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Origins of Islam and the Hajj

Life in the Arabian Peninsula was difficult to say the least. In the harsh deserts, water was a scarce commodity, temperatures were high, and there were very few animals and plants to live on. The people of the desert were nomadic tribes, adhering to a polytheistic Pagan religious tradition, and often fought bitterly amongst themselves for resources. Women at the time were not even second-class citizens—they were used as slaves and commodities and relegated to the domestic sphere. Marriage typically Since female children were not valued, they were often dispatched shortly after birth (infanticide).

Eventually a few tribes (Hanifs) converted to a monotheistic worldview. Others embraced Judaism and Christianity. In 610 C. E. , Mohammed received the first revelation from the angel Jibrael (Gabriel). His wife and family accepted his vision, but the surrounding tribes were hostile to his message and he was forced to flee Mecca. When his wife and uncles died, he lost his support system, and went to Madinah where he converted many of the inhabitants to Islam. They swore to protect Mohammed and Muslims in the First Oath of Agaba. In 622 C. E. (1 A. H.

), the Prophet and his followers migrated to Madinah. There are five pillars of faith in Islam: shahadah (declaration of faith), salat (prayer), zakat (alms-giving), sawm (fasting), and hajj (pilgrimage). The shahadah is the declaration of faith in God as the one true God and Mohammed as his prophet; this is the defining moment where one becomes a Muslim. In Salat, the believer must pray five times every day at fixed times, whilst facing toward the Kaaba. It is preferable to pray in the Arabic language, but one’s native language is acceptable if one does not know any.

In Zakat, it is the duty of Muslims to help eliminate social inequality by easing the financial hardships of the less fortunate. Fasting falls into three categories: ritual, repentance, and ascetic. Ritual fasting includes abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan, which is required of all Muslims. The only exceptions to this rule are the very young or elderly and pregnant women. The last demand is Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca to commemorate the building of the Kaaba, the salvation of Hagar and Ismail and Ibrahim’s defeat of temptation by the devil.

The remainder of the paper will focus on this last pillar of faith. In 628 C. E (6 A. H. ). , Mohammed’s forces took Mecca and demolished the idols in the Kaaba. In 9 A. H. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq leads the first hajj journey, to commemorate Ibrahim and Ismail. The Kaaba is the holiest place in Islam. Muslims around the world position their prayer mats to face the Kaaba. According to the Qur’an, Ibrahim and his first-born son Ismail built the structure. During the time of Mohammed, the Kaaba was in the possession of the Quraysh, a tribe that used it as a shrine to the Arabian tribal gods.

With the conquest of Mecca, Mohammed rededicated the Kaaba to the worship of Allah. The second stage is running seven times between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. According to the Qu’ran, Allah commanded Ibrahim to leave his wife Hagar and their infant son Ismail in the desert with a few provisions. When her food and water ran out, she searched fruitlessly for water until she climbed the two hills and returned to her son. Miraculously, water from the well of Zamzam burst forth and has flowed ever since. During the Hajj, some pilgrims will drink from the well once this part of the ceremony has been performed.

Performance of the Hajj “The hajj to Mecca and its surrounding area is an annual ritual lasting up to seven days which contains within it a fully detailed sequence of events enjoined upon all those who are physically able to come to the city. Performed during the first half of the last month of the year, the hajj requires a state of ritual sanctity for the activities”(Rippin, p. 114). Each pilgrim is supposed to be pure in mind and body. After becoming ritually pure through grooming and the donning of a simple white outfit, the actual journey begins.

The first two rituals include circling the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times, then running between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, two hills Hagar climbed in her desperate search for water. The third part of the ceremony includes stoning the devil. Three tall pillars called jamarat represent the devil. The first represents his temptation of Ibrahim against sacrificing Ismail, the second represents the temptation of Ibrahim’s wife Hagar to get her to stop him, and the tird represents his temptation of Ismail to avoid being sacrifice.

Three times, Ibrahim denied the devil and the act of throwing stones symbolizes the triumph over temptation. Impact of the Hajj on Muslim Life Every able-bodied Muslim is to make the journey at least once in his lifetime. Some make great sacrifices for the sake of the pilgrimage. The purpose of the Hajj is to show believers that they are all equal before God in the spiritual realm, even if one is more fortunate in life. After death, everyone is once again made equal. Malcolm X had come to this same realization after his pilgrimage in the 1960s.

. Hajj is a time for Muslims to revisit important historical events, and become closer to God. The simple ihram clothing is worn as an outer symbol of this equity for one cannot distinguish between the rich and the poor, and the outer self becomes insignificant to the spirit. Everyone is dressed alike to prevent materialistic thoughts. Traditionally, pilgrims travel to Mecca in groups with their friends or family, or people from their local mosque as an expression of unity. Women traditionally make their pilgrimage with a male relative (father, son, husband) or with other women if a male relative is unable to join them.

Men are required to dress only in a garment consisting of two sheets of white cloth and sandals. Women dress in hijab without any further instructions on colour or cut. The Ihram symbolizes purity, simplicity, and the absolution from sin. During this period, pilgrims cannot shave beards, wear deodorant or perfume, or perform any other personal grooming tasks. These are not the only prohibitions that apply. One cannot swear, kill any living thing, or have sex. If one does kill something, he would have to fast in order to gain absolution.

The Hajj can also be dangerous for several hundred people were trampled to death in the stone-throwing ceremony. Yet even with the potential hazards of the pilgrimage, the faithful still make the journey. Some even visit several times in their life, while others can only afford to go once. The pilgrim is accorded much respect in his community. Some will go for this reason alone, while most go out of genuine faith and a desire to draw closer to God.

References

Rippin, A. (2005). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices 3rd ed. NY: Routledge.

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