I am a Christian, an avid reader of scriptures of various religions. I keep abreast with Islam, as a significant per cent of my global friends are Muslims and I am interested in various rituals, activities and celebrations that are performed in Islam and other religions.
With EID on us, last weekend I was having a discussion, with a few Muslims friends on “Hajj…. The Journey” basically is a demonstration of the solidarity of a person with his creator and his submission to God (Allah).
What is the literal meaning of “The Journey”?
As one of those in the discussion mentioned, it is an “outward act of a journey, and the Inward act of Intentions”. Put in simple terms, a period of soul searching and internal reflections.
Wow — I thought, the statement was deep …He followed through with his reflection — “I am one of those 60000 lucky fellows who were shortlisted this time for Hajj 2021”. He went on to say, “I request all my near, dear and well-wishers to pray to Allah to accept my hajj.” He concluded by saying, “I also request you all to forget and forgive if wittingly or unwittingly, I have hurt any of you in any way.”
This, soul searching and internally reflections, the Christians do in the form of retreats during Lent, leading up to Easter.
This intrigued me and I felt there was an area of commonality which is what prompted me to write on this subject of HAJJ. I have heard about it a lot, as I grew up in Malaysia with numerous Muslim friends.
What is Hajj and why is it important?
An annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all able Muslims are expected to complete at least once in their lives. Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is a sacred event in Islam. Muslims retrace the route as followed by the Prophet Muhammad, Ibrahim, and Ismail, as well as the path that the wife of Ibrahim, Hagar, ran seven times between two hills as she sought water for her dying son. In Islamic belief, Allah created a spring that continues to run to this very day.
It is also believed that this journey allows Muslims to wipe away any sins and wipe the slate clean in front of Allah.
Prior to the Pandemic, this five-day pilgrimage would annually draw around two to three million Muslims. This pilgrimage happens in the last month of the Islamic (lunar) calendar. The journey, Hajj, as mentioned above, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is a sacred event in Islam faith. The other four pillars being Declaration of Faith, Obligatory Prayer, Compulsory Giving and Fasting in the Month of Ramadan.
Who goes on Hajj?
The faith requires every Muslim who is physically able, of sound mind and financially capable to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Those who complete the pilgrimage may add the title of Hajji to their name.
Hajj translates from Arabic as ‘to intend a journey, thus giving the pilgrimage its name. There is no obligation for children to undertake Hajj as they are not yet considered able, just as those under the age of puberty do not observe the fast in Ramadhan.
When 2021, is Hajj?
In 2021, Hajj is due to begin on Saturday 17 July and end on the evening of Thursday 22 July, along with Eid ul-Adha. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, though, it is uncertain how viable it will be for vast numbers of Muslims to travel for Hajj this year. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, only 60000 Muslims are allowed for Hajj. This is to respect the social distancing rules.
Hajj pilgrims streamed out of the holy city of Mecca and into the Mina valley on Sunday, launching the rituals of the great pilgrimage. For the second year running, there is a scaled-down in attendance from 2,5 million to 60000 this year. This is drastically smaller than in normal times, creating resentment among Muslims abroad who are further restricted once again.
What happens on Hajj?
The five-day Hajj occurs during Dhul Hijjah, the 12th and final month. It begins two days prior to Eid ul-Adha and goes through the three-day festival of the sacrifice.
On the first day, a smaller pilgrimage (Umrah) takes place in Mecca. This is when Muslims retrace the steps of Hagar between two hills — this is after circling the Kaaba, the building housed in the centre of the Masjid al-Haram which is the most important mosque in Islam faith. Small groups of pilgrims will be performing the “tawaf” at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, circling the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in golden — embroidered black cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray. On route to Mecca, some Muslims choose to visit Medina which is where the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad rests. These pilgrims end their day by spending the night in the valley of Mina.
In the high point of the Hajj, worshippers will on Monday climb Mount Arafat. Also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, it is the site where it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. This high point of Hajj sees pilgrims head towards Mount Arafat where they will spend the afternoon. They will also climb the hill, Jabal al-Rahma, (commonly referred to as the “Mount of Mercy”) which is where Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. Worshippers will undertake hours of prayers and Quranic recital.
Later in the day, as the sun sets, the pilgrims will head 5.5 miles west of Arafat to Muzdalifa — and while there is the option of taking a bus, many choose to walk this distance.
After descending the following day, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.
During the next three days, Muslims circle the Kaaba one final time, cast stones (picked up along the walk to Muzdalifa) in Mina, and remove the Ihram (a sacred state Muslims enter to perform the pilgrimage). Men will shave their heads and women cut a lock of hair as a sign of renewal. In addition to completing the Hajj pilgrimage over the three days of Eid ul-Adha, Muslims will carry out the ritual sacrificial slaughter of livestock and distribute shares of meat to the poor, in accordance with Islamic tradition.
A wonderful powerful journey did once in a lifetime. Most of these practices can be done regularly and some days within the confines of one’s own environment and home.
We need to be a person who practices our faith 24/7 and still be living in the NOW.
I have always advocated our relationship with our GOD does not start and stop on a Sunday when the Christians go to church or on a Friday when the Muslims go to Mosque or on the day when the Hindus go to Temple. Instead, it is a 24/7 awareness of ensuring you drive Empowering values of goodness, integrity, kindness etc….
That is practising once religion in the truest of forms. It’s pointless going to church on Sunday or the mosque on Friday or Hajj or the temple, and on coming out of that prayer time, we go all out to contravene what the premises of the religious connection with the god you believe is advocated you do.