In the course of life, symbols and ways of expression are bestowed as provision for one’s spiritual growth. Such is the hajj pilgrimage, representing the voyage of the soul towards Almighty Allah. Hajj is intended to assemble men and women from distant and close by to share in sacrifice, prayer and praise in a centre of worship of great antiquity. Every step and every characteristic of the pilgrimage is full of symbolism and packed with profound connotation about life, devotion, faith, love and fear of Almighty Allah.
#Kaaba: In fact, the site of Mecca with the Kaaba was granted to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) as a universal and pure lieu of worship not restricted to one people or one race only. The Kaaba itself is the epitome of the House of Allah on earth, a symbol of unity and universal worship. The epitomizing and typifying action of going round the Kaaba seven times (Tawaf) with the kissing of the little Black Stone built into the wall is in itself the symbol of absorption and meditation in love of Allah. After a short prayer at the “Station of Abraham” which is within the enclosure of the Kaaba, where Prophet Ibrahim was believed to have prayed, the pilgrims set out for the two little hills of Safa and Marwa.
#Safa and Marwa: Absorbed in the City of Mecca close to the well of Zam Zam, the two hills are included among the symbols of highest virtues of patience and perseverance in faith. In fact, the seven courses (Sa’i) between Safa and Marwa honored the restless quest for water by Hajar for quenching her new born son (Prophet Ismail’s) thirst. Her prayer was answered with the burst of the spring of Zam Zam at the foot of the infant. Hence, one is reminded of the endeavor and exigency required in performing one’s duty and struggling in life. This is symbolized by a combination of fast walking and running around the Kaaba and the two hills.
#Ihram: The wearing of the Ihram, the pilgrim garb of unsewn cloth, from certain points definitely fixed on all roads to Mecca, is symbolical of the pilgrim’s forsaking the vanities of the world. Once in the state of Ihram, the pilgrim will not wear other clothes, anoint the hair, use perfumes, hunt or indulge in other forbidden acts. Resumption of normal dress is allowed only after completion of the pilgrimage and symbolized by the shaving of the head for men and cutting of a few locks of hair for women. Once the pilgrimage is undertaken it must be completed not for worldly ends but as a symbol of one’s service and devotion to Allah.
The chief rites of hajj are concentrated on the first ten days of Zul-hajj, especially the 8th, 9th and 10th of that month when the gathering of pilgrims attains its peak. On the 7th Zul-hajj the whole congregation pays heed to an account of the meaning of hajj delivered in the great sermon (Khutba).
#Mina: pilgrims converge on the 8th Zul-hajj to the valley of Mina just around Mecca for a halt and stay the night in preparation for the great day of Arafat the next morning. Every tent is symbolic as pilgrims are protected by the defenses of the sacred Law against all looming hazards.
#Arafat: On the 9th Zul-hajj the assemblies proceed to the hill and plain of Arafat, known as the Mount of Mercy, spending the day in intense prayer, beseeching Almighty Allah to confer His mercy and forgiveness. Also to be noted that it is on the same plain of Arafat that Adam and Hawa (Eve) were reunited after their wanderings. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has laid emphasis on the importance of the Day of Arafat saying “Hajj is Arafat” and he has compared the view of the Day of Judgment with that of the Day of Arafat.
#Muzdalifah and Mina: after sunset, pilgrims return to Mina passing through Muzdalifah which is midway between Arafat and Mina, where the Holy Prophet (Pbuh) offered up a long prayer. So, the lieu has become a “Sacred Monument” and pilgrims follow the pattern on their return.
#Id Ul Adha (Day of Sacrifice): the 10th Zul-hajj is the Id Day when the sacrifice is offered in the Valley of Mina. It commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (friend of Allah) to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismail upon the will of Allah. This sacrifice symbolizes one’s readiness to sacrifice one’s time, wealth, and even life if need be for justice and truth.
#Shaving of head: As Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) taught a true pilgrimage is when the pilgrim returns from hajj as a newborn, symbolically understood that newborns as well have shaved heads.
#Rite of stoning: consisting of three pillars of different sizes symbolizing that some satanic persuasions are stronger than others. By tradition, stoning memorialized the temptations Satan put in the way of Prophet Ibrahim at three different places between Mecca to Mina when he wanted to sacrifice his son. Through their proven sincerity, Satan was defeated and a ram was substituted in lieu of Prophet Ismail. On the first occasion and continuing on subsequent days, casting of stones on the Evil One is performed and they are symbolically linked with the rejection of evil in action, thought and word.
#Medina: Although not officially part of the rites of hajj, the spiritual journey is incomplete without visiting Medina and the Prophet’s Mosque.
The spirit of hajj is completed not only by acts of external rites, but by determination of spiritual service and the endeavor to perform it.