The second-holiest day on the Muslim calendar arrives Tuesday with the season of pilgrimage, or hajj, and the festival of sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha. Muslims believe that God commanded the Hajj, or pilgrimage, as one of the five pillars of their faith.
Pilgrimage is for Muslims a training course in faith and ethics. It increases faith, uplifts the spirit and inculcates only the best conduct and manners of all pilgrims. This is the result for all those who have performed it properly, avoiding all sins, arguments, gossiping and other violations of the sacred rituals. Prophet Muhammad – peace be unto him – said: “Perform Hajj for it cleans sins as water cleans dirt.”
Hajj provides a lot of benefits for this life and for the hereafter. It is, in effect, a one-nation conference where more than 3 million Muslims gather from all over the world to worship Allah (the name of God in Arabic) and perform their rituals together.
Muslims meet in Mecca, and they are dressed the same, basic and simple, to perform the same rituals. This is an important part of the faith. In Islam all are equal: pauper or prince, African or European, Arab or non-Arab. Differences in wealth, languages and nationalities are irrelevant. All are Muslims, brothers and sisters in faith. By dressing in plain white dress, they express equality. The dress shows a rejection of luxury and decoration and helps them to think of the Day of Judgment, when all humanity will be resurrected naked, as they were originally born.
The pilgrims respond to Allah by their actions and repeat: “Here I am, Lord, here I am!” This shows submission to the One God, the Unique, the Most Merciful and Most Gracious, and to promise repeatedly to follow his commands and avoid his prohibitions.
The pilgrims also do what they call “circumambulating,” moving counterclockwise around the Ka’ba, which is the first house of God ever built on Earth. It is in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca. In standing at the door of the Ka’ba, there is a lesson of a commitment to Allah to follow all that is good and avoid all that is bad.
Muslims trace their lineage to Prophet Abraham, who is found in the pages of the Muslims’ Quran and the Old Testament, used by both Christians and Jews. When pilgrims run between the hills of Safa and Marwah, they commemorate Abraham’s wife, Hagar.
When she was abandoned in the desert (or wilderness of Paran – Genesis 21:21), she ran between the hills looking for water for her son, Ishmael.
When pilgrims stand on Mount Arafat all together praising God, they glorify him and supplicate to him. Here is a lesson in equality, liberation and training for that terrifying standing at the Day of Judgment.
As part of the commemoration, pilgrims also slaughter animals for the feast, and they feed the poor. This is based on the story of Abraham, whom God told to sacrifice his son Ishmael. But at the last moment, God ransomed Ishmael with a ram when Abraham proved to fulfill the word of God.
There are lots of lessons of hajj in Islam. All of the rituals, however, are meant to help the pilgrims acquire the talent of remembering Allah in all that they do, so that they become closer to him. In so doing, they become as pure as angels walking on Earth.
The hajj can be considered like a factory, where the raw material – a believer – is manufactured into an almost perfect human being and morally perfected in every way.
At the end of the hajj, Muslims all over the world hold the second-biggest celebration of the Islamic calendar, giving thanks to Allah for his forgiveness and mercy. It is a time of prayer and supplication, when all Muslims put aside disagreements and disputes. Muslims everywhere spend four days remembering Allah and his mercy, exchanging visits and congratulations, and praying to Allah that may he provide relief, comfort and assistance to the whole world.
MOHAMAD JAMAL DAOUDI IS THE IMAM OF THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF AUGUSTA.