Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime – Navigating The Spiritual Path to Mecca

Navigating The Spiritual Path to Mecca – The hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah an essential duty of Islam that dates back to the time of Prophet Abraham and brings together Muslims of different races and dialects to share one of the most uplifting spiritual experiences.

Since 14 centuries, untold millions of Muslims both women and men from all four corners of the globe have made the journey to Makkah which is the place of birth for Islam. As they perform this duty they have fulfilled any of five “pillars” that comprise Islam as well as the most important obligations of a believer’s religion.

Muslims are able to trace the earliest recorded roots of the religiously-required journey towards the prophet Abraham or Ibrahim or Ibrahim, as he’s known in Arabic. As per the Qur’an the prophet Abraham who, alongside Ishmael (Isma’il) created the Ka’bah, “the House of God,” the focal place where Muslims perform their prayers every day for five minutes. 

Also Read: Historic Gathering: Saudi Arabia Commences the Largest Hajj Pilgrimage in History

It was Abraham as well – also called Khalil Allah “the one who is the friend of God” – who formulated the rituals associated with the hajj which reminisce about some of the things or actions he had in his life, as well as those were carried out by Hagar (Hajar) along with the son of their father, Ishmael.

In the chapter called “The Pilgrimage” the Qur’an mentions the divine commandment to make the hajj, and declares the enduring nature of this tradition:

When we gave Abraham the position of the House and said “Do not be associated with anything that is related to me, and cleanse My House for those who walk around it and those who sit and kneel and prostrate themselves in worship. and proclaim the pilgrimage among the human race It is said that they will come to you on foot, and with every camel made slim by traveling through far, deep ravines.

When when the prophet Muhammad was given the request However, the pagan practices were beginning to dilute the original rituals for the Hajj. The Prophet, as decreed by God was able to continue the Abrahamic hajj following the restoration of the rituals to their origins in purity.

Additionally, Muhammad himself instructed the followers to perform the rituals of the hajj. He accomplished this two ways by observing his own practices or by accepting those practices practiced by his companions. 

Also Read: Saudi Arabia Launches Unified Visa Platform ‘KSA Visa’ – A Boon for Indian Hajj Pilgrims

This added a bit of complexity to the rituals but also allowed for greater flexibility in the execution of them and to the benefit of pilgrims for centuries. 

It is legal to, for instance, include a variation in the sequence in which various rites are performed since prophet Muhammad is acknowledged as having sanctioned these actions. The rites associated with the hajj are intricate diverse and numerous Some of them are discussed below.

The Hajj towards Makkah is a once-in-a lifetime obligation for males and females adults who’s health and finances permit it, or according to the Qur’an, on “those who are able to get to Makkah.” This is not a duty on children, even though certain children accompany with their families on the trip.

Also Read: Journey Through Time: The 1960s Hajj to Mecca Unveiled

Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime - Navigating The Spiritual Path to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, The Great Mosque,Hajj, Umerah, Umrah Guide, Holy Pilgrimage, Holy Land, Dhul Hijjah, Mecca

Before leaving the journey, pilgrims should correct all injustices, settle all outstanding debts, and plan to have sufficient funds for his journey as well as to support his family during his time away, and be prepared to conduct himself in a manner that is acceptable all through the holy hajj.

If pilgrims make the hajj and make the hajj journey, they follow in the footsteps of thousands before them. Today, hundreds of thousands of people from over 70 nations travel to Saudi Arabia.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by road, air, and sea each year, making the trip which is much less time-consuming and in certain ways less strenuous than it used to be in previous years.

Up until the 19th century travelling the long distance to Makkah was usually a part of an entire caravan. There were three major caravans that were in operation: The Egyptian caravan, that began in Cairo Then there was the Iraqi one which started from Baghdad and the Syrian that, after 1453’s start, was based in Istanbul and gathered pilgrims along the way, and travelled towards Makkah starting from Damascus.

Since the journey to Hajj took months, if everything went according to plan pilgrims brought with them the food items they required to survive their journey. The caravans were well-equipped with security and amenities for those who were wealthy, however those who were poor frequently had to stop for food and had to stop their journey to work, earn their earnings and continue their journey. 

Also Read: The Ka’bah : Appreciating The Ka’bah’s Profound Significance in Islam

This led to long travel that, in some instances could last for ten years or longer. In the early days, travel was full of adventure. The roads were usually dangerous because of bandit attacks. 

The terrain pilgrims traveled through was also hazardous as natural hazards and disease frequently claimed the lives of many people along the journey. So, the successful return of pilgrims back to their families was an occasion of joyful celebration and praise for their safe return.

Infatuated by the mystical appeal at the heart of Makkah and Madinah Many Westerners have visited these holy cities, where pilgrims congregate in the fifteenth century. Some were disguised as Muslims and others who were truly been converted, were there to fulfill their obligations. 

All seem to have been touched by their experiences and many have recorded their impressions of the trip and the hajj’s rituals in enthralling stories. There are many hajj travelogues available with texts written in languages as varied and varied as those of the pilgrims.

The annual pilgrimage occurs every year during the eighth and 13th days of Dhu al-Hijjah which is the twelveth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. The first ritual is the wearing of the sheam.

The sheikam which is worn by men is a white seamless dress comprised of two pieces of toweling or cloth that cover the entire body from the waist down to the ankle, while the other is worn on the shoulder. 

This dress could be worn by Abraham as well as Muhammad. Women usually wear a white, simple dress and a headcovering, however there is no veil. The heads of men must be covered for both genders. Women and men can wear an umbrella.

The sherman symbolizes purity and renunciation of all things mundane and evil. It also symbolizes that all people are equal before God. If a pilgrim is wearing his white clothes and goes into a state purity, which prohibits fighting or committing any violence towards a person or animals, and having romantic relationships. 

After putting on his hajj clothing, he can’t shave or cut his nails, or wear jewellery, and he must wear his unworn garment until he has completed the entire pilgrimage.

A pilgrim already in Makkah starts his hajj the moment he put on the shemam. A few pilgrims who are coming from afar may have arrived in Makkah earlier and put their ihram in place and may still wearing the garment. The ritual of wearing the ihram is followed by the main invocation for the hajj: the talbiyah.

Here I am, O God, at Thy Command! This is me at Your Command! You are without a partner Here I am at Your Command! Your praise and grace and dominion! Thou hast no associate.

The booming, melodious songs of the talbiyah are heard not just at Makkah but also in other holy sites in the vicinity that are connected to the hajj.

Also Read: Embark on a Spiritual Journey: Discover 50 Must Do Activities During Hajj

On the day that marks the beginning of the hajj, the pilgrims leave of Makkah towards Mina the tiny town that is not inhabited to the east of Makkah. When their crowds engulf Mina the pilgrims typically take their time contemplating and praying, much like the Prophet did during his journey.

The second day of the hajj on the 9th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims depart Mina to go to the plain of Arafat for the Wuquf, “the standing,” the most important rite associated with the hajj. When they gather the way they stand and the gathering remind that they’re on their journey to the Day of Judgment. 

Many of them gather on the Mount of Mercy, where the Prophet preached his unforgettable Farewell Sermon, enunciating far-reaching social, economic, religious or political reforms. 

It is a time of intense emotion that the pilgrims are able to spend in prayer and supplication. A lot of them shed tears when they pray to God to be merciful to them. At this sacred place they experience the climax of their lives in religion in the moment they feel the closeness and presence of a loving God.

The first Englishwoman who performed the hajj Evelyn Cobbold, described in 1934 the experiences pilgrims go through during the wuquf ceremony at Arafat. “It will require a skilled pen to convey the moment, touching in its intenseness, of that huge crowd of people of which I was a tiny group, totally disoriented from their surroundings with a sense of fervor and devotional enthusiasm. 

Many of the pilgrims were wearing tears running through their faces; others turned their heads to the stars that has witnessed this scene frequently in the previous years. 

The sparkling eyes, the passionate pleas and the pathetic hands stretched out to pray moved me to a level that I has ever been done before and I was caught in a powerful wave of spiritual awe. I was with the other pilgrims who performed a magnificent gesture of complete submission to the supreme will that can only be described as Islam.”

She then describes the feeling of closeness that pilgrims have to the Prophet when they are in the ‘Arafat area: “…as as I sit in front of the pillar of granite I am able to feel that I am in a sacred place. I am able to see with my eye the Prophet’s final address, more than 13 centuries ago, before the crowds weeping. I can imagine the multitude of preachers who have addressed thousands of people in that vast plain beneath since this is the ultimate event of the great pilgrimage.”

The Prophet is believed to have prayed to God to forgive the infractions committed by the pilgrims that “stood” at Arafat, and he was granted his request. So, the pilgrims who are hopeful will leave the plain with joy, feeling free of guilt and aiming to start anew leaf.

After sunset, the crowd of pilgrims head to Muzdalifah which is an open plain midway in between ‘Arafat to Mina. The first step is to pray, and then take a set amount of pebbles that are the size of chickpeas to use in the next days.

Also Read: 600 CE Chronicles: Unveiling Mecca’s Transformative Era at The Birth of Islam

At dawn on the third day, pilgrims make their way in a masse across Muzdalifah up to Mina. In Mina, they throw on white pillars the pebbles that they had previously collected. 

According to certain traditions this ritual is connected with the prophet Abraham. When pilgrims throw seven stones at the columns, they recall the tale of Satan’s effort to convince Abraham to defy God’s commands to sacrifice his son.

The throwing of pebbles symbolizes the human attempts to eject vice and evil, not just once, but seven times – – the number seven symbolizes infinity.

After casting the pebbles, many pilgrims choose to sacrifice the animal of their choice, whether it is a sheep, goat or a different animal. They donate the meat to the poor and, in certain cases taking a portion to their own consumption.

This ritual is connected to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice son to fulfill God’s wishes. It signifies the willingness of Muslims to give up the things that are precious to him and also reminds us of the tenets of Islam where obedience to God’s will plays the leading role. The act is also a reminder to the pilgrim to donate his worldly possessions to people who are less fortunate and acts as a way of offering thanks to God.

The pilgrims have, at this point, completed most in the Hajj they’re now permitted to take off their sheiks and wear normal clothes. This day Muslims all over the world are able to share the joy that pilgrims feel, and also join them by making the same sacrifices to mark the worldwide celebration of ‘Id Al-Adha “the festival of sacrifice.” Men cut their hair or trim their hair and women take an emblematic lock in order to commemorate their complete desecration. This is a sign of humbleness. All prohibitions, excluding those pertaining to conjugal relationships have been lifted.

Even as they continue to live in Mina the pilgrims travel to Makkah for another vital ritual of the hajj and that is the tawaf. It’s the seven-fold circling around the Ka’bah, and the recitation of a prayer during every single circle. The Ka’bah’s circumambulation as a symbol of God’s unifying power, signifies that all human activities must be guided by God as its central point. It also represents the unity between God with man.

Thomas Abercrombie, a convert to Islam as well as a photographer and writer in National Geographic Magazine, performed the hajj in the 70’s and wrote about the feeling of peace and unity that people feel when they ritual of circling the shrine:

“Seven times we circled the shrine,” he wrote, “repeating the ritual prayers in Arabic” Lord God From such far away land, I been to Thee. …. to seek refuge before Your throne.’ In the swirling scene inspired by the poetic nature that the prayers evoke, we walked around God’s house with the atoms and in tune with our planets.”

While traveling, pilgrims can kiss or rub their hands to the Black Stone. This stone of oval shape, initially encased in a gold frame around the 7th century, holds an enviable position in the hearts of Muslims since, according to certain traditions it is the only remains of the structure constructed in the seventh century by Abraham as well as Ishmael. Perhaps the primary reason for kissing the stone is the fact that the Prophet did it.

There is no significance of any kind connected to the stone as it isn’t, nor has ever been in any way a symbol of devotion. A second caliph, the caliph ‘Umar ibn al -Khattab clarified this by kissing the stone with his own hand to emulate Muhammad, the prophet said:

“I know that you are merely a stone incapable of doing harm or good. If I had not witnessed that the Messenger from God embrace you – may God’s blessing and peace be with him – I wouldn’t be able to kiss you.”

After the tawaf is completed, pilgrims offer prayers, most often in the Station of Abraham, the location that Abraham stood during the time he was building the Ka’bah. Then, they drink the waters of Zamzam.

Another, and occasionally final rite is Sa’y, also known as “the the running.” It is a reenactment an important incident that occurred in the story of Hagar who was escorted to what the Qur’an refers to as”The “uncultivable valley” of Makkah together with her newborn son Ishmael and her son Ishmael, to settle there.

Also Read: Umrah Interruption: Navigating the Pause Before the Hajj – Insights and Updates

The sa’y is a memorial to Hagar’s desperate hunt for water that sated the thirst of Ishmael. She raced around several times around two hills, al-Safa and al-Marwah, until she came across the holy water referred to as Zamzam. The water, which burst out of Ishmael’s small foot, has been contained in a marble enclosure called known as the Ka’bah.

When these rites are completed, the pilgrims are utterly desecrated and are able to resume their regular activities. In accordance with the traditions of certain countries, pilgrims are able to confidently claim the title Al-Hajj and Hajji.

They then return to Mina and stay there until the 13th or 12th date in Dhu al-Hijjah. Then they throw the remaining pebbles on the pillars according to the method which was either approved or practiced in the words of Prophet Muhammad. Then they leave their friends that they formed during their Hajj. Prior to leaving Makkah However, the pilgrims often make a last Tawaf in the Ka’bah to say goodbye to Makkah, the Holy City.

Typically, pilgrims take part in or after the hajj “the more significant pilgrimage” and the ‘umrah “the less pilgrimage” which is approved by the Qur’an and was ascribed to the Prophet. The ‘umrah is not like the hajj, occurs only in Makkah in Makkah itself and is carried out at any time during the year. 

The talbiyah, the ihram and the strictures imposed in the consecration ceremony are also essential to the ‘umrah. It has three additional rituals associated with the hajj, including the tawaf, sa’y, and shaving or cutting hair. The celebration of the ‘umrah for pilgrims and tourists symbolizes respect for the unique sacredness of Makkah.

After or prior to going to Makkah the pilgrims can make use of the opportunities offered by the hajj and the ‘umrah, to visit the prophet’s Mosque in Madinah which is the second most holy city of Islam. The Prophet is laid to rest in a small tomb beneath an emerald dome. The trip the city of Madinah is not a requirement since it’s not a part of the Hajj or ‘umrah. However, the city that welcomed Muhammad as he moved there from Makkah It is full of emotional memories and historical sites which are in awe of his character as a statesman and prophet.

In this city that has been loved and adored by Muslims over the centuries the inhabitants remain in touch with his spirit. Muhammad Asad, an Austrian Jew who made the switch into Islam in 1926 and completed five journeys from 1927 to 1932 remarks on what the city has to offer “Even in the midst of thirteen hundred years, the Prophet’s spiritual presence is as present like it was back then. 

It was due to his presence that the sprinkling of villages that was once known as Yathrib was transformed into a city, and is loved by everyone Muslims until today like no other city in the world has been so loved. 

It doesn’t even have a unique name. for more than 13 hundred years, it has been named Madinat an-Nabi, ‘the City of the Prophet.’ Over the course of more than 13 hundred years it has been a place where so much love has been poured into this city that all shapes and forms have been able to acquire a familial resemblance. Even the different appearances find the tonal transition and become an unifying harmony.”

As pilgrims of different races and languages return home and homes, they bring their fond images from Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar and Muhammad. They will forever be reminded of the common ground that was held in which rich and poor as well as white and black young and old, were able to meet on the same level.

They return feeling of serenity and awe in their memories of their time at ‘Arafat when they felt most at peace with God while standing at the spot that the Prophet gave his sermon in his final and first trip; peace that they had removed their sins from the plain and free of this burden. 

They return with a greater comprehension of the circumstances faced by their fellow Muslims in Islam. This is the beginning of a new spirit of compassion for one another and a greater appreciation of their own rich history which will endure for the rest of their lives.

The pilgrims return filled with joy and optimism because they have completed God’s old commandment for humanity to make the journey. In addition, they return with prayers on their lips to God: Do you please God by praying for their hajj to be accepted and to have that what the Prophet declared to be the case for their personal journey: “There is no reward for a holy pilgrimage, but Paradise.”

Categories: PRAYER (Salat), ALMS (Zakat), SAWN (Fasting) HAJJ (Pilgrimage) & DUA (Supplications), Hadith and Tafseer, The Holy Quran, Quran Jaz 1- 114

Topics:  Ushr and Zakat, Hijab, Arabic Corner, Faith, Islamic History, Biography, Sirat ul Nabi PBUH,  Islamic Studies, Halal & Haram


Alasad Online Quran Tutor