By Maha Noor Elahi
Equality; how wonderful our world would be if equality were held as a life system! Imagine being equal to all the kings and presidents of the world! Imagine being equal to the wealthiest people on earth! Imagine walking or sitting in the same place and maybe talking and eating with the elite of your society! Imagine the poor and the rich, the beautiful and ugly, the young and the old living in harmony caring for each other! Imagine compassion and kindness as the language between people of different tongues and cultures! Can you believe that all of this is achieved in Hajj?! Hajj is not only a religious ritual; it is an immense social gathering, where people from all over the world come together for the same reason. Can you think of being with over 2 million people in one place having the same thoughts, goals, and intentions? In Hajj, this is exactly what happens.
The Holy Mosque in Makkah
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. Every Muslim must go to Makkah in order to perform his pilgrimage at least once in his/her life as long as they can afford travelling and are in a good health condition. When pilgrims reach Makkah some time prior to the Hajj day, i.e., Arafat Day, they have to visit the Holy Mosque and pray there. During the pilgrims’ stay at Makkah and before the Arafat Day, they mix and interact with the citizens of Makkah and with other pilgrims from allover the world. The pilgrims shop, visit the important places in Makkah, and learn more about the rituals of Hajj and other cultures. Some pilgrims prefer to visit Al-Madeena Al-Monawara (where the Second Holy Mosque and the grave of the Prophet are) before coming to Makkah and stay there until the Arafat Day.
But what is Arafat? Arafat is a small empty desert near Makkah. It is a sacred place and all pilgrims must gather there at the 9th of the Tho Al-Hijjah (the Arabic month). That is why the day is called Arafat Day. It is the most important day in that month for Muslims. Without gathering in that place at that date, the hajj is incomplete and incorrect. Muslims have to spend the day at Arafat either from dawn till sunset or from any other time of the day until sunset. Muslim men have to wear white simple special clothing made of two pieces. Muslim women can dress up in any color, but they are not allowed to cover their faces or wear gloves. And since Arafat is an empty desert, Muslims bring tents and camp there with all the facilities they need. It is like when you camp in the mountains or go on a picnic, so all Muslims live during that day in similar residences. All of this is to assure the equality of all people. All people look the same and you cannot distinguish or differentiate between the rich and the poor. Equality, love, peace are the exquisite combination that creates the divine essence of Hajj.
The Mosque of Arafat – AlNemera
The scene is wonderful at that day. All Muslims dressed in white walking or sitting side by side in complete peacefulness and reverence either praying, or reading Qura’an or maybe getting to befriend other Muslims from different cultures. During that day in particular, Muslims are strictly prohibited to argue or fight for any reason. All are in complete submission to the Creator. All Muslims say the Hajj prayer: “Oh, Allah, we have heard your call, and we are here at your service, worshipping no one but you, we owe gratefulness and grace to you.”
This is how it sounds in Arabic:
All pilgrims have the same goal; to worship Allah. All have the same wish; to get Allah’s forgiveness and blessings. All are doing the same thing; praying for a better future and hoping to be residents of Paradise in the after-life. Arafat is a very special day. At that day, according to many verses of Qura’an and many Hadiths, all prayers are answered and all sins are obliterated under the condition that a Muslim doesn’t hurt other people or swear at them at that time.
A man taking his old mother to Hajj – He gets the same reward as if he performed Hajj
It might take a Muslim all his life to save money for Hajj!
After the sun sets, all pilgrims head to Mozdalefa to collect small stones in order to throw them later at Satan. They stay there until dawn, and then they leave to Mena where Satan has appeared to Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, in order to make him withdraw from obeying Allah. At Mena, there are three small towers which symbolize the three spots where Satan had appeared to Abraham to make him sin. Muslims are taught that Satan is their greatest enemy for he is the one who provokes them to commit sins or bad deeds. Hence, worshipping Allah at that day, throwing stones at the symbol of Satan, and dealing with others in peace and respect is a way of declaring total submission and obedience to Allah, and defying Satan with the power of faith and love. After that Muslims go to Makkah to the Holy Mosque to pray and circumambulate the Kaaba. By doing this, they complete their Hajj rituals.
Al-Jamarat at Muzdalifa – the symbol of Satan
Muslims go back to their homes after that and resume their lives with pious content hearts and spiritual satisfaction. They go back home with their hearts full of love and their minds full of unforgettable memories and new friends, and with souvenirs from the purest land on Earth. They come out from Hajj with a new fresh start throwing their past sins away and hoping to begin a new life. This is Hajj, this is Islam; a continuous refreshment from burdens of mundane desires and sins, and a continuously revived contract of hope and forgiveness between Allah and His people.