Hajj is a journey with great spiritual significance performed by a Muslim to Makkah, the holy city, where Muslims follow the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad. It is the last of the five pillars of Islam, demonstrating its significance in the Islamic faith. Every year, Hajj brings Muslims from different backgrounds all over the world to one purpose, to follow Prophet Muhammad’s footsteps. All men who are able to go are obliged to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime.The preparation for Hajj begins as early as days after a Muslim boy is born; as a bank account is set up for provide the money needed for the pilgrimage.
As Qu’ran 22:27-28 shows, Hajj is a very spiritually beneficial journey. It is a time where Muslims are closest to God. Very often, the spiritual impact on the pilgrims is so great that it would change them for the rest of their lives. The two maps above show the main stages of Hajj, and some of these stages will be described in the following paragraphs.”And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: They will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel through deep and distant mountain ravines. That they may witness the benefits provided by them.” Qur’an 22:27-28Upon the arrival at Makkah, the holy city, Muslims enter a sacred state dedication known as the ihram.
The ihram is also shown through the dress of the pilgrims. Men wear two unsown sheets of white cloth, which are also called the ihram, while women wear plain undecorated ankle-length, long-sleeved garment. Everyone wears the same garment regardless to who they are. This shows the significant display of equality, symbolizing the spiritually equality of everyone in front of God. The white, plain cloths show the single-mindedness and the effort to attain the state of purity. Putting on these two pieces of white cloths also symbolizes self-sacrifice, as one is leaving status, rank, wealth and everything behind for Hajj. Being in a state of Ihram is an important necessity for a Muslim before entering Makkah. Muslims in the state of Ihram are focused and dedicated to worship, and they are prepared and ready to continue the rest of the pilgrimage.
Without the Ihram, Hajj is no different from a long, meaningless journey. Fig.1 shows Muslims wearing the IhramFig.1 Fig.
2Tawaf, the circling of the Ka’bah anti-clockwise seven times, is perhaps the most well-known and recognized ritual of Hajj. There is not a fixed time for a Muslim to perform Tawaf during Hajj, but most people choose it. The Ka’bah was the first house of worship built by Ibrahim. It is the house of God, symbolizing God’s spiritual presence. Tawaf has a big spiritual impact on Muslims because the Ka’bah is their centre of worship and it is what Muslims have been facing every day when they pray. While circling the Ka’bah, Muslims would proclaim in Arabic, ‘here I am at your service, O God, Here I am!’ It is a symbolic act of worship, showing the worshippers’ love and submission to Allah.
It reminds Muslims that God is the centre of their lives, and the sheer number of people circling the Ka’bah strengthens the sense of Ummah, the great community uniting everyone under God. Fig.2 shows millions of Muslims performing the Tawaf.The stand on the Mount of Mercy, the Wuquf, is one of the most important rituals during Hajj. Pilgrims have to arrive by noon on the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, which is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic Calendar, otherwise the Hajj will not be valid. Mount of Mercy is believed by Muslims to be where God united Adam and Eve after 200 years of separation. It is believed that on the day heavens meet with the earth, God descend upon Arafat and said, ‘Oh my angels, look at my servants, they come to me dishevelled and covered in dust, all of you bear witness that I have forgiven them all.’ It is also where Muhammad gave his final Farewell Sermon in the final year of his life.
Pilgrims will stay from noon to sunet, praying, self-reflecting and asking for forgiveness in the blistering heat. This is a day which is completely devoted to God, where the pilgrims concentrate only on God alone. The first Englishwoman to perform Hajj, Lady Evelyn Cobbold, described the Wuquf in the following words, ‘It would require a master pen to describe the scene, poignant in its intensity, of that great concourse of humanity of which I was one small unit, completely lost to their surroundings in a fervor of religious enthusiasm.’ This shows that the overwhelming atmosphere at the Wuquf has a huge impact on pilgrims. Many pilgrims feel that the stand was the closest they have ever come to God.
Fig.3 shows Muslims standing on the Mount of Mercy.Fig.3Hajj is a once in a lifetime experience for the Muslims. Although the requirement is that Muslims only have to go once in their lifetime, many Muslims go there 3 to 4 times in their lives because it was such a great experience. The sheer number of people causes an overwhelming atmosphere of devotion and dedication to Allah. Rituals such as the Tawaf and the Wuquf further strengths the spiritual bond between the pilgrims and Allah.
However, the Hajj is only meaningful when Muslims concentrate on Allah completely.