“Ritual of Peace & Harmony”
Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. The building of Islam stands upon the five pillars. In other words there are main five duties which a Muslim has to perform. A Muslim has to hold every pillar strongly in order to be a good one. Among these pillars, one is Hajj. Hajj is a religious duty which the Muslims have to be carried out or fulfilled at least once in their lifetimes but the condition is that the person performing this duty must be in good health and must have the sufficient resources to do so. Hajj is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world. It is the annual pilgrimage which is celebrated to show the solidarity among the Muslims. Every year hundreds of thousands of Muslims perform hajj. This holy duty is performed in Mecca (Makkah), Saudi Arabia on 8th to 12th of Dhu-al-Hijjah. But in the Georgian calendar the dates of Hajj remain changing. This is the last month of the Islamic calendar. Last year approximately 1,799,601 pilgrims performed hajj pilgrimage.
Hajj has a very important and interesting history. People would love to know that how one of the largest pilgrimages of the world get started. It was started back in seventh century when was the era of Muhammad (PBUH). But the roots of the place and its holiness are far behind about in 2000 BC which was the time of Abraham (Ibrahim) (A.S). Infact the Abraham (Ibrahim) (A.S) was ordered by his God to leave his son, Ismail (A.S) and wife, Hajar in the desert. Ibrahim (A.S) did the same and left his wife and son in the desert. When Ibrahim (A.S) went away, his son became thirsty and started crying. When Hajar (A.S) saw her son crying for water she ran back and forth seven times. The child started hitting the ground with his foot. By hitting the ground continuously a miracle happened, from the ground water sprang forth. Later on this was named Zam Zam well. After some years the Abraham (A.S) and his son Ismail (A.S) built Kaaba which is meant the House of God. The era before Muhammad (PBUH) was know as the era of ignorance. There were hundreds of idols in Kaaba with some famous names like Al-Laat, Manat and Al-Hubl etc. Before the rule of Islam in Mecca, Muhammad (PBUH) regularly visited the site for Umera. When Muhammad (PBUH) conquered Mecca, then he performed the first and the last Hajj of his life. He (PBUH) entered Kaaba and destroyed all the idols. From that day Hajj was declared the fifth pillar of Islam. These days the journey towards Mecca is much easier than the back in history. Now there are marvelous facilities for the pilgrims. But history tells us that a number of pilgrims have died due to thirst during their journey for Hajj.
RITUALS OF HAJJ
The first thing which all the pilgrims do and must do is to wear a special kind of clothing called Ihram. First ritual of the Hajj is to perform Umera by having their first Tawaf of Kaaba. Tawaf is a compulsory ritual of Hajj in which pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in circles for seven times. Movement of the pilgrims must be in counter clockwise position. There is a stone near Kaaba which is called Al-Hajar Al-Aswad (Black Stone). The pilgrims try to kiss this stone at the end of each circle. Kissing the stone is not possible sometimes because of the crowd, so the people can just point towards the stone with their right hand. The place of Tawaf is called Mutaaf. Men must complete their first three circles with rapid speed and the last four with slow speed. After the Tawaf, pilgrims offer two Rakat prayer at Muqam-e-Ibrahim. On the same day the pilgrims perform Sai which is one of the most important rituals of Hajj. Sai is an act in which the pilgrims have to run or walk seven times between the hills of Saffa and Marwah. Sai is performed to commemorate the act of Hagar (R.A) which she did while searching water for her son Ismail (A.S). To perform this ritual, tunnels have been made which are fully air- conditioned. The next morning on the eighth of Dhu-Al-Hijjah, pilgrims go to Mina where they spend whole night in offering prayers. After the complete night in prayers, pilgrims go to Arafat where they pray and recite the Holy Quran. This act is called Waquf. The afternoon in Arafat is very important. Pilgrims have to spent afternoon here in Arafat till the sunset otherwise their Hajj will be invalid. Then the pilgrims reach Muzdalifah which is a place between Mina & Arafat. Here the pilgrims collect pebbles for the next morning which they use in the other ritual called Ramay-Al-Jamarat. In this ritual the pilgrims throw stones on the symbolized devils. This act shows their hatred for devil who tried to challenge Abraham (A.S) three times when he was going to sacrifice his son for the will of God.
This is one of the two main festivals of Islam. One is Eid-al-Fitar and the second is Eid-al-Adha. On this day, Muslims sacrifice animals which symbolize the mercy of God on Abraham for replacing his son with ram. Pilgrims slaughter the animals which may be sheep, cow or camel on the 10th. Then the meat is packaged and shipped to the poor people around the world as charity. On the same day or following day the pilgrims visit the Masjid-al-Haram again for another Tawaf. This shows love of the pilgrims with the God. Night is spent in Mina again. Stones are again thrown on the three Jamarat on 11th. It is obligatory for the pilgrims to leave Mina on 12th before the sunset. Another tawaf is performed by the pilgrims before leaving Mecca which is called Tawaf-al-wida (Farewell tawaf). Then the pilgrims leave for the city of Madina which is called the city of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Pilgrims visit Masjid-e-Nabwi. There pilgrims visit Riad-ul-Jannah, graves of Ummuhat-ul-Mominin and Ahl-e-Bayet in Jannat-ul-Baqi.
Hajj has a great social importance as it promotes equality, harmony and peace within the different ethnic groups. So, if someone wants to see the most harmonious and peaceful place in the world then Hajj is the best occasion and Mecca & Madina are best places to visit.