4.3 Hajj or Pilgrimage
"Certainly the first house (of
worship) appointed for mankind is the one at Bakka (Makka), blessed
and a guidance for the nations. . . . whoever enters it is safe; and
pilgrimage to the House is a duty which people owe to Allah, whoever
is able to find a way to it." (The Holy Quran 3:96-97)
What is Hajj?
Every year, in the beginning of the month of ZilHijja in the
Muslim calendar, a great international gathering of Muslims is held
at Makka in Arabia, where they pledge that there is only One God for
the whole of humanity and that all persons are equal, regardless of
race, nation, wealth or status. This occasion is known as the Hajj
(pronounced rather like the word judge, with h being read
in place of j) or the Pilgrimage to Makka. The pilgrim goes to
Makka at great personal sacrifice, and gives up many comforts of life
while there. From his hardship, he learns the lesson that man has to
sacrifice his desires if he is to attain nearness to God and to establish
a worldwide brotherhood of equality and love.
Please outline the chief features of Hajj?
All pilgrims, at the commencement of the three days of the Pilgrimage,
put on the same simple dress of two sheets of cloth. Thus all distinctions
of wealth, position and family are removed during the Hajj by making
every person appear the same outwardly. The Hajj itself consists of
a number of acts of worship and remembrance of God, which are performed
by the individual in the company of the vast congregation. Two of the
most important of these devotions are the tawaaf (making circuits
around the Ka`ba, the simple fourwalled building which Muslims all
over the world face in prayer), and the gathering of the pilgrims in
a plain called Arafa to glorify God.
What is the significance of these acts?
These acts of worship are the highest spiritual experience. By going
around the Ka`ba, the pilgrim expresses the greatest love for the One
God because this building is the greatest and oldest memorial to the
purest form of belief in One God. Going around the Ka`ba is as if to
say that one's life should revolve around belief in One God. In the
gathering at Arafa, there is a vast ocean of humanity, people of all
colours, races, nations, languages, walks of life, the rich and the
poor, the 'high' and the 'low', but all are exactly alike, wearing the
same simple clothes, remembering God in the same way. From this, the
pilgrims carry back home the lesson of the equality and brotherhood
of mankind, which can only come through belief in One God.
Do Muslims worship the Ka`ba, or believe that God lives there?
No, definitely not. How can they worship the Ka`ba when, in fact,
they go there to remember that God is One? And, according to Muslim
belief, God is everywhere in this universe of ours, so He cannot live
in any one place or building. The Ka`ba is an ancient memorial to the
belief in One God, being associated with the Prophets Abraham and Muhammad
(peace be upon them) who taught this belief most vigorously. It is a
venue for the gathering of all nations, at which they come together
and remember that only this belief can unite them. Though God is everywhere,
yet when hundreds of thousands of people make the greatest sacrifice
to gather in one place just to worship Him, that place rightly deserves
the title of the 'House of God', as the Ka`ba is called.