Discover Hajj: Islam’s Most Sacred Pilgrimage
What is Hajj, what is the religious and political significance of this annual pilgrimage
Nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims are gathering in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. This five-day pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
What is the religious and political significance of this annual pilgrimage?
The Fifth Pillar
Millions of Muslims come from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Russia, India, Cuba, Fiji, the United States and Nigeria – all dressed in plain white garments.
Men wear seamless, unstitched clothing, and women, white dresses with headscarves. The idea is to dress plainly so as to mask any differences in wealth and status.
The pilgrimage is considered to be the fifth pillar of Islamic practice. The other four are the profession of faith, five daily prayers, charity and the fast of Ramadan.
The First Day Of The Hajj
The rites of the Hajj are believed to retrace events from the lives of prominent prophets such as Ibrahim and Ismail.
Muslims, all over the world, are expected to turn toward the Kaaba when performing their daily prayers.
The Quran tells the story of Ibrahim, who when commanded by God, agreed to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Muslims believe the Kaaba holds the black stone upon which Ibrahim was to carry out his oath.
The story goes that Ibrahim was granted a son by God through his Egyptian slave girl Hajar. After the birth of Ismail, God instructed Ibrahim to take Hajar and her newborn son out into the desert and leave them there. Ibrahim left them near the present-day location of the Kaaba. Ismail cried out with thirst and Hajar ran between two hills, looking for water until she turned to God for help.
God rewarded Hajar for her patience and sent his angel Jibreel to reveal a spring, which today is known as “Zamzam Well.” Pilgrims drink water from the sacred well and may take some home for blessings.
The Second Day Of The Hajj
As a , during my fieldwork I have interviewed those who have gone on the Hajj. They have described to me their personal experiences of standing in the plains of Arafat or circling the Kaaba with fellow Muslims and .
Final Three Days
Here they recall how Satan tried to tempt Ibrahim to disobey . Ibrahim, however, remained unmoved and informed Ismail, who was willing to be offered to God. To re-enact Ibrahim’s rebuff of Satan’s temptation, pilgrims throw small stones at a stone pillar.
Muslims believe that a proper performance of the Hajj can absolve them of any previous sins. However, they also believe that just undertaking the pilgrimage is not enough: , based on the intention of those undertaking the pilgrimage.
Creating One Muslim Community
To address such issues, to put together an international, multi-partisan committee to organise the pilgrimage. Perhaps that could help avoid regional or sectarian conflicts. The Hajj, after all, is any individual Muslim’s symbolic ritual act that reflects .
By requiring Muslims to don the same clothes, pray in the same space and perform the same rituals, the Hajj has the potential to unite a global Muslim community across national and class boundaries.
(The story was originally published on The Conversation and republished by here with permission)
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