage.

It eliminates differences in wealth, status and nationality and symbolises equality and unity among pilgrims. The pilgrims cut neither their hair nor their nails until the pilgrimage rite is over.

They enter Mecca and walk seven times around the sacred shrine called the Kaaba, in the Great Mosque, kiss or touch the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad) in the Kaaba, pray twice in the direction of the Maqām Ibrāhīm and the Kaaba and run seven times between the minor prominences of Mount Ṣafā and Mount Marwah.

On the seventh day of Dhū al-Hijjah the pilgrims are reminded of their duties. At the second stage of the ritual, which takes place between the eigth and twelfth days of the month, the pilgrim visits the holy places outside Mecca—Jabal al-Rahmah, Muzdalifah and Minā—and sacrifices an animal in commemoration of Abraham’s sacrifice.

Male pilgrims’ heads are then usually shaved and female pilgrims remove a lock of hair. After the rajm ritual at Minā, in which pilgrims throw seven stones at three walls (formerly pillars, symbolising the Devil) on three successive days, the pilgrim returns to Mecca to perform the farewell ṭawāf, or circumambulation, of the Kaaba before leaving the city.

Nearly three-million persons perform Hajj each year and the rite serves as a unifying force in Islam by bringing followers of diverse background together in religious celebration. Once a believer has completed the pilgrimage, he or she may add the title Hājj or Hajjī (for a male) or Hājjah (for a female) to his or her name. The pilgrimage, if performed properly, is believed to wipe out previous sins for the sincere believer.