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What is Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) in Islam

The fifth pillar of Islam is Hajj, which translates to mean ‘the pilgrimage to the Holy city of Makkah’ The Arabic word Hajj, linguistically, means ‘heading to a place for the sake of visiting’; in Islamic terminology, it describes the act of heading to Makkah to observe specific acts and rituals. Hajj, or the pilgrimage, is a 5-6-day journey to this sacred place between the 8th and 13th day of the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Dhul-Hijjah. The Hajj journey is obligatory for every Muslim, male or female, to complete at least once in a lifetime; providing that they are mentally, physically and financially capable of making the trip. God states:
"...And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House - for whoever is able to find thereto a way... (Quran 3:97)
The Hajj includes detailed re-enactments of certain symbolic rituals performed by great Prophets and righteous individuals in the past. The Hajj Pilgrimage and its symbolic rituals commemorate the legacy of Prophet Abraham, so one needs to learn about Prophet Abraham to understand the reasoning behind certain acts performed as a part of Hajj.
Integral to Hajj is the Ka’bah, a holy shrine: a black silk-clad cube stone structure at the heart of the Grand Mosque in the modern-day city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Kaaba is at the center of the Earth, built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismael. Upon completion, God the Almighty Commanded Prophet Abraham to relay the message amongst the people that they would be required to make a pilgrimage to this house. Prophet Abraham then replied, ‘O Allah with no one here, how will they hear my message?’ God then replied, ‘Upon you is the proclamation, and upon me, is to see who responds.’ Prophet Abraham went on top of the Ka’bah and also climbed Mount Safa and called out, “O People, Allah has built a house for himself on this Earth, and he has legislated upon you that you go and perform pilgrimage, so come and perform pilgrim to this house!’
"And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass"
(Quran 22:27)
By performing Hajj, Muslims are answering the command of Allah. More than 4000 years later, to this very day, millions upon millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) from every corner of the globe. You will find Muslims from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and all over the world making this pilgrimage every year. It is the largest annual convention of faith on Earth, where Muslims gather to commemorate the rituals observed by Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael. Muslims celebrate the legacy of Prophet Ibrahim and the many sacrifices he has made for the sake of God.
When Muslims enter the scared Makkan territory during Hajj, they bathe themselves and enter into a ritually purified state called a’hram. In this state, pilgrims are forbidden to perform normal actions that are otherwise permissible, such as covering one’s head for males, clipping their fingernails, cutting their hair, hunting animals, picking plants, shedding blood, engaging in sexual activity, and wearing normal clothing for men. Male Pilgrims wear two white seamless lyon sheets with no stitching by hand, that are wrapped around the body. No belts, no rings, no perfumes, no jewelry, or any type of accessories or garish clothing, may be worn. The simple garb worn represents complete impoverishment and humility and signifies the equality of humanity--as everyone comes before God the same. No one is better than the other among the pilgrims of hajj. Muslims are all united in their devotion to God. Every human being is displayed equally, as we are all equal in the eyes of Allah regardless of our color or race. The black man stands next to the white man and they call on Allah with one voice. The king stands beside a peasant, the businessman stands beside the politician, the doctor beside the engineer, and they declare their submission to the will of Allah using the same words. Several Millions of people are dressed the same way and look the same, no one can tell the rich from the poor; all fulfill the same rituals with the utmost humility. This is to remind pilgrims of the coming Day of Judgment when all people will be stripped of their clothes and displayed before their God. The pilgrims display a sense of poverty with their appearance, as the pilgrims acknowledge that they are the ones in need, and God is the one that owns and has everything they require.
Pilgrims start to perform their tawaf from the black stone corner. Tawaf is the act of circulating the Ka’ba counterclockwise. Pilgrims circumambulate the Ka’ba seven times while they recite prayers during each circuit. Pilgrims perform the tawaf (circumambulation) to follow the suit of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as has been ordained in the Qur’an. Certain Scholars state that the circumambulation of the Kaaba symbolizes the Oneness of God and the fact that all human actions must claim God at their center. As Pilgrims circulate the Ka’ba, they disconnect themselves from worldly attachments and focus upon the presence of the Divine. As Pilgrims circumambulate the Ka’bah, they chant: 'Here I am, O Allah, Here I am, you have no partner, Indeed, all praise, favor, and dominion belong to you, you have no partner.’
Since Prophet Abraham and his wife Sara were not able to bear any children, Sara asked her husband to marry their servant so they could beget a child before they were too old to raise the offspring. Later, Prophet Abraham was commanded by God to take both his second wife Hagar and their son Ismael and leave them in a barren desert valley in modern-day Mecca. As soon as Abraham started to leave, Hagar cried out, ‘Where are you going? Why are you leaving us?’ Abraham did not respond. After a few more attempts to find answers, Hagar then asked if this action was a commandment from God. He responded, ‘Yes.’ Then she replied, if God commanded you to leave us, then leave us, because God never will leave us to perish. She was certain that God would not abandon her and her child, despite their presence at the center of a desert Valley. He left them with little water and some dates.
Later, Hagar ran out of food and water and started to worry for her child. She then fell into a state of anxiety and climbed a hillock called ‘Mount Safa,’ crying out, “Is anyone there?” Then she ran to another hillock--Mount Marwa—again crying out, “Is anyone there?” Then she commenced pacing back and forth to each mountain, seven times.
On the seventh round, Hajar saw Angel Gabriel descend from the sky and strike the ground with his wing, causing water to gush upward from the ground. Angel Gabriel declared, “Zam, Zam,” meaning “Stop, stop,” commanding the water to stop. This water is now referred to as Zam Zam Water. This well to this today nourishes pilgrims of Mecca every day. Hagar and her child, for their part, were rescued by passersby. Years later, when Ismael was growing to become a man, his father Prophet Abraham returned and built with him the house in Mecca, called the Ka’bah.
In commemoration of this great sacrifice from Hagar, Muslim pilgrims in Hajj progress in a quicker pace going back and forth between the two hillocks (which are 300-400 yards apart) seven times, reenacting Hagar’s movements when attempting to find aid. This action is symbolic of Hagar's search for water and the miracle of the well of Zam Zam.
Then the pilgrims depart Mecca toward the valley of Minna, which is about 3-4 miles outside of Makkah. During Hajj season, Minna is full of more than 100,000 air-conditioned tents that cover every open space as far as the eye can see, row after row, where pilgrims stay overnight. The tents accommodate roughly 2-3 million people performing Hajj. Pilgrims spend their time in prayer, worship, and meditation, asking for forgiveness on the night known as Layali Al-Tashreeq.
After spending the night at the village of Mina, pilgrims take the next step and proceed to a huge plain about 7-8 miles from Mecca called Arafat, a huge plain surrounded by bare mountains. Forming the center is a hill known as Mount Mercy (Gabal Al-Rahma), where Prophet Muhammad delivered his memorable Farewell Sermon. This is the central rite of the entire Hajj. Pilgrims stand from noon to sunset praying quietly before God, begging for mercy and forgiveness and asking their wishes. Many pilgrims shed tears as they ask the Al-Mighty to forgive them their sins in this very emotional day of standing. The process of standing, reflecting, taking account of their actions, and begging and pleading to God is often thought of as a preview and representation of the great assembly of the upcoming Day of Judgment. It is to remind people of the inevitable day where everyone will stand before their Lord begging for mercy.
Then pilgrims spend the night at Muzdalifah, an open plain about halfway between Arafat and Mina where pilgrims pray, then go back to Mina.
At the age of 95, Prophet Abraham saw himself slaughtering his son in a dream; interpreting the vision to mean that he needed to slaughter his son for the sake of God. He was to lay his son on to the sand and raise a knife to sacrifice him. Of course, Islam doesn’t allow this act; the dream was only a way for God to test Prophet Abraham. But Prophet Abraham didn’t know that this was only a test to see who he loved and was devoted to the most; his Lord or his son. Ismael was his only progeny at the time. His son looked at his father and said, if God commanded you to do this, do as you were commanded as I too am submissive to God. As Abraham raised his sword, Satan appeared in front of him and stated, ‘that’s your only son, what are you doing? How can you kill him?’ Prophet Abraham, recognizing Satan the cursed, started to pelt him with seven stones until he went away. After that, Abraham moved to another place, where Satan once again returned and was pelted again by Prophet Abraham; then again, the action was repeated in another place. Satan always tries to separate people from their Lord. Eventually, when Abraham was poised to kill his own son, his son was replaced with a Ram sent by God. Prophet Abraham immediately realized that this was only a test from the Almighty.
At Minna, pilgrims participate in a ritual known as the ramy, which is the throwing of seven stones at three monuments called the Jamarāt. Until today, millions of Muslims pass by three monuments and throw pebbles as a ritual, which symbolizes the reenactment of the actions of Prophet Ibrahim when he was faced with the trial of sacrificing his son. The three monuments or pillars in Mina represent the three places that the Devil tempted Prophet Abraham to forego the sacrifice. The throwing of the pebbles is purely symbolic. To this day, at the end of Hajj, Muslims annually sacrifice sheep, cows, camels, and goats in the millions; commemorating the spirit of Abraham, his intention, his sincerity, and his passion. The meat from the sacrifice is then given to charity.
During Hajj, Muslims also kiss a black stone, symbolizing their apperception of being invited to the house of the King of all Kings-- our Lord, our Creator. Muslims also kiss the black stone in tradition of Prophet Muhammad. If they cannot kiss it, they can touch it or point in its direction. This stone was sent down from Heaven for Abraham, to be used for the construction of the sacred house. Buildings in ancient times often had cornerstones, and Prophet Abraham wanted a cornerstone for this house. Narrations describe the stone as being whiter than milk in origin, darkening slowly from the sins of humans until it morphed into a black stone. The black stone is the starting-point for tawaf-- the circling of the Ka’bah.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and can last 29 or 30 days. The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year of 12 full lunar cycles, taking 354 or 355 days. The moon circles the Earth twelve times in a full lunar year. The beginning of each month is marked by the observance of a new moon. When a new moon is sighted, Ramadan begins and then fasting would begin in the next dawn. If a new moon is not sighted, then Muslims would begin their fast the following day.
Islam is built upon five pillars and Fasting during the Month of Ramadan is the 4th pillar of Islam. Muslims fast by abstaining from eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking, and involving in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Additionally, fasting in Islam does not solely consist of refraining from food and drinks, rather one is to abstain from every kind of evil, selfish desire, and wrongdoing. The purpose of fasting is not merely for the body, rather it's for the spirit as well. Fasting in Ramadan is for the soul, mind, and body. Muslims are commanded to refrain against gossiping, backbiting, slandering, lying, cheating, looking at what’s prohibited, nursing a grudge, using sinful speech, and/or any behavior of wrongdoing. Muslims must adhere to the morals of Islam strictly during their fast as failure to do so can violate ones fast. Fasting in Ramadan is obligatory for every sane healthy Muslim, who is not ill or traveling long distance at that time, whether male or female unless a female is on her menstruation cycle or having post-childbirth bleeding. Most religions practice some sort of fasting that generally requires one to go without food or drinks for a certain period. According to the Bible, Jesus fasted for 40 days.
 …But why do Muslims Fast?
The primary reason Muslims fast is because God the Almighty has commanded them to do so in His Last and Final Revelation, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran was sent down to the last and final nation, our nation, whereas the Bible, Torah, and all previous scriptures were sent to previous nations. God states in the Quran:
 Fasting is an act of worship which is beloved by God. The Holy Month of Ramadan & the prescribed fasting The Creator is a gift and mercy to Muslims. God does not prescribe any rulings to his slaves unless there is great wisdom and benefit behind it.
…But How is Ramadan & Fasting a gift & mercy to the ones that fast sincerely?
A sin is defined as an act of disobedience in which a person goes against the commandments of God. God deliberately placed human beings on Earth knowing that they will sin. By nature of human beings, mankind is fallible and bound to sin due to outside evil influences whether it's from friends, family, the media, or from Satan’s attack and whispers that can stray one from the straight path leading them to destruction. God is willing to accept anyone’s repentance. No doubt, it is, in fact, Allah that loves people who repent over and over again. Since Muslims are err to sin as a result of ignorance, forgetfulness, or from the handiwork of Satan. Mankind needs to be reminded and trained from abstaining from negative behaviors that go against the commandments of God.
 God the Almighty states fasting and abstaining from which is prohibited will increase one’s Taqwa. Taqwa is translated to God-fearing piety, righteousness, mindfulness, and consciousness of God where one is aware God is watching at all times. The concept of Taqwa is expressed in the Quran over 200 times. The word Taqwa comes from the root word ‘to guard’ When one has taqwa or God consciousness, one loves to do good and avoid evil for the sake of God.
….But how does one attain Taqwa by fasting?
Fasting is a shield for mankind. Fasting protects a person from sin and lustful desires. The purpose of fasting is not simply physical training to withstand hunger, thirst, and exhaustion; rather, it is disciplining the soul & the ego to give up what’s loved in this world from material goods, wealth, fame, etc. for the sake of God. Fasting Muslims seek to overpower and suppress sinful desires in themselves, putting aside all evils and bad behaviors to express their dedication and love to God and use it as a way to draw closer to Him so that God becomes a reality in their lives resulting in a higher spiritual state. Fasting in Ramadan offers one to develop spiritually and gain strength and control over one’s soul and one’s egos which would dominate one’s life when left unchecked and unmonitored.
Sincere and proper fasting for the full month of Ramadan every year is very beneficial for individuals and society as a whole as it develops piety and self-restraint. Once one is conscious that God is watching, one’s sins and disobedience will dramatically decrease because one would be aware that God is watching. Fasting in Ramadan recharges one's spiritual and physical state. Fasting is meant to instill virtuous qualities in humans from being generous, patient, and cleansing the spiritual heart. Fasting cleansing the soul, mind, and body as temporally giving up for food, water, and many disobedient acts is a natural way of removing toxins from the soul, mind, and body. When Fasting, one controls the urge to eat and drink empowering one to exercise self-control and help to develop patience, inner strength and will-power in a person. Additionally, fasting develops good qualities of endurance and self-restraint, helping one control his or her anger, tongue, and actions. Fasting help resists unlawful desires and wicked habits which would help guard one against evil. Fasting exercises one’s ability of self-restraint so that one can apply it their everyday life to bring about self-improvement & self-development. Fasting in Ramadan suppresses worldly desires and strengthens one’s spirituality. 
The Holy Month of Ramadan is special and blessed because the Holy Quran, which is the book revealed to Prophet Mohammad Peace Be Up Him, was revealed in this special month. Therefore, Muslims recite the Quran frequently in this blessed month. Ramadan is the month when Muslims try to establish or re-establish a relationship with their Creator and The Quran so that one may be guided. Ramadan is a month for deep inner reflection.  
6387 - Reading Holy Book The QuranMuslim believe they earn extra spiritual rewards in this month for good deeds which can lead them to paradise in the hereafter and avoid the punishment of the hellfire. During Ramadan, Muslims engage in consistent spiritual reflection and prayer with the aims of drawing closer to God and becoming a better person.
 During this blessed month, extra voluntary prayers are offered in every Mosque well into the night, with many places of worship crammed with worshippers. Hearts are directed away from worldly material goods and get directed to Almighty, His Religion, and His Final Revelation, the Holy Quran. Due to the blessings and rewards associated with this Holy Month, Muslims are encouraged to give and help others to their best of ability. While the primary reason for fasting is to draw closer to Allah by purifying oneself by abstaining from sins and increasing acts of good, fasting comes with many additional benefits. Amongst the benefits of Fasting is that it teaches man the principle of sincere Love to God as he struggles to fast solely for the pleasure of God.
Muslim Prayer
Fasting in Ramadan is supposed to help discontinue any bad habits one may have developed throughout the year. Fasting is supposed to free a person from the slavery of sinful desires as they give it up for a whole month. Additionally, fasting develops new good habits as Muslims increase acts of good in this month.
 Fasting in Ramadan is a way of experiencing hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and developing sympathy for the less fortunate which should result in an increase in helping the less fortunate. Many take blessings like food and water for granted. When one is fasting, he or she realizes what the less fortunate feel every day. This should increase helping and giving others, especially the less fortunate as fasting helps one to sympathize with the poor so one may know and experience their hardships. During the fast, one learns to give, and not to just take.  
Fasting in Ramadan leads one to be more thankful and appreciate all of God's gifts and provisions. Fasting is a way to humble one before God and His creation as hunger and thirst help one come in a realization that they are in desperate need of God and his provisions decreasing one’s false pride and arrogance. Fasting in Ramadan teaches patience as one feels the pains of deprivation, but he endures them patiently. Fasting teaches moderation and increases one willpower as one feels hunger but disciplines him or herself to not eat so that they can benefit from the increased willpower and discipline after the month is over. This month is supposed to be a training period for the rest of the year so that one can resist temptations.
 
Amongst the many spiritual benefits, lie many physicality benefits as well. Fasting in Ramadan speeds up one’s metabolism, lowers cholesterol levels, helps with weight loss, indorses longevity, improves one’s brain function, clears one’s skin from acne and dry skin, improves the immune system, and purifies the body by allowing the body to rest from the continuous task of digesting food.
 Whereas fasting in the Month of Ramadan may appear very exhausting and difficult, it is, in fact, an enjoyable time for Muslims. It becomes a month of Family and friends getting together to worship the One God and to eat together after sunset. Ramadan has a different atmosphere from other months of the year. Often, local families and individuals sponsor breaking-fast and dinners at local mosques which are open to the community. Mosques are often packed with worshippers at night and special evening prayers are usually held in mosques. during Ramadan.
Mosque
At the completion of the month, Muslims celebrate one of the two Islamic festivals; Eid-ul-Fitr which translates to the ‘festival of the breaking of the Fast’ It is a festival of celebration. It is a time of joy, social gathering of family and friends, gift giving, wearing new clothes, and time which Muslims express thanks and gratitude to their Creator for the self-control, will, strength and the endurance and benefits that they practiced and achieved during this Holy Month.
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Article & Video By: TheSincereSeeker.com
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iH2o5_77wzA&feature=youtu.be

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