The Hajj (Great Pilgrimage to Mecca) is the fifth of the basic Muslim worship activities and facilities known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The pilgrimage in Islam is not made to any shrines of saints, to monasteries asking for the help of holy men, or to places that are said to have done miracles, even if we see many Muslims doing so. The pilgrimage is made to the Kaaba, which is located in the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia; it is the „house of God“ that has been sacred since the prophet Abraham built it to worship God. God rewarded him for this when he accepted the house and honored it by making it the center of prayer, to which all Muslims turn their faces in prayer (salah).
Pilgrimage is seen as a worship activity that deserves special recognition. Pilgrimage serves as penance – the ultimate forgiveness for sins, devotion, and high-level spirituality. Starting the pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, once in a lifetime is the duty of all Muslims who are physically and financially able to do so. The pilgrimage rite begins a few months after Ramadhan, on the 8th day of the last month in the Islamic year, the Dhul-Hijjah, and ends on the 13th day. Mecca is the center that Muslims strive for once a year to meet and refresh the belief that all Muslims are equal and have a right to love and affection for others, regardless of race or ethnicity. How Hajj promotes race harmony
‚Every single one of the thousands at the airport, ready to go to Jeddah, was dressed like this. You could be a king or a peasant and no one would know. Some powerful personalities who were shown to me discreetly wore the same thing as me. Once dressed, we all started calling out with a few interruptions: “Labbayka! (Allahumma) Labbayka! ” (I hurried to serve you, our lord!) In an airplane with white, black, brown, red and yellow people, blue eyes and blonde hair, and my felted red hair – all together, brothers! All worship the same God, all one after the other, give each other the same honor …
It was only at this time that I started to reassess the “White Man”. It was when I started to feel that „white man“ as it is commonly used means only secondarily „skin color“; it primarily describes behaviors and actions. In America, „white man“ meant certain behaviors and actions – black and all other non-white people -. In the Muslim world, however, I had seen that white-skinned men really were more fraternal than anyone else. This morning was the beginning of a radical change in my overall view of “white” men.
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. They were all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to deep black Africans. But we all participated in the same ritual, developing a unified spirit and fraternity that, based on my experience in America, I would never have believed to exist among whites and non-whites … America must learn to understand Islam, because this is the religion that has eradicated the racial problem of their society. Throughout my travels through the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten many people who were considered white in America – but the characteristics of the „whites“ were removed from their minds by the religion of Islam.
This is how the pilgrimage unites the world’s Muslims into an international brotherhood. More than two million people complete the Hajj each year, and the rites serve as a unifying force in Islam by bringing together followers from different backgrounds in worship. In some Muslim societies, once a believer has made the pilgrimage, he is called “Hajji”; this is a more traditional than a religious custom. After all, the Hajj is the manifestation of belief in the unity of God – all the pilgrims worship the One God and obey His commands.
At certain stations along the caravan routes to Mecca, or when the pilgrim passes the point closest to these stations, the pilgrim enters the state of purity known as Ihram. In this state, certain „normal“ acts of the day and night are prohibited for the pilgrim, such as covering the head, cutting the fingernails and wearing normal clothing for men. Men take off their clothes and clothe themselves with the towels that are prescribed for the state of the Ihram: two unsewn pieces of fabric that are wrapped around the body. All of this increases the awe and holiness of the pilgrimage, the city of Mecca and the month of Dhul-Hijjah. There are 5 stations, one on the coastal plains north-west of Mecca towards Egypt and one south towards Yemen, while three are north or east towards Medina, Iraq and an-Najd. The simple clothing signals the equality of all mankind in the face of God, and the departure from all worldly tendencies. After entering the state of the Ihram, the pilgrim travels to Mecca and awaits the beginning of the Hajj. On the 7th Dhul-Hijjah the pilgrim is reminded of his duties and at the beginning of the ritual that takes place between the 8th and 12th Day of the month, the pilgrim visits the sacred sites outside of Mecca – Arafah, Muzdalifah and Minaa – and sacrifices an animal in memory of Abraham’s victims. Then the pilgrim cuts or shears his hair, and then after throwing seven stones at certain pillars in Minaa for three or four consecutive days, he moves to the central mosque, where he circles the sacred district or the Kaaba seven times and also hurries back and forth seven times between the small hills of Safa and Marwa. The historical background or spiritual significance of each rite is beyond the scope of this introductory article.
Apart from the Hajj, the Muslims take the “little pilgrimage” or Umrah during the rest of the year. Performing the umrah does not remove the obligation to perform the hajj. It is similar to the great and obligatory pilgrimage (Hajj), and pilgrims have the choice to do Umrah separately or in connection with the Hajj. As with the Hajj, pilgrims begin the Umrah by entering into the state of the Ihram. They enter Mecca and circle the Kaaba seven times. You can touch the Black Stone if you have the opportunity to pray behind the Maqam Ibrahim, drink the Holy Water from the Zamzam Spring. Hurrying back and forth seven times between the Safa and Marwa hills and shortening or shaving hair completes the umrah.