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Picturesque

During the Hajj, pilgrims climb


and descend Jabal al-Rahma
Reza/Getty Images

(Mountain of Mercy) in the plain


of Arafat, southeast of Mecca.

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Pilgrimage
Mecca
to
A Daughter’s Account of Her Parents’
Hajj Journey

Text
Ferina Natasya Aziz

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The Grand Mosque of
Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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Haga Library/Photolibrary
Abid Katib/Getty Images Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

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A person who
performs the
Hajj properly
will return as a
newly-born baby,
free of all sins.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ’
Awad Awad/AFP/Getty Images

When my parents set off for their pilgrimage, I was reluctant for them to
go. Not that I was sulking about being left behind – the fear of them getting
caught in massive stampede was just too tragic for me to comprehend.
Every year, during Zhul-Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic year),
Mecca becomes the most crowded sacred city on Earth. The city grants
entry only to Muslims with a pilgrim pass, and for Muslims the world over,
coming to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj is an experience of a lifetime. Many
have saved up for years – even decades – just to be here.
For many centuries, the act of performing the Hajj manifests as the
fifth and final obligatory duty in servitude of Allah (SWT) the Almighty
(SWT means “subhana wa tala”, which translates to “glory be to him”). Pil-
grims to the Grand Mosque and Masjid al-Haram (“The Sacred Mosque”)
are considered “Guests of Allah (SWT)”, answering the call of Prophet Ib-
rahim, who was commanded by the Almighty to invite Muslim believers to
perform this ultimate act of worship.
Upon arrival at the boundary of Mecca, millions of pilgrims enter the
state of Ihram (purity) by performing cleansing rituals and wearing the
prescribed attire. The men and women wear simple lengths of white un-
stitched cloth to symbolise equality, unity and Islam’s disregard of cultural,
national or wealth divisions. While in state of Ihram, it is important for
pilgrims to not cut their nails or hair, argue, fight, hunt or engage in sexual
relations. The pilgrims remain in the state of Ihram throughout the Hajj.
For the millions of devotees on the Hajj, their pilgrimage culminates
in the Tawaf. Standing before the Kaaba (“House of God”), they circumam-
bulate it seven times, in a counter-clockwise direction. The air reverberates
with chants of “Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk” (“Here I am at your service,
◀ (from top to bottom) Pilgrims O God, Here I am!”).
recite the Sura on Mount Arafat; For my parents, the Hajj was like a rehearsal before judgment day. My
Muslims make their way to the holy
Kaaba at Mecca’s Grand Mosque. father admits that circumambulating the House of God is a test of courage
and one’s pure intention for the love of God. Suffering from a poor leg con-
▴ An Iraqi female pilgrim prays
dition, he believes that it was only through God’s blessing and protection
at The Cave of Hira on Jabal an-
Nour, the Mountain of Light. that he survived the sea of people swarming around the holy Kaaba.

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Pilgrims pray at the holy Kaaba at
Mecca’s Grand Mosque during the
annual Hajj, a once in a lifetime duty
for every able-bodied Muslim.

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Abid Katib/Getty Images
Muhannad Fala’ah/Getty Images Muhannad Fala’ah/Getty Images

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Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images

Every ritual of the Hajj has a story behind it, and each is extremely sym-
bolic for Muslims. After circling the Kaaba, pilgrims perform the Sa’i, run-
ning seven times between the two hills (known as Safa and Marwa) near
the mosque, to re-enact the desperate search for water by Abraham’s wife
in the desert.
On the eighth day of Zhul-Hijjah, pilgrims perform the ritual of Wuquf
(standing) at the hill of Jabal al-Rahma in Arafat, spending the entire day in
devotion. The day’s ritual embodies not only the uplifting of the pilgrim’s
spirits, but also God’s forgiveness of all their sins. That night, they will
spend it in the open at Muzdalifah, near Mecca, and collect 49 pebbles (the
number 49 is chosen because that is the number of days that Muhammad
was tempted by the devil), before leaving for Mina the next morning.
Over the next three days, pilgrims brave the stifling crush of the crowd
in to perform Ramy al-jamarát, the ritual ‘stoning of the devil’. Throwing
seven small pebbles at each of the three pillars (which represent Satan)
in Mina, the ritual leads back to a story in the Qur’an, where God asked
Prophet Ibrahim to kill his son as a sign of obedience. Satan tried to tempt
Prophet Ibrahim to disobey God and spare his son, but the prophet threw
stones at the devil, driving him away. As Prophet Ibrahim was about to kill
his son, God intervened and gave him a lamb as sacrifice instead.
This is why Muslims from all over the world sacrifice a sheep as a re-
minder of Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah (SWT). The sacrifice marks
the celebration of Eid Al-Adha (The Festival of Sacrifice), and signifies the
close of Hajj.
Upon their return, my parents shared how the pilgrimage made them
surrender their fate completely to God. Little did they know, I too had sur-
rendered their fate and safety to God’s hand, trusting Him to grant them a
safe return from Mecca. ▪
◀ (from top to bottom) A pilgrim
shaves his head as a part of entering
the state of Ihram for the Hajj; A Ferina Natasya Aziz has a background in journalism
Muslim in prayer at Mount Arafat. and is a frequent contributor to several independent
▴ As the Hajj reaches its climax, a magazines in Singapore. Having worked for six months
Muslim recites the Qur’an at Mount in Nias Island, covering the post traumatic stress of
Arafat, the location of Prophet tsunami and earthquake victims, she hopes to continue
Muhammad’s last sermon. writing on humanitarian and environmental issues.

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