The Hajj

The Hajj is the Pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam. It is the fifth of the Five Pillars in Sunni Islam and one of the ten Branches of Religion in Shi'a Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is obliged to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime.

The government of Saudi Arabia issues special visas to foreigners for the purpose of the pilgrimage, which takes place during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Entrance to Mecca itself is forbidden to non-Muslims, and the entire city is considered a holy site to Islam.

Traditionally, pilgrims travel to Mecca in groups with their friends or family, or people from their local mosque, in order to save money. Some airlines have special package holidays for Muslims going to Mecca. A woman is encouraged to go to Mecca in the company of a male relative (father, husband, or brother) but the Saudi government permits an unaccompanied woman to go provided that she travels in a group with other women and has written permission to do so from a relative. While in Mecca for the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in an ihram, a garment consisting of two sheets of white unhemmed cloth, the top draped over the torso and the bottom secured by a white sash; plus a pair of sandals. The ihram is intended to show the equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of God, symbolizing the idea that there is no difference between a prince and a pauper when everyone is dressed equally. The ihram also symbolizes purity and absolution of sins. Many female pilgrims traditionally wear a simple white or black dress with a head covering.

A place designated for changing into ihram is called a miqat. While the pilgrim is wearing the ihram, he may not shave, cut his nails, or wear jewelry. An invocation known as the talbiyah should be chanted as the pilgrim is donning the garment.

Upon arrival in Mecca, the pilgrim (locally known as a 'Hajji'), performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Abraham (Ibrahim) and Hagar (Hajarah), and of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. These acts of faith are:

* a tawaf, which consists of walking around the Kaaba four times at a hurried pace, followed by three times, more closely, at a leisurely pace, in a counter-clockwise direction.

* the sa`y, walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah now enclosed in the Masjid al-Haram. This is a re-enactment of Hagar's frantic search for water, before the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by an angel sent by God.

These rituals comprise the Umrah, sometimes called the lesser Hajj. The Umrah can be taken at any time throughout the year and although completing it is highly commendable, Muslims are still required to perform the greater Hajj, during the appointed time.

Despite not being part of the ritual, most pilgrims drink water from the Zamzam Well when the Umrah is completed. Also, men and women trim off approximately one inch of hair.

At this point, the pilgrim can change from the ihram to regular clothes. This release from ihram is known as the mut'ah of Hajj.

Though it is not required as part of the Hajj, after the Umrah, pilgrims often travel to visit the city of Medina and the Mosque of the Prophet. Muhammad's tomb is enclosed by the mosque, as are the tombs of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. After spending a night or more in Medina, pilgrims return to Mecca to prepare for the beginning of the greater Hajj.

The greater Hajj (al-hajj al-akbar) begins on the eighth day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Pilgrims again put on ihram. They leave Mecca for the nearby town of Mina, where they spend the rest of the day.

The next morning, on the ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat. They must spend the afternoon within a defined area on the plain of Arafat until after sunset. No specific rituals or prayers are required during the stay at Arafat, called the wuquf, although many pilgrims spend the time praying, talking to God, and thinking about the course of their lives. After sunset they leave for Muzdalifah, an area between Arafat and Mina, where pebbles are gathered for the stoning of the jamarat.

Having spent the night in Muzdalifah, the pilgrims now go back to Mina. It is now the 10th of the month, the day of Eid ul-Adha. As the first part of the stoning of the jamarat ritual, pilgrims throw seven pebbles at the large jamrah (wall) in Mina. After this, an animal is sacrificed. Traditionally the pilgrim killed the animal himself or oversaw the killing. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Mecca before the greater Hajj begins; this allows an animal to be slaughtered in their name on the 10th without the pilgrim being physically present.

On this day pilgrims are released from most ihram restrictions; they have their heads shaved and change out of the ihram garment. The head shaving is a symbol of rebirth, signifying that the pilgrim's sins have been cleansed by completion of the Hajj. On this or the following day the pilgrims visit the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca for a tawaf called the Tawaf az-Ziyarah (or Tawaf al-Ifadah) which is an obligatory part of the Hajj. The night of the 10th is spent back at Mina.

On the afternoon of the 11th, pilgrims must stone all three jamarat in Mina. The same ritual must be performed on the following day. Pilgrims must leave Mina for Mecca before sunset on the 12th. (If they are unable to leave Mina before sunset, they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th before going to Mecca.)

Finally, before leaving Mecca, pilgrims perform a farewell tawaf called the Tawaf al-Wada.

According to the Shafii, Maliki, Hanbali and Hanafi schools of Islamic fiqh, there are three types of Hajj.

* Hajj al-tamattu is where the Umrah rituals are performed first and then the Hajj rituals (those described in the previous section) are performed.

* Hajj al-ifrad is where the Hajj rituals are performed first and then the pilgrim gets into ihram for the Umrah rituals.

* Hajj al-qiran is where the pilgrim gets into ihram for both Hajj and Umrah.

The Imamiyyah school recognises the first type of Hajj, but essentially equate the last two types.

The pilgrim, the hajj, is honoured in his or her community. For some, this is an incentive to perform the Hajj. In some communities, a person who has done the Hajj will be nicknamed "hajji" or "hajjah" - which can be translated as "honorable pilgrim". Although it must be said such names have no religious foundation.

Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to God, not a means to gain social standing. The talbiyah prayer reflects this sentiment. The believer should be self-aware and examine his or her intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement.

In spite of some physical hardships, pilgrims who complete the Hajj consider it one of the greatest spiritual experiences of their lives. Many Muslims regard the Hajj as one of the great achievements of civilization, because it brings together people from around the world and focuses them upon a single goal: completing the Hajj.

The Hajj rituals have a deep psychological significance for Muslims. The pilgrimage is usually a very profound experience for those who participate. When life is lived according to the precepts of the religion and the mind is in a suitable condition, the pilgrimage can spiritually transform the individual.

A believer is required to make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her life time. A devout Muslim's whole life is directed towards this spiritual goal; all of life becomes a pilgrimage.

There have been many incidents during the Hajj that have led to the loss of hundreds of lives. The worst of the incidents usually happen during the stoning of the jamarat when many people crowd together around the jamarat. The most recent incident occurred on the January 12, 2006 when up to 350 pilgrims died. Also, many cases of trampling have been recorded, as there are well over a million people in a confined area.

The second caliph, Umar, is believed by many Muslims to have expelled non-Muslims from Hijaz (Western part of Arabia). Non-Muslims were not to visit nor to live in the holy land. There is much evidence against this claim, at least so far as it relates to the early centuries of the Islamic empire, but it is well documented that by the 18th and 19th centuries, non-Muslims were emphatically unwelcomed in most parts of Arabia. There were small colonies of merchants in various port and trading cities, as well as communities of Yemeni Jews, but ordinary travelers journeyed at risk of their lives. This was not so much imposed by the authorities as enforced by rioting crowds. The prohibition was most strictly enforced with regard to the Hejaz, and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

As one might expect, the existence of "forbidden cities" and the mystery of the Hajj aroused intense curiosity in European travellers. A number of them pretended to be Muslims and entered the city of Mecca and then the Kaaba to experience the Hajj for themselves. The most famous account of a foreigner's journey to Mecca is A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Mecca and Al-Madina, written by Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton traveled as a Qadiri Sufi from Afghanistan; his name, as he signed it in Arabic below his frontispiece portrait for "The Jew, The Gypsy and al-Islam," was al-Hajj 'Abdullah'.

Sunnats of Hajj

* Tawaf-e-Qadum;
* Spending the night of the 9th Zil-Haj in Mina;
* Leaving Mina after sunrise on the 9th for Arafat;
* Leaving Arafat after the departure of Imam;
* Staying the night at Muzdalifah on the return from Arafat;
* Taking a bath in Arafat.

If any of these sunnats cannot be performed, there is no penalty.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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