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Hajj (Pilgrimage)


Pilgrimage Hajj is a journey, so is our life on earth. Where are we heading in our life? We may go astray, lose our focus, and/ or forget our mission. Pilgrimage is a reminder. To Allah we return after this journey on earth, and to Allah we should return during this life. Without the continuous awareness of the Divine, we are dead lost.

When we intend to return (repent) to the Originator of life, we have to leave behind all the worldly affairs. The first rite in Pilgrimage carries within it this meaning.

(State of Sanctity)


The first step to start Hajj is to wash, with the intention of being wholly purified and prepared for the holy journey, wear a special kind of clothes, and a pilgrim is not allowed to do several things of the usual life. This rite is called Al-Ihram. By appearing in Al-Ihram stage, the pilgrim declares her/his intention of starting the sacred journey. During this stage, and as a symbol of being transferred wholly to a spiritual realm, the pilgrim is not allowed to kill or shout any animal or insect. S/he should not cut her/his nails or hair. Men wrap themselves in unstitched peace of white material cloth.glossary It looks more or less like the coffin.



The journey of the pilgrim heads for Baytullah where Al-Ka'ba is its symbolic expression. Being in the presence of Al- Ka'ba, man should offer her/his appreciation and respect by circumambulation:

..circumambulate the Ancient House (HQ: 22: 29 )

Parallel to this in our life is that once we recognize where we are heading to along the journey to earth, we have to put our ultimate goal as our focus and make our round with an eye open to the House of God Baytullah as the center point around which our life turns. This is just the first step. In the rite, this circumambulation is called tawaf al-qoudoum; the circumambulation that one performs once one sees the holy shrine.

The rich symbol of al-Hajj requires deep thought and meditations. It is an assertion that man knows now her/his way well and makes her/his life circle around her/his main goal. S/he seeks nothing but Allah and His messenger. The Tawaf around Baytullah is another way of witnessing that Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger since Baytullah is a symbol of the eternal Light on Earth.glossary

Standing on the Mount of Arafat


“O Allah, here we are responding to your call. Oh God, (we witness that) there are no partners with You. To You belongs all Praise, Grace and Dominion.” (Labayka Allahuma Labayk, Labayka, la sharika lak, Labayk. Inn al Hamda wal Ne’mata Lak wal Mulk). All pilgrims chant these prayers together on Arafat Mount. This rite of Hajj cannot be done individually, it has certain date, that is the ninth day of Du' elheja, and it also has certain time limit; some time directly after the dawn Prayer, and up until sunset. All pilgrims gather and stand on and around Arafat Mount saying the same words, responding to Allah's call. On that awesome moment, they are united as one soul. This is a reminder of their origin. Aren't they created from one soul?

O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from One Soul, created, of like nature its mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women (HQ:4:1).

The Stand on Arafat Mount is so significant that The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said,

"Pilgrimage is Arafa (Arafat)” (PH).

Narrated by Al Nisa’i.

The name of the holy Mount is driven from the root a.ra.fa. It is the same pronunciation of the verb that means, "to know". The “knowledge” that is revealed in this sacred moment for the purified heart is: our belonging to one another and our belonging to Allah. On Mount Arafat, the fact that there is nothing but Allah is experienced from the depth of the heart. This divine experience is the prerequisite for the complete purification of which the following rites of Pilgrimage take place.



On the day of the sacrifice, which is the same day of the Great Feast Eid Adha, complete purification is realized and the new birth of the pilgrim is celebrated. Slaughtering an animal is required from every head of a family. That rite is done immediately after the Prayer of the feast. Sacrificing an animal is a symbol of disposing our animal-like side. Its time is after the Prayer conveys a message. That is, it is only when we surrender to Allah (through Prayer), that we are capable of being purified and elevated as to liberate ourselves from our egos (slaughtering the animal).

Therefore to thy Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice (HQ: 108: 2)

The animal sacrifice is also a reminder of prophet Abraham and his son. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah. However, Allah sent Abraham a sheep to sacrifice it instead. The message is completed; Allah saved the son when the father surrendered completely to the will of Allah. To be ready to sacrifice one's son for the sake of Allah is to give oneself, and to respond to Allah's call. When Abraham was ready to do that, there was no need to do the action of sacrificing his son. The symbol of slaughtering an animal, however, should remain to carry the message over and over again. Ideally, the one who is ready to give her/himself and the dearest people for Allah receives Allah's Mercy by being given a new birth, the birth of the spirit. The Prophet asserts that spiritual birth saying,

“He who performs Pilgrimage without committing any act of corruption therein, returns as a newborn baby”(PH)glossary

Narrated by Ahmad

Stoning Satan (Iblis)


Being a member in Baytullah requires more struggles. The rest of the Pilgrimage rites express what man should do in her/his whole life in order to deserve being in Baytullah. One cannot be part of Baytullah unless one is all free from the taints of the lower self, or the devilish nature within. About that meaning comes the ritual of stoning Satan. Throwing pebbles at a rock imagining that it is Satan, seems like a naïve act, but it is meant to make the person wonder if s/he has such an enthusiasm in real life to fight the bad thoughts, the evil deeds or not. Once, s/he has done it, s/he has come closer to Allah. The main circumambulation Tawaff Ifadha is a symbol of this truth. It should be accomplished as soon as one finishes stoning the Big Satan. Ifadha means “effulgence”. Now that man has got rid of her/his devilish side, s/he is ready to receive Allah’s Light. S/he circumambulates His House once again expressing a new journey of life where s/he is all enlightened and enlightening by Allah’s benedictions that overwhelmed her/him.

Running from al Safa
to al-Marwa Mounts


Shuttling from a place called al- Safa Mount (derived from a verb that means, “to purify”) to another place called al- Marwa Mount (derived from a verb that means to quench thirst) seven times, is another rite. The names of the places are very symbolic. The shuttle act between Safa and Marwa for seven times, symbolizes the continuous search for a source of spiritual satisfaction; the purer one becomes, the more one is capable for receiving spiritual support, and once one is quenched, one is purer, for ever. In this movement between the two holy Mounts, the pilgrim is doing the same act that was done by Ishmael's mother, Hajar, some centuries ago, searching for water for her son. Added to the spiritual symbolism of the places, here is again a reminder of the struggle of a mother who surrendered to Allah's will and was guided to save herself and her son. The underlying meaning is regardless of any difficulties Man should be hopeful in Allah's Mercy.

Visiting the Prophet


There is more in al-Hajj. A saying of The Prophet encourages pilgrims to remember his message through remembering his life:

Who comes for Pilgrimage and does not pay visit to me, is like tuning his back to me. (PH)glossary

Narrated by Al Tabarani and Ibn Habban

Certainly, The Prophet is not resident in his tomb. His saying, however, signifies that remembering him is the way to be in his message. It is also a reminder that he, the Messenger of God was/is not a mere transient being, but rather an eternal meaning that transcends limitations of any sort.

A pilgrim is considered as a newborn in the sense that all his sins are forgiven. The Prophet says,

He who accomplishes Pilgrimage without committing any act of corruption therein, all her/his previous sins are forgiven.”(PH)

Narrated by Al Tirmidhi.

People tend always to take the symbolic as realities. It is a grave mistake to consider that just performing the rite will guarantee forgiveness. The pilgrim, thus, is not that one who performs the rituals just physically. He is the one who realizes the goal, and remembers who s/he is and what s/he is up to in this life, and through the rituals may experience the meaning of the oneness of God. Within this contextual understanding, we can reflect upon the saying of The Prophet that “a person who declares that there is no God but God out of his deep heart, is destined to enter Heaven”(PH)
Narrated by Ahmad.

Pilgrimage is supposed to lead man to achieve that goal. Pilgrimage with its rich symbolism confirms that "there is no god but God and Muhammad (PBUH) is His messenger" in the broad sense of that Shahada.  Next >>>

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