CANADIAN MUSLIMS LEAVE FOR PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA
My Dad and a family friend left for Saudi Arabia
recently, for a just over three weeks, to go on the Hajj
, the annual Moslem pilgrimage. Here
is some information about the event.
(Ottawa, Canada - 11/1/2005) - Thousands of Canadian Muslims will soon
take part in religious observances associated with the annual Hajj, or
pilgrimage to Mecca. Hajj is one of the "five pillars" of the Islamic
faith. (The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers,
offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.)
Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the
physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims worldwide
gather for communal prayers on the first day (January 21*) of Eid
ul-Adha (EED-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two major Muslim holidays.
The obligatory and optional activities of Hajj include:
* Entrance into a state of self-control called ihram, during which
pilgrims are forbidden to harm living creatures, even insects or plants,
or raise the voice in anger. The state of ihram is signified (for men)
by the wearing of two pieces of unsewn white cloth. This clothing
signifies the equality of all before God. No specific clothing is
prescribed for female pilgrims.
* Circling of the Ka'aba (Tawaf), the stone building Muslims believe was
originally built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Ka'aba is viewed as
the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of the One God. It
is a symbol of unity for Muslims because all prayers, wherever they are
performed, are oriented in the direction of the Ka'aba.
* The Sa'i, or "hastening" between two small hills near the Ka'aba, to
commemorate Hagar's search for water to offer her son Ishmael.
* The "Day of Arafah" on January 20.* Arafah is a mountain and its
surrounding empty plain near Mecca. On this day, the climax of the Hajj
season, pilgrims assemble for supplication to God.
Hajj pilgrims stoning of the devil, left, as the annual Muslim pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia Saturday Feb. 23, 2002. In forth day of Hajj ceremony Musilms pilgrims gather 49 or 70 pebbles at Muuzdalifah and they used to stone the symbolic pillars. About 2 milion Muslims of Hajj pilgrims over the world gather for Hajj ceremony in Mecca city.
* The stoning of three pillars representing Satan's temptation of
Abraham. The stoning indicates the pilgrim's rejection of evil deeds.
* Cutting the hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.
Hajj pilgrims cut other pilgrams hair in celebrate the start of Eid al-Adha inMina near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia Friday Feb. 22, 2002. After Friday's stoning of the devil, pilgrims may then celebrate the start of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, by slaughtering a camel, a cow or a sheep.
* Sacrifice of an animal to help the poor, and in remembrance of
Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God's command. The
meat is distributed to relatives and to the needy.
(* Because the beginning of Islamic lunar months depends on the actual
sighting of the new moon, the start date for Hajj and Eid ul-Adha may
Q: WHAT DOES THE QURAN SAY ABOUT HAJJ?
A: In the Quran, Islam's revealed text, God says: "Thus We settled
Abraham at the site of the House (the Ka'aba) [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 down
on their knees 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 ravine, to bear witness to the advantages they
have, and to mention God's name on appointed days..." Chapter 22, verses
Q: WHAT DO MUSLIMS BELIEVE THEY GAIN FROM HAJJ?
A: The main benefit of Hajj for many people is the sense of
purification, repentance and spiritual renewal it instills. After his
Hajj, Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography: "...I have eaten from the
same plate, drank from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on
the same rug) - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims
whose eyes were bluest of the blue, whose hair was blondest of the
blonde and whose skin was whitest of the white. And in the words and in
the actions and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same
sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and
Ghana...In the past I permitted myself to be used to make sweeping
indictments of...the entire white race...Because of the spiritual
enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of my recent
pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to the
sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life
of a true Muslim."
Q: WHY DOES HAJJ BEGIN ON A DIFFERENT DAY EACH YEAR?
A: Because Dhul-Hijjah is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days
earlier each year.
Q: WHY DO MUSLIMS SACRIFICE A LAMB OR OTHER ANIMAL DURING THE FESTIVAL
OF EID UL-ADHA?
A: The sacrifice commemorates the Prophet Abraham's readiness to
sacrifice his son, identified in Islam as Ishmael, at God's request.
This is not a blood offering. In the Quran God states: "Neither their
meat nor their blood ever reaches God, but heedfulness on your part does
reach Him." (Chapter 22, verse 37) The meat is distributed to relatives
and to the needy.
Q: IS HAJJ AN OBLIGATION ON ALL MUSLIMS?
A: Yes, but only for those who are physically and financially able to
make the trip.
Q: WHAT ARE THE MOST VISUALLY STRIKING ASPECTS OF HAJJ?
A: All pilgrims must do tawaf, or circling the Ka'aba. This obligation
creates a stunning scene as thousands of people circle the building at
all times of the day and night. Also, the standing at Arafah on the 9th
day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah presents a scene in which
several million people all dressed alike and with the same intention to
worship God, gather on a barren plain.
Q: HOW SHOULD NON-MUSLIM FRIENDS AND CO-WORKERS INTERACT WITH SOMEONE
WHO IS GOING ON HAJJ OR CELEBRATING AT HOME?
A: Hajj is a high point in a Muslim's life. Questions are welcome and
congratulations are in order. Most communities welcome visitors at Eid
ul-Adha prayers. Just ask a Muslim friend to act as an escort and guide.