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Home > Article > The Story of Hajj
 
The Story of Hajj
 
Selamat Hari Raya Idul Adha
 
The story of Hajj (Pilgrimage) starts with an introduction about Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham).
 
Ibrahim (Abraham)
Ibrahim is a figure revered by Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike as a righteous person who lived over four thousand years ago. He is considered to be the patriarch of monotheism, or "belief in the One God," who sought a personal relationship with his Creator.

Ibrahim left his native city of Ur in Mesopotamia after voicing opposition to his people's polytheistic practices, and eventually settled in Egypt with his family. Later, he escorted one of his wives, Hajar, and their infant son Ishmail, to a desolate valley in Arabia and left them there, trusting in God's promise to care for them.

Hajar, concerned about feeding her baby, began searching the surroundings for food and water. According to the Qur'an, in response to Hajar's prayers, a spring miraculously gushed forth at Ishmail's feet to quench their thirst. Hajar climbed nearby hills searching for food and looking for caravans on the horizon. Eventually, some passing traders stopped in the valley, and asked Hajar's permission to water their camels.

In time, the traders decided to settle in the little valley, and eventually the settlement grew into the city of Makkah. Ibrahim returned from time to time to visit, and when Ishmail was about thirteen years old, he and Ishmail constructed the Ka’bah, an empty cube-shaped building, as a place dedicated for the worship of the One God.

Eventually, Makkah became an important trading post by the time of Prophet Muhammad, twenty-five hundred years later.
 
The Hajj (Pilgrimage)
In commemoration of the trials of Ibrahim and his family in Makkah, which included Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son in response to God's command, Muslims who can afford, make a pilgrimage to the sacred city at least once in their lifetime. The Hajj (Pilgrimage) is one of the "five pillars" of Islam, and thus an essential part of Muslims' faith and practice.

Muslims from all over the world travel to Makkah. Before arriving in the holy city, Muslims enter a state of dedication known as ihram, by removing their worldly clothes and put on the humble attire of pilgrims, which is two seamless white sheets for men, and simple white dresses and scarves for women. The white garments are the symbol of human equality and unity before God, since all the pilgrims are dressed similarly. Money or status no longer is a factor for the pilgrims. The equality of each person in the eyes of God becomes paramount.

Upon arriving in Makkah, the pilgrims perform the initial tawaf, which is a circular, counter-clockwise procession around the Ka'bah. All the while, they state "Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk", which means "Here I am at your service, O God, Here I am!"”.

The tawaf is meant to awaken each Muslim's consciousness that God is the center of their reality and the source of all meaning in life, and that each person's higher self-identity derives from being part of the community of Muslim believers, known as the ummah. Pilgrims also perform the sa'i, which is hurrying seven times between the small hills named Safa and Marwah, reenacting Hajar's desperate search for life-giving water and food.

On the first official day of Hajj (8th of Dzulhijjah), millions of pilgrims travel a few miles to the plain of Mina and camp there. From Mina, pilgrims travel the following morning to the plain of Arafat where they spend the entire day in earnest prayer and devotion. That evening, the pilgrims move and camp at Muzdalifa, which is a site between Mina and Arafat. Muslims stay overnight and offer various prayers there.

The pilgrims return to Mina on the 10th of Dzulhijjah, and throw seven pebbles at a stone pillar that represents the devil. This symbolizes Ibrahim's throwing stones at satan (devil) when he tried to dissuade Ibrahim from sacrificing his son.

Then the pilgrims sacrifice a sheep, lamb, cow, ox, or camel, reenacting the story of Ibrahim, who, in place of his son, sacrificed a lamb that God had provided as a substitute. The meat from the slaughtered sheep is distributed for consumption to poor and needy people in the community.

After the sacrifice, the pilgrims return to Makkah to end the formal rites of Hajj by performing a final tawaf and sa'i.

The Hajj is designed to develop God consciousness and a sense of spiritual uplift. It is also believed to be an opportunity to seek forgiveness of sins accumulated throughout life. Prophet Muhammad had said that a person who performs Hajj properly “will return as a newly born baby” which means “free of all sins”. The pilgrimage also enables Muslims from all around the world, of different colors, languages, races, and ethnicities, to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship the One God together.
 
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