HYDERABAD (RAHNUMA) – Millions of people from various countries around the world visit Saudi Arabia each year to perform Hajj, the Islamic religious pilgrimage including thousands from India. In fact, in 2018, for the first time after the Independence, a record 1,75,025 pilgrims from India went to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. This included a record of more than 47 per cent female pilgrims. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and is a mandatory religious duty that must be carried out at least once in the lifetime for Muslims. Hajj marks an event of a lifetime, often a life changing one. But, what is this spiritual journey all about that will attract close to three million pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year?
Here are some fascinating pictures to help you discover the essence of the holy pilgrimage:
As people belonging to different backgrounds, united by faith, come together and perform Hajj in unison, it forms a sight to behold. In that moment, all one can see is how it makes all equal, the pilgrims moving in one direction in harmony. For millions, Hajj serves as the opportunity to re-enact the actions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, brotherhood being one of them.
As much as it may look like, this is not a design of tiles placed well together but people praying as one.
Pilgrims from around the world come together and shed all signs of their wealth and societal distinctions by donning simple white garments commonly called Ihram. Ihram is an Arabic word meaning prohibition as well as a state of holiness. It is a symbol signifying that the pilgrim is in a state of devotion. The simple piece of white clothing conveys the ultimate equality irrespective of background, age, nationality, race, status and class in life.
In recent times, the Ka’aba is kept closed during Hajj because of the overwhelming number of people. However, people try to touch the holy cloth that covers the Ka’aba. The act is believed to make them feel closer to God.
According to Islamic tradition, Mount Arafat is the place where the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, stood and delivered the Farewell Sermon to his companions who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his earthly life. Every year, pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat, where they perform prayers and recitations from the Holy Quran.
Pilgrims spend time on the mountain, asking for forgiveness for their past sins and praying for strength for the future. Tears are shed while seeking repentance and God’s mercy. It is said to be one of the most memorable days for pilgrims who go for Hajj. The day of Arafat is said to offer atonement for all sins.
Thousands of pilgrims gather every year at Mount Arafat to atone for their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. In the picture, pilgrims are seen touching Adam’s holy obelisk pillar on top of Mount Arafat which is believed to be the place where Adam was forgiven for approaching the forbidden tree. The holy obelisk was erected as a memory to this great event and remind all that Allah is the Most Merciful.
Next, the pilgrims head to Muzdalifah. Muzdalifah is an open valley where pilgrims spend the night and collect pebbles for the next day’s ritual of ‘stoning the devil’. ‘Stoning the devil’ or ‘jamarat’,is the reenactment of the actions of Abraham, who is believed to have pelted the devil with stones when he tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son Ishmael. The three pillars are called ‘Jamarat-al-Ula’, ‘Jamarat-al-Wusta’ and ‘Jamarat-al-Aqaba’. It is symbolic of the act of casting aside one’s worldly desires and wishes.
The year 2019 will be another landmark year for Indian pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia for Hajj as revival of sea routes between India and Saudi Arabia is on the cards and more Indian women will undertake Hajj without a male guardian this year.
So now you know all about this journey millions undertake every year. A journey where the One is one’s companion and the destination, beyond worldly realms.