More than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims begin haj


More than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims begin haj
Essence of Haj

LABBAIK Allahumma Labbaik (Here I come, My Lord, in response to Your call), For thousands of years, the believers from around the world have traveled to Makkah for Haj. The sight of nearly three million pilgrims in all white performing Haj rituals and endlessly circumambulating the majestic black structure is breathtaking.

For days the pilgrims go around the Kaaba, the first mosque and place of worship on the planet, pray at the Grand Mosque, camp in Mina before moving to the plains of Arafat in what is considered the most important ritual of the Haj — all the time praying, chanting and reciting the Qur’anic verses and supplicating before their Creator.

This spiritual and emotional journey concludes with the offering of the animal sacrifice that also marks the Eid Al Adha across the world.  Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik ( Here I come, My Lord, in response to Your call).

What is the Haj? Most people around the world would have no difficulty describing it as the Islamic pilgrimage and the greatest congregation on the earth. Few, however, realize that Haj is a celebration of the ultimate sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ismail, peace be upon them, nearly three thousand years ago. Abraham, revered by the Christians, Jews and Muslims as their patriarch, was no stranger to sacrifices.  All his life he had wandered all across this ancient land, spreading the word of God and suffering every adversity possible in the process. When ordained by Allah, Abraham moved his wife to the wilderness of Arabia where Ismail was born and grew up in a hostile landscape. Again, it was here in Makkah that the father and son duo were told to build the first House of God.

Ultimately, it was Abraham’s offering of his beloved son’s life as ordained in a dream that culminated the trial of this great prophet and humanity’s sage. The Qur’an tells us Ismail was replaced by a ram just when Abraham was about to slay his beloved son. And this supreme act of sacrifice and unquestioning submission to divine will so moved Allah that He chose to immortalize it for all times to come.

So for centuries the pilgrims from around the world have come to the Holy Land to remember and celebrate that noble sacrifice of the illustrious father-son duo.  They retrace and relive the spiritual journey of Abraham and Ismail, just as Prophet Muhammad did 1500 years ago.

From running between the Safa and Marwa hills, just as a helpless Hajrah did looking for water for a thirsting Ismail a long time ago, to living and praying in open and finally offering their own symbolic, animal sacrifice, the pilgrims walk in Abraham’s footsteps — literally.

The Haj is thus a saga of ultimate sacrifice, total submission and unshakable faith of two believers. It’s also a celebration of unity of mankind and equality of all men and women before God. The faithful appear before Him devoid of all pretensions and false distinctions, wearing a humble, two-piece, unstitched cloth. And everyone is equal before God — black and white, men and women, rich and poor. Is there a more liberating, equalizing faith?

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