Hajj – A Journey of A Lifetime
Written by: Aadielah Solomon, Madina Institute Student 2019
Hajj is the annual pilgrimage that Muslims from across the world undertake to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, as it forms part of the five pillars in Islam. Hajj is the last pillar of Islam which should be performed by each Muslim who is physically and financially able.
The history of Hajj goes back to the time of Nabi Ebrahim AS(Peace and blessings upon him), when he was instructed by Allah to leave his wife, Hajar and their son Ismaeel, alone in the desert of Makkah. When Ismaeel AS began to cry due to hunger, Hajar searched frantically for food and water to calm her crying baby. She ran seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah.This is commemorated by the pilgrims(Hujaaj) and is known as the Sa’ee . When Hajar returned to Ismaeel, a gushing spring emerged from under her baby. This is known as the well of Zamzam and pilgrims enjoy the blessed water to this day.
When Ebrahim AS returned to Makkah, he dreamt that he was slaughtering his son Ismaeel, on the command of Allah. Ebrahim AS intended to do what Allah instructed. The purpose of this dream was to test who Ebrahim AS loved more; Allah or his only son, Ismaeel. When Ebrahim AS informed his son Ismaeel about the dream, Ismaeel responded by telling his father to do what Allah commanded him. When Ebrahim AS and Ismaeel AS reached Mina, Iblees (Devil) attempted to dissuade him. Ebrahim AS picked up a pebble and threw it at Iblees. Iblees tried 3 times and was repelled 3 three times. This event represents the pelting of the Jamaraat.( the ritual stoning of the Devil).
Finally, Ebrahim AS had the chance to take out his knife, and just as he was about to cut Ismaeel, Allah willed for the knife not to cut and sent Jibreel ( Archangel Gabriel) with a sheep to sacrifice instead. This event marks the Qurbaan that takes place on Eid-ul-Adha.
On instruction from Allah, Nabi Ebrahim AS and his son built the Kabah(the black cube structure in Makkah) a place for people to worship Allah.Ebrahim AS was alson instructed by Allah to call people to perform Hajj, marking the beginning of this holy journey.
The official journey of Hajj starts on the 8th Dhul-Hijjah and ends the 12th or 13th Dhul-Hijjah.
On the first day of Hajj, 8 Dhul-Hijjah, Muslims who are on their holy journey go from a state of Miqat into a state of Ihram; the white cloth which covers the body. From Makkah they proceed to Mina, which is situated about 10km outside of Makkah. Mina is filled with more than 100 000 tents to accommodate the Hujaaj on their overnight stay where they spend their time in prayer.
On the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims start moving to the plains of Arafat, situated about 15km from Mina. The day is spent in prayer on Arafat until sunset. Thereafter they proceed to Muzdalifah, situated about 10km from Arafat on the route between Mina and Arafat. Here they collect pebbles to pelt the Jamaraat. The night is spent in Muzdalifah and people sleep in the open.
On the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, Eid-ul-Adha begins and is celebrated worldwide. The pilgrims proceed back to Mina and from there they continue onto the Jamaraat, situated about 5km from Mina. At the Jamaraat of Aqaba, the stoning of the Devil takes place where one pelts a large wall (which represents the Devil) with some of the stones collected in Muzdalifah. After this pelting is complete, the Qurbaan (sacrificing of an animal) and shaving of the hair takes place. The pilgrims proceed back to Makkah to perform the Tawaaf (7 times anti-clockwise circumambulation of the Kabaa) and Sa’ee. The Ihram is then removed and normal clothes can be worn. The pilgrims proceed back to Mina for the night.
For the next 3 days (known as Tashreeq which are the 11th – 13th Dhul-Hijjah), the pilgrims spend their time in Mina and do more pelting.
Once the pelting is completed, Tawaaf Wadaa (the farewell Tawaaf) is performed and pilgrims start to depart on their journey home.
The purpose of Hajj is to gain atonement in oneself and to gain nearness to Allah. It is also a chance for us to seek forgiveness on the plains of Arafat and for us to live a better life for the sake of Allah.
There aren’t any specific traditions associated with going on Hajj, but Cape Town is big on traditions which have been alive for many years. When Hujaaj in Cape Town leave, they have a greeting “kaartjie” (card) printed with their departure date, their address and asking for forgiveness from people.
The greeting of Hujaaj starts about a month before they leave for their journey in order to invite people to the table that is held at their houses. The tables consist of various sweet and savoury treats, along with warm and cold beverages to the guest’s desire. Close family and friends have their hands on deck in the kitchen helping with the preparation of the food and beverages. The houses are crowded, and roads are jam-packed in the area. There is a warm feeling that is radiated from each house, and that’s not because of the fire place or large amount of people. The warmth is that of a loving kind, as you can see the happiness gleaming from the Hujaaj as they are able to share this special moment with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues before their departure.
It is always an emotional time when we have to bid our Salaam(greeting) to the Hujaaj and wish them well on their journey. Tears are shed before the departure and when the big day comes it affects everyone. The airport is packed with their families and friends to see them off as they start their holy journey. For non-Muslims it amazes them as they notice the bonds between the Muslims and their fellow brothers and sisters when it comes to this time of year. They only know it as “going to Mecca”, but there is much more to it once they start engaging with others and asking them about the Hajj.
This journey is a compulsory one and I make Duah (prayer) that we each be granted the health, strength and financial stability to perform this holy journey of Hajj insha Allah(God willing) Ameen.