Allah Almighty has blessed Muslims in a special way where He has attributed different Islamic months with different events of great religious reward and significance. Out of the 12 Islamic lunar calendar months, Ramadan is perhaps the most renowned and popular as it comes with Fasting and the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr. The second month that holds great importance in the Islamic calendar after Ramadan is Dhul-Hijja. Dhul-Hijja is the 12th month of the Islamic calendar and is primarily known for the Hajj that Muslims perform in it and Eid-ul-Adha. Both these are the gifts that the month of Dhul-Hijja brings for Muslims and because of these this month enjoys prominence over rest of the months. The city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia has always been the spiritual center of the Islamic faith: the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims genuflect in its direction during prayers. But in the final months of the year, Islam’s holiest city becomes even more vital, as an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims make their once-in-a-lifetime journey to the site. This pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam (the others are the profession of Allah as the only God and Mohammed as his prophet; fasting during Ramadan; charitable giving and ritual prayer) by which every practicing Muslim must abide. The lines below briefly discuss these glorious gifts of the month of Dhul-Hijjah. Hajj is the annual pilgrimage, which Muslims pay to the house of Allah in Mecca. The event of Hajj comprises of a variety of rituals that Muslims perform all of which are directed towards worshiping Allah Almighty, submitting to Him and being grateful for what He has blessed the person with. Pertaining to Hajj, Allah Almighty says in Quran: “Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah . And fear Me, O you of understanding.” (2:197) This ayah tells of the event of Hajj that is to be performed in the month of Dhul-Hijja. The event is a sacred one and it stands as the fifth pillar of Islam, so there should be no doubt in the mind of a Muslim believer that this event holds grave importance in Islam and there are very few events that equal its magnanimity. In Islam great stress has been put on performing the rites of Hajj and the Hajj in totality.
Muslims are encouraged to perform Hajj as soon as they have the means and health of doing so. In this regard Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said in one of His hadiths: “Expedite the performance of Hajj. For nobody knows what may obstruct one.” (Ibn Majah) From this hadith it is clear that one must hurry in performing of Hajj. People usually set the objective of Hajj for the later years of their life of which they have no guarantee. Therefore, the stress that Prophet (PBUH) has put on its performing at the earliest makes the importance and significance of Hajj imperative. In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “One who comes to this House for Hajj and avoids all lewdness and sins, he returns as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim) This ayah goes on to show the prime benefit of performing Hajj – absolution from sins. It is the objective of every Muslim that he or she gets rid of all the sins which they have committed either intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, for all such Muslims the cure lies in performing of Hajj, however, the condition of performing it with true intentions applies. Thus, the absolution from sins is another key bounty of Hajj. In addition to the prime bounty of absolution from sins, the event of Hajj also has great symbolic importance. At a symbolic level it represents the message of equality, universal brotherhood and submission to Allah where all the Muslims from different countries of the world with different ethnicities stand with one another and perform all the rituals without any discrimination with a single objective in mind – to praise and to be grateful to Allah Almighty for whatever He has bestowed upon them. Therefore, all these bounties show that Hajj is no less than a great gift from Allah Almighty. Four thousand years ago the valley of Mecca was a dry and uninhabited place. Muslims believe the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was instructed to bring his wife, Hajira and their child Is’mail (AS) to Arabia from Palestine to protect them from the jealousy of Ibrahim’s first wife Sarah. Allah told the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to leave them on their own, and he did so, with some supplies of food and water. However the supplies quickly ran out and within a few days Hajira and Is’mail (AS) were suffering from hunger and dehydration. In her desperation Hajira ran up and down two hills called Safa and Marwa trying to see if she could spot any help in the distance. Finally she collapsed beside Is’mail (AS) and prayed to Allah for deliverance. Is’mail (AS) struck his foot on the ground and this caused a spring of water to gush forth from the earth. Hajira and Is’mail (AS) were saved. Now they had a secure water supply they were able to trade water with passing nomads for food and supplies. After a while the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) returned from Palestine to check on his family and was amazed to see them running a profitable well. The Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was told by Allah to build a House dedicated to him. Ibrahim and Is’mail (AS)constructed a small stone structure – the Kaaba – which was to be the gathering place for all who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah. As the years passed Is’mail (AS) was blessed with Prophethood and he gave the nomads of the desert the message of surrender to Allah. After many centuries, Mecca became a thriving city thanks to its reliable water source, the well of Zam Zam. Gradually, the people began to adopt polytheistic ideas, and worship spirits and many different gods. The shrine of the Prophet Ibrahim was used to store idols. After many years, Allah told the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that he should restore the Kaaba to the worship of Allah only. In the year 628 the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) set out on a journey with 1400 of his followers. This was the first pilgrimage in Islam, and would re-establish the religious traditions of the Prophet Ibrahim (AS). It’s best to travel light, so only take essentials. Many pilgrims fly to Jeddah, and then travel to Mecca by bus. Once we get to Mecca, there are two rituals which we can perform; the lesser pilgrimage or Umra, and the main pilgrimage or Hajj.
The Umra is an extra, optional pilgrimage and does not count as the once-in-a-lifetime Hajj. Although it includes some of the rituals of the Hajj, they are shortened and there are fewer of them. Most pilgrims who come for the Hajj arrive a few days before it actually starts and perform Umra first. Combining the Hajj with the Umrah is called a Hajji-Tamattu. To carry out the pilgrimage rituals we need to be in a state of Ihram, which is a special state of ritual purity. We do this by making a statement of intention, wearing special white clothes (which are also called ihram) and obeying the regulations below. The person on the Hajj may not: Engage in marital relations, shave or cut their nails, use cologne or scented oils, kill or hunt anything, fight or argue. Women must not cover their faces, even if they would do so in their home country. Men may not wear clothes with stitching. Bathing is allowed but scented soaps are frowned upon. The Hajj is a real pilgrimage – a journey, with rites and rituals to be done along the way. We begin at a place just outside Mecca called the Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj. There we bathe, put on the Ihram (the special white clothes), make the intention for Umra and begin reciting the Talbiya Du’a (prayer).n is yours and You have no partner. Then go to the Masjid al Haram and walk around the Ka’ba seven times repeating du’as and prayers. This is called the Tawaf. Afterwards we should sip some Zam Zam water. Zam Zam water is water from the Zam Zam well, the sacred well which opened in the desert to save Hajira and Is’mail (AS) from dying of thirst. Next go to the walkway between the hills of Safa and Marwa and walk back and forth between them seven times. This completes the Umra portion of the Hajj rituals and some of the Ihram restrictions are relaxed. Now make intention for the Hajj and put on the Ihram garments again. Travel to Mina on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah (a date in the Islamic calendar) and remain there until Fajr (dawn) next morning. Then travel to the valley of Arafat and stand in the open praising Allah. The heat of Arabia at midday provides a hint as to what the Day of Judgement will be like. At the end of the day, travel to Muzdalifa for the night. Gather together 49 or 70 small stones together to use the next day. In the morning return to Mina and throw the stones at pillars called Jamraat. These represent the devil. Then a sacrifice called a Qurbanishould be made in which a lamb or sheep is slaughtered and the meat distributed among the poor. After this, men’s heads are shaved and women cut a lock of their hair. Then return to Mecca and make a Tawaf (this is the ritual of walking around the Ka’aba seven times). Then it’s back to Mina for 3 or 4 days, stoning the pillars each day. Finally do a farewell Tawaf in Masjid-al Haram on the twelfth day of the month of Dhul Hijjah, ask Allah’s forgiveness, make du’aand the Hajj is finished. Many people then go to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, but this is optional. This festival commemorates the obedience of the Prophet Ibrahim when he was ordered to sacrifice his son Is’mail. Ibrahim proved his love and devotion to Allah by showing his willingness to kill his beloved son if Allah wished it.
In the end Ibrahim did not have to kill his son as Allah gave him a ram to sacrifice instead. Eid-ul-Adha: The second jewel in the crown of the month of Dhul-Hijja is the Eid-ul-Adha. After Eid-ul-Fitr it is the second Eid which Muslims celebrate. This is the Eid of sacrifice which is celebrated as culmination of Hajj. When all the rites of Hajj are complete Muslims finish the rituals by sacrificing an animal in the name of Allah Almighty. The celebration of Eid-ul-Adha is also in commemoration of the great sacrifice which Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) gave by slaughtering His son Ismail (AS) in the name of Almighty. Allah Almighty miracoulosly replaced Hazrat Ismail (AS) with a sheep when Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) was about to run the blade on His throat. Since then Muslims commemorate that event by slaughtering an animal on the 3days of Eid-ul-Adha, which are from 10th Duhul-Hijja to the 12th. Regarding Eid-ul-Adha, Allah Almighty says in Quran: “And complete the Hajj or Umrah in the service of Allah. But if ye are prevented (from completing it) send an offering for sacrifice, such as ye may find and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice. And if any of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp (necessitatin shaving), (he should) in compensation either fast, or feed the poor, or offer sacrifice; and when ye are in peaceful conditions (again) if anyone wishes to continue the Umrah on to the Hajj, he must make an offering such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, he should fast three days during the Hajj and seven days on his return making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Mosque. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is strict in punishment.” (2:196) This ayah makes it clear that one needs to offer a sacrifice whether or not he or she has gone to perform Hajj. This sacrificing of an animal in commemoration of the Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) also comes with a great boost in the economy of a society where the sale and purchase of animals takes place at a massive level and the poor are also given equal right in the meat of the sacrifice. Thus, this way in addition to completing the order of Allah and Sunnah of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS), Eid-ul-Adha helps feed the poor ones who cannot afford to buy meat. In short, besides being religious ritual of grave importance both Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha have great symbolic importance. These events hold universality across the Muslim world and when they are performed, it gives a message of universal solidarity and submission to Allah in the Muslim world. Therefore, both these events of Dhul-Hijja are no less than a blessing. It is concluded that the story of Ibrahim (A.S) is greatly associated with Hajj because the origin of Hajj is as old as the Kaaba, which was built by Ibrahim (A.S) and his son, Ismail (A.S). Every act of Hajj reminds us of the noble family of Ibrahim (A.S) since every act of Hajj refers back to the righteous actions and struggle of either Ibrahim (A.S), his wife Hajrah or his son Ismail (A.S). The history of this family teaches spiritual lessons of complete devotion to Allah and sincerity to Him. It holds an enlightening message for everybody, a father, a mother, a son and a wife. May Almighty Allah give us chance to perform Hujj, forgive all our sins and make us good Muslims and good human beings.… (Aameen!)
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own, email@example.com)