Pilgrimage is one of the oldest liturgies that humans perform with the aim to achieve salvation.
In Islaam, pilgrimage is known as ’Haj, and it follows on the footsteps of Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) (Ibraheem in Arabic), which he proclaimed according to the revelation from Allaah Almighty.
Conceptual and linguistic meanings of ’Haj
Islaamic creed known as ‘Aqeedah is based on a fundamental belief called Taw’heed which is the equivalent term for monotheism. Taw’heed literally means: there’s no one to worship but Allaah Almighty.
In Arabic, the word Allaah is the term that describes The Creator of this universe; it proclaims the oneness of God who deserves to be worshipped alone
Furthermore, it is a well-known term among both Arabs of other religions, such as Jews and Christians; and not only among Muslims.
Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) and all Prophets/Messengers of Allaah Almighty to mankind came with this universal message based on the fundamental constitution; the Oneness of the Creator. Thus, the term “Islaam” means literally submission to Allaah Almighty.
Consistently, the term “Muslim” is linguistically used to describe the one who submits and surrenders himself/herself to the will of Allaah Almighty and worships Allaah Almighty alone. It is not restricted to the followers of Prophet Mu’hamad (P.B.U.H.) .
Origination and Degradation of ’Haj
Allaah Almighty inspired Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) with the revelation to preach for worshipping one God, hence the Taw’heed.
Together with his son, Prophet Ishmael (P.B.U.H.) (Isma‘eel in Arabic), he laid down the foundations of Ka’bah and erected thereafter the First House of Worship of Allaah Almighty on Earth.
Arabs are the descendants of Prophet Ishmael (P.B.U.H.) whereas Jews are the descendants of Prophet Isaac (P.B.U.H.) (Is’haa’q in Arabic), who was Prophet Isma‘eel’s half-brother. However, as the centuries passed, people began to forget the commands and reverted back to idolatry.
Several centuries later, degradation was introduced for the first time by some Arab merchant named ‘Amr ibn Lu’hay. When he travelled outside Arabia to Syria for his work, he found people worshipping statues, same as the time before Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) received the revelation from Allaah Almighty. When he returned back to Makkah, he brought back with him idols and placed them in the sacred place of Ka’bah for worship.
Taw’heed suffered further and idolatry gained ground as time passed. Upon the dawn of the seventh century C.E., the Ka’bah was encircled by about 360 statues in addition to other notable idols founded throughout Arabia, such as Allaat, Al’uzzah, and Manaat.
Consistently, immoral acts defiled the scared rites with corrupted add-ons such as, drinking wine, circumambulating naked around Ka’bah and finally adultery.
Prophet Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) found himself in the same situation of his great-great-grand-father, Prophet Abraham. (P.B.U.H.); born and raised in a pagan community where idols used to be sculpted everywhere and sold by his tribe, ’Quraysh, for worship.
As a very mindful man, he couldn’t accept that such sculpted statues -by the hands of people- can be responsible for creating this universe; rather, there must be an almighty power capable of creating the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the darkness and the light, and the four seasons.
He kept on rejecting such worship and used to seek the truth according to the Abrahamic religion till at the age of 40 years, when Allaah Almighty inspired him with the revelation. He was chosen to be the Seal of the Prophets to preach for worshipping One God, hence again Taw’heed.
After liberating Makkah, Prophet Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) purified the Ka’bah from the statues in addition to the main idols. Furthermore, he - under revelation from Allaah Almighty - restored the rites of the Abrahamic religion; the pure origin.
This was the divine acceptance of the supplications made by Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) to Allaah Almighty after he finished building the Ka’bah. This supplication is mentioned in the Holy ‘Qura~n, chapter of Alba’qarah, verse 129:
“Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise.”
Rites in ’Haj and daily Muslims life
I do believe that the rites of ’Haj have many symbolic meanings. I shall try to explain some of them briefly for ’Haj and normal/daily Muslims life.
1. I’hraam: Muslims leave their wealthy life just to obey the orders of Allaah Almighty by performing pilgrimage to Makkaah. Thus in the normal life, they are called to change their life if it contradicts with Allaah Almighty orders and heed the ones that fulfil such orders. This is called Hijrah.
Consistently, wearing this simple dress (white one) highlights the unity of Muslims, and their equality in front of the Creator.
2. Talbiyah: During ’Haj, Muslims are called to say “Labbayk Allaahum Labbayk” which means “Here I am, O God, at Thy Command!” Talbiyah is the answer for the call that Allaah Almighty instructed Prophet Abraham (P.B.U.H.) to say, when He ordered him to proclaim the ’Haj to people. It is the full submission to the Almighty. Thus in their daily life, they are called to answer the orders of Allaah whenever they hear and wherever they are.
3. ’Tawaaf: Muslims are required to circumambulate around the Ka’bah seven times counter clockwise during ’Haj. Consistently, the commands of Allaah Almighty should always be at the centre of Muslim daily life.
Furthermore, scientific research proved that almost everything in the Universe circles around a main centre; starting from Galaxies, passing by Earth that circles around the sun and ending with protons circling around the nucleus within the atom.
They all act within this circular movement in the same anti-clockwise direction Muslims follow in ’Haj which symbolises the unity with Nature.
4 .Sa’y: Muslims walk to and fro between the hillocks of Al’safa and Almarwah during ’Haj, not only to remember Hagar’s frantic search for water for the baby Ishmael (P.B.U.H.) but also to declare submission for the will of Allaah Almighty if they faced hard times in their daily life. They are called to make this journey to overcome problems and not to fall into desperation.
5. Standing upon ‘Arafaat: This is the most important of the rites: where more than 2.5 million people from different nations and colours stand upon ‘Arafaat, asking Allaah Almighty the forgiveness. It’s something near to the Judgement Day. In their normal life, they should always remember that there is a hereafter succeeds the Judgement day.
6. Throwing Pebbles: Muslims are called to stone the devil by throwing seven pebbles at a statue representing the devil. Thus in their normal life, they are called to fight, as much as they can, his calls that attempt to pull them back to the dark way of evil.
7. U’d’hiyah: Muslims are called to finish ’Haj by scarifying an animal during the day celebrated as ’eed Ala’dhaa. This is the symbolic sacrifice in place of Prophet Ishmael (P.B.U.H.), and in the normal life, it should be done by scarifying things that might make us happy on the short run but contradicts the orders of Allaah Almighty even if people don’t like this act.
Conceptual values of ’Haj
Rites of ’Haj in Islaam are not only performed to commemorate Abraham’s religion, but also to help Muslims fulfil their universal mission for urbanising Earth as the viceroy of Allaah Almighty on Earth.
’Haj is not just the fifth pillar of Islaam, rather it is a comprehensive worship that collects the other four; it contains Shahadah (testimony to the Oneness of God), prayers, fasting and Zakaah (mandatory alms), either physically or financially. That is why Allaah Almighty mandated that only Muslim men and women, who are financially and physically able, to perform ’Haj at least once during the lifetime.
Furthermore, it truly explains a fundamental –and misinterpreted- term of Jihaad. In the Islaamic ‘A’qeedah, Jihaad literally means fight against the evil. ’Haj is one of the ways to perform it.
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action."
-- Part of Prophet Mu'hammad's Farewell Sermon which he (P.B.U.H.) orated during his Farewell 'Haj on the ninth of 'Thul'Hijja, in the tenth year of Hi'jraah /632 A.D.
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