Hajj is one of the basic pillars of Islam. Like other forms of worship in Islam, Hajj is based on God-consciousness. At the same time, it has a unique feature—it is linked to the life of Prophet Abraham.Every Muslim capable of doing so, must perform Hajj at least once in his lifetime. By engaging in various actions during Hajj, he expresses his complete servitude to God. He symbolically performs actions that were performed by Prophet Abraham, kindling the zeal in man to mould himself on the pattern of this prophet of God.After building the Kabah, in Makkah, Prophet Abraham called on people to perform Hajj for the sake of God. The journey of Hajj is an affirmative response to this call. During the Hajj, pilgrims call out, ‘LabbaikAllahummaLabbaik’, which means, “Here I am at Your service O Allah, here I am.” The air resounds with this cry as if in answer to the call issued by Prophet Abraham; the pilgrims appear before God, wholeheartedly willing to fulfill any command.
The literal meaning of ‘Hajj’ is ‘to go on pilgrimage’. According to the Islamic Shariah, Hajj happens once every year when people circumambulate the Kabah, halt on the Plain of Arafat, and perform the other actions that are part of Hajj.Hajj is a comprehensive form of worship. It entails spending one’s wealth, and physical exertion, too. It involves remembrance of God, and sacrifice for God as well. Hajj is a form of worship in which the spirit of other forms of worship are also present. Central to Hajj, is the ‘House of God’, the Kabah, located in Makkah. The Kabah is a reminder of the truly devout life of an exalted servant of God, Prophet Abraham. It is a reminder of how a devoted servant of God gave up everything for God, patterned his whole life in accordance with God’s will and devoted himself completely to God’s mission till his last breath.
Hajj is a journey towards God, the ultimate form of closeness to God in one’s life. When the pilgrim stands in front of the Kabah, it reminds him that man has to stand before God. The circumambulation of the Kabah symbolizes the pilgrim’s focus around God on finding Him. A special feature of Hajj is the location—Makkah and its surrounding areas. It is a place selected by God as it was the center of the religious mission of the great missionary, Prophet Abraham. The early history on the basis of which Islam unfolded emerged here. All around are reminders of the great spiritual revolution ushered in under the guidance of Prophet Muhammad some 1400 years ago. These traditions and special features have given Makkah particular significance. A special spiritual and historical atmosphere pervades the place. None who goes there can remain unaffected. One who returns after completing the Hajj is like someone who was earlier covered with dirt and dust and then emerges out from a stream, bathed pure and clean.
This special importance of the Hajj is its spirit, and not so much its external form, or rituals. Just going to Makkah and returning is not Hajj. It is to acquire those special spiritual qualities, for which Hajj has been made obligatory. Hajj is meeting with the Lord. When a pilgrim travels and arrives at places associated with the Hajj, he feels especially inspired. He feels that he has left ‘his world’ and arrived in ‘God’s world’, that he is running towards his Master, and that he is journeying for His sake; that he is ‘throwing stones’ at Satan his enemy in the way of the Lord, that he is asking God for all his wants, and receiving from God all that he needs.The Kabah is among the signs of God on earth. In Makkah, where the Kabah is located, the Prophet received revelations from God, which provide guidance for humanity. But only those who are willing and keen on acquiring it receive guidance. For other people, Hajj is just a sort of tour. They go on Hajj and return no different from what they were before they went.