I recently wrote about the significance of the last ten days of the Islamic month of Ramadan. There is another set of ten days which are of huge religious significance for us. These are the first ten days of the current Islamic month, Dhul-Hijjah which is the last month of the Islamic calendar.
Dhul-Hijjah is month when Hajj is performed. The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, the others being the Shahadah (declaration of the oneness of Allah and the fact that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Allah’s last prophet, Salat (the five daily parayers), Zakat (Islamic tax) and Sawm (fasting during Ramadan).
Hajj is performed during the 8th to 12th days of Dhul-Hijja. It is an obligation on every Muslim adult, who is financially and physically able to perform Hajj, to do so at least once in their lifetime.
Importance of Hajj
Hajj demonstrates the solidarity and unity of Muslims as everyone is dressed similarly and performs the same rites. During Hajj pilgrims feel the importance of life here on earth and that of afterlife. It is also a chance to atone for previous sins and start afresh. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) 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.” The reward of Hajj is paradise. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “From one ‘Umrah to another is the expiation for what is between them and Hajj Mabrur has no reward except Paradise” and “Pilgrims and those performing Umrah are ALLAH’s guests; their prayers are answered and their supplications for forgiveness are granted.”
What about those who are not performing Hajj
These days are also of great importance for people who aren’t performing Hajj. It is customary for them to fast; some fast for nine days and others just for the last one or two days. They too spend more time in prayers during these days than normal. There is huge reward for fasting and prayers performed during this period. The benefits of fasting on 9th Dhul-Hijjah are immense. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Fasting on the day of Arafah expiates the sins of two years, the past one and the coming one.” Allah, in His benevolence, made sure that those who could not perform Hajj would not miss out.
Getting ready for Hajj
Hundreds and thousands of pilgrims travel from all over the world to Mecca to perform Hajj.
First day of Hajj: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah
The pilgrims make the intention to perform Hajj. Men wear two unstitched pieces of cloth, one wrapped around the waist and the other draped over the left shoulder leaving the other shoulder bare. The women wear a jilbab, leaving the face and hands uncovered. This is called putting on the ihram. They will not cut nails or hair now till the end of the Hajj.
Each person walks counter clockwise around the Kaaba seven times. This is called the tawaaf. The Kaaba is the cube-shaped building in Mecca which was constructed by the Prophet Adam and restored by the Prophet Ibrahim. Muslims all over the world face towards the Kaaba during their five daily prayers. Upon completion of the tawaaf, pilgrims pray two rakaat (“unit” of salat) prayers and drink the Zamam water.
Tawaaf is followed by sa’ay during which the pilgrims run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, located near the Kaaba. This commemorates the time when the mother of Prophet Ismael ran between these two hills, looking for water for her infant son. When she returned for the last time she saw water springing up from near the feet of her son. This is the Zamzam well.
After the morning prayers, the pilgrims move to Mina and spend the day there and offer the noon, afternoon, evening and night prayers.
Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah
Pilgrims arrive at Arafah before noon. This is barren land about 20 kilometres from Mecca. Pilgrims use the time to reflect, offer prayers to atone for past sins and listen to the Hajj sermon. Lasting from noon through sunset pilgrims are in wuquf, (standing before Allah). This is one of the most significant rites of Hajj. At Masjid al-Namirah, pilgrims offer noon and afternoon prayers together. A pilgrim’s Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Arafah.
Pilgrims must leave Arafah for Muzdalifah after sunset without praying maghrib (evening) prayer. Muzdalifah is an area between Arafah and Mina. Upon reaching there, pilgrims perform Maghrib and Isha prayer jointly, spend the night praying and sleeping on the ground with open sky, and gather pebbles for the next day’s ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan).
Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah
Pilgrims leave Muzdalifah and spend the night at Mina.
Back at Mina, the pilgrims carry out stoning of the devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) by throwing seven stones from sunrise to sunset. There are three pillars (jamarah). These pillars are said to represent Satan. On this day only the largest of the three pillars (Jamrat al-Aqabah) is stoned.
After the casting of stones, animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of the Prophets Ibrahim and Ismael. At the same time as the sacrifices occur at Mecca, Muslims worldwide perform similar sacrifices, in a three-day global festival called Eid al-Adha. The meat of the sacrificed animal has to be divided into three portions; one is for family and friends, one is for the poor and the needy and the third one is for the person doing the sacrifice.
The pilgrims now carry out another important rite of Hajj which is removal of hair (Halak). All male pilgrims shave their head or trim their hair and women pilgrims cut the tips of their hair.
On the same or the following day, the pilgrims re-visit the Kaaba for another tawaf, known as Tawaf al-Ifadah, an essential part of Hajj. The night of the 10th is spent back at Mina.
Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah
Starting from noon to sunset on the 11th Dhu al-Hijjah (and again the following day), the pilgrims again throw seven pebbles at each of the three pillars in Mina.
Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah
On 12 Dhu al-Hijjah, pilgrims carry out stoning of the pillars again, stoning all three pillars. Pilgrims may leave Mina for Mecca before sunset on the 12th.
Last day at Mina: 13th Dhu al-Hijjah
If pilgrims did not leave Mina on the 12th, they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th before returning to Mecca.
Finally, before leaving Mecca, pilgrims perform a farewell tawaf called the Tawaf al-Wadaa. ‘Wadaa’ means ‘to bid farewell’. The pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise.
May Allah accept the prayers of the pilgrims and all those who marked these days at home and may He make it easy for those who want to perform Hajj but have not been ableto do so yet. Aameen