Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime – The Day of Arafah and Its Sacred Preparation

Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime – The Day of Arafah – The hajj, also known as the pilgrimage to Mecca is a fundamental obligation of Islam that dates back to the time of Prophet Abraham and brings people from all over the world 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 pilgrimage to Mecca where they were born. Mecca is the birthplace of Islam. As they perform this duty they have fulfilled each of the 5 “pillars” that comprise Islam as well as the primary obligations of a believer’s religion.

Muslims are able to trace the earliest recorded roots of the religious rituals that God has prescribed through the prophet Abraham. As per the Quran the prophet Abraham who, along with Ishmael constructed the Kabah, “the House of God” and the direction that Muslims are able to worship every day five times. 

It was Abraham as well who formulated the rituals associated with the hajj that recall certain some of the things or actions he had in his life as well as those also of Hagar along with the son of their daughter Ishmael.

In the chapter called “The Pilgrimage” In the chapter titled “The Pilgrimage,” the Quran refers to the divine commandment to perform the hajj. It also promises the continued existence of this tradition:

“And 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 through it and those who sit and kneel and prostrate themselves in worship. 

Then proclaim the pilgrimage to humanity The pilgrims will be coming to you on foot, and on every camel that is thin by a journey through far valleys.'” (Quran 22:26-27)

At the time that the Prophet Muhammad was able to receive the favor and mercy of God be with his soul, was granted the divine request However, pagan practices were beginning to alter the traditional rituals that were part of the holy hajj. As instructed by God followed the Abrahamic hajj, after returning its customs back to their origins in purity.

In addition, Muhammad himself instructed the followers on the rituals of hajj. He accomplished this two ways through his own practice or by applauding those practices practiced by his companions. 

This added some complexity the rites, but allowed for greater ability to carry them out and to the benefit of pilgrims for centuries. It is permissible for instance, to vary the order in which different rites are conducted since Muhammad himself was documented as having endorsed these actions. Therefore, the rituals of the hajj are intricate with a variety of rites The specifics of some of them are discussed below.

The Hajj journey to Mecca is a once-in-a lifetime obligation for both female and male adults whose health and resources allow it, or, according to the Quran on “those who are able to get to Mecca.” This is not a requirement for children, although some children are accompanied by the parents along on the pilgrimage.

Before he sets out the path, a pilgrim must correct any wrongs and pay off all outstanding debts, and plan to have enough money for his journey as well as to provide for his family members while away, and be prepared to conduct himself in a manner that is acceptable during the Hajj.

If pilgrims make the hajj and make the hajj journey, they follow in the footsteps of those who came before them. Today, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from more than 70 countries arrive at Mecca via road, sea and air each year, making the trip that is now shorter and, in some ways, less difficult than it used to be in previous years.

In the 19th century, travelling the long distance to Mecca typically meant being part of the caravan. There were three caravans that existed that were in operation: The Egyptian caravan, that was formed in Cairo Then there was the Iraqi one that started from Baghdad and the Syrian that, after 1453’s start, was based in Istanbul and gathered pilgrims along the way, and then travelled through Mecca beginning from Damascus.

The hajj trip can take months, if everything went according to plan pilgrims took with them all the essential provisions to last them through their journey. The caravans were lavishly equipped with facilities and security, for those who were wealthy, but the less fortunate often had to stop for food and had to stop their journey to work, earn their money, and continue their journey. 

This led to long travel that, in some instances could last for ten years or longer. The travel of the past was full of adventure. The roads were usually dangerous because of raids by bandits. 

The terrain that pilgrims traveled through was also hazardous as natural hazards and disease often killed many on the route. Therefore, the safe return of pilgrims back to their families was an occasion of celebration and gratitude for their safe journey.

Attracted by the mythology attracted by the mystical appeal of Mecca and Medina Many Westerners have visited these holy cities, where pilgrims gather in the fifteenth century. 

Many of them were disguised as Muslims and others who were truly been converted, travelled to fulfill their obligation. However, all appear to have been touched by their experiences, and many of them wrote their impressions of the trip and the rituals associated with the hajj in intriguing 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 8th and 13th day of Dhul-Hijjah. one of 12 months in the Muslim lunar calendar. The first ritual is the wearing of the sheam.

The shema, as worn by males is a white seamless clothing comprised of two towels or pieces of cloth that cover the body from waist to over the knees, and the second is placed across the shoulders. The garb could be worn by Abraham as well as Muhammad. Women dress the same way as they normally dress. The head of men should be exposed for both genders. Women and men can use umbrellas.

The sherman symbolizes purity and the abdication of all things mundane and evil. It also symbolizes that all people are equal before God. If a pilgrim is wearing his white attire the person goes into a state purity, which prohibits fighting and committing acts of violence against man or animal, and also having conjugal relationships. 

When he wears his hajj clothing, the pilgrim is not allowed to cut, shave or shave his nails, or wear jewelry. He will wear his unworn garment until he is finished with the journey.

A pilgrim already in Mecca begins his hajj the moment he wears the shema. Certain pilgrims traveling from afar might have arrived in Mecca earlier and put their ihram on, and are wearing the garment. The wearing of the shema is preceded by the principal prayer of the hajj, the talbiyah.

“Here I am, O God, at Thy Command! “Here I am, O God at the command of Thy Majesty! You are without associates Here I am at the command of Thy Majesty! The praise and grace of Thy name are yours and dominion! Thou hast no associate.”

The booming, melodious singing of the talbiyah sound not just at Mecca but also in other sacred sites nearby that are associated to the hajj.

On the day that marks the beginning of the hajj, the pilgrims leave of Mecca towards Mina the tiny abandoned village to the to the east of Mecca. While their crowds engulf Mina The pilgrims usually take their time contemplating and praying, much like the Prophet did during his journey.

The second day, which is the 9th Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims depart Mina to go to Arafat’s plain. Arafat where they will rest. This is the main ceremony that the pilgrims undergo during their hajj. When they gather the pilgrims’ posture and the gathering remind their minds of Day of Judgment. 

A few of them congregate on the Mount of Mercy, where the Prophet preached his infamous Farewell Sermon, enunciating far-reaching religious economic, social, or political reforms. It is a time of intense emotion that the pilgrims are able to spend in prayer and praise. 

Many cry as they pray to God to be merciful to them. At this holy spot they experience the climax of their spiritual lives in the moment they feel the closeness and presence of a compassionate God.

First Englishwoman to make the hajj Lady Evelyn Cobbold, described in 1934 about the emotions pilgrims feel in Arafat.

“It requires an expert pen to write about the scene that was so poignant in its intensity and the great commotion of humanity, of which I was a small group, totally lost in their surroundings with a sense of religious excitement. A lot of pilgrims had tears running down their cheeks.

Others lifted their eyes towards the sky, which has witnessed this scene frequently in the previous decades. The bright eyes, the passionate pleas and the pathetic hands stretched out to pray touched me in a manner that I had never experienced before.

I was at the center of a massive surge of spiritual joy. I was with the other pilgrims who performed a magnificent gesture of total submission to the supreme will that can only be described as Islam.”

She continues to explain the feeling of closeness that pilgrims have to the Prophet in Arafat.

“…as as I stand by that pillar of granite, I sense I am in a sacred place. I am able to see with my eyes the Prophet who delivered that final message, which was delivered more than 13 centuries ago to weeping crowds. 

I can imagine the multitude of preachers who have addressed the millions of people who have gathered in this vast expanse below since this is the ultimate stage of “The Great Pilgrimage.”

The Prophet is said to have pleaded with God to forgive the sins committed by pilgrims attended Arafat. He was granted his desire. The hopeful pilgrims are preparing to leave this clearly joyfully, feeling renewed with no sins and a desire to turn over a fresh leaf.

It is the Rites of Abraham

After sunset, the group of pilgrims head to Muzdalifah the open plain half way between Arafat and Mina. They first pray there and then take a set number of small chickpea-sized stones for use over the following days.

In the early morning of the third day, the pilgrims make their way in a masse across Muzdalifah up to Mina. They throw on white pillars the pebbles they’ve previously gathered in a ritual that is connected to the prophet Abraham. When the pilgrims throw seven stones at the pillars they remember the tale of Satan’s attempts to convince Abraham to ignore God’s instruction to sacrifice his son.

The throwing of pebbles symbolizes the human attempts to eject vice and evil. Not only once, but seven times – seven indicating infinity.

After casting the pebbles, the majority of pilgrims offer up either sheep, goats or a different animal. They offer the carcass to the less fortunate after and, in certain cases they keep a little to them.

This ritual is connected to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice son according to God’s will. It is a symbol of the Muslim’s readiness to let go of his most precious possessions and also it evokes the ideals of Islam that is characterized by obedience to God’s will plays the leading role. The act is also a reminder to the pilgrim to give away his possessions the less fortunate, and also serves as a gesture of gratitude to God.

Since the pilgrims have in this moment, completed most in the Hajj they’re allowed to take off their sheiks and wear normal clothes. This day Muslims all over the world can feel the joy the pilgrims experience and share it in performing the same, personal sacrifices as part of a global celebration of Eid al-Adha, “the Festival of Sacrifice.” 

Men cut their hair or trim their hair and women take the symbolic locks to signify their deconsecrating. This is an act of respect and humility. All prohibitions, except for those pertaining to conjugal relationships have been lifted.

In the midst of a daily routine in Mina pilgrims travel to Mecca to complete another important hajj ritual that is the tawaf, which is the sevenfold circling of the Kaaba and the recitation of a prayer during every circuit. 

The circumambulation of the Kaaba as a symbol of God’s unity means that every human activity should be centered around God at the center. It also represents the unity between God with man.

Thomas Abercrombie, a convert to Islam and reporter and photographer at National Geographic Magazine, performed the hajj in the 70’s and wrote about the feeling of peace and unity people feel when they circle:

“Seven times we went around the shrine and recited the prayers of the ritual in Arabic”Lord God From this far-off land, I’ve come to Thee. …. to seek refuge under the throne of Thy grace.’ We were caught up in the whirling scene, lifted by poetic words of the prayers, we circled around God’s house in harmony with the atoms and in harmony with the planets.”

When they travel, pilgrims are able to kiss or even touch their hands to the Black Stone. This stone of oval shape, which was set in a frame of silver at the end of 7th century holds an important place in the hearts of Muslims because, as per some hadeeths, it is the only relic of the original structure constructed in the seventh century by Abraham as well as Ishmael. Perhaps the main reason to kiss the stone is the fact that the Prophet did it.

There is no religious significance connected to the stone, as it isn’t and never ever was item for worship. A second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, clarified this fact by kissing the stone in imitation to the prophet, he said:

“I am aware that you are just a stone, incapable of causing harm or good. If I had not seen God’s Messenger from God hug you – – and may God’s peace and blessings be with him – I would never be able to kiss you.”

Following the completion of the tawaf the pilgrims pray, usually on the Station of Abraham, the place at which Abraham stood during the time he was building the Kaaba. Then, they drink Zamzam’s water. Zamzam.

Another, and often last, ritual is the”sa’y,” also known as “exerting.” It is a reenactment an important incident within the history of Hagar who was escorted into the area that is known as the Quran describes as”the “uncultivable valley” of Mecca along with her newborn son Ishmael to settle there.

The sa’y memorializes Hagar’s agonizing hunt for water that sated the thirst of Ishmael. She raced between 7 times across two hills, al-Safa and al-Marwah, until she came across the holy water, known as Zamzam. This water, which burst out in a miraculous way under Ishmael’s tiny feet, originates of the very same source where pilgrims today drink.

The rites are performed and the pilgrims are utterly desecrated they are allowed to resume all regular activities. They then return to Mina in the city, where they remain until the 13th or 12th days in Dhu al-Hijjah. 

They then throw their remaining pebbles to each of the pillars as that was commanded or endorsed in the Holy Prophet. Then they leave the new friends they formed during their Hajj. Before departing Mecca however, the pilgrims take an end-of-tawaf around the Kaaba to say goodbye to Mecca as the Holy City.

Typically, pilgrims either proceed or continue the Hajj “the more significant pilgrimage” and the umrah “the lesser pilgrimage” which is approved by the Quran and was carried out during the prophet’s time. 

The umrah, in contrast to the hajj, can only be performed in Mecca it self and can be done at any time during the entire year. The sheikam, talbiyah as well as the restrictions imposed by the consecration state are also essential to the umrah.

The ritual is also a part of three other rituals that are similar to the hajj: the tawaf, sa’y, and shaving or cutting hair. The ritual of observing the umrah of pilgrims and visitors is a symbol of reverence for the unique sacredness of Mecca.

Prior to or following the trip to Mecca pilgrims may also benefit from the opportunity offered by the hajj and the umrah, to visit the prophet’s Mosque in Medina which is the second holy place in Islam. 

There, the Prophet is resting in a simple grave. The trip the city of Medina is not a requirement since it’s not a part of the hajj or the umrah however the city, which was a welcome to Muhammad upon his arrival from Mecca and is full of beautiful memories and historical landmarks that remind us of his work as a prophet and statesman.

In this city, adored by Muslims for ages, many are still feeling the impact of the Prophet’s lifestyle. Muhammad Asad, an Austrian Jew who changed his religion into Islam in 1926 and completed five religious pilgrimages in 1927-1932 says about this particular aspect that the city has:

“Even after 13 centuries, the Prophet’s] spirituality is as present as it was in the past. It was due to his presence that the scattered group of villages that was once known as Yathrib was turned into a city and was adored by every one of the Muslims until today like no other city on earth has ever been adored. 

It doesn’t even have a city name: for over thirteen hundred years, it was named Madinat an-Nabi, ‘the City of the Prophet.’ Over the course of more than 13 hundred years there has been so much love that has been poured into this city that all forms and shapes have been able to acquire a family resemblance. All variations in appearance are an in-between tonal shift into an unifying harmony.”

When pilgrims from diverse tongues and races return home They carry their fond images from Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar and Muhammad. They will forever remember the universal gathering that was held in which rich and poor both white and black, old and young, all gathered with equal respect.

They return to their homeland with a feeling of peace and awe: Awe at their experience at Arafat and the moment they felt most at peace with God when they stood on the spot in which the Prophet gave his sermon in his final and first journey; and serenity that they have removed their sins from that plain, and free of this heavy burden. 

They return with a deeper knowledge of the circumstances of their brothers and sisters in Islam. This is the beginning of a new spirit of compassion for one another and a deeper understanding of their own rich history which will endure for the rest of their lives.

The pilgrims return radiant with joy and hope 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 that they pray to be able to make their hajj acceptable and to have be able to see what the Prophet stated be true of the journey they have made for themselves:

“There there is nothing better than a holy pilgrimage, but Paradise.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

Brief Before dawn on the third day of the month, pilgrims make their way in large numbers between Muzdalifah up to Mina. They then cast on white pillars the stones they previously gathered in a ritual connected to Abraham the prophet. Abraham

The rite of remembrance is linked with Abraham’s willingness for his sacrifice of son in line with God’s wishes. It is a symbol of the Muslim’s readiness to let go of his most precious possessions and reaffirms the tenets of Islam where obedience to God’s will plays the leading role. This is also a reminder to the pilgrim to donate his worldly possessions to the less fortunate and acts as a gesture of gratitude to God.

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


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