All Posts By

Pilgrimage Rites Connected to Abraham & His Family

By Uncategorized No Comments

Many of the rites of pilgrimage are connected to Abraham and his family. Abraham was commanded to leave his baby son Ishmael, and Ishmael’s mother Hajar in the barren land of Mecca before it became a thriving city. Hajar was left with little provisions for herself and her son. In order to seek water, she ran between the two nearby hills of Safa and Marwah a number of times. This is where the pilgrimage rite of Sa’i, or the walking between the two hills comes from.

On her 7th circuit up the hills, Hajar saw water by where she had left Ishmael. Fearing the water would run out, she built a small mound around it to contain it. This is the well of Zamzam. This water is considered blessed and pilgrims will drink from this water throughout their stay in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Ishamel and Hajar would settle in this city and other people would come and join them. When Ishmael was a young boy, Abraham saw a dream that he should offer him as a sacrifice to God. Abraham informed Ishmael of this, and together they walked the short distance to Mina, the place where pilgrims today spend much of their pilgrimage. On his way, Satan appeared three times to Abraham to convince him to disobey God’s command. Each time, Abraham took small pebbles and threw them at Satan. This is why pilgrims stone the three pillars during the pilgrimage.

When Abraham was about to sacrifice Ishmael, God informed him that he had passed the test, and instead replaced Ishmael with a ram. Today, pilgrims offer a similar sacrifice during their pilgrimage.

A number of years later, Abraham returned to Mecca. This time, God had commanded him to raise the foundations of the Ka’bah. Abraham asked Ishmael for his assistance. Together, they built the Ka’bah. Abraham proclaimed this as God’s house and a place of pilgrimage, and invited God’s faithful servants to come there for pilgrimage.

It is in response to this call from God, through Abraham, that millions of Muslims flock annually to the holy city of Mecca to perform this once-in-a-lifetime obligation of pilgrimage.

What is Pilgrimage?

By Uncategorized One Comment

Pilgrimage is the term that denotes travelling to Mecca to worship at God’s house called the Ka’bah. There are two types of pilgrimage:

  1. The Minor Pilgrimage (‘Umrah) – this can be performed at any time of the year.

  2. The Major Pilgrimage (Hajj) – this is performed in the 12th lunar Islamic month on specific days.

It is possible to combine both pilgrimages in the same trip, as the minor one can be performed before the major one begins. However, both only become obligatory if someone has the physical ability and financial means to perform them. They are obligatory upon all able adult Muslims once in their lifetime.

Pilgrims dress in certain garments throughout the pilgrimage. This state known as ‘Ihram’ begins at a specific place outside of Mecca and prevents pilgrims from doing certain things which they can usually do, such as removing hair, clipping nails and applying perfume.

For the minor pilgrimage, there are three main components. The first is circumambulation of (going around) the Ka’bah for seven circuits in a counter-clockwise direction. Pilgrims start their circumambulation from the part of the Ka’bah that contains the Black Stone. Each walk around Ka’bah back to the Black Stone is considered one circuit. The second is walking between the two hills of Safa and Marwah, situated a short distance away from the Ka’bah, within the walls of the Grand Mosque. Walking from one hill to the other is one circuit. Seven such circuits are made. The final component of the minor pilgrimage is to trim your hair; men also have the option to shave their head.

The major pilgrimage lasts from 4-6 days and also entails visiting the Holy Sites close by the city of Mecca. These sites are called Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. The major pilgrimage begins on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Pilgrims start off by spending that day in Mina. The following day they spend in Arafat, a place where the Messenger Muhammad gave a sermon and spent the day in supplication to God. On that evening, the pilgrims move to Muzdalifah where they rest for the night.

The third day of the pilgrimage consists of returning to Mina where the pilgrims throw small pebbles at the three pillars, offer an animal sacrifice, trim or shave their hair and then proceed to Mecca for circumambulation of the Ka’bah and the circuits between the hills of Safa and Marwah. They return back to Mina, and over the next couple of days will continue to stone the pillars and spend their day in general worship of God. The major pilgrimage is concluded with a final circumambulation of the Ka’bah.

Many pilgrims use the opportunity of the minor and major pilgrimages to also visit the city of Medina, where the Messenger Muhammad lived for 10 years and passed away. Offering prayers in the mosque there is very rewarding. The cities of Mecca and Medina also contain other religious and historical sites which can be visited.