It is almost time for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj so I wanted to share a bit of information about the history of rituals behind the pilgrimage. Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam, means undertaking a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. The journey to perform Hajj, has a deep spiritual and personal significance. Spiritual as in the sense, being a slave of Allah(swt) you intend to perform one of the five main duties assigned to you in this world. Personally Hajj is a time to ponder on your relationship with your creator, a time to examine your inner personality— the inner you, or your conscience. And this entire journey to the holy city, is a once in a lifetime experience for many Muslims, that shall forever remain etched in their memories.
STORIES BEHIND THE RITUALS OF HAJJ:
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SAEE’Y: [Story of Hajra (R.A) and Ishmael (A.S)]
This pilgrimage to Mecca has a deep significance in Islam, and it dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim( A.S). The story goes as such— Ibrahim(A.S) has reached a ripe age and was childless. He prayed earnestly for progeny, as his wife Sarah( R.A) was barren. At that time on the command of Allah the Prophet took a second wife— she was the servant of Sarah(R.A), her name being Hajra(R.A).
Soon after, Hajra(R.A) gave birth to Ismail(A.S). On the command of Allah(swt), Ibrahim(A.S) left his wife Hajra(R.A) and his son Ismail(A.S) in the deserts of Mecca. At that time the infant Ismail(A.S) cried and cried with thirst and an anxious Hajra(R.A) ran between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah in search of water for the child, but in vain. When she returned hopeless, she saw baby Ismail(A.S) scratching his feet on the soil, from which gushed out a spring of fresh water. At that time Hajra(R.A) repeated the words Zam Zam— meaning Stop Stop, commanding the water to stop, so she could collect it for the baby to drink. The ritual of Saee’y between the hillocks of Safaa and Marwaah, is this act of Hajra(R.A), which is re-enacted by the pilgrims.
“Indeed, as- Safaa and al-Marwaah are among the symbols of Allah. So whoever makes Hajj to the house or performs Umrah – there is no blame upon him for walking between them. And whoever volunteers good – then indeed, Allah is appreciative and knowing”.
THE SACRIFICE OF IBRAHIM (A.S):
Allah(swt) tested the piety of Ibrahim(A.S), by asking him to sacrifice his most beloved possession— his son [the holy Quran does not explicitly mention the name of the son, but many believe it was in regard to Ismail(A.S)]. At that time Ibrahim(A.S), complied with the command of Allah(swt) and set out to sacrifice his son. Allah(swt), on seeing the firm faith and conviction of Ibrahim(A.S) sent down Jibayril(A.S) to convey the message that Allah(swt) has accepted the sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S). To commemorate this sacrifice of Ibrahim(A.S), an animal is sacrificed on the day of Eid-ul-Adha.
“And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen a dream, that [I must] sacrifice you, so see what you think”. He said “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast”.
“And when they had both submitted, and he put him down on his forehead”.
We called to him, “O Abraham,
You have fulfilled the vision”. Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.
Indeed this was a clear trial.
And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice.
And we left for him [favorable mention] among the future generations.
“Peace be upon Abraham”.
Indeed, we thus reward the doers of the good.
Indeed, he was of our believing servants”.
Surah-as-Saffath (verses 99:111)
STONING THE DEVIL- (Rami-al-Jamaraat):
Prophet Ibrahim(A.S), on his way to sacrifice his son Ismail(A.S) was tempted by Satan near a stone-heap, asking him to drop the idea of sacrifice of his beloved son. It was at that time that angel , Jibayril(A.S) appeared and advice Ibrahim(A.S) to pelt the devil with stones from the heap. Ibrahim(A.S) pelted seven stones at the devil, after which he disappeared. Iblis once again appeared at a second heap of stones, Jibrayil(a.s) said “Pelt him!” and once again Ibrahim(A.S) did so by pelting seven stones till Iblis disappeared. Satan once again appeared at a little stone-heap to tempt Ibrahim(A.S), to which Jibrayil(A.S) once again said”Pelt him!”. Finally after pelting seven little stones, Iblis withdrew.
The three Jamraat, represent Iblis in three different forms. The first bigger one was the manifestation of Iblis tempting Ibrahim(a.s) to drop the idea of sacrifice of his son. The middle Jamraat represents the devil tempting Hajra(R.A) to stop Ibrahim(A.S) from sacrificing their son. And the smallest Jamraat represents the temptation of Ismail(A.S) by Iblis, to avoid being sacrificed. This is what’s the significance of stoning the devil during the final three days of Hajj.
On a spiritual note this ritual of stoning involves stoning the evil within us to gain closeness to Allah(swt).
THE KA’BAA and HAJR-E-ASWAD:
Coming to the Ka’baa— it is the holiest site in the religion of Islam. It serves as a focal point, towards which Muslims turn to while offering salaat. The history of Ka’baa dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim(A.S). He along with his son Ismail(A.S), built the Kab’aa. There is a particular place very close to the Ka’baa, which contains the footprints of Ibrahim(A.S), called the Makam-e-Ibrahim.
When Ibrahim(A.S) and Ismail(A.S), undertook the construction of the Ka’baa as commanded by Allah(swt), Jibrayil(A.S) bought down the black stone from heaven. Ibrahim(A.S) placed the black stone known as Hajr-e-Aswad in the eastern wall of the Ka’baa. The process of tawaf, starts with Istilam(kissing or touching), the hajr-e-aswad.
It is believed that the entire structure of the Ka’baa is designed based on a similar structure that exists in heaven, known as Bait-ul Mamur. A fresh batch of 70,000 angels perform tawaf of the Bait-ul-Mamur, wherein no batch of angels occur twice. This was the description provided by Prophet Muhammad(pbuh), after his visit to the seventh heaven on the night of Miraj.(Based on a hadith of Sahih Bukhari).
“So from wherever you go out for prayer, [O Muhammad], turn your face towards Masjid-al-Haram, and indeed it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do”.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that Islam has such a long and humble past. And look where the Ka’baa stands today— within the glorious Masjid-al-Haram. It is a beauty, to feast one’s eyes on. The entire city of Mecca, has a very emotional place in the heart of every Muslim. And to those who intend on undertaking the pilgrimage— live every moment of it, recall our beloved prophets and strengthen your bond with the creator.
Photo Credits: [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons