Islam: Hajj. Fasting and Almsgiving

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Research what costs and travel would be involved in making a Hajj from your town to Mecca.

One of the five pillars of Islam is Hajj which is pilgrimage. Muslims believe the rites of the Hajj were designed by God and taught through Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe that since the time of Adam, there have been thousands of prophets, including such well-known figures such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and David, and that Muhammad was the final prophet of God. The Hajj as well as the other pillars is an essential in the Islamic religion and every Muslim is to go on the Hajj at least once during his or her lifetime. Followers of Islam who cannot go on a Hajj because of ill or lack of money are excused from the obligation. The hajj occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (which means Lord of the Pilgrimage and it is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic Calendar) to the holy city of Mecca. The Hajj consists of several ceremonies, meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family. Muslims from all over the world, travel to Mecca. Before arriving to the holy city, Muslims enter a state of consecration (dedication) known as ihram, by removing their worldly clothes and putting on the humble attire of pilgrims which are two seamless white sheets for men, and simple white dresses and scarves for women. The white garments are symbolic of human equality and unity before God, since all the pilgrims are dressed similarly, money and status no longer are a factor for the pilgrims - the equality of each person in the eyes of God becomes dominant. Upon arriving in Mecca, pilgrims perform the initial Tawaf, which is a circular, counter- clockwise procession around the Ka'bah. All the while, they state "Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk," which means "Here I am at your service, O God, Here I am!" The tawaf is meant to awaken each Muslim's consciousness that God is the centre of their reality and the source of all meaning in life, and that each person's higher self-identity derives from being part of the community of Muslim believers, known as the ummah. Pilgrims also perform the Sa'i, which is hurrying seven times between the small hills named Safa and Marwah, re-enacting the Biblical and Qu’ranic story of Hajar's (one of Abraham’s wives) desperate search for life-giving water and food. Next, on the first official day of Hajj (8th of Dhul-Hijjah), the two million pilgrims travel a few miles to the plain of Mina and camp there. From Mina, pilgrims travel the following morning to the plain of Arafat where they spend the entire day in earnest supplication and devotion. That evening, the pilgrims move and camp at Muzdalifa, which is a site between Mina and Arafat. Muslims stay overnight and offer various prayers there. Then the pilgrims return to Mina on the 10th, and throw seven pebbles at a stone pillar that represents the devil. This symbolizes Abraham's throwing stones at Satan when he tried to dissuade Abraham from sacrificing his son. Then the pilgrims sacrifice a sheep, re-enacting the story of Abraham, who, in place of his son, sacrificed a sheep that God had provided as a substitute. The meat from the slaughtered sheep is distributed for consumption to family, friends, and poor and needy people in the community. After the sacrifice, the pilgrims return to Mecca to end the formal rites of Hajj by performing a final tawaf and Sa'i. The Hajj is designed to develop God consciousness and a sense of spiritual upliftment. It is also believed to be an opportunity to seek forgiveness of sins accumulated throughout life. Prophet Muhammad had said that a person who performs Hajj properly "will return as a newly born baby [free of all sins]." The pilgrimage also enables Muslims from all around the world, of different colours, languages, races, and ethnicities, to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship the One God together. Air...
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