Have you been to Mecca as yet ? If NO, then it’s a place to be. It’s so delightful to see Muslims from all over the world unite in such a special place for an ordained pilgrimage made obligatory by Allah for all Muslims who can afford it.
For the past 14 centuries, Muslims from all corners of the globe have made annual pilgrimages to Mecca – Muhammad’s birth place and Islam’s devotional epicentre.
All faithful Muslims (both men and women) are expected to make the pilgrimage (hajj) at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially capable, alongside other pre-requisites.
The Hajj is the last pillar of Islam which vividly shows the equivalence of what humans will experience on the Day of Judgement.
The mode of dressing of the pilgrims, the great assemblage at Arafat and the difficulties faced before the completion of the exercise reveals its glorification and how ephemeral the world is.
The timing of the hajj is based on the Muslim lunar calendar and the periodic event comes up in the 12th month of Dhul Hijjah every year (usually in the summer when temperatures soar high).
This religious rite which originated in the 7th century was at its inception undertaken by foot or riding on horse/camel backs which makes it very tasking. However, with the advent of modern air transport, pilgrims can now travel for hajj with ease and participate several times in their lives.
After oil was discovered in 1938, the holy city has undergone several transformations but despite all these, there are still lots of logistical challenges posed by the hajj.
Overcrowding which translates to injuries and deaths (from pushing, shoving, heat exposure and sun stroke) remains at the top of the challenges. This challenge coupled with other rigors might continue to persist as Islam is a fast growing religion.
The Saudi government has begun to encourage those who have already made the hajj pilgrimage to go for the lesser hajj (Umrah) rather than re-participate.
Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year and this policy manages the overcrowding problem spurred by the hajj pilgrimage to a reasonable extent.
Steps to be taken for a Successful Hajj and Umrah
Pilgrims need adequate information about the do’s and don’ts of these religious exercises for them to serve their full spiritual purpose.
The Steps before Departure
The Steps on Arrival
The prayer of every sincere pilgrim is to retain the validity of Hajj and Umrah forever. For this prayer to come to pass, the pilgrims have to undergo all the proper rites of the exercise as soon as they’ve been cleared at the security check points.
Basics of Hajj
The hajj proper begins with the performance of the Tawaf and Sa’y, and then the wearing of the Ihram dress (white cloth) at the Miqat. This is followed by the movement from Mecca to Mina on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, then to Arafah on the 9th and back to Mina via Muzdalifah on the Dhul-Hijah (where they observe Magrib and Ishai combined and are also expected to observe the Salat-s-Subh before proceeding to Mina).
The next rite is the Ayamu-t-Tashrik - throwing of pebbles at the Jimat in Mina for three or four days. Here, the Tawaful Ifadah at the sanctuary in Mecca is performed after the 1st day of throwing 7 pebbles (for those who can afford to go back to Mecca. It should be noted that picking such pebbles at the point of throw is forbidden. As such, pilgrims are advised to pick their pebbles before leaving the tents for the Jamrat or on the way.
The shaving of heads by the men is the next rite for those who have performed the Tawaful Ifadah. This is then followed by the animal sacrifice usually performed in an enclosed abattoir (Majzarah) which allows for slaughtering by proxy. The slaughtering is done on behalf of the pilgrims by authorized artisans and the meat from the slaughtered animals (rams, camels or cows) are kept in cold storage for further distribution to the poor throughout the Muslim world (according to the guidelines set by the Institute for Hajj Research).
With the completion of the camping days in Mina and the slaughtering of animals, the hajj is assumed to be completed except for the Tawaf Wida’i (farewell Tawaf) which is also required. It’s not compulsory for the pilgrims to go to Medina as it neither validate nor invalidate hajj. However, it seems religiously odd not to visit the Prophet’s mosque!
Basics of Umrah
The pilgrims have to pass the Miqat, enter the state of Ihram and make their niyyah (intention) for Umrah. The next rite is to make the Talbiyah until they reach the Ka’bah to start their Tawaf. Prior to this, they’re to enter the Masjid Al Haram with their right feet and make the dua of Masjid. The next step is to make 7 rounds around the Ka’bah in wudu (ablution).
After completion of the Tawaf, they’re to proceed to Maqaam-e-Ibraheem (Prophet Ibraheem’s station) to recite Quran 2:125 as well as pray two short Rak’ahs. Once this is done, they are to undergo the procedures at Zam-Zam wells and proceed to do Sai (7 circuits). After completing the Sai, the pilgrims are to trim/cut their hair (the men are recommended to shave all their hair or trim it all way round while the women are to shorten theirs by a finger tip).
So far you’ve come all this way, open your heart in glorification to Allah as all Ihram rules are now lifted and your Umrah is completed!
In closure, it should be noted that a successful hajj or umrah allows the pilgrims to be in a clean state and thus, must not return to the world of vanity. To get the best out of Hajj and Umrah, the pilgrims must spiritually guide their loins so as not to become tainted in body and soul.