Hajj 2019- The Pious Pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina
'Hajj' literally translating to 'to intend a journey', is the annual pilgrimage of the Muslims performed around the festival of Eid-ul- Azha. Every year lakhs of pilgrims flock to the holy cities of Makkah aka Mecca and Madina aka Medina to perform the needful. Hajj is considered one of the five foundational pillars of Islam, the other four being Shahadah (belief in the oneness of God i.e. Allah and accepting Mohammad as Allah's Prophet), Salat (daily namaz prayers), Zakat (charity or religious tax) and Sawm (fasting or Roza during the month of Ramadan). This pilgrimage is the second largest annual gathering of Muslims in the world and the entire journey is surmised to be the most overwhelming experience in the life of an individual. The religious rite is a major obligation for all able-bodied and financially capable people at least once in their lifetime, and failure in fulfilling it is highly sinful.
Context and Origin of the Journey
Although the present pattern of Hajj is based on the rules established by Prophet Mohammad, the history of the journey dates back to the times of Prophet Ibrahim aka Abraham. Performing the umpteen rituals of Hajj include several steps each of which has a dedicated history associated with it. Here's trying to simplify the theories and unravel the context and idea behind the pilgrimage.
Itinerary of Hajj Pilgrimage
The dates and time of Hajj are decided through the Hijri Calendar i.e. Islamic Calendar which is based on Lunar year. Hajj is performed from the 8th day to the 12th day (or 13th in some cases) of the twelfth and the last month - Dhu al-Hijjah of the Islamic Calendar. Loosely, that is the three days of Eid-ul-Azha and two days preceding it.
Day 1 - Commencing the Journey
The pilgrims are taken to a ground limit at a particular area before Makkah which is called Miqat (limit). They then proceed to the State of Ehram, which means they change into a seamless unstitched white cotton cloth and prepare their minds and soul for the sacred journey ahead. The cloth is a replica of 'Kafan'- the cloth draped around a dead body before burial. This is done as a sign of shedding monetary and worldly wealth, to learn humility; and to observe a state of holiness. After this, they declare the intention of Hajj (perform Niyah of Hajj) and travel to Makkah. Once the Ehram is donned, the pilgrims are instructed not to use soap, to let no hair break, not to chip off nails, not to have sex, not to get cut or bleed anyhow; failing which an animal has to be sacrificed as a remedy.
The next step is to perform tawaf called Tawaf-e-Ziyarat at Makkah which is circling the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times, including the holy place of Hateem. The pilgrims are also supposed to kiss the sacred Black Stone of heaven - Hajar al Aswad. In case, they are not able to do so because of the crowd, a similar gesture made from a distance would suffice. Tawaf is completed with a small prayer performed at Muqam Ibrahim - a site in the vicinity, after which they drink Zamzam water. This is followed by the ritual of Sa'ey which involved walking seven times back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwah. This area was an open ground initially but has now been converted into an air-conditioned tunnel for the convenience of the pilgrims. After all of these rites completed, the pilgrims depart to Mina.
Day 2 - Day of Arafah or Day of Hajj
This is the most significant day of the Hajj. After sunrise, the pilgrims leave for Arafah which is a massive ground; and arrive before the noon prayer. The time between noon and sunset is called Wuquf which is the most important ritual in the entire journey. The pilgrims stay near Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy) and listen to sermons delivered by Islamic scholars. They stand in vigil, seek the mercy of Allah, repent their sins and ask for forgiveness. The Hajj is declared invalid if this ritual is not performed.
After this, the pilgrims start back towards Mina and stop midway at a place called Muzdalifah before sunset prayer. This is considered the ideal place to collect pebbles for the next day ritual of stoning the devils. The night is spent here on the second day.
Day 3 - Eid-ul-Azha
The third day is the Eid-ul-Azha. The pilgrims gather at Mina in the morning and get ready to perform the Ramy al-Jamarat (stoning of the Satan). The site has three huge walls in three different sizes representing Satan and the pilgrims are supposed to stone Jamrat al-Aqabah- the largest of the three walls only. The smaller two walls are not stoned. The activity is considered an exercise of faith.
This is followed by the animal sacrifice which is an offering of thanksgiving to Allah. The exercise also teaches charity when the blessing (in the form of raw meat) is shared with the poor and the needy. The pilgrims give their voucher to the authority and the sacred slaughter is made without their physical presence. After this, the men are to shave their head of any hair and women cut a lock of theirs. This process is known as Halak.
Soon after, the pilgrims hurriedly return to Hajj to perform another Tawaf al-Ifadah to show their love and loyalty to Allah; and right after return back to Mina.
Day 4 and Day 5 - Sprawling Campsites at Mina
The next two days are comparatively relaxed with the hardest rites and rituals completed. The pilgrims camp in Mina for the last 3 nights and days. The significant custom is to stone the three devils called Ramy al-Jamarat. Finally, before the sunset prayer on the fifth day, the pilgrims leave for Makkah. In case, they stay back (free-will or otherwise), they must perform the stoning on the 6th day before leaving for Makkah.
Journey to Madinah
Another important aspect of the pilgrimage is the journey to Madina where the pilgrims are expected to stay for 8 days and perform a total of 40 prayers (namaz). This can be done at the beginning of the journey before Hajj or after performing Hajj, at the end of the trip. So before leaving Makkah, either for Madina or for home, the pilgrims are also supposed to perform the last Tawaf (circling the Makkah) called Tawaf al-Wadaa to bid goodbye to the pious place.
How to Reach Madinah
Saudi Arabia has dedicated two airports - King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina for catering to the pilgrims. Depending on the itinerary, the further conveyance is done through buses or on foot.
The Journey of 40 Days
The journey period of the complete pilgrimage has been set for 40 days since the ritual began. Other than the 5 days of Hajj and 8 days of stay at Madina Shareef, the pilgrims are expected to stay back in Makkah and pray called Ibadat. It is believed that mundane everyday things are considered to be reward worthy (Arabic word - Sawaab) during this period. So much so that even looking at the Kaaba holds special merit and the pilgrims are rewarded generously. It also cleanses them of the sins committed in their lifetime. Another activity is Ziyarat when the pilgrims can take some time off and visit places of religious importance. Makkah and Madina have a lot of places associated with Islamic history, mountains where Prophet Muhammad prayed and the like, which holds historic and religious significance.
Difference between Umrah and Tawaf
Umrah and Tawaf are two legs of Hajj. While Tawaf is an important ritual that can not be done singly, Umrah can be done separately from Hajj and is called 'lesser pilgrimage'. Both have similar functions, except Umrah is more pronounced and has some additional rites.
Tawaf is circling the Kaaba seven times in the anti-clockwise direction. Umrah includes Tawaf followed by Sa'ey, which is walking seven times back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwah, in the state of Ihram.
Sites of Religious Importance
Kabatullah also called Kaaba, Kaaba Shareef, Qiblah; is the cubical building at the centre of the Al-Masjid Al-Haram and is the holiest site of Islam. It is also called as Bayt Allah meaning 'House of Allah' and is the monument towards which Muslims face while praying (Namaz direction).
Al-Haram or the Great Mosque of Makkah is the largest mosque in the world and houses the Kaaba. The enormous mosque accommodates lakhs of pilgrims annually for Hajj and is always open regardless of date or time and always has people praying.
Hajar al Aswad also called the 'black stone' is the stone which is believed to have been brought to earth by angel Gabriel during the construction of Kaaba from heaven. The stone is supposed to soak in all the sins of an individual if kissed (from near or afar). The rock is framed inside a silver palate and is displayed on the side of Kaaba.
Maqam-e-Ibrahim is a tiny section at a little distance from Kaaba. The glass showcase holds the holy stone where Prophet Ibrahim stood while getting the Kaaba constructed. The stone still has the impressions of his feet. It is believed that any prayer or wishes made at this point come true.
Hijr-e-Ismail also is known as Hateem is a semicircular white marbled wall drawing out from one wall of Kaaba. The crescent area is the same area where Prophet Ibrahim created shelter for his wife and son when he brought them here.
Meezab-e-Rahmah is a water channel which draws rainwater from the roof of the Kaaba and drains it onto the Hateem area. The name translates to 'water outlet of mercy'. The water coming through this gold plated spout is considered holy and magical to make prayers come true.
Zamzam Well is a water well located in the premises of Al-Haram mosque. It is the spot where water first sprouted from the desert land when the feet of young Prophet Ismail brushed. Later, a well was constructed at the site and the water is considered holy and sacred.
Places to Visit at Makkah Madina
1. Jannatul Mu'alla also called Al-Hajun is a holy cemetery where Muhammad's wife, grandfather and other relatives are buried.
2. Masjid al-Nabawi is the second holiest site in Islam. Located in Madina, this mosque was the abode of Muhammad when he stayed in Madina after his migration.
3. Masjid-e-Aisha is the second largest mosque in Makkah. Located on the Muzdalifah road, the mosque is also the place where pilgrims enter the state of Ihram.
4. Jabal-e-Noor is a mountain at some distance from Makkah. The mountain peak houses the Cave of Hira which Prophet Mohammad occasionally visited to pray and meditate. This cave is also the place where he received his first revelation.
5. Jabal-e-Soor is another mountain peak which houses Cave of Thaur. The cave is a place where Prophet Mohammad stayed for three days.
6. Masjid al Jinn is the mosque of the jinns (genies). It is believed that once a group of passing jinns heard Prophet Mohammad recite Quran at this place. They stopped to listen and later embraced Islam.
7. Jabal al-Rahmah is the Mount Arafat also known as Mount of Mercy located in Arafat. It is the mountain where Prophet Mohammad delivered his farewell sermon for his followers who accompanied him for Hajj. It is also the place where Prophet Adam was forgiven after he committed the eternal sin.
8. Riad ul-Jannah is the garden of paradise within the Masjid al-Nabawi between the Minbar and the burial chambers of Prophet Mohammad. This supremely holy place is believed to be very holy where all prayers are answered. However, this area is kept closed during; it is open otherwise though.
Conditions of Hajj
Every able-bodied and finally able Muslim individual is obligated to perform Hajj at least once in his lifetime. However, Hajj requires the fulfilling of the following few conditions-
The person should be a follower of Islam. The person should be an adult. The person should be of sane mind. The person should have enough time to perform all the rites and ritual without having any urgent engagements to tend to. The person should have enough money or savings to support the family members left behind or someone he is in charge of (if any).
Now that we've covered what Hajj is all about, we hope you have a righteous pilgrimage.