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Hajj: Why and How?

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Hajj is where Muslims from all over come together at one place and time, calling to the same Lord, wearing the same clothes, and performing the same rituals.

Upon becoming Muslim, one must perform Hajj once in his lifetime. Hajj is the pilgrimage one makes to the Sacred House of Allah (the Ka`bah) in order to perform certain rites at specific places at specific times.

This pillar of Islam is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is sane and has reached the age of puberty once in their lifetime, if they have the physical and monetary ability.

If a person has an incurable disease which prevents him from performing Hajj, but he does have enough money, he must assign someone to perform Hajj for him. But if a person does not have more money than what he needs to fulfill his daily requirements or those whom he supports, Hajj is not an obligation upon him. Allah says:

And the performing of Hajj to the House (Ka`bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses; and whoever disbelieves, then Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures (mankind and Jinns). (Aal `Imran 3:97)

There are many reasons and great wisdoms why Hajj has been prescribed. From them may be the following:

1- To increase ones good reward due to his act of obedience, for the reward for a Hajj which has been accepted by Allah is nothing but Jannah. The Messenger of Allah said:

“An ‘Umrah (lesser pilgrimage. It consists of Tawaaf and Sa`i whilst in a state of Ihram) followed by another is an expiation for the lesser sins one performed between them, and there is no reward for a Hajj which has been accepted by Allah except Paradise.” (Al-Bukhari)

2- To realize the unity of the Muslims, for Hajj is the largest Islamic gathering. Muslims from all over come together at one place and time, calling to the same Lord, wearing the same clothes, and performing the same rituals.

There is no difference between the rich and the poor, the noble and the ignoble, white and black, Arab and non-Arab. All are the same in front of Allah; there is no difference between them except in taqwah (piety). The Hajj is an event which emphasizes the brotherhood of all Muslims and the unity of their hopes and feelings.

3- It is a spiritual exercise which trains one to exert his efforts, physically and monetarily, in the way of Allah and seeking His pleasure.

4- It is a purification of one’s sins and wrongdoings. The Prophet said:

“Whoever performs Hajj to this House (the Ka`bah) and does not indulge in foul speech or commit any sin, he will return (sin-free) like the day his mother gave birth to him.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Ka’bah is the first place which was made for the worship of Allah on the face of the earth. It was built by Ibrahim and Isma`il (may the safety and mercy of Allah be upon them both) upon the command of Allah:

And the performing of Hajj to the House (Ka`bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses; and whoever disbelieves, then Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures (mankind and Jinns). (Aal `Imran 3:97)

A Description of Hajj

Hajj is of three types, each one has its specific rites. The best type is what is called Tamattu`, which is that one performs both a Hajj and an ‘Umrah separately, both in the sacred months of Hajj. It is done as follows:

1- One should enter a state of Ihram (a state in which certain things become forbidden for a pilgrim) from the Miqat (particular places which one cannot cross without entering a state of Ihram if he wishes to perform `Umrah or Hajj) before the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah. He should pronounce his entrance into a state of Ihram saying:

Labbayka, Allahumma, `Umratan wa Hajjan.” (Here I am at Your service, O Allah, performing ‘Umrah and then a Hajj (separately).

2- Once you have arrived Makkah, perform Tawaf  (the act of circling the Ka`bah counter-clockwise) around the Ka`bah and perform the Sa`i for `Umrah, and then shave or shorten the hair of your head. Women should shorten (and not shave) their hair about a third of a finger’s length.

3- On the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah, which is called the day of Tarwiyah, one should enter the state of Ihram at the time of duha (forenoon; the time after the sun has risen a spear’s length until before it reaches its zenith) from the place you are.

He should then go to Mina (a valley within the sacred precincts of Makkah) and there he should perform the Dhuhr, `Asr, Maghrib, and `Ishaa’ Prayers. He should shorten the Dhuhr, `Asr and `Ishaa’ Prayers (as a traveler does), but he should not combine them together.

Allah has legislated that a traveler shorten the Dhuhr, `Asr and `Ishaa’ Prayers from four rak`ahs to two rak`ahs. A traveler may also combine the Dhuhr with the `Asr Prayer, by praying them together, one after the other, as well as the Maghrib with the `Ishaa’ Prayer.

There are three pillars in Mina, the small, the medium and the large. The largest is called Jamrat Al-`Aqabah.

4- After the sun has risen on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, which is the Day of ‘Arafat, one should leave Mina and head towards `Arafat (a plain just outside the sacred precincts of Makkah) .

When the time of Dhuhr arrives, he should pray Dhuhr and `Asr, both two rak`ahs, combining them together. After completing them, he should put all his efforts and spend his time mentioning Allah, supplication with sincere humility. One should seek from Allah whatever he wishes raising his hands facing the qiblah (Ka`bah direction).

5- When the sun sets on the Day of `Arafat, one should set out for Muzdalifah. Once he has reached, he should pray the Maghrib and `Ishaa’ Prayers, combining both prayers together, making the `Ishaa’ Prayer two rak`ahs only.

He should spend the night in Muzdalifah (a hilly area between `Arafat and Mina), and once Fajr arrives, he should pray the Fajr Prayer in its earliest acceptable time, and then he should spend his time supplicating until the sky appear bright.

6- But before the sun has risen, he should leave Muzdalifah for Mina. Once he arrives, he should throw seven pebbles at Jamrat Al-`Aqabah, saying “Allahu Akbar” with each throw. The pebbles should be about the size of a chickpea.

7- After this, he should slaughter his sacrificial animal, and then shave or shorten the hair of his head. Shaving is better for men, but as for women, she should shorten her hair about a third of a finger’s length. She should not shave her head.

8- One may now exit his state of greater Ihram, but he still remains in a state of lesser Ihram. He may wear normal clothes and do everything which is allowed for a normal person except for having marital relations with his wife.

9- One should then proceed to Makkah and perform the Tawaf and Sa`i, both for Hajj. Upon completion, he should return to Mina and spend the nights of the eleventh and twelfth of Dhul-Hijjah there.

During the days, he should throw seven pebbles at all three of the Jamarat (the Satan-symbols), saying “Allahu Akbar” with each pebble. He should do so after the sun starts to decline from its zenith. He should start with the smaller Jamrah, and then proceed to the middle and then the largest.

10- Once a person has thrown pebbles at the Jamarat on the twelfth day, he may leave Mina or he may spend another night in Mina, throwing pebbles at the three Jamarat on the thirteenth day after the sun starts to decline from its zenith as explained earlier, and this is what is best.

11- Once one intends to return home, he should proceed to Makkah and perform Tawaf Al-Wada`. This Tawaf is not an obligation for a woman experiencing menses or postpartum bleeding. Once a person has done this, his Hajj is complete.

The Tawaf Al-Wada`, or the Farewell Tawaf, is the Tawaf which one performs when a pilgrim intends to return to his homeland. It is the last rite which is performed in Hajj, and should be the last thing one does at the House of Allah.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “How to Become a Muslim”, Islamhouse.com

Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha is a Saudi Da`iyah and Scholar, specialized in Islamic Studies and Islamic culture. Of his outstanding publications are: Woman in The Shade of Islam, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, Misconceptions on Human Rights in Islam, and Islamic Perspective of Sex.

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