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Simply 'Haj

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“And ’Haj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka‘bah) is a duty that humankind owes to Allaah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence);” (Chapter of A~l ‘Imraan: 97)

’Haj certainly is a journey of a life-time; it takes Muslims on a pilgrimage to Makkah (in Saudi Arabia) where barren deserts and red mountain ranges form part of the historic birthplace of Islaam.

Given as the fifth pillar of Islaam, the Pilgrimage (’Haj) to Makkah formally begins on the eighth day of Thoo Al’hijjah (a lunar calendar month) and lasts for five days. It is required for every Muslim to perform it at least once in his/her lifetime given that they have the ability to do so.

To Begin the ’Haj
To perform ’Haj, pilgrims enter a state of holiness known as I’hraam by performing ’Gusl (special bath) which signifies the state of purity for the mind, body and soul. They then change into clothing that reflects this state and to show that all are equal before Allaah.

Women usually wear long gowns (either white or black) with ’Hijaab while men must wear clothes that are not tailored. Men wear a two-piece set of white towel/cloth that they wrap around their upper and lower body. Now both men and women are ready to formally commence the ’Haj.
For ’Haj, both time and place are of paramount importance. Commencing the ’Haj must be initiated with the declaration of Niyyah (private intention) of performing the ’Haj.

Traditionally, ’Gusl, Niyyah and changing to I’hraam attire take place at the Mi’qaat (an assigned place for officially declaring pilgrimage status).

The pilgrim, however, is at liberty in declaring the ‘’Haj any time and anywhere prior to arriving at the Mee’qaat.

Day One: 8th of Thoo Al’hijjah
Pilgrims travel to Mina where they camp and prepare for the next day by praying and supplicating.

Day Two: 9th of Thoo Al’hijjah

Pilgrims make their way to ‘Arafaat where millions of Muslims spend the day glorifying Allaah, repeat supplication, repent and ask for forgiveness.

After sunset, pilgrims head to Muzdalifah where they spend the night outdoors under the stars, continue their pious deed, and prepare for the next day by collecting pebbles to stone the devil. After dawn they return to Mina.

Day Three: 10th of Thoo Al’hijjah
Back in Mina it is the day of sacrifice, and known worldwide as ‘Eed Ala’d’ha. The streets of Mina have decorated camels offering rides on this auspicious day.

All pilgrims must pelt the largest Jamrah (stone edifice), which symbolizes the devil, seven times. This stoning is a ritual commemorating Abraham’s fight against the devil and it is symbolic of getting rid of bad thoughts, or evil deeds.

Male pilgrims either have their heads completely shaved or shorten the hair, whereas women trim their hair only.

Next, pilgrims go to Maakah where they perform ’Tawaaf Al-ifaa’dah by circumambulating the Ka’bah seven times, pray two rak‘aahs and perform Sa‘y. The pilgrimage status can no be annulled, and men are allowed to don normal cloths. At the conclusion of Sa‘y, pilgrims return to Mina.

Day Four: 11th of Thoo Al’hijjah
Pilgrims return to the Jamaraat (plural of Jamrah) area where they have to pelt the each Jamrah seven times. Most now leave Mina before sunset to go to hotels in Makkah for the last day of the ‘Haj.

Day Five: 12th of Thoo Al’hijjah
All that remains to do now is perform the farewell ’Tawaaf, which is the final act of ’Haj that precedes departure from Makkah.

The men are now known as a ’Haj, and woman are known as ’Haajah, which are the Arabic word for a male pilgrim and a female pilgrim, respectively.

These are the steps every pilgrim must make to perform the ’Haj. It confirms their commitment towards Allaah Almighty and willingness to abandon material goods, for the sake of His service.

Fast Facts
• The World Factbook 2006 estimates that 1.3 billion people are Muslims
• According to the Ministry of ’Haj More than 2.5 million pilgrims are expected at the ’Haj 1428/2008
• ’Haj for 1428/2008 is expected to be around 18th - 23rd December.

Nadia Ali -
Nadia Ali is a Freelance Writer with six years experience of writing on various genres such as travel, children’s topics, entertainment and lifestyle.Read More >>

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