WHAT IS HAJJ?
In Islam, a Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby holy sites , the city that is considered the holiest city in Islam. It is a five days long pilgrimage that is compulsory for every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of doing so.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam including others – Shahadah (declaration of faith), Salat (praying five times a day), Zakat (charity) and Sawm (fasting during Ramadan).
The Hajj is conducted every year and occurs in the last month Dhu al-Hijjah (12th month) of the Islamic lunar calendar. The Hajj is a five days long pilgrimage occurring from the 8th to 12th of the Dhu al-Hijjah month. The 9th Dhu al-Hillah is known as the Day of Arafah (the day of hajj).
People are allowed to visit Mecca even at other times of the year, but this will not be considered a Hajj, but Umrah, that is known as a lesser Hajj. Muslims are supposed to visit Mecca for proper Hajj at least once in their lifetime, no matter how many Umrahs have they attended.
As soon as Muslims enter the holy city of Mecca, the first ritual performed by them is Ihram. In this ritual, men are asked to cover their bodies with two seamless white clothes and these clothes do not have any stitches.
Women are asked to wear loose fitting dresses, and cover all their body parts except the face and hands.
After Ihram till the Hajj ends, people are not allowed to clip their nails, hair, indulge in sexual relationships, fight or argue. It is required that they maintain their cool during the Hajj.
This is done to show that for Allah everyone is equal regardless of their color, caste, health and wealth and also unites Muslims from various parts of the world.
The most important ritual performed by the Muslims is Tawaf and Sa’ay. Tawaf means that the Muslims have to walk around the Kaaba seven times in a counterclock direction. Kaaba is known as the house of Allah. Kaaba is a mosque that is said to be built by Ibrahim and Ismail and is covered with a black color silk cloth. During the Tawaf, the Muslims also include Hateem, an area on the north side of the Kaaba. Tawaf begins by touching the black stone called the el-hajar al-aswad.
After Tawaf, they perform Sa’ay, in which they run or walk seven times between the two hills called Safa and Marwah which are located near Kaaba. The reason behind this is an incident. Ibrahim was commanded by the God to sacrifice his son Ismail. Ismail and his mother Hagar were left at a desert where there was no water. Hagar ran between these hills in search of water for her thirst and dying son, Ismail. This act is performed by the Muslims during the Sa’ay. It is when a spring started to flow out which is called Zamzam. Muslims are supposed to drink the holy water of Zamzam during the Hajj.
On the last consecutive three days of the Hajj, Jamarat is performed in which Muslims throw stones at three walls or pillars that represent the devils.
On the last day when the hajj coincides with the festival Eid-al-Adha, muslims sacrifice an animal.
They return back to Ka’ba and perform a farewell Tawaf after which the men are supposed to shave their head and women are asked to cut a small clip of their hair.
For Muslims, Hajj has both religious and social importance. A person who has done Hajj in his or her life are called Al-Hajji and are respected a lot. Also doing Hajj is important because it indicates that the Muslim has surrendered himself or herself to Allah. It is believed that Hajj wipes clean their sins and they earn a new and holy life. During Hajj, they are reminded of their duties and reminds them about their responsibilities as a human being.