Vol. 4 Num 245 Sun. February 01, 2004  

Eid-ul-Azha Special
Fifth pillar of Islam

The word "Hajj" literally means heading for an honourable person or place.

Formally, Hajj means worshipping Allah by performing the Hajj rituals. Performing Hajj is an obligation once in a lifetime upon every Muslim who can afford the journey.

Hajj is obligatory and represents the fifth pillar of Islam. It is an obligation that should be performed as soon as possible. The four obligatory acts of Hajj are 1. Ihram, 2. Standing by `Arafah, 3. Ifadah Circumamb-ulation, and 4. Sa`i between Safa and Marwah.

Necessary ritual means whatever ritual a pilgrim must observe and if not, he should offer a sacrificial animal. The seven obligations of Hajj are 1. Performing Ihram from Miqat, 2. Standing by `Arafah, 3. Spending one night in Muzdalifah, 4. Spending one night in Mina, 5. Shaving the head or cutting hair short (shaving is recommended), 6. Throwing pebbles and 7. Farewell circumambulation Some supererogatory (Sunnah), acts of Hajj are 1. Washing the whole body upon entering into the state of Ihram, 2. Performing Talbiah, 3. Performing the arrival circumambulation for a Mufrid or Qarin pilgrim, 4. Spending the night of `Arafah in Muzdalifah, and 5. Performing Ramal and Idtibah` during the arrival circumambulation To perform the Hajj, pilgrims enter a state of consecration known as ihram.

In this state they may not clip their nails, cut or pluck any hair, or have any sort of sexual contact. Male pilgrims wear special clothes consisting of two seamless strips of white cloth, one covering the back and shoulders, the other covering from the waist to the knees. Female pilgrims can wear ordinary clothing that covers everything but the face and hands.

The rituals of Hajj date back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and commemorate his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isma`il to fulfil the desire of Allah. During the days of Hajj, the pilgrims attempt to forget all but their most basic worldly needs and to focus their attention and devotion on Allah alone. Upon arriving in Makkah, the pilgrims first circumambulate the Ka`bah seven times in a ritual known as Tawaf. This ritual reminds the pilgrims that Allah should be the focus and center of their lives.

The next ritual is Sa`i, which is walking back and forth seven times between the hillocks named Safa and Marwah. This commemorates the search for water made by Hajar when Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) left her and her infant son Isma`il (peace be upon him) in the desert. On 8 Dhul-Hijjah,

pilgrims head to Mina, where they spend the day supplicating Allah. Early the next morning they go to `Arafah. They spend the day supplicating Allah and begging for His forgiveness. When the sun sets on the Day of `Arafah, the pilgrims' sins are forgiven.

After sunset the pilgrims move on to Muzdalifah, where they spend the night and collect pebbles to be used in the next ritual.

The next morning, 10 Dhul-Hijjah, is the Day of Sacrifice. Most pilgrims slaughter a sheep, goat, camel or cow. Muslims who are not on Hajj also slaughter that day, which is known as `Eid Al-Adha. The ritual commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Isma`il (peace be upon them both) and Allah's provision of a ram as a substitute sacrifice. But before slaughtering, the pilgrims go to throw pebbles at the stone pillars known as Al-Jamarat. This ritual commemorates Ibrahim's stoning of Satan when the latter tried to tempt him to disobey Allah.

After this, the pilgrims cut or shave their hair (women cut off only a small amount) and return to Makkah to repeat Tawaf and Sa`i. They sleep at Mina and repeat the stoning of the pillars on the next two days. A final Tawaf before leaving Makkah completes the Hajj. Pilgrims also go to Madinah before or after Hajj in order to pray in the Prophet's Mosque and visit his holy

grave. Visiting his tomb at Madinah is not an essential obligation to make Hajj valid or complete. Honoring him remains a matter of the heart, and a Muslim proves his love towards the Prophet by following his path of Islam.

As Hajj provides every pilgrim with tranquility of heart, inner purity, and fullness of understanding of his existence in the cosmos, every single step should recall the ideas of the creation, glory of divine transcendence, and the unity of the believers that crosses boundaries and ethnic and gender diversities. In the heart of every aspect of Hajj is some reflection signifying the Hereafter.

The pilgrim should watch the duties of his heart at all stages. He will realize if he has been accepted or not by watching his heart and its conduct. If he finds his heart adverse to this world and inclined to be intimate with Allah, then he may count on acceptance, for Allah accepts only those whom He loves. Throughout the performance of Hajj, the pilgrim can easily observe that it is a course of spiritual enrichment and moral rearmament, a journey of intensified devotion and disciplinary experience, a course of humanitarian interests and inspiring knowledge, all put together in one single Pillar of Islam.

If the pilgrim understands where Hajj really stands in Islam, he will notice in himself a process of spiritual transformation through the rituals. Every step of Hajj serves as a reminder, a sign of submission to Allah, an instructive tool for self-discipline and devotion, and an exhortation to the faithful aspirant. If the pilgrim hopes his visit is to be accepted, he should carry out Allah's commands, cast off iniquities, repent for all acts of disobedience, and sever his heart's connection from all worldly concerns during Hajj. Then he can turn to Allah as he turns his face in the direction of the Ka'bah in each prayer. Unless the pilgrim does so, he will get nothing from his journey except trouble and hardship at the outset, and dismissal and rejection at the end.

Mir Lutful Kabir Saadi, Bureau Chief, Impact International, UK