During the month of Ramadan we had the opportunity to recite many supplications requesting God to grant us the possibility of performing the sacred Hajj-pilgrimage to Makkah this year and in years to come.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to carry out this important ritual this year, there is a sign that maybe, after all, our worship during the month of Ramadan has been accepted by God.
Pilgrimages to holy places are not exclusive to Islam; in fact almost all religions have similar practices in one form or another. Holy places in general and places of pilgrimage in particular have a specific characteristic that enables the body and the soul to fall into unison with each other and with the energy that emanates from the place itself. These are ideal places to achieve divine consciousness and enlightenment. But just as the fasting of Ramadan distinguishes all other fasts from the fast in Islam, the Hajj is a pilgrimage like no other pilgrimage in its mode, essence and symbolism. In the preparation for this important journey we have found great companions in the preceding, spiritual laden months of Rajab, Shawwal and Ramadan. An adequate preparation increases the opportunities of reaching the core of this great journey. Hence the ascetic practices that we are encouraged to perform in these preceding months should equip us with the tools we need to take with us on this unique journey.
Imam Ali (a) said: “Those who go to Makkah for obligatory and voluntary pilgrimage (Hajj and Umra) are the envoys of God and His gift to them is forgiveness.
The Hajj pilgrimage offers us yet another chance to testify to the oneness of God and to witness and celebrate the oneness of humanity as the creation of God, without discrimination on the basis of race, nation or gender. People prepare for the grand pilgrimage and the union of humanity is its social significance. During the Hajj, Makkah becomes the most spiritually energised centre of the world and even possibly in our known universe. In fact Makkah remains an active spiritual centre at all times, as a result of being the focus point for one fifth of the world’s population during their daily prayer.
According to the Islamic teachings, it all began at the beginning of human history, from the first man; Adam(a), who first built a house dedicated to God’s remembrance. Later down the centuries the house was re-modelled by the prophet Abraham(a). In the Qur’an we read the following statement from Abraham(a):
“Our Lord! I have settled part of my descendants in a barren valley, by Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may maintain the prayer”. (Qur’an 14:37).
God accepted the prayer of the prophet Abraham(a), the patriarch of three major monotheistic faiths. For centuries, millions of people yearned to go to the sacred symbolic house, the Ka‘ba, to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Due to the destruction of the Ka‘ba through the ages, Prophet Abraham(a) together with Ishmael(a) reconstructed the Ka‘ba (Baitullah – the House of God). It was Abraham(a) who actually established the rituals of the Hajj, which was to recall the events and practices of his life, his wife Hagar and their son Ishmael(a). Following the same ancient tradition, the Hajj has become the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with Muslims of all denominations, races and nations coming together from all corners of the world.
Hajj is the Jihad of every weak person. Imam Ali(a)
This ritual is listed as one of Furoo–ad–Deen (branches or pillars of Faith) and takes place during the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah. This year more than two million people will begin the journey of their life and will gather in Makkah and around the Ka‘ba in the heart of its valley, to answer the call of their hearts. The period of performing rituals of Hajj occurs between the 8th -12th of Dhul Hijjah. This year Dhul Hijjah is expected to commence around the 3rd or 4th of September with the week of the Hajj beginning on the 10th or 11th of September 2016.
Among the several rituals of this pilgrimage there is the distinguishable performance of tawaf (circling) of the Ka‘ba. Seven times we circle the house of God, repeating the ritual devotions in Arabic:
“Lord God, from such a distant land I have come unto Thee…. Grant me shelter under Thy throne.”
Caught up in the whirling scene, lifted by the poetry of the prayers, we orbit God’s house in accord with the atoms, in harmony with the planets and the Universe. If you were in Makkah during the Pilgrimage you will hear this sacred chanting coming from every heart, every direction and every being around you: “Labbaik Allah Humma labbaik Labbaik la sharika laka labbaik Innal hamdaWan-ni’mata Laka walmulk Laa sharika lak”.
My Lord, here I am at Your service, here I am. There is no partner with You, here I am. Truly the praise and the provisions are Yours, and so is the dominion and sovereignty. There is no partner with you.
by Tahereh Shafiee