The Significance of Hajj in Islam
Hajj is an integral part of Islam, encompassing one of the five pillars and holding great importance in our religious traditions. As Muslims, we understand the historical and spiritual significance of Hajj, but it is essential to explain its rituals to non-Muslims in order to foster understanding and awareness of our faith.
What is Hajj?
Hajj refers to the journey to the holy city of Makkah during the month of Zil-Hajj, where specific rituals of worship are performed. It is a remarkable religious event that attracts over two million people from around the world every year. As the fifth pillar of Islam, it is obligatory for every financially and physically capable adult Muslim to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said,
“And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Kabah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence)” (3:97)
Explaining the Rituals of Hajj
Hajj comprises several rituals and actions that pilgrims must complete in Makkah, as well as visits to other significant locations such as Madina, Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah.
The journey begins by entering a state of consecration called Ihram. During this state, pilgrims must adhere to specific restrictions, including wearing special garments, refraining from certain actions such as clipping nails, using perfumes, engaging in marital relations, and more.
Allah states in the Quran, “Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do - Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding. (2:197)
The days of Mina and the Day of Arafah hold immense significance during Hajj. Pilgrims spend a day in Mina on the eighth of Dhul-Hajj before proceeding to Arafah. From Arafah, they travel to Muzdalifah, where they spend the night before returning to Mina.
Allah states, “There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord [during Hajj]. But when you depart from 'Arafat, remember Allah at al- Mash'ar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray” (2:198)
The Sacrifice and Tawaf
On the tenth of Dhul-Hajj, pilgrims perform the symbolic sacrifice of an animal for the sake of Allah. They then trim or shave their hair and throw seven pebbles at the designated station in Mina. Afterward, they proceed to Makkah to perform Tawaf, which involves circumambulating the Kaaba seven times, followed by walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah.
Allah says in the Quran, “And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, [saying], "Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate. That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor. Then let them end their untidiness and fulfill their vows and perform Tawaf around the ancient House” (22:26-28)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also said,
"A person who circumambulates this House (the Kaaba) seven times and performs the two Rak’at Salat (of Tawaf) in the best form possible will have his sins forgiven” [Fiqh Us-Sunnah]
After completing these rituals, the pilgrim removes the Ihram, signifying the completion of their Hajj and the end of the associated restrictions.
Following Our Beloved Prophets' Footsteps
Hajj not only encompasses the rituals but also connects the pilgrims to the past and future in a profound way by following the teachings and practices of our beloved prophets, including Abraham, Ishmael, and Muhammad (peace be upon them).
For instance, the movement between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah during Hajj is a symbolic reenactment of Hajar's search for water for her baby Ismail. It reminds us of the discovery of the blessed Zamzam well, which sprang forth under the feet of baby Ismail in the middle of the desert.
To honor Muhammad (peace be upon him), pilgrims circle the Kaaba, which was built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismail by the command of Allah. Prophet Abraham was also instructed to announce the pilgrimage to Makkah for future generations.
Allah says in the Quran, “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you…” (22:27).
By honoring the actions of the Prophets, Muslims are deeply connected to their past during Hajj. The symbolic act of throwing pebbles at the pillars in Mina represents the rejection of Satan and the triumph over evil.
Hajj and the Future
Hajj is not only a journey to the past but also a resetting of consciousness and mindset, purifying the pilgrims from their sins and returning them to their original state, just as they were created. Hajj instills essential values such as unity, equality, universality, unity of purpose, togetherness, selflessness, humbleness, and sharing, which contribute to the formation of a stronger Muslim community.
Hajj holds immense significance in Islam, serving as a pillar of our faith and an annual gathering of millions of Muslims worldwide. By understanding and appreciating the rituals and historical connections of Hajj, we can foster greater understanding and respect among individuals of different backgrounds. Hajj teaches valuable lessons and fosters unity among Muslims, shaping a stronger and more compassionate global community.