Haj : The Epitome of Muslim Unity and Equality
Why Haj is Obligatory
The Great Spirit of Sacrifice
Virtues of Sacrifice
All about Haj
The Haj today, as in early Islam, is one of the great unifiers of the Islamic community or Ummah.
Haj is a time where the unity of Muslims with each other is most fully expressed, writes Leila Al-Habbal.
The Haj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, the centre of the Islamic world, during the twelfth holy month of Dhul Hajjah, is a means of purification. As the fifth and most important pillar of Islam, Haj is compulsory once in each Muslim's lifetime if he /she is physically and financially capable.
During this journey, Muslims ask pardon for their sins and get purified through their repentance and the performance of the rites. The Haj is also a remarkable way of achieving social integration by unifying the Muslim community and spreading the Islamic values.
The focus of the pilgrimage is the Ka'abah, the cube-shaped house of Allah, in which the sacred black stone is embedded. One of the central ceremonies of the Haj is the circumambulation of the Ka'abah, known as tawaf, seven times in a an anti-clockwise direction. This is performed three times during the Haj.
Muslim tradition teaches that the Ka'abah was originally built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Pbuh), the father of monotheism, and his son Prophet Ismail.
One of the first things, Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) did when he marched into Makkah was to cleanse the Ka'abah of the tribal idols that it housed, thus restoring it to the worship of the one true God.
As with prayer, the pilgrimage requires ritual purification, symbolised by the wearing of white garments. Men shave their heads or have a symbolic tuft of hair cut, and don two seamless sheets; this two-piece seamless garment reduces its wearer to an essential oneness of status erasing distinctions based on wealth, education, class, language and ethnicity. Women may wear simple, national dresses that are native of their home country, although many wear a long white dress and head covering.
"There is no lewdness, nor wickedness, nor wrangling during the pilgrimage," says the Qur'an. These and other measures underscore the unity and equality of all believers, as well as the total attention and devotion required for performing the Haj rituals.
The male pilgrims' clothes symbolise Islam's unity and egalitarianism, and the women with their great variety of dress symbolise the diverse and creative character of Islam as a global community of faith. What all real believers share with each other is infinitely more important than the transitory distinctions that so often divide them.
Upon entering Makkah, the pilgrims voice: "God, we have answered your call," and then proceed to the Grand Mosque where the Ka'abah is located.
During the following days, a variety of rituals take place: Praying at the spot where Abraham stood; running between Safa and Marwa in commemoration of Hajarah's frantic search for water for her son Ismail, which symbolises humanity's desperate need of God's ready response; and stoning the devil (i.e. evil) represented by three stone pillars at Mina, on the road back to Makkah, which symbolises the resistance to temptation.
The culmination of the Haj does not take place at Makkah but at the plain of Arafat, fourteen miles east of Makkah, where from noon to sunset the pilgrims stand on the Mount of Arafat seeking God's forgiveness and blessings for themselves as well as for all Muslims throughout the world. It was here, from a hill called the Mount of Mercy, that the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), during his farewell pilgrimage, preached his last sermon.
Standing on the plain of Arafat, Muslims experience the underlying unity and equality of a worldwide Muslim community that transcends national, racial, economic and sexual differences.
A group of Muslim men and women remember Haj when they were children. Most pilgrims travelled in large companies. Whether by camels in caravans, or ships by sea, the journey could last up to two months.
Over the years there were many epidemics and deaths. Some never returned to their homelands. One who dies while performing the Haj is considered a martyr and earns entrance into paradise.
One Saudi man states, "the Muslims perform Haj in response to God's order and the Muslims respond no matter what hardships they must have endured."
Another man comments, "our parents drew up their wills before setting off to Makkah, expressing the acceptance of death in total submission to God's will, whatever it may be."
"With all the conveniences available today, there are hardly any hardship or burden experienced during Haj any more. This takes away from the struggle to achieve oneness with God and the meaning of sacrifice.
Thankfully, there are still Muslims who practise the old traditions, the true religion like the man who walked on foot from Maghrib to Makkah, or the camel caravan filled with devout Muslims arriving from London.
Only by enduring and tolerating some adversity can a Muslim earn the title 'Haji'" said Huda Masri, a Syrian woman. She points out that Haji (one who has performed the Haj) is the only title earned by performing one of the five pillars thus demonstrating its magnitude.
Today, with modern technology, medicine and conveniences, Makkah is easily approached via air-conditioned aeroplanes or automobiles. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fadh, has provided for excellent highways and an expansion of the Mosque that allows for a larger number of pilgrims to safely perform their rites.
Although pilgrims are still susceptible to illness, death or theft during Haj, to a much lesser degree, they continue to obey the fifth pillar, God's command.
The Haj today, as in early Islam, is one of the great unifiers of the Islamic community or Ummah.
Muslims by the thousands from all over the world continue to go to Makkah in order to achieve a great renewal of interest in Islamic unity.
After the Haj is performed, Muslims try to live a devout life bringing purity and the grace (barakah) of the house of God back to their homeland.
For all Muslims, the pilgrimage, in many ways, remains the central event of the year, perhaps of a whole lifetime. It is a time when the unity of all Muslims with each other is most fully expressed.
--Courtesy Arab News
By Syed Khalid Husain
HAJ, or pilgrimage to Makkah,is the final pillar and one of the finest institutions of Islam.
The performance of Haj is obligatory, at least once in life, on every Muslim man and woman who is mentally, financially and physically sound.
Every Muslim who is an adult, in good health and is financially capable and secure must undertake Haj at least once in his or her lifetime. Financial security here means that he should have enough to cover his own expenses and those of his dependents and to pay his debts, if he is in debt until he completes the course of Haj.
Haj is one of the unique characteristics of Islam. It is enjoined by Allah to serve many purposes, among which are the following:
It is the largest annual congregation of faith where Muslims meet to know one another, study their common affairs and promote their general welfare. It is also the greatest regular conference of peace known in the history of mankind. During Haj peace is the dominant theme: peace with Allah and one's soul, peace with one another and with animals, peace with birds and even with insects. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creature in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.
It is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. From all walks of life, from all sects and classes, and from every corner of the globe the Muslims assemble at Makkah in response to the call of Allah. They dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations and utter the same supplications at the same time, in the same way, and to the same end.
There is complete loyalty of all to Allah. There is no class division, only humility and devotion.
Haj is to confirm the commitment of Muslims to Allah and their readiness to forsake the material interests in His service.
It is to acquaint the pilgrims with the spiritual and historical environment of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) so that they may derive warm inspiration and strengthen their faith.
It is to commemorate the divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael, who are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first House of Allah on earth, i.e. the Ka'abah at Makkah.
Hajj is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the Day of Judgement when people will stand equal before Allah, waiting for their Final Destiny, and where no superiority of race or stock can be claimed. It is also a reminder of the fact that only Makkah in the whole world was honoured by Allah to be the centre of monotheism since the time of Abraham, and that it will continue to be the centre of Islam, the religion of pure monotheism, for all time to come.
From the performance of Haj it can be observed that it is a course of spiritual enrichment and moral rearmament, a course of intensified devotion and disciplinary experience, a course of humanitarian interests and inspiring knowledge all put together in one single institution.
Haj constitutes prayer, as prayer is nothing but remembrance of Allah. It is observed that Haj is full of remembrance of Allah.
Haj is Zakat (poor-due) too as it is obligatory for every pilgrim to give the poor the flesh of the animal he/she sacrifices: "And feed therewith the poor unfortunate." (22:28)
It is evident that the sole purpose of spending wealth on pilgrimage is for the pleasure of Allah. In its absence, the pilgrimage will be of little consequence. Similar is the significance of Zakat, which is spent for the pleasure of Allah.
Haj also includes elements of fasting. It is true that during the pilgrimage there is no restriction on eating, which is completely prohibited during days on a fast, but abstention from physical pleasures even at night and from every kind of finery and decoration takes its place during the pilgrimage. The exercise of controlling the passions of the self is as much a part of pilgrimage as it is of fasting.
Pilgrimage also imparts faith in the Unity of Allah because the Ka'abah was founded on this very concept. A look at the Ka'abah strengthens the unitary faith of a Muslim. Several rites of the pilgrimage i.e., repeated slogans of "I stand up for Thy service, O Allah, I stand up!", the kissing of the Black Stone, the circuits round the Ka'abah, the running between the Mounts of Safa and Marwah, the sacrifice of animals on the Eid festival (10th day of the month of pilgrimage) bolster every pilgrim's faith in the Unity of Allah.
Pilgrimage is also a reminder of the satanic traps. The satanic pillars at Mina where pebbles are cast by the pilgrims to bring to their mind the single-minded devotion of Abraham in the way of Allah.
Pilgrimage imparts a singular lesson in religious belief and morality. Besides other virtues, it fosters in the pilgrims the love of Allah, perseverance, resignation to Divine Will, contentment, trust in Allah, suppression of lust for material wealth, fellow-feeling and equality.
In Islam sacrifice, commonly known as Qurbani, means slaughter of a permissible animal in the name of Allah on the 10th, 11th or 12th of the Islamic month of Zil Hujjah.
It is Sunnah (a symbolic obligation) practised by Holy Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) in an essential religious rite in memory of the sacrifice performed by Prophet Abraham. God put Abraham to a most difficult trial, the details of which are described in the Qur'an. "O my Lord! Grant me (Abraham) a righteous (son)!" So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear. "Then, when the (son) reached the age of serious work with him, he said,a"O my son I see in a vision that I offer you in sacrifice: Now say what is your view!" (The son) said: "O My father! Do as you are commanded: You will find me if God so wills, one practising patience and constancy!" So when they had both submitted their wills (to God), and he had made him prostrate on his face (for sacrifice), We called out to him: "O Abraham! You have already fulfilled the vision!" Thus indeed do we reward those who do right. "For this was obviously a trial and We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: and We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: Peace and salutation to Abraham! (37:100-109).
This is the origin of the Islamic precept of sacrifice in fulfilment of God's command provided in the Qur'an: "... to your Lord turn in prayer and sacrifice." (108:2).
The aim of sacrifice, like all other fundamentals of Islam, is to imbibe piety and self righteousness. It also promotes the spirit of sacrifice for a right cause. To explain its purpose, God says in the Qur'an. "It is not their meat, nor their blood, that reaches God, It is their piety that reaches God": (22:37)
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) said: "On the 10th of Zul-Hujjah, there is no better act in the view of Allah than shedding the blood (of Slaughtered animals). And verily sacrifice earns the approbation of Allah even before the drop of blood (of the slaughtered animal) falls on the ground. Hence you should offer it in good spirit. For every hair of the sacrificial animal, there is a blessing." We propose to deal here with the precepts and practices pertaining to Qurbani, according to Hanafi Fiqh.
On Whom is Sacrifice Mandatory
Sacrifice during the days of Eid-ul-Adha is waajib (compulsory) on all Muslims (male and female) who own wealth to the value of the Zakat Nisaab on these days of sacrifice (10th, 11th and 12th Dhul Hijjah). The Nisaab value is of gold or 612, grams of silver.
Whoever possesses this amount of wealth during this period should make the sacrifice.
Sacrifice is not obligatory upon those who are not in possession of this amount of wealth (i.e. the Nisaab value of Zakat). However, even if sacrifice is not waajib upon one, an effort should be made to make this great offering so that one may gain the tremendous amount of rewards which the ibaadat of sacrifice carries.
What to Sacrifice
All the permissible (halal) domesticated or reared quadrupeds can be offered for Qurbani. Generally, slaughter of goats, sheep, rams, cows, and camels is offered.
It is permissible for seven persons to share the sacrifice of a cow or a camel on the condition that no one's share is less than one seventh and their intent is to offer Qurbani.
Age of Sacrificial Animals
Sacrifice of goat or sheep less than one year old (unless the sheep is so strong and fat that it looks to be a full one year old) is not in order. Cow should be at least two years old. Camels shouldn't be less than five years old.
Sacrifice of an animal will not be in order if it is one eyed, or blind, or has lost an estimated one third or more of its eyesight, or estimated one third or more of its tail, or its ear has been cut off, or it is lame, or its bones have no marrow, or it has no ears by birth or its horns have been broken from their roots, or it has no teeth at all.
If the number of teeth intact exceeds the lost ones, it is permissible. If it has no horns by birth, or has less than one third broken horns it is permissible.
Distribution of meat
One should eat the meat of the sacrifice, give it to relations and friends, (to non-Muslims also) and also to the poor in charity. One third should be given in charity, but if it be less it will not be a sin.
How to Use Skin, etc.
It is not permissible to give a portion of meat or the skin of the slaughtered animal as wages. They should instead be given to the needy in charity. Even the rope and cover of the sacrificed animal should be given away as charity.
It is commendable that one who intends to offer a sacrifice should refrain from having a hair cut, a shave, and pruning of nails, from the 1st of Zul-Hujjah (upto the time he has performed the sacrifice).
In the first instance, one who proposes to offer sacrifice must make an intention to that effect.
Method of Sacrifice
Animal should be laid on its left side facing Ka'abah and its throat cut open with a sharp knife, and its blood allowed to drain. In the case of a camel, it should be allowed to remain standing after its left fore leg has been stringed. A sharp spear should then be thrust in its breast and in both sides of its neck, and the blood allowed to drain.
Hazrat Jaber (Radhiallahu Anhu) reports, "We were accustomed not to eat the meat of our sacrificed camels beyond three days." Then Rasulullah (Sallallaahu-Alayhi-Wasallam) gave us permission (to do so) and asked us to eat and preserve. So we ate and preserved (beyond three days).
It is related by Hazrat Aayesha ( t) that Rasulullah (Pbuh) said, 'There is nothing dearer to Allah Ta'ala during the days of sacrifice than the sacrificing of animals. The sacrificed animal shall come on the day of Qiyamah with its horns, hair and hooves (to be weighed in sawaab). The sacrifice is accepted by Allah Ta'ala before the blood reaches the ground. Therefore sacrifice with an open and happy heart."
Hazrat Zaid ibn Arqam (R.A) related that the companions of Rasulullah (Pbuh) asked, "O Rasulullah, what is sacrifice?" He replied, "it is the Sunnah of your father Ibrahim". They asked again, "What benefit do we get from it?" He answered, "A reward for every hair of the sacrificed animal." And what reward is there for animals with wool?" They asked. "A reward," he said, 'for every strand of the wool."
Rasulullah (Pbuh) has said, "the person who sacrifices with a willing heart and with the niyyat of reward, on the day of judgement that sacrifice will shield him from the fires of hell."
Therefore by performing sacrifice every year a Muslim is abundantly rewarded and drawn closer to Allah Ta'ala. Since this sacrificial devotion can be offered on only three days of the year, this opportunity given by Allah Ta'ala must not be missed by any Muslim on whom sacrifice is waajib.
Those more blessed with wealth should make optional (nafl) sacrifice for the sake of reward for Rasulullah (Pbuh), his Ummah, the Ambiyaa and for their own living or deceased parents and forebears.
Permission for the waajib sacrifice of a living person is necessary. For nafl sacrifice this consent is not required.
The Takbeer Allaahu Akbar, Allaahu Akbar. Laa ilaaha illallaahu wallaahu Akbar. Allaahu Akbar walillaahil hamd Translation: "Allah is most great. Allah is most great. There is no Deity besides Allah and Allah is most Great. Allah is most Great and Verily all praises are for Allah."
It is waajib to recite this Takbeer audibly once after every Fard salaat from the morning of the ninth of Dhul Hijjah (Day of Arafah) till the Asr salaat of the thirteenth of Dhul Hijjah. The Fatwa is that the one that performs salaat with Jamaa'ah, and the one that performs it alone are the same as far as this law is concerned i.e. it is necessary to recite the Takbeer. It is waajib on both male and female. Females should not say the Takbeeraat loudly but softly. (Shami).
It is Mustahab (desirable) for those who read their salaat individually (men or women) and Musafirs (travellers) to recite these Takbeeraat softly.
Note: It is necessary for men to recite these Takbeeraat in a moderately loud voice. Many people are not mindful of this: either they read it softly or do not read it at all. This negligence should be remedied.
The Eid Salat
The following are Masnoon on the day of Eid-ul-Adha.
- Awaken early in the morning.
- Perform Ghusl (Masnoon Bath) and Miswaak.
- Wear one's best clothes.
- Apply perfume (itr).
- Abstain from partaking of food before the Eid salaat until the sacrificial meat is available.
- Recite the Takbeeraat audibly while going for the Eid salaat.
Q: What does the Qur'an say about Haj?
A: In the Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, God says: "Thus We settled Abraham at the site of the House (the Ka'abah) [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 26-28
Q: What do Muslims believe they gain from Haj?
A: The main benefit of Haj for many people is the sense of purification, repentance and spiritual renewal it instills. After his Haj, 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 do Muslims sacrifice animal during Eid-ul-Adha?
A: The sacrifice commemorates 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 Qur'an 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 Haj an obligation for 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 Haj?
A: All pilgrims must do tawaf, or circling the Ka'abah. 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 Haj or celebrating at home?
A: Haj 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.