Hajji is an Arabic word that generally means setting out with a definite purpose and actually refers to going on Pilgrimage to Makkah (usually referred to as Mecca), a town in Saudi Arabia. Hajji is one of the five pillars of Islam-those practices which are central to Islam and are its central support.
Every Muslim-male and female- is expected to go on hajj at least once in his or her life unless he or she is too ill or cannot afford it. Over 2.5 million people fulfill hajj every year. There is a set time for the hajji: It is during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar usually known as Dhu al-Hijjah. Non-Muslims are denied entrance to Makkah.
The hajjis and hajjas (male and female pilgrims respectively) have a strong sense of oneness and togetherness.
The Ka’bah (Cube) is the focal point of Makkah. Said to be originally an alter to Allah built by Adam, the first prophet, it deteriorated over the centuries into a house of idols. It was the last prophet, Muhammad, who removed all the idols from inside and restored the Ka’bah as a place of worship to the one God. Encircling the Ka’bah seven times is the key ritual of the hajj.
Another very important experience for Muslims during hajj takes place around the hill of Arafat, about 25 Km from Makkah. On the ninth day of the month, all the hajjis and hajjas spend the afternoon in prayer together. Muslims say that Adam was reconciled with Eve, his wife, at Arafat, and it is known that the prophet gave his farewell there. He once said that the best of prayers is the prayer on the day of Arafat.
Going on pilgrimage to Makkah is not just a duty for Muslims but also an opportunity for them to thank Allah for all they have and to express thanks by ritual and good deeds. The following is an extract from Qura’n 22:26-9 that sheds more light on this.
“Thus we settled Abraham at the site of the House. [Saying]: Do not associate anything with me, and purify my house for those who walk around it, and those who stand there [praying], and those who bow and kneel down with their foreheads on the ground [in worship].
Proclaim the pilgrimage among mankind; they will come to you on foot and on every lean beast [of burden]; let them come from every deep gully, to bear witness to the advantages they have, and to mention God’s name on appointed days over such heads of livestock as he has provided them with. Then eat some of it and feed the needy pauper. Then let them attend to their grooming. Fulfill their vows, and let them circle around the Ancient House.”
What the pilgrims do matters, but so does what they think and feel. Inner preparation and discipline-and the inner journey itself are a must.
Many Muslims cannot hold their joy when they land to Makkah. Many cannot explain the feeling of being in a place they have waited for so long. To many, it is a dream come true. Many say that they have tremendous amount of peace once there. The whole concept of Hajj is that when you go for hajj, you leave all your material things behind and you stand in the presence of God.