Journey of a lifetime

, CULTURE

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and every year Muslims from across the globe gather in Mecca to perform the rituals connected with it

To those who can afford to perform the pilgrimage financially and health wise – must do so at least once in their life. ‘And Proclaim unto Mankind the pilgrimage. They will come on foot and every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine,’ is the message that Holy Quran chapter 22, verse 27 gives out to Muslims.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and every year in Dul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. Muslims from across the globe congregate to perform the rituals connected with it. The pilgrimage of Mecca is built on a solid foundation of several layers of tradition extending back in time, from the records of Ibrahim, Hajira, Ishmael and Adam, the first man and the first Prophet to descend on the Earth.

I had the honour of performing Hajj about a decade ago. But I keep visiting Mecca every year for Umrah (short pilgrimage). Being settled in Oman at that time, I embarked on Hajj from Muscat. Before setting out, I had to ensure that all wrongs are redressed, pay all my debts, have enough funds to undertake the journey and had to keep adequate funds for the maintenance of my family while away, and prepare myself for good conduct throughout the Hajj.

We landed first in Madina, few days before the commencement of Hajj. Though a visit to Madina is not part of Hajj, it is highly recommended. Most pilgrims do visit Madina, either before or after Hajj. Before departing Madina to Mecca we wear the Ihram, the two pieces of unsewn white cloth that each male pilgrim must wear prior to performing Hajj or Umrah, and verbalise niyah, the intention of performing Hajj or Umrah in Mecca. After four hours of journey by an air-conditioned coach we reach Mecca and perform Umrah. It was 7th of Dul Hijjah, two days prior to actually embarking on Hajj. We spend our time in the Haram Masjid in Mecca praying, reciting Quran, engaging in zikr, etc.

On the 8th of Dul Hijjah we join a concourse of worshippers chanting the talbiyah, ‘Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik’ (O God, here I am answering your call) and enter the valley of Mina, a tiny uninhabited village about seven kilometres east of Mecca, and spend the night there in fire-proof tents. Now, you have train services that take you from Mecca to Mina and further. The scene at Mina touches my heart dearly. I have been waiting for this moment all my life.

Religious fervour writ large on faces of pilgrims as the valley of Mina is reverberated with chants of talbiyah as two million pilgrims from around the world converged on the tent city, their first stop on the way to the Plain of Arafat for Haj climax. On 9th of Dul Hiijah, we move towards the plains of Arafat. The time spent here is precious and is devoted to prayers, genuine repentance for one’s sins, and to To those who can afford to perform the pilgrimage financially and health wise – must do so at least once in their life. ‘And Proclaim unto Mankind the pilgrimage. They will come on foot and every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine,’ is the message that Holy Quran chapter 22, verse 27 gives out to Muslims.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and every year in Dul Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. Muslims from across the globe congregate to perform the rituals connected with it. The pilgrimage of Mecca is built on a solid foundation of several layers of tradition extending back in time, from the records of Ibrahim, Hajira, Ishmael and Adam, the first man and the first Prophet to descend on the Earth.

I had the honour of performing Hajj about a decade ago. But I keep visiting Mecca every year for Umrah (short pilgrimage). Being settled in Oman at that time, I embarked on Hajj from Muscat. Before setting out, I had to ensure that all wrongs are redressed, pay all my debts, have enough funds to undertake the journey and had to keep adequate funds for the maintenance of my family while away, and prepare myself for good conduct throughout the Hajj.

We landed first in Madina, few days before the commencement of Hajj. Though a visit to Madina is not part of Hajj, it is highly recommended. Most pilgrims do visit Madina, either before or after Hajj. Before departing Madina to Mecca we wear the Ihram, the two pieces of unsewn white cloth that each male pilgrim must wear prior to performing Hajj or Umrah, and verbalise niyah, the intention of performing Hajj or Umrah in Mecca. After four hours of journey by an air-conditioned coach we reach Mecca and perform Umrah. It was 7th of Dul Hijjah, two days prior to actually embarking on Hajj. We spend our time in the Haram Masjid in Mecca praying, reciting Quran, engaging in zikr, etc.

On the 8th of Dul Hijjah we join a concourse of worshippers chanting the talbiyah, ‘Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik’ (O God, here I am answering your call) and enter the valley of Mina, a tiny uninhabited village about seven kilometres east of Mecca, and spend the night there in fire-proof tents. Now, you have train services that take you from Mecca to Mina and further. The scene at Mina touches my heart dearly. I have been waiting for this moment all my life.

Religious fervour writ large on faces of pilgrims as the valley of Mina is reverberated with chants of talbiyah as two million pilgrims from around the world converged on the tent city, their first stop on the way to the Plain of Arafat for Haj climax. On 9th of Dul Hiijah, we move towards the plains of Arafat. The time spent here is precious and is devoted to prayers, genuine repentance for one’s sins, and to prayers for the dead and the living and to come clean after Hajj. It was here that the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) delivered his last Hajj sermon 14 centuries ago.

Arafat is considered to be the climax of Hajj, though it is not the conclusion as few days more remain. From Arafat we return to Mina enroute spending the night at Muzdalifa, a valley between mountains in the north and south. Here, we spend our night and engage in worship and gather pebbles for the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil in the following days.

Next day, at the break of dawn, we trudge towards the multi-storeyed Jamrat Complex, about one kilometre from our tent, where we threw seven pea-sized pebbles at Jamrat Al-Aqaba, which is one of the three elliptical-shaped walls representing the devil.

Ably assisted by hundreds of ever-smiling security officials, the ritual was conducted in a peaceful and orderly fashion. Special assistance was provided for the elderly in carrying out the task. It is time for the feast of Islam: Eid Al-Adha — the Feast of Sacrifice. Those who can afford it buy a sheep, a goat or a share of some other sacrificial animal, sacrifice it and give away a portion of the meat to the poor.

We repeated the stoning ritual for the next two days hurling seven pebbles each day at each of the three walls inside the Jamrat Complex. Hajj is now complete and we return to Mecca for tawaf. I feel like a newborn, hoping and praying that my sins have been washed away and it has been a rewarding experience.

By: Aftab Husain Kola

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