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Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and is an act of ibadah (worship), like prayer and fasting.

It is a religious duty and is obligatory, once in their lifetime, for all those Muslim who can afford to perform it. All the five pillars of Islam perform very important and specific functions in training a Muslim for the service of Islam.

 

Prayer provides an exercise in mental culture; zakat gives training in spending wealth, fasting provides training in self-discipline and self-control over the body and its desires; and hajj is a form of ibadah which covers all aspects of human life. It trains a Muslim to sacrifice all his wealth, all his time, all his physical and mental energies and all his comforts and possessions in the way of Allah.

 

The building called the Ka’bah stands in the centre of the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is about 45 feet high, 33 feet wide, and 50 feet long, and is covered with a black cloth decorated with verses from the Qur’an.

 

The Ka’bah was the first mosque on the earth to be appointed by God for His worship. It is also called Baitullah (House of Allah); Baitul Haram (the Forbidden House), and Baitul Atiq (the Ancient House).

 

The pilgrimage is the most significant of all forms of the ibadah. It is only in pilgrimage that a Muslim is required to give up all his work and leave all his near and dear ones for a number of days and undertake a journey to Makkah. He is to give up all the pleasure and amenities of life and live a simple ascetic life during the pilgrimage. All this rigorous discipline and hard life is merely for the love of God.

 

During the pilgrimage, a Muslim visits many holy and historical places in Makkah and Madinah which leave an everlasting impression of the glory of Islam on his mind. It is a practical experience of the history of Islam and a sort of refresher course for him. His faith in Allah and in His Messenger is strengthened and his knowledge of the truthfulness of His message in increased. The pilgrimage is, in a way, essential for every Muslim, for it refreshes and invigorates his faith.

 

Allah forgives the sins of those who perform the pilgrimage and does not care for those who die without performing it. Abu Umamah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying:” He who is not prevented from performing the pilgrimage by an obvious necessity, a tyrannical ruler, or a disease which confines him at home, and dies without having performed the pilgrimage, may die if he wishes as a Jew or if he wishes as a Christian.” Abu Hurairah reported Allah’s Messenger as saying:” Those who perform the pilgrimage and those who perform the umrah are people who have come to visit God. If they supplicate Him, He will respond to them, and if they ask Him for forgiveness, He will forgive them.”

 

One of the pilgrimage’s great social benefits is that it helps in levelling all kinds of distinctions of rank, colour and race. People of all colours, all nationalities, all races, and of all ranks, from all the four corners of the world come here and meet and live together.

 

They have all come before their Lord in extreme humility, wearing two white sheets, as members of Universal Muslim brotherhood, without any distinction between the high and the low. Kings and servants, employers and their employees, capitalists and wage earners, masters and slaves, all assemble as humble servants of their Lord.

 

They are all clad in one type of dress; assemble at one place, utter the same words, Labbaik Allahumma labbaik (Here am I O Allah! Here am I in Your presence)

It is the pilgrimage that makes all Muslims high or low, black or white, Arab or non-Arab, wear one dress, speak one language and assemble at one place in obedience to and for the pleasure of Allah. They are all equal before their Lord. They have left their marks of distinction behind and have come to join once in their lifetime in this demonstration of equality of man. Thus it is a practical experience of equality and universality unparalleled.

 

(to be continued)

 

(Prepared by Afzalur Rahman)