Allah Huma Labaik...these words are spread in the surroundings of Mecca, Saudi Arabia at Hajj every year – between the eighth to the thirteenth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar – Dhu’l-Hijjah (Zul-Hijjah). Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is currently the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God.
The Saudi Press Agency said that a record number of Muslims were expected to make the Hajj this year – over 3.4 million anticipated over the five days of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims perform a series of rituals including walking around the Kaaba, standing vigil on Mount Arafat and a ritual stoning of the Devil. At the end of the Hajj, Muslims celebrate the Eid ul Azha festival.
The Hajj is considered the culmination of each Muslim’s religious duties and aspiration. Muslims from all over the world seek to make the Hajj to the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Muslims travel thousands of miles to reach the Holy City of Makkah for the Hajj and perform the rituals in the same manner as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) almost fourteen centuries ago did.
During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in the Ihram, a garment consisting of two sheets of white unsewed cloth. women are simply required to maintain their Hijab. The ihram is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of God; there is no difference in a prince and a pauper.
The Hajj formally begins on the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar.
On this first day of the Hajj, the pilgrims walk a few miles to Mina and camp there overnight. It gives the sense of unity and harmony.
The pilgrims or Hajjis spend the “Day of Arafah” (ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah) in Arafah, an empty plain. They commit the entire day to supplication and devotion. In the evening, they move to Muzdalifa. They camp there overnight and offer various prayers.
On the tenth day of Dhul-Hijjah, they return to Mina and throw seven pebbles at a pillar that symbolizes Satan’s temptation of Abraham. (The Qur’an describes how Satan tried to persuade Abraham to not ritually murder his son Ishmael, as commanded by God). The pilgrims then sacrifice a sheep, recalling how Abraham sacrificed a sheep that God had provided in place of his son. The meat is distributed to friends, relative and the poor. This shows that people have the feelings of help and assistance for others who are not their relatives but they do care of them.
Afterwards, they return to Mecca and perform a final tawaf and sa’i. They symbolize the completion of the Hajj by cutting their hair. It is also the part of sacrifice.
Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day of Eid-ul-Azha, the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice. The first day of this celebration is held on the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim year. This is the second of the two major Muslim annual holidays. In most areas, this event is celebrated over several days.
Every nation and society has a center of unity where they get together to worship God. They see prosperity and culture as relics of unity. People of the society get to know each other and understand each other’s difficulties. They form a unified front to remove these difficulties and achieve their goals.
With this idea of humanity and unity, Hajj has been made a pinnacle of worship in order that Muslims who gather to perform Hajj can praise their Lord and Master, be thankful for His blessings, and humbly pray to Him for the removal of their difficulties. Muslims living in various parts of the world get to know each other, lay the foundation of social culture, give advice to each other, and provide opportunity for collective struggle.