The Story of Hajj

In the this last Saturday, in answer to the original call of the Prophet Abraham and, following the footsteps of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, over two million people from every corner of the globe gather at Mecca to perform their Hajj.Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam.  It is compulsory on every Muslim, if he or she is healthy enough and has means to travel.  It lasts from 8th to 13th of Islamic month called Dhul-Hijjah.  Following the example set by the Prophet, the pilgrims put on the “ihram”  unstitched clothing made up of two sheets (women wear normal dress and cover their heads by a scarf).  All pilgrims, be they rich and poor, black and white, must dress in this way before they start the pilgrimage, so that men of all countries and all races look alike.  No one then take pride of place over another. In the eyes of God, all humans are equal. Just think how God has created us all from a single set of parents——Adam and Eve (Hawwa).When prophets Abraham and Ishmael were ordered by Allah to build the House of God——the Kabah in Mecca, as they laid the foundation of Kabah, they prayed, “Our Lord, accept this from us! You are the All-hearing, the All-seeing.” They also prayed for a prophet to be born in their family who would teach wisdom to the people and purify their faith. Their prayer was answered many years later, when the Prophet Muhammad was born to their descendants.

Abraham was ordered by God to clean the Kabah for those who come there to pray, and to call people to Hajj:Call all people to make the Pilgrimage, they shall come to you on foot and on the backs of swift camels; they shall come from every deep ravine.

The Prophet Muhammad’’s Hajj

10 years after his migration from Mecca to Medina, the Prophet Muhammad performed his Hajj, which came to be known as the “Hajj of Farewell.” The Prophet told his followers: “Learn how to perform Hajj, as after this year I may not perform it.” As the news spread around, people from Medina and nearby areas started assembling there to accompany the Prophet.

On the afternoon of Thursday, 24 Dhul Qada, 10 AH, the Prophet mounted his she-camel to set out for Mecca.  A multitude of people, over 100,000 in number, accompanied him.  Jabir, a Companion of the Prophet said, “I could see people as far as my eyes could see.” On the way more people joined the caravan.  When the Prophet reached a place called Dhul Halifa, he spent the night there and in the morning took a bath and put on ihram.   Afterwards, he moved towards Mecca saying the talbiyah prayer: “Here I am, O Allah, Here I am at Your service! You have no partner, here I am. All praise, grace and dominion belongs to You. You have no partner.” The rest of the people joined him in repeating these words.

After travelling for nine days, the Prophet reached Mecca on 4 Dhul Hijjah. He first went to the Sacred Mosque. On seeing the Kabah, he said:

“O Allah! increase the greatness and sublimity of Your House.” And further added, “O Allah, You are peace, with You is peace. Our Lord, keep us alive with peace.”

Afterwards he performed tawaf——going round the Kabah seven times. As he did this, he kept calling upon God:

 “Our Lord, give us goodness in this world and goodness in the Hereafter, and keep us safe from the fire of Hell.”

When he had finished going round the Kabah, he prayed two rakat at the Maqam Ibrahim——the Station of Abraham, and went towards the Black Stone and kissed it. He moved towards Safa, saying that Safa and Marwa were one of the signs of Allah.  He went up the Safa hill, till he could see the Kabah. (At that time the hills of Safa and Marwa were outside the Sacred Mosque, but now after the expansion of the grounds, they come within the boundary wall.)

The Prophet walked briskly between the two hills seven times and ended the walk at Marwa.  Some of the seven laps he did on camel-back. Perhaps he did so that people could see him from a distance. The Prophet was staying in Mecca at a place called al-Bath.  After staying there for four days, he moved to Mina on 8 Dhul Hijjah and the next morning, he moved off towards Arafat.

At Arafat, he stayed in a small tent in the Arnah valley.  In the afternoon, he rode his she-camel as far as the middle part of the Arafat valley. Here, mounted on his she-camel, he gave a sermon which is known as the Sermon of the Farewell Hajj.  Today, at this very spot there stands a mosque by the name of “Namira.”

In his message to humanity, the Prophet emphasized the highest moral values. Here the Prophet announced:

“No Arab is superior to a non-Arab and no non-Arab is superior to an Arab. No black man is superior to a red man and no red man is superior to a black, except through taqwa or fear of Allah. The most noble among you is the one who is deeply conscious of God.”

While the Prophet was praying here, the very last verse of the Qur’’an was revealed to him, and so the Holy Book was completed.

After delivering the sermon, the Prophet performed two prayers together ——Zuhr and Asr.  After prayers, the Prophet came to the spot in Arafat which known as the “standing place”.   Here, mounted on his she-camel, the Prophet prayed till sunset. He said that the prayer of this day was the best of all.  The Prophet was praying with divine feelings.  He was praying, the people around him were praying,  some standing,  some mounted on their animals——weeping and crying to their Lord for His favors,  vowing for repentance and craving His blessing.  It was such a great moment that the Prophet said, “Arafat is Hajj.”  He prayed,

“O Allah, You are listening to me. You are watching my place. You are aware of my hidden and open affairs. I am miserable and needy, I am pleading to You. Asking your protection…”

After sunset, the Prophet rode towards Muzdalifa.  He asked Usama ibn Zayd to ride his camel too. He went on saying Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk —”Here I am O Lord, Here I am”.   And the people were chanting the same. The Prophet asked people not to run, but to move slowly and calmly, as running was no work of piety.   On reaching Muzdalifa, the Prophet asked his Companion, Bilal to give the call for prayers.  There he said the Maghrib and the Isha prayer together.  The Prophet took rest at night and in the morning after praying, he went towards a place called Mashar Haram where he offered further for prayers.

Before sunrise, the Prophet left Muzdalifah for Mina, after taking seven small pebbles from there.  On the way, passing through the valley of Muhssar, he asked people to move fast, as this was the place, where the People of the Elephant, who came to destroy the Kabah, were punished by Allah.  This incident happened in the year in which the Prophet was born.   Riding on, he reached the Jamarah, the three pillars at Mina,  at which he cast seven pebbles, saying Allahu Akbar each time.  The Prophet gave his second sermon at Mina, which was similar to the previous one at Arafat. Afterwards the Prophet offered his sacrifices, shaved his head and took off the ihram dress. That was the day of the feast——(today we remember that day as Id al-Adha).

On the same day, the Prophet rode to Mecca, performed tawaf and saey, drank water at Zamzam and returned to Mina. At Mina people came to him, asking many questions about the pilgrimage.  Some said, “I delayed in doing so and so,” or “I performed something before it was due,” and so on. But the Prophet would tell them: “No objection, no objection! Objections are only for the person who wrongfully violates the honor of his fellow-man.”

At Mina, the Prophet spent three more days for the throwing of stones.  In the afternoon of fourth day, the Prophet moved to Mecca, where he stayed in a tent and slept briefly.   Before the morning prayer, he went to the Sacred Mosque and performed the tawaf “Elwada3″ of Farewell.

The Prophet stayed in Mecca during Hajj for 10 days. Afterwards he left for Medina. At the sunrise, entered his beloved city——Medina. When he first saw the city dwellings from a distance, words of praise started pouring from his lips: “Allah is most High. There is no deity save Him. He is One. No one is His partner. He is Lord of everything. All praise belongs to Him and He empowers all things. We are returning repentant, praying, prostrating ourselves, praising our Lord. Allah has kept His promise.”    The Prophet died two months after performing his Hajj.

When the pilgrim performs the Hajj, he is filled with awe, for he feels he is leaving his own world and entering that of the God. He feels so close to God, standing there at Arafat on the very spot where the Prophet delivered his last message to humanity.   Now he is in-touch with the Lord, revolving around Him, running towards Him, journeying on His behalf, making sacrifices in His name, throwing pebbles at His enemies, praying to the Almighty and having his prayers answered.   Indeed, to go on Hajj is to meet one’’s Creator.

The pilgrims go back home with that same feeling of awe and great sense of peace. Because, they have shed their sins on that plain and they has been born with new spirit of caring for others and a sense of wonder at all the marvelous things that ALLAH has given them.

As pilgrims of different races, speaking different languages, return to their homes, they carry with them wonderful memories of the prophets and other great sahabas. They will always remember that great coming together, where rich and poor, black and white, young and old, met as equals. They go back, radiant with hope and joy, for they have fulfilled God’’s command to go on the pilgrimage.  Above all, they return with a prayer on their lips:   May it please God, they pray, to find their Hajj acceptable.

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