Introduction to Islam

by Dr. Zahid Aziz

Hajj or Pilgrimage to Makka

“Certainly the first house (of worship) appointed for mankind is the one at Bakka (Makka), blessed and a guidance for the nations … whoever enters it is safe; and pilgrimage to the House is a duty which people owe to Allah, whoever is able to find a way to it.” (The Holy Quran, 3:96–97)

What is Hajj?

Every year, in the beginning of the month of Zil­-Hijja in the Muslim calendar, a great international gathering of Muslims is held at Makka in Arabia, where they pledge that there is only One God for the whole of humanity and that all persons are equal, regardless of race, nation, wealth or status. This occasion is known as the Hajj (pronounced rather like the word judge, with h being read in place of j) or the Pilgrimage to Makka. The pilgrim goes to Makka at great personal sacrifice, and gives up many comforts of life while there. From his hardship, he learns the lesson that man has to sacrifice his desires if he is to attain nearness to God and to establish a world­wide brotherhood of equality and love.

Pronunciation of ‘Hajj’

Please outline the chief features of Hajj?

All pilgrims, at the commencement of the three days of the Pilgrimage, put on the same simple dress of two sheets of cloth. Thus, all distinctions of wealth, position and family are removed during the Hajj by making every person appear the same outwardly. The Hajj itself consists of a number of acts of worship and remembrance of God, which are performed by the individual in the company of the vast congregation. Two of the most important of these devotions are the tawaaf (making circuits around the Kaba [Kabah], the simple four­walled building which Muslims all over the world face in prayer), and the gathering of the pilgrims in a plain called Arafa to glorify God.

What is the significance of these acts?

These acts of worship are the highest spiritual experience. By going around the Kaba [Kabah], the pilgrim expresses the greatest love for the One God because this building is the greatest and oldest memorial to the purest form of belief in One God. Going around the Kaba [Kabah] is as if to say that one’s life should revolve around belief in One God. In the gathering at Arafa, there is a vast ocean of humanity, people of all colours, races, nations, languages, walks of life, the rich and the poor, the ‘high’ and the ‘low’, but all are exactly alike, wearing the same simple clothes, remembering God in the same way. From this, the pilgrims carry back home the lesson of the equality and brotherhood of mankind, which can only come through belief in One God.

Do Muslims worship the Kaba [Kabah], or believe that God lives there?

No, definitely not. How can they worship the Kaba [Kabah] when, in fact, they go there to remember that God is One? And, according to Muslim belief, God is everywhere in this universe of ours, so He cannot live in any one place or building. The Kaba [Kabah] is an ancient memorial to the belief in One God, being associated with the Prophets Abraham and Muhammad (peace be upon them) who taught this belief most vigorously. It is a venue for the gathering of all nations, at which they come together and remember that only this belief can unite them. Though God is everywhere, yet when hundreds of thousands of people make the greatest sacrifice to gather in one place just to worship Him, that place rightly deserves the title of the ‘House of God’, as the Kaba [Kabah] is called.