What is Hajj?
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. The five pillars are:
- Faith – Faith entails believing we should only worship the Creator of the Universe and not worship human beings, animals, statues, our desires, or anything else. Faith also entails belief that our Creator sent guidance of right and wrong via messengers such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the Final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad. His message served to purify the guidance of the previous messengers from alterations made by mankind over the centuries. His message also provided a comprehensive set of divine laws for humankind, applicable to all situations for all times to come.
- Prayer – Establishing prayer five times a day, serving as a reminder through out the day of our purpose in life: to worship our Creator.
- Zakat – Mandatory charity given once a year by those who have the means. Voluntary charity is also heavily emphasized in Islam.
- Fasting – Abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations during the month of Ramadan, thereby developing characteristics of patience, self-restraint, and God consciousness.
- Hajj – Pilgrimage to the city of Mecca for those who are financially and physically able. It is a spiritual quest of submission to God and purification of the heart.
The Hajj pilgrimage has its roots in the time of Prophet Abraham. He constructed a building in Mecca called the Kaaba with his son Ishmael as a center of worship for mankind. Since then, pilgrimage to this holy city has been occurring annually for thousands of years. The Hajj rituals are performed in the premises of the Kaaba.
The Prophet Muhammad said:
“Whoever performs Hajj solely for the sake of God and, in the course of it, abstains from sensuality and disobedience, he returns from there as immaculate as a new born child.”
Every healthy and financially able Muslim must undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his/her lifetime. Hajj is comprised of several acts of worship to God. People of different nationalities, languages, and colors gather in the millions at Mecca during this time. The concept of one humanity upheld by Islam is explicit during the Hajj pilgrimage. It is a time when people have the same thought, carry the same prayer on their lips, and are uniformly dressed. There is no discrimination between master or laborer, black or white, elite or lowly, native or foreigner. This equality before God becomes apparent in the multitude of human beings that assemble for this holy pilgrimage.
Muslims lining up for prayer around the Kaaba
Muslims performing the rites of Hajj
The mosque structure encircling the Kaaba
Thousands of Muslims in front of one of the mosque gates