By Habib Siddiqui
Al-Jazeerah, December 17, 2006
Haj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is required of capable Muslims once in a person's lifetime.
No annual event on the face of the globe, religious or non-religious, compares to hajj in terms of the sheer number of participants, duration of the event and the breadth of agenda. In spite of this fact, it has always remained equally fascinating and mysterious to not only non-Muslims, who are barred from entering the holy city, but also to millions of Muslims, who had not performed hajj.
What then is hajj? In essence, hajj is man’s evolution toward Allah; his return to Him. It is a symbolic demonstration of the philosophy of creation of Adam (AS: alayhis salam, peace be upon him), the first man. To further illustrate this, it may be stated that the performance of hajj is a simultaneous show or exhibit of many things. It is a show of creation. It is a show of history. It is a show of unity. It is a show of Islamic ideology. It is a show of Ummah, the community of Muslims. That is why, it is said in the Qur’an: “And proclaim unto mankind the hajj …. That they may witness things that are of benefit to them.” (22:27-8)
Just as in any other good show or movie or theatre-play, the following conditions prevail in hajj. Allah is the stage Manager. The theme portrayed is the actions of these main characters – Adam, Haw’a (Eve), Ibrahim (Abraham), Hajar (Hagar), Isma’il (AS), and Shaytan (Satan). The main scenes are – Masjid al-Haram, ‘Arafat, Mas’a (space between the mountains – Safa and Marwa), Mash’ar (area between ‘Arafat and Mina) and Mina. Important symbols are – Ka’ba, Safa, Marwa, day, night, sunshine, sunset, idols and rituals of sacrifice. The dress and make-up are – ‘Ihram, halq and taqseer (part of ceremonies of hajj involving cutting of hair and nails, afterward). Lastly, the player of the show is – YOU – the Hajji. You are the main feature of the performance. The role of Adam, Ibrahim, Isma’il (Ishmael) and Hajar in confrontation between Allah and Satan is all played by you. As a result, you are the hero of the show!
Hajj is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him or her who can find a way or means to get there (Qur’an 3:97). It is not a tax on your wealth, but a duty. Thus, to qualify, you must be sane and wise to understand what you are getting into, and able-bodied to go through this task, and lastly, have the means or resources to perform hajj.
The rites of hajj are five – (1) ‘Ihram, (2) waiting at ‘Arafat, (3) Tawaf of the Ka’ba, (4) sa’iy or running between the Safa and the Marwa and (5) cutting or trimming of hair. Others are not pillars, although some may require kaffara or penalty, if not done. The person who puts on the ‘Ihram or cloth for either ‘Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) or hajj (greater pilgrimage) is called a Muhrim.