Eid Mubarak to one and all, and may you all have a safe and happy holiday!
HAJJ What is it?
(I try to make sure I word things in a way that is accurate and a pleasant read for you, not too overbearing and not devoid of content. This portion is largely from Wikipedia as it gives the straight facts and numbers, I only edited it slightly to shorten it, but if you go to the site you will have more explanations on more of the detail. This is only meant as a brief introduction!)
The Hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. It is the fifth pillar of Islam, an obligation that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so, at least once in their lifetime. It is the demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God.
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to the 12th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. This date cannot be aligned directly with Western calendars, as each months beginning depends upon siting of the moon. In 2007, the current month of Dhul Hijjah began November 29th, with the week of the Hajj beginning in December.
The Hajj is associated with the life of Muhammad peace be upon him, but the ritual of the pilgrimage was considered ancient even during his lifetime in the 7th century. Many Muslims believe that it goes back to the time of Abraham peace be upon him in 2000 CE. Pilgrims would join processions of tens of thousands of people, who would simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals. Each person would walk counter-clockwise seven times about the Kaaba, the cubical building towards which all Muslims pray, kiss the sacred Black Stone on its corner, run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drink from the Zamzam Well, go to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, then proceed to Muzdalifah to gather pebbles, which they would throw at a rock in Mina to perform the ritual of the Stoning of the Devil. The pilgrims would then shave their heads, perform an animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three day global festival of Eid ul-Adha.
Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year. This is sometimes called the "lesser pilgrimage", or Umrah. However, even if they perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime.
For those who arent able to make the Hajj, they can fast the day of Arafat ( Where Hajj goers implore God for forgiveness for their family friends and themselves ) and they will be cleansed of sins from the previous year and coming year. It is very much encouraged to do for obvious reasons. This year depending where you are this specific day will be either Dec 18th or Dec 19th.
You can go here to read the full article and see more details at Wikipedia: [link]
The whole idea of Islam is the bringing together of people. Each week we have Jumuah, or Friday prayer which brings the immediate community together. Each year we have two Eids or festivals which bring the larger area together. Once (or more) in a lifetime we have Hajj, which brings the whole Muslim world together, nowadays over 2 million people [link]
. All these people hail from different places and there is not one race that is not represented in that gathering. From Russia to South Africa, from Japan to Spain, and all points in between, even if only a few or many you will find them at some point or another. In fact the majority of Muslims are not even Arab, in China alone there are 40 million Muslims.
My wife an I want to go together and accomplish this while we are young. A few of my friends have gone, and if you know someone who has done it, they will say what an experience it is. It is said that when you first see the Kaba in person, any prayer you make at that point is accepted. If you look at galaxies, you will see the same Circumambulation around and axis point that occurs at Mecca.
Some other questions I figure you might have I will try to answer:
1)Q :What is that Black Cube?
A : This is the Kaba. It was the foundation of the first house of worship of God that was built by Adam peace be upon him, and then later Rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ismaeel (Ishmael) peace be upon them. Muhammad peace be upon him was commanded to purify if from idols after the conquest of Mecca. The black is a cloth covering that is changed yearly which is draped over the building which is stone. Written on it are Quranic inscriptions: [link][link]
2)Q: Whats inside of it?
A : At one point when it was ruled by polytheists of the Arab peninsula, it was filled with over 360 idols. After the conquest of Mecca it was returned to its original state of being for the worship of God who is beyond shape of form we can imagine much less sculpt. Here is a look inside:[link]
3)Q : If you dont have any money and cant perform Hajj, are you less of a Muslim?
A : No, only those who have money and the ability are obliged to go. So if you are the sole provider for your family, and if you were to leave them for the Hajj, and they would suffer badly, it is not necessary for you at that time. You should and must go when you have money to do so and your debts are cleared so that if you die on the journey you wont leave crushing debt behind for your loved ones to pay for.
4)Q : What is that Black Stone on the corner of the building?
A : When the Kaba was built, and the command from God was given to circumambulate it, there had to be a starting point from which you begin the Tawaf ( circumabulation ). It is said that Abraham peace be upon him was given a stone by angel Gibraeel (Gabriel) that was from Paradise. More recent studies have shown its uniqueness and that is it not from this world, and more like a meteorite. It was once pure white, but the sins of man have steadily turned it black. There is no belief that the stone holds any power of any kind, any blessing derived from it is given for that fact that we try to emmulate our Prophet in touching or kissing it like he did peace be upon him. But the blessing come from God, not the stone: [link]
I am not a scholar, but if you have any more questions I will try my hardest to find the answers for you in an effort to stop misunderstandings and support communication between beliefs.
Depending on where you are, Eid al Adha will be on the 9th of December 2008.
I feel pretty fortunate as my birthday is Dec 18th 1976, so if you are fasting that day, please pray for me! I too will pray that anyone who reads this, be they Muslim or non Muslim, will be guided in this life and rewarded in the next God willing! Maybe one day i can go for Hajj!
Early Eid Mubbarak, and Happy Holidays!
Here is the original Journal form last year, it has a lot of interesting comments and questions as well: [link]Asalaamu alaikum = Peace be upon you!