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Hajj in Makkah

Hajj in Makkah

The meaning of the word pilgrimage is closely linked with the history of its origin. The word pilgrimage is derived from the word palm because the first pilgrims, Christians, took the palm branches when they went to the Holy Land to worship shrines. Over time, the term spread and became known as traveling to other shrines. Pilgrimage is practiced in Christianity and Judaism, as well as many other teachings. Since ancient times, there were many holy places considered by entire nations as miraculous properties where they worshipув, prayув, and made sacrifices (Peters, 1994). Nevertheless, Islam shows its uniqueness since it interprets pilgrimage in a different way comparing to most people. While for most believers pilgrimage is a voluntary action, it is a duty for Muslims. Hajj has particular importance for Muslims worldwide, as it occupies a crucial position in different forms of worship in Islamic religion.

Hajj is the pilgrimage to the holy places of Makkah that is considered the only pillar of Islam. It is done strictly at certain times and only in Makkah. There are several types of pilgrimage, required ones such as Hajj al-Ifrad, Umrah (minor pilgrimage), and al-Hajj tamattua, or a combination of these types (Hajj al-Cyrus). After Hajj, a Muslim receives an honorary title of Haji and the right to wear a green turban. Hajj marks three significant events in the history of Islam, such as forgiveness and reunion of Adam and Havva (Eve) after their expulsion from the Eden, Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of the life of his son Ismail, and the life of the Prophet Muhammad as an example of humility and submissiveness to Allah (Peters, 1994).

Every Muslim is obligated to make the pilgrimage to the House of Allah at least once in the lifetime if his finances and health allows it. If a person cannot perform Hajj due to reasonable grounds, he has the right to send another person, who is called Wakil al-Hajj. In this case, a Muslim pays all necessary expenses for Hajj.

The Prophet Muhammad established the main rites of Hajj during his Farewell Pilgrimage (Hajj al-vada). Shariah law defines the following conditions that are necessary for the Hajj, such as being of legal age, remaining in a clear mind, being free, and having sufficient funds to ensure the pilgrimage and maintenance of family that was left at home. In addition, a person is required to have sufficient physical health, provide safety on the road, go on a journey on time to begin the rites of Hajj by the due date (the 7th day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah). Akbar (2011) emphasizes that a Muslim has to remember that Hajj is not a pleasurable journey, but a duty and sacrifice to Allah. During the Hajj, a Muslim is obliged to put on special attire or ihram, make the first circuit around the Ka’bah, pray on the Mount Arafat, and make a second, farewell tour around the Ka’bah on the return from Arafat (Akbar, 2011).

Ihram means dedication and is a special state of spiritual purity, which required believers to completely wash their body, dress in special attire and comply with the rules of Ihram (Shafaat, 1985). After completing ablution, women wear spacious white robes and cover their heads in a way that only their faces, hands and feet remain visible. Men wear two simple white sheets, one covers the legs from the hips to the knees, and another is thrown on the left shoulder. These robes symbolize purity of thought of pilgrims and their equality before God. The place, where pilgrims are clothed in the garb of Ihram, is called miqat. It is four kilometers from the Kaaba. Nowadays, many pilgrims wear these garments in advance before the boarding on an aircraft.

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During the Hajj, it is prohibited to engage in trade and affairs that are related to the worldly life. More specifically, Muslims cannot engage in sexual relations, as well as marry, angry and hurt people and any other living things (killing animals and insects, tearing the grass and leaves and branches from the trees, etc.), shave, cut hair and nails, use fragrances, wear jewelry and smoke (Akbar, 2011).

Having arrived in Makkah by the 7th day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, pilgrims worship the Ka’bah. It is the rite of the little pilgrimage that is called Umrah. Pilgrims enter the Masjid al-Haram barefoot on the right foot through the Gate of Peace (Bab al-Salam) and follow to the Black Stone (Shafaat, 1985). They kiss it or touch with hands, and then put their hands onto lips and eyes. Then they circle the Ka’bah seven times counter-clockwise. At the end of the seventh circle, pilgrims come to the entrance to the Ka’bah, clung to it, raise their rights hands toward the entrance and say a prayer, asking for mercy and forgiveness of sins. After completing the circumambulation of the Ka’bah, pilgrims go to the plate of standing of Ibrahim and prayer. After that, the pilgrims route to the sacred well Zam Zam and take water from it twice (Peters, 1994). First, they drink it. Secondly, they pour it on their bodies from head to toes. Circumambulation of the Ka’bah should be done at any time of day or night immediately upon arrival in Makkah.

After completing the circumambulation of Ka’bah, the pilgrims proceed to the rite that takes place between the hills of Safaa and Marwa. They go up the hill of Safaa looking at the Kaaba, and turn to God in prayers for mercy and protection. Then, the pilgrims descend from this hill and run to the column that stands at Marwa Hill. The pilgrims climb this hill and pray again, and then come back to Safaa. Running between the hills is repeated for seven times. In Muslim tradition, there are several explanations for the origin of the rite. It is believed that these two hills were a resting place of Adam and Havva. At the same time, some Muslims believe that Ibrahim performed such a rite as he was worshiping Allah. Nevertheless, the most commonly accepted belief is that this ceremony is established in memory of Hajar’s suffering, who was wandering between the hills in search of water for her newborn son Ishmael. This tradition concludes Umrah. Those, who make Hajj and Umrah separately, cut off a lock of hair and go out of the state of Ihram, which will be resumed immediately before the Hajj. Nevertheless, usually, the pilgrims fully perform all the rites of Hajj and do not go from a state of Ihram until it ends.

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The rest of the rites of Hajj are performed collectively and in specific days. On the seventh day, a sermon (khutbah) is read in the Sacred Mosque. It refers to the obligations of Hajj pilgrims. On the next day, the pilgrims stock water and go through the small valleys of Mina and Muzdalifah to the Mount Arafat. The night of eighth to ninth day, the pilgrims carry out in the valley of Mina. On the ninth day, believers perform the central rite of the Hajj. It is located at Mount Arafat (vukuf). It begins at noon, immediately after zenith passage of the sun and ends before sunset. The pilgrims listen to the sermon (khutba) and pray to Allah. The prayer is read repeatedly and in a loud voice. After the sunset, the pilgrims run back to the valley of Muzdalifah, where they perform a common prayer in front of the brightly lit mosque. Here, pilgrims spend the whole night, which is considered a night of fasting and prayer for Muslims around the world.

Early in the morning of the tenth day, the pilgrims pray and go into the valley of Mina, where they throw seven pebbles that were taken in Muzdalifah at the last of the three pillars, which symbolizes Iblis (Satan), who blocked the way to Abraham to pray. Performing this rite, Muslims mentally devote themselves to Allah and promise to make every effort to exorcise the demons from their lives.

Later they perform a ritual of sacrifice. The tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah is the most important celebration of the canonical Islam, called Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), which is Muslims honor worldwide (Peters, 1994). Each pilgrim has to make animal sacrifice on the feast day. The pilgrims eat a part of sacrificed animal, and another part is given to the poor. Having made a sacrifice, the pilgrims shave or cut hair and shave off their beards. Women cut off a piece of their hair. Shaved and cut hair is left in the ground in the valley of Mina. After this, the pilgrims go back to Makkah to circle the Ka’bah for the last time. At this point, the walls of the Kaaba are already covered by the new cover (kiswa). All the rites of Hajj end on the 14th day of Dhul-Hijjah. Pilgrims come from the state of Ihram and gain the title of Haji.

After the Hajj in Makkah, many Muslims visit places that are associated with the memory of the Prophet Muhammad. One of these places is the Mountain of Light (Jabal al-Nur), which is located on the top of the cave, where the first revelation of the Qur’an was sent to the Prophet Muhammad. Then, pilgrims go to Medina to worship the tomb of the Prophet and the graves of his closest associates, including the righteous caliphs Abu Bakr, Omar and Osman. On the way, they stop in Taif, where Mohammed was hiding from persecution of pagans. The city is famous for the mosque of Abbas (the Prophet’s uncle).

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After the arrival to Medina, the pilgrims go to the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid al-Nabi). First, they pray, and then male pilgrims follow to the southeastern part of the mosque, where the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad and the graves of the righteous caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar are placed. Women do not come close to the graves, since they are only allowed to enter the Mosque of the Prophet and make a prayer. Then, the pilgrims visit two famous mosques, Cuba and al-Taqwa. On the way home, the pilgrims wear green turbans and long white robes, which symbolize the performance of Hajj. Relatives and friends of the pilgrims arrange grand welcoming, which is followed by a festive meal. Many Muslims repeat Hajj and even make it annual.

Hajj has spiritual meaning for Muslims. It relates to leaving worldly attachments, embodiment of obedience to God, and witnessing the unity of humankind. Hajj is considered a confirmation of the reality that all paths and roads lead to Allah. In addition, it shows that race, nationality, and gender are not important. Spiritual significance of Hajj is that it is a voluntarily and individual choice to worship the One God. During Hajj, pilgrims are considered guests of God in His house, to whom Muslims turn their face five times a day in prayer throughout the world. Leaving their homes and carrying the burden of traveling, pilgrims commit the outer and inner purification, making their souls peaceful. Moreover, they ask God to forgive their sins.

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Hajj recalls the reconstruction of the Prophet Abraham’s experiences, whose selfless sacrifice has no analogues in the history of humanity. This exclusive annual arrangement of faith contributes to the demonstration of the concept of people’s equality that is the deepest and most profound message of Islam, which does not allow superiority based on race, social status or gender. During Hajj, Muslims are dressed in the same clothes, observe common regulations, perform the same rituals, and pray in the same manner and at the same time. There is no nobility or royalty, but only resignation and dedication. Muslims affirm their preparedness to sacrifice their material values for God.