Hajj is a few days away, and millions of Muslims from all over the world have left for perform the pilgrimage. Hajj, literally means,‘to set out for a higher destination’. Muslim believe that Adam, built the Kaaba at Mecca, and it was later rebuilt by prophet. Making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if physically and financially able, is one of the five pillars of Islam. In the old days, it took most people several months of travel by land and sea to reach Mecca. The journey was long and difficult, many would never return to their lands. In a sense when they left for Hajj, they were prepared to die.
Hajj, has always been seen as a kind of spiritual death, for it is a meeting with God.
The two unstitched pieces of white cloth that men wear during the Hajj, strips them of clothes that could reveal worldly status. This ihram, that male pilgrims wear resembles the shroud used to wrap a body before it is lowered into a grave. This serves as reminder of death and the afterlife.
A whole chapter of the Quran is devoted to Hajj, warns of the Day of Judgement where each soul will have to account for its deeds. Hajj is a spiritual awakening where pilgrims renew their covenant with Allah. It is intended to make one move away from the involvement of this world to an engagement with the Almighty. Hajj is an invitation from God to liberate the soul by submission to Him alone. It is a kind of spiritual rebirth, because a sincere Hajj is said to wash all of one’s sins away. The Prophet said, that a person who performed the Hajj with a good intention and solely for the sake of Allah, is ‘ as pure as one the day his mother gave birth to him’.
Muslims believe that God instructed Adam to build the Kaaba, directly beneath His throne in the Heavens. Adam became the first to perform circumambulations around the House of God. Then called, ‘ Bait al Mamur’, the Kaaba remained in Makkah till it was raised to the celestial world during Noah’s flood. Then, God called upon Abraham to rebuild the Kaaba and establish the Hajj rites. Later, when Makkah fell to paganism, Prophet Muhammad re-established the Hajj rites after cleansing the Kaaba of false idols.
One of the rituals during Hajj is running seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, following the footsteps of Hajar, Abraham’s wife and mother of Ishmael, his first-born son. Abraham was commanded by God to leave mother and son in the barren valley near the Kaaba. When provisions ran out, Hajar became desperate for water to quench the infant’s thirst. Invoking God’s mercy, Hajar ran between the two hills. On her seventh round, water sprang from the ground where the baby kicked. This water source came to be known as the well of Zam Zam.
The most important of the Hajj rites is on the 9th day of Zilhajj, when pilgrims travel from Makkah to the grounds of Mount Arafat. This gathering symbolises the Judgement Day in the Hereafter, where all of humanity will be resurrected on one ground. Pilgrims spend the afternoon standing in earnest supplication and devotion, seeking forgives by invoking God’s abundant Mercy.