Travel Tales: Spiritual Journeys
Issue 100 January 2013
Hajj is the ultimate spiritual journey for Muslims. Every year, three million people from all over the world travel to Makkah for pilgrimage during the month of Dhul-Hijjah to perform a set of rituals that have been prescribed by God.
Hajj is the ultimate spiritual journey for Muslims. Every year, three million people from all over the world travel to Makkah for pilgrimage during the month of Dhul-Hijjah to perform a set of rituals that have been prescribed by God. Every step of the journey is fraught with symbolism. People must begin the Hajj in the state of ihram, which has restrictions on dress and certain actions, to ensure they maintain a heightened state of spiritual awareness.
The first place that the pilgrims visit is the Ka’ba in Makkah. There, they must perform tawaf, where they circumambulate around the House of God seven times, symbolising that every aspect of our lives revolves around God. Following this, it’s on to the sa’i, where Muslims must walk between the hills of Safa and Marwah, as Hajar, the wife of Prophet Abraham, did when she was looking for water for her infant son, Prophet Ishmael.
The pilgrims then proceed to Mina, where they spend the night in preparation for the Day of Arafah the next morning. At Arafah, Muslims spend the day praying to God for His Mercy and Forgiveness. Prophet Muhammad compared the visual appearance of the Day of Arafah to that of the Day of Judgment, where there is a vast plain with millions of humans, all clad in shrouds and in need of Divine Mercy. At sunset, the pilgrims return to Mina, where they must engage in two rituals that follow the example of Abraham, where in a dream, God ordered him to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Abraham discussed this with Ishmael, and they agreed that they must follow God’s command. On the way to perform the sacrifice, the Devil appeared in front of Abraham on three different occasions to try and dissuade him from following God’s orders. Abraham refused, and so pilgrims gather stones and throw them at three pillars, to signify that they too will defy the Devil as Abraham did. When Abraham came to sacrifice his son, God replaced Ishmael with a ram, and pilgrims also perform animal sacrifices. The meat from this is distributed to those living in poverty around the world.