I briefly mentioned it in a post back at the beginning of September, and meant to write more in detail about it [and earlier] but… it just didn’t happen.
Alhumdulillah [with the blessings of God], my parents and I will be heading for Hajj in a few short days inshallah [god willing]. Night of October 6th to be exact. The exact pilgrimage is for a few days in mid October, but we’ll be there for three weeks.
May Allah SWT make it easy for us, and accept our Hajj [and all of our duas].
For my non-muslim friends: Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam [for those who are able to physically and financially]. There are five basic acts in Islam [the Five Pillars] that are considered obligatory.
A quick summary of the five Pillars of Islam are:
- Having faith: that there is only one God and Prophet Muhammad is his messenger.
- Prayer: it is required of all Muslims to pray five times daily, at various set times in the day. At dawn [Fajr], noon [Zuhr], mid-afternoon [Asr], sunset [Maghrib] and nightfall [Isha].
- Zakat: charity. Basically, 2.5 percent of the accumulated assets from the last year are given as charity.
- Fasting: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset. It’s not meant as deprivation. Rather, it reminds one [and helps gain empathy] for those that go hungry on a daily basis all throughout the world. It helps one with self-restraint and reminds you to feed your soul, not just your body.
- I think, it’s important to note, that there are exemptions — the ill and the elderly for example. It’s only compulsory for those who can physically do so. Islam is a very forgiving religion, and anyone who makes it to be otherwise is wrong.
- Hajj: a pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah) [in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar] that every able [physically and financially] Muslim should make [at least] once in their lifetime. Note that the Islamic calendar works off a lunar calendar, so the twelfth month will vary.
- Rituals of Hajj in a nutshell: tawaf (walk counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’aba), runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam well, goes to Mount Arafat to pray, and then throws stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil. Men pilgrims then shave their heads, and each pilgram sacrifices an animal.
- On the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, one makes the intention for hajj and changes into ihram (two white unsewn sheets for men, modest clothes for women. It is a symbolic show of equality — that to Allah SWT, each individual is equal… and their social status makes no difference.)
- Once in ihram, after sunrise, pilgrims leave Mecca for the nearby town of Mena. In Mena, accomodations are in white tents. You stay in Mena for the duration of 5 prayers starting from the Zuhr prayers on the 8th day through the Fajr prayers on the 9th.
- 9 Zil Hijjah: Second Day of Hajj [Day of Arafat]
- this is essentially the most important day of the 5 days of hajj. After fajr prayers in Mena, leave for Arafat. Once you reach Arafat, there is pretty much one thing you should focus on: prayers and seek forgiveness.
- Pray Zuhr and Asr as a jamaat [congregation].
- When the sunsets, move to Muzdalifah where you stay under the open sky until after Fajr (dawn) on the 10th. Pray Maghrib and Isha together in Muzdalifah at Isha time.
- Collect atleast 49 pebbles for Rami (stoning).
- 10 Zil Hijjah: Third Day of Hajj [when Eid-ul-Adha is being celebrated by Muslims elsewhere in the world]
- Head back to Mena.
- There are three pillars and Rami consists of hitting them [7 times each]. On the first day (the 10th), you only hit one of the pillars and on day two and three [and sometimes day four] you hit all three pillars seven times each.
- This symbolizes how the devil challenged Prophet Ibrahim three times, and three times he refused. Each pillar marks the location of each one of these refusals.
- Animals are slaughtered/sacrificed to commemorate the story of Prophet Ibraham and Ismael.
- Perform the hajj tawaf (known as tawaf al-Ziyarat or al-Ifadah) before returning to Mena.
- 11 Zil Hijjah: Fourth Day of Hajj
- Throw seven pebbles on each of three pillars.
- Perform the hajj tawaf if you didn’t on the 10th before returning to Mena for the night.
- 12 Zil Hijjah: Fifth Day of Hajj
- Throw seven pebbles on each of three pillars.
- You must perform the hajj tawaf (known as tawaf al-Ziyarat or Al-Ifadah if you haven’t already) before maghrib at the latest on this day.
- After today’s Rami, you have the option to return to Makkah before sunset. But if the sunsets before you are able to depart, you must remain in Mina for the third night and throw pebbles at all three pillars before departing.
That basically ends the rituals of hajj in their most basic form. The only thing that remains is the Tawaf al-Wida (farewell tawaf) that is obligatory before you depart from Makkah for home.
Hopefully when I am back at the end of the month, I’ll get a chance to reflect here about the experience while it is still fresh in my mind so I have it to look back on in the future. Not only that, but two other things I want to write about: clearing up misconceptions and what to take/pack with you! We have grown up hearing/believing so many things pertaining to hajj [and ihram specifically]. You wouldn’t believe how many are not true and have no basis/validity. Similarly – what to pack/take with you and what you actually NEED.