Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Ramadan 2019: Hajj is a calling from God

Thousands join the pilgrimage to Makkah from the UAE for Hajj each year

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

For millions of Muslims around the world, the Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, their holiest of cities, is a journey of huge consequence.

The five or six day odyssey of prayer and discovery is part of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is considered mandatory.

The pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia takes place each year during Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.

The ritual literally translates as “to attend a journey” and denotes both the outward act of the physical travel involved and the inward act of an individual’s contemplation of their faith.

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims performing the Hajj attend the Friday prayers inside and outside the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Salah Malkawi / The National
Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims performing the Hajj attend the Friday prayers inside and outside the Grand Mosque in Makkah. Salah Malkawi / The National

"My advice to people who want to go for Hajj is to repent for your sins and follow the right path,” said Ebrahim Mohammed, 58, a retired Emirati.

“Start learning the rituals of the pilgrimage and choose a good companion for this blessed journey. Be polite and follow the ethics of Islam.”

Each year, millions of Muslims travel to Makkah to perform Hajj, with many also travelling on north to the city of Madinah.

In 2017, nearly two million people undertook the journey, with the Saudi government allocating a set number of pilgrims from each country.

Last year, more than 6,200 Muslims performed Hajj from the UAE, up from 4,600 the previous year.

Mr Mohammed said he first travelled to Makkah in 1986 at the age of just 25. He has since completed the pilgrimage five more times.

He said the millions of followers coming together in one place to worship God made the journey an unforgettable experience.

"Prepare yourself mentally and spiritually,” he advised those hoping to make the pilgrimage.

“Make sure you understand the rituals of Hajj and bid peace and farewell to family and friends.”

Completing Hajj successfully requires the carrying out of a particular set of rites within a certain time frame.

Before leaving for Makkah, pilgrims must first enter a state of holiness known as Ihram - which includes refraining from sex, killing animals, carrying weapons or shaving body hair.

Once there, worshippers must also walk seven times around the holy Kaaba in an anticlockwise direction, a practice known as Tawaf.

They then have to walk seven times between two small hills called Safa and Marwa within the Great Mosque. The ritual symbolises the story of Hagar, the wife of the Prophet Abraham, and her search for water.

Completing Hajj also involves a visit to Mount Arafat, a hill believed to be where Prophet Mohammed gave his final sermon. Worshippers then go on to undertake a symbolic stoning of the devil, throwing pebbles at three, large stone pillars which represent Satan.

An aerial view of Mount Arafat, where thousands of Muslim worshippers gather during the Hajj pilgrimage. EPA
An aerial view of Mount Arafat, where thousands of Muslim worshippers gather during the Hajj pilgrimage. EPA

Finally, before leaving Makkah, pilgrims must return again to the Great Mosque to perform Tawaf for a final time.

Speaking to The National, Mohammad Moin Uddin, imam at Ali Salem al'kabi Mosque in Abu Dhabi, said Hajj was the duty of all Muslims at least once in their lifetimes, provided they were mentally and physically capable of the journey.

“Prayer is worshipping with the physical self and zakat (the act of charitable giving which is also one of the Five Pillars of Islam) is worship through finance, but Hajj is a combination of both,” he said.

"Hajj is tough and we tell old people that if you can’t go, then send someone on your behalf.

"People who are going for Hajj should research about the conditions of Ihram. Hajj at a young age is the best if one can do it.

“It’s important to know that one Hajj that is accepted by Allah is enough to go to paradise.”

Updated: May 21, 2019 01:31 PM

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