Hajj: the pilgramage to Mecca
This year, around the first week of October, the Islamic population will be celebrating what is arguably the biggest holiday for Muslims around the world – the Festival of Sacrifice, or “Eid al-Adha.”
Eid al-Adha is important for many reasons, but mainly because it marks the end of Hajj, a pilgrimage or religious expedition, taken by Muslims to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at the end of each Islamic Year (which follows the Lunar Calendar instead of the solar one.)
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, all of which are acts that Muslims are expected to do within their lifetimes. The five pillars are to acknowledge the existence of the one God, pray five times a day, donate 20 percent of one’s income to charity each year, fast during the month of Ramadan and partake in Hajj in one’s lifetime if you are financially and physically able to do so.
The ritual practices which occur during Hajj show a Muslim’s total submission to God and act as a spiritual renewal for participating persons of Islamic faith. It is a time in which millions of Muslims from around the world join together, ignoring race, gender, socioeconomic status, political affiliation or anything that would typically wedge people apart, and act as one religious unit of peace and equality.
The second day of Hajj rituals is my personal favorite to learn about and is known amongst many as the most important day of Hajj. It is on this day the prayers of pilgrims are heard most clearly by God; it is believed that on this day, one’s sins may be forgiven.
The rituals of this day include praying at Mount Arafat from noon until sunset, and for any nonparticipating Muslims, it is recommended they fast on this day, as it is one of extreme holy importance.
What I find most interesting about it is the history of Mount Arafat itself. It is said to be there where the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) gave his final sermon; and it is on this day the final verse of the Qur’an was revealed, signifying the completion of the Qur’an, which can be literally translated to “the recitation.” It is believed among Muslims that the Qur’an was verbally revealed to Mohammad by God via word of the Angel Gabriel.
That and many other rituals go towards making Eid al-Adha the biggest celebration for Muslims. On the actual day of celebration, goats are sacrificed for the pilgrims to feast on in honor of the story that brought the religious month into existence.
This month is honoring God’s mercy, specifically in regards to the story of Abraham and his sons. Abraham was told by God to kill one of his sons as a test of faith, and on the day that Abraham was going to comply with God’s will, he was instead given mercy—a story that is believed through the three monotheistic religions, but in Islamic faith, is continued with God providing Abraham with a goat to sacrifice in his son’s stead.