What does it mean?
Meaning "visit to the revered place," the
pilgrimage to Makkah, is the the most significant manifestation
of Islamic faith and unity in the world. For those Muslims
are able to make the journey to Makkah, the hajj is
the peak of their religious life.
Who is it applicable to?
The annual pilgrimage to Makkah -- the Hajj -- is an
obligation only for those who are physically and financially
able to perform it.
Worlds largest display of Unity
About two and half million people (1989) go to Makkah
each year from every corner of the globe providing a
unique opportunity for those of different nations to
meet one another. Although Makkah is always filled with
visitors. Pilgrims wear special clothes: simple garments
which strip away distinctions of class and culture,
so that all stand equal before God. A person who has
successfully performed the Haj is then called a Haji
(for males) and Hajjah (for females)
The actual rites and prayers take place at the sacred
Ka'ba in Mecca and at nearby locations. Muslims associate
the origin of the Hajj and the founding of the Ka'ba
with the prophet Abraham.
Peace is the dominant theme. Peace with Allah, with
one's soul, with one another, with all living creatures.
To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any
shape or form is strictly prohibited.
Muslims from all walks of life, from every corner of
the globe assemble in in response to the call of Allah.
There is no royalty, but there is loyalty of all to
Allah, the Creator. It is to commemorate the Divine
rituals observed by the Prophet Abraham and his son
Ishmael, who were the first pilgrims to the house of
Allah on earth: the Ka'bah. It is also to remember the
great assembly of the Day of Judgement when people will
stand equal before Allah.
When is it?
The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic
year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj fall sometimes
in summer, sometimes in winter).
What does it relate to?
Islam relates so profoundly to the monotheistic mission
of Abraham that its fifth pillar (Hajj) is none but
a ritualistic commemoration of the Patriarch. Throughout
his belief in the One True God and submission (islam)
only to His will, Abraham stood the test of confronting
authority (King Nemrod who argued that like Abraham's
God, he could give and take life by ordering a prisoner
killed and another spared. When Abraham retorted that
God brings the sun from the East and challenged him
to bring the sun from the West, the King was just confounded),
and confronting public opinion and their religious leaders
when he destroyed their idols, was arrested and condemned
to die by fire, but God saved him "We said O fire,
be coolness and safety upon Abraham." (21:69) A
more taxing test, however, was when Abraham, upon the
nagging of his wife Sarah agreed to take Hagar and their
son Ismail and banish them in the desert, "and
the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because
of his son." (Genesis 21:11) When Abraham abandoned
them at the site of the future city of Makkah, their
provisions became nearly depleted and the mother went
through the ordeal of fetching for water in panic and
near despair, until the Well of Zam-Zam unexpectedly
erupted. Abraham periodically came to visit, and on
one of those visits he was ordained by God to build,
with the assistance of Ismail, the first mosque for
the worship of God, and to call the believers on an
annual season of pilgrimage (hajj) to visit that mosque
in worship. The most strenuous test for Abraham was
no doubt the divine command to slay his own son, that
he finally brought himself together to obey, followed
by God's will to spare the boy and ransom him with the
The pilgrimage therefore started with Abraham and Ismail
and continued unbroken ever since. Unfortunately, however,
the people after many generations slipped again into
paganism, and transformed the House of God into a house
for idols. Each tribe of those pagan Arabs took an idol,
gave it a name, and placed it in the Kaaba. The pilgrimage
season remained in observance, but instead of worshipping
God it became a season of merriment and festivities,
booze and vice, and new rituals were improvised like
encircling the Kaaba in the nude while clapping, singing
and whistling. It was a great financial bonanza for
the people of Makkah, whose economy was based on the
season and on two annual caravan journeys for transit
trade between East (Africa and Asia) and West (Syria
and beyond to the Byzantian Empire). A clergy arose
to speak on behalf of the god's and accept offerings
For thousands of years that state of affairs continued
on this (Ismail's) side of the seed of Abraham. Out
of the distant progeny of Ismail, from the powerful
tribe of Qureish, Mohammad was born in the year 570
C.E. His father died before he was borne, and his mother
in his early childhood. Mohammad was raised by his grandfather,
and when the latter died, by one of his uncles. As he
grew up he became the focus of respect and admiration
of all the community, and at quite an early age he was
nicknamed "the honest." At the age of twenty
five he married a wealthy widow, Khadija, whom he had
worked for as caravan trade manager and who valued his
character. She was fifteen years his elder, but they
lived happily in monogamous marriage for the next twenty
eight years until she died. He never shared with his
people the worship of the idols or the various wrongs
or ineptitudes that were the very life of those pre-Islamic
(jahiliyya ie. taken to ignorance) Arabs.
He habitually visited a cave at the top of a mountain
near Makkah to reflect and meditate, and during one
of those visits the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and
conveyed the divine assignment of prophethood, and gave
him the first revelation ever from the Quran that read:
"Read! In the name of thy Lord who created.. created
man out of a leech-like clot. Read; and thy Lord is
the Most Bountiful. He who taught with (the use of )
the Pen. Taught man what man knew-not." (96:1-5)
The month was Ramadan, and the night was the Night of
Power (Qadr). Mohammad was over-awed, and hurried home
shivering and trembling, where his wife comforted and
tranquilled him saying: "By Him who dominates Khadija's
soul, I pray that you will be the prophet of this nation.
You are kind to your kin, generous to the guest, helpful
to the needy and truthful in your speech, so God will
not let you down."
The angel visited again, and again until Mohammad went
about his ministry. Although it was the truth and the
turning from polytheistic idolatry back to the pure
monotheism of Abraham, nothing could be more threatening
to the alliance between the rich and powerful and the
clergy, whose very existence depended on the status
quo. For thirteen years Mohammad and his followers were
persecuted, until they emigrated to their base in Madinah
and permitted (by the Quran) to hit back. Eventually
Mohammad's army conquered Makkah, declaring general
amnesty, but they destroyed the idols, purifying the
shrine of Abraham from paganism and restoring the religion
to its pure source. Pilgrimage went on at its specified
season, and the fifth pillar of Islam was decreed upon
every Muslim man and woman once in a life time for those
who are physically and financially able to afford it.
After this lengthy explanation, is it not reason enough
for a heart to ache on reading some of those specialists,
experts and scholars (clergy and orientalist) who described
pilgrimage simply as "a pagan ritual incorporated
by Islam"? The pilgrimage season comes with the
twelfth month of the lunar calendar, which is called
the month of the hajj (Zul Hijja), already known when
Islam came, since it was an Abrahamic event. Men have
to wear a pair of white unsewn body garbs, without any
other (under) clothing except perhaps sandals and a
(pocketed) belt. It is a universal dress and they all
look alike without any class distinctions and mingle
together in full brotherhood and prompt eagerness to
offer help to one another whenever possible, transcending
all differences in colour, language, race, ethnicity,
degree of education.. .. only the goodness of humanity
shows and the purity of the belief that humanity is
ONE family worshipping ONE GOD. The women wear ordinary
clothes that cover the whole body except the face and
hands. There is no segregation, and families and other
groupings try to stick together so none would drift
and be lost amongst the millions.
Rituals include worship at the Mosque of Abraham and
circumambulating the Kaaba, several to-and-fro walks
between the hills of Safa and Marwat where Hagar had
frantically ran in search of water for her son, the
pligrims stand together on the wide plain of Mount Arafat
and join in prayers for God's forgiveness, stopping
at the three sites where the devil tried to tempt Abraham
against slaying his son and throwing pebbles at them
symbolic of conquering the temptation. The highlight
is the collective prayer and sermon of the Eid (of sacrifice)
followed by sacrificial slaughter of a ram (donated
to the poor but part goes to family and friends) following
upon the tradition of Abraham. Muslims who are not in
hajj also celebrate the Eid by the collective prayer
(and sermon) and the sacrificial offering of a sheep,
and the Eid lunch is a happy occasion to rejoice in.
In view of the large number of animals sacrificed at
the hajj near Makkah, that cannot be possibly consumed
there and then, the authorities established a meat packaging
plant to preserve and can the meet for leisurely shipment
to the poor and needy in the Islamic world.
What happens at the close of Hajj
The close of the Hajj is marked by a festival, the
Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the
exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.
This, and the Eid al-Fitr, a feast-day commemorating
the end of Ramadan, are the main festivals of the Muslim
Hajj and the Eid of Sacrifice
It's that time of the year, Muslims all over the world
are getting restless. Their Home in the heart of the
planet beckons them. It's time to pay homage to the
Beloved God in the House. It's time to come Home. It's
time to come Home to the Holy Sanctuary of Ka'aba. It's
time to leave all and follow Him. It's time to abandon
this illusory world and come to the House of God. It's
time for Hajj--the Pilgrimage. Those who can go will
head to Mecca, those who can't will join in the festivities
of Homecoming wherever they may be by celebrating the
Eid of Sacrifice.
Hajj is a commemoration of love and celebration of
faith. We commemorate Abraham's Supreme Sacrifice in
love of his Beloved in Minna. We celebrate his wife
Hagar's display of unprecedented love for the infant
Ishmael and her unflinching trust in the Providence
in the lonely desert around the Twin Peaks. We venerate
God's Greatest Gift, the Quran by spending a day in
Arafat where the final revelation was sent. We celebrate
faith by coming face-to-face to the Qiblah of our prayers.
Hajj is also an act of renunciation. Muslims from every
corner of the globe don their coffins--two cotton sheets--to
represent their deaths to this life and head to their
Primordial Home. They pay their debts, ask forgiveness
of everyone, bid farewell to one and all and prepare
to die to this world to live in Him. We are now ready
for Hajj to the Ka'aba-a very special place.
Ka'aba is a special place. It was the first house of
worship built by the first man. God commanded Adam to
make a journey. He walked umpteen months until he arrived
guided by God to Mecca. Here, he was instructed to build
Him a House. This was mankind's first House of Worship.
This is where we first learned to mourn our separation
from our Beloved. This is where Adam shed countless
tears to lament loss of paradisiacal glory. This is
where we soughtto seek His nearness. This is where we
sought to experience His intimacy. This House is the
Archetype which basks under another House situated far
beyond the realm of the Visible Universe and the prison
of space and serial time. This is the first act of reconciliation
with our Paradisiacal Destiny in the Home of our Beloved
inspite of our terrestrial sojourn.
Ka'aba is a special place. It was once lost to us but
our Beloved led His Friend Abraham (God's Peace be upon
him) to this Sanctuary and gave him the task of restoring
this House. Our father Abraham (GPBUH) recruited his
son Ishmael for the Holy Task. For months at end, father
and son toiled under the searing desert sun sustained
only by their burning love for the Eternal God. This
choice was no random choice. Abraham was *the* man for
the job. Every year, when men and women were to come
to this blessed House, they were to come on 10th of
the month of Zilhijj. This auspicious day God asked
Abraham to make the Supreme Sacrifice and Abraham delivered.
Allah asked His Friend to sacrifice his son Ishmael
and he obliged.
Ka'aba is a special place. Its foundations have been
fortified by love and faith of Abraham's family. We
go there to commemorate love. We go there to celebrate
faith. Abraham lived the true meaning of Surrender.
He loved God, his Friend, above all. God gave him a
dream where he saw himself sacrificing his son. Persistence
of the dream convinced him that it wasn't just a dream
but an allusion from the Infinite. He intimated the
dream to his son who readily concurred. Once it was
known to be God's Will, the son didn't offer any excuses.
It was a foregone conclusion that His Will be done.
Father and son set off to the designated place. When
they reached their destination, son suggested that the
father cover his eyes so his love does not overwhelm
him into disobeying His master. At the very moment that
Abraham let loose his knife, the son was substituted
with a lamb. This time and this day was made sacred.
Every year, millions come this very day. Millions retrace
the steps of these two in the valley of Mina, they stop
where they stopped, walk where they walked and finally
arrive where the Supreme Sacrifice was offered. Here,
everyone offers a sacrifice in His Love and then gives
it to the impoverished people of the land all the while
marveling at Abraham's burning love and faith in God
that he was willing to sacrifice his most precious love.
Those who can't be here, celebrate this wonderful sacrifice
wherever they may be in any part of the world. For indeed,
love of God must be celebrated.
Ka'aba is a special place. We commemorate Abraham and
his son's faith and surrender. We also celebrate Mother
Hagar's love. Mother's love is the highest form of selfless
human love. Hagar typified this love so well. She combined
this love with her unshakable trust in God. Abraham
was instructed to bring her and her infant son Ishmael
near the mound that was once the Ka'aba. In this desolate
place with nary a single soul and nary a water source,
he left them with a leather bag containing some dates,
and a small water-skin containing some water, and set
out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying,
"O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in
this valley where there is no person whose company we
may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She
repeated that to him many times, but he did not look
back at her. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered
you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said,
"Then He will not neglect us." What an exemplary
Trust in their Beloved God! They knew that the Causer
of all Causes will provide. He is Eminently Resourceful.
Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking
from the water (she had). When all water ran out, she
became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She
started looking at Ishmael tossing in agony; she left
him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found
that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to
her on that land. She stood on it and started looking
at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody,
but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from
Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up
her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress
and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached
the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking,
expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody.
She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven
times. God loved this selfless display of motherly love
so much that every pilgrim to His Holy House must run
7 times between the Twin Peaks of Safa and Marwa. When
she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard
a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened
attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O,
(whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice;
have you got something to help me?" And behold!
She saw an angel at the place of Zam-Zam, digging the
earth with his heel till water flowed from that place.
She started to make something like a basin around it,
using her hand in this way, and started filling her
water-skin with water with her hands, and the water
was flowing out after she had scooped some of it. This
wonderful gift of God hasn't stopped yet. Hundreds of
Millions come every year and take gallons and gallons
of the Holy Water with them and still the small well
never goes dry. Mecca is a special place.
In celebration of the two momentous events in Abraham's
family, we are reminded that Allah's Will always work
for our highest good. In the end, it all worked out
for Abraham's family and in the end if we trust Him
everything will work out for us too. From Him have we
come and to Him shall we return!
Ka'aba is a special place. It is overwhelming to be
in company of 3 million brothers and sisters in faith,
all enshrouded in humble whites. The highest king to
the humble laborer are both dressed alike. They stand
shoulder to shoulder, they run side by side and they
greet each other the greeting of peace. People of all
races intermingle as co-equals. Black, white, yellow
and brown all come together in harmony before their
Beloved. Men and women all stand together. Veils are
lifted off women's faces. In this searing passion for
the Loved One, there is no distraction. He Alone Matters!
It is wonderful to lift one's face and see one's Qiblah
face-to-face. All their lives 5 times a day they turned
their faces to their Qiblah--the Holy Ka'aba and now
they see it right in front of them in all its majesty
and glory. They savor the sweetness of coming Home all
the while exclaiming "Labbaik Allahuma labbaik,
la sharika laka labbaik, Labbaik Allahuma labbaik: I
have come, my Lord, I have come. No one participates
in Your Divinity (so I have nowhere to come but You).
I have come." I have come, my Beloved. I have come.
We circulate around the Holy Ka'aba proclaiming all
the while our Arrival. Circling around the earthly shadow
of the Pole, we are reminded to keep our Beloved at
the Center of our lives. We are reminded to keep Him
in front of our lives and in center of our existence.
Whenever we pray, this circulation is affixed and imprinted
in our consciousness. We stand in awe of His Presence
as if we are circling non-stop in ecstasy round and
round our Beloved.
Accept the Hajj of all our lucky Muslim brothers and
sisters who are given the grace of your Presence in
Your Exalted House. Give us the Grace to one day be
able to come visit You. O Allah, there is no one worthy
of Love, Worship and Surrender but You. Allow us to
love you, worship You and submit to Your Presence and
to Your Wish and Will. Ameen!