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Modern Islamic world
Hajj in the Context of Middle Eastern Worldviews. The duty of performing the hajj rests on the authority of scripture (Qur'an) and the recorded practice of the prophet Muhammad (sunnah) , as these are interpreted by the orthodox schools of Islamic law; Shi’i Muslims rely in addition on the teachings of the early imams, Leaders descended from the family of the Prophet through the lineage of 'Ali. The manasik al-hajj, manuals that explain the rituals and prayers required at each of the hajj stations, are adduced from these authorities. More than the symbolism found in the other religious duties of Islam, however, haij
symbolism carries overtones of ancient Arab and Judeo-Christian cosmologies, which resonate in the appointed times and places of the ritual performances. For Muslims, the shrine in Mecca comprehends several notions: for example, that creation began at Mecca; that the father of the prophets, Ibrahim (Abraham) , constructed the first house of worship (Ka'bah, Bayt Allah) at Mecca; that the pagan practices of the Arabs at the Ka'bah were displayed by God's final revelation through Muhammad, his Messenger to the Arabs and to all of humankind. Indeed, the Ka'bah determines the ritual direction, or qiblah, the focal point toward which canonical prayers (salat) and places of prayer (masjid, mosque) are physically oriented, the direction in which the deceased are faced in their graves, and the
focus of other ritual gestures as well. The Ka'bah is regarded as the navel of the universe, and it is the place from which the prayers of the faithful are believed to be most effective. [See also Ka'bah. ]
For Muslims, Mecca has been the site of divine, angelic, prophetic, and auspicious human activity since the primordial moment of creation. Haij manuals commonly begin with the following Our'anic epigraph: "Truly, the first House of Worship established for humankind is the one at Bakkeh [Mecca], a blessing and guidance to all realms of being. In it are clear signs, such as the Place of Ibrahim, and whoever enters [the Meccan precincts] is safe. The hajj to the House is a duty humankind owes to God, that is, for those who are able to journey to it" (3: 96-97) . The significance of the prophet Ibrahim to the sacred origins of the hajj sites is attested widely in Islamic literature. Ibrahim
symbolizes the pure monotheism that the ancient communities subsequently perverted or forgot. In the Muslim view, the period of Arabian history, that intervened between the prophets Ibrahim and
Muham mad was one of religious ignorance, Jahiliyah-a period during which monotheism was abandoned and the pilgrim stations were made to serve pagan nature deities. Yet, the pre-Islamic hajj provided important precedents of ritual sites and gestures that continued to be
auspicious in Islamic times. By the sixth century CE, the bedouin tribes of central Arabia were undergoing political and social changes,
reflected especially in the growing commercial importance of settled markets and caravansaries at Mecca. Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh,
dominated caravan trading through the use of force and lucrative arrangements with other tribes. Such trading centers were also pilgrimage sites to which Arabs journeyed annually during sacred
months constituting a moratorium of tribal feuding. Although the pilgrimage remained a dangerous undertaking in the face of banditry and unpacified tribal rivalry, the special months and territories
provided sanctuary for many of the shared sacred and profane activities of Arab tribal culture. The auspicious times and places of
pilgrimage, along with the annual fairs and markets held at nearby locales along the pilgrims' routes, appear to have played significant roles in stabilizing the segmented polity of Arab tribalism.
The term hajj itself, like its Hebrew cognate hag, seems to reflect an ancient Semitic notion of "going around" or "standing" in the presence of a deity at a sacred mountain or shrine, or the journey to it (see Ex. 23: 14; also Ex. 23: 17 and 24: 22, Jgs. 21: 19, and I Kgs. 8: 2) . The pilgrimage stations at Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mina on the road east of Mecca appear to have been associated with solar and mountain deities prior to the rise of Islam; the "standing" at Arafat,
the "hurry" to Muzdalifah, and the stoning of the pillars at Mina-the Islamic significance of which will be discussed below-were all ancient rites among, the Arabs. Islam did not destroy the pre-Islamic hajj rituals, but it infused them with new symbols and meanings. In its own
conceptual terms, Islam asserted (or reasserted) monotheism over the polytheism of Jahiliyah. The Qur'an also declared that the sacred months of pilgrimage should be calculated according, to a lunar calendar that could not be adjusted every few years-as it had been in pagan times-and the Qur’anic injunction against intercalation resulted
in a lunar year of twelve months approximately, every 354 days, thus distinguishing the hajj and other Muslim festivals from the fixed seasonal celebrations characteristic of pagan astral and
agricultural (fertility) religions. Following the Muslim calendar, the hajj and other ceremonials rotate throughout the seasons of the year.
According to Islamic tradition, the Abrahamic origins of hajj sites and rituals had been taught by the prophet Muhammad to the nascent Islamic community during the pilgrimage he performed just before the end of his life (632 CE) . The sermon he delivered on the Mount of Mercy, at Arafat, and his removal of all pagan idols from the Ka'bah in Mecca are recollected annually during the hajj ceremonies. The imputed Abrahamic origins of the hajj ceremonies constitute a deeper, complementary layer of symbolism that serves to underpin Muhammad's treatment of the hajj as a monotheistic ritual.
Ibrahim's duty to sacrifice Ismail (Ishmael; not Isaac as in the biblical tradition) , Satan's three attempts to dissuade Ibrahim from following,
God's command, and the divine substitution of a ram for the blood sacrifice are celebrated at Mina during the festival of the Greater Sacrifice and the ritual stoning of the three pillars (see below) . Mecca itself is believed to have been the wilderness sanctuary to which the banished Hajar (Hagar) and her infant son Isma'il were escorted
by Ibrahim. The Ka'bah stands on the site of a primordial temple where Adam is said to have prayed after his expulsion from Paradise.
Destroyed by the deluge, the Ka'bah was rebuilt by Ibrahim and Isma'il: during the deluge, the sacred Black Stone from the primordial Ka'bah had been sealed in a niche in Mount Qubays (east of Mecca) , then brought by the angel Jibril (Gabriel) to Ibrahim for the reconstruction of the present Ka'bah, where it was set into the eastern
corner. The sacred hillocks of al-Safa and al-Marwah Situated near the Ka'bah symbolize the points between which hajar is said to have
run in desperate search of water, and the gushing forth of water next to the Ka'bah is a Muslim symbol of God's providential relief to Hajar and Isma'il. The historic seventh-century shift at Mecca from a polytheistic to a monotheistic cosmology-of which the hajj is the supreme ritual expression-is significant for the comparative study of religions and civilizations. Urban geographer Paul Wheatley (The Pivot of the Four Corners, 1971) argues that archaeological and
textual evidence on the rise of cities throughout the ancient world point to the importance of shrines and cults that stood at the center of urban complexes. Wheatley suggests that cities such as Mecca, by focusing sacredness on cult symbols of cosmic and moral order, were able to organize the previous tribal polities into larger, more efficient economic, social, and political systems. Urban-based great traditions evolved and were perpetuated by literati who canonized the technical requirements and meanings of ritual performance at the shrines. In this way, such traditions provided for the continuity of culture over time and geographic space; they ensured that the cosmic center (omphalos, axis mundi) continued to be enshrined and celebrated within the sacred city. The seventh-century shift from local deities and tribal morality to a monotheistic cosmic and moral order in Islam  coincided with a period of Arabian hegemony over larger neighboring civilizations. With the islamization of the Arabian hajj during this process, therefore, the pilgrimage to Mecca came to symbolize for
Muslim peoples and lands across Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa the sacred origins and center of their common confessional
heritage. Requirements and Preparations for the Hajj. Muslim authorities generally agree on the following requirements of eligibility for the hajj: (1) one must be a confessing Muslim who (2) has reached the age of puberty, (3) is of rational and sound mind, (4) is a freed man or woman, and (5) has the physical strength and health to undertake the rigors of the journey. Islamic law also provides that a pilgrim must be in possession of sufficient and honest funds not only for the expenses of the hajj but also for the care of dependents who remain at home. From figures available on hajj participation in relation to total
Muslim population, it is clear that only a small percentage of Muslims make the pilgrimage in any given year, and that many never undertake
the journey at all. In addition to the above qualifications, one is not expected to risk life, limb, or possessions if war and hostility are
known to exist along the pilgrim's path. Living at great distances from Mecca has tended to make fulfillment of the duty of hajj less likely for many Muslims for obvious reasons, although in modern times some Muslim countries such as Malaysia have instituted programs to assist Muslims in saving and preparing for the journey. Children, to
whom the obligation of hajj does not apply, may nonetheless accompany their parents. The schools of law generally agree that women should be accompanied by their husbands or by two male relatives who are ineligible to marry them (first-cousin marriages are common in Islam) . Although legal consensus and practical considerations discourage women from making the journey without appropriate male chaperons, the law does not allow males to prevent female Muslims from fulfilling the hajj if proper arrangements can be made. The Prophet is cited as haying approved of Muslims' making the hajj on behalf of deceased relatives who intended, but were unable, to do so themselves. The feeble and desperately ill may send others to Mecca on their behalf. Thus, although hajj is a duty one owes to God, the decision as to whether and when one should undertake the "journey to the House" belongs ultimately to each individual Muslim. The authorities insist that hajj is valid at any stage of adult life. The hajj, therefore, is not a rite of passage in the sense of the ritual celebrations of birth, circumcision, marriage, and death, which have their appointed times within the human life cycle, and this aspect of the hajj duty allows Muslims, including the very pious, to
delay the decision to make the hajj, in many cases indefinitely. Islam recognizes that conditions may exist that will cause postponement of the journey and charges apostasy or heresy only to those who deny that hajj is a duty to God. A pilgrim's separation from familiar social and cultural surroundings constitutes a moment of prayerful anxiety and joyful celebration for all concerned. On the eve of departure, it is traditional for family and friends to gather for prayers, Qur'an recitation, food, and perhaps poetry and singing about the hajj. (So,
too, when the hajj rites have been completed, the pilgrim's return home will be celebrated by family and friends; in some parts of the Islamic world the homes of returning pilgrims are decorated with
symbols of the hajj, reflecting local popular art forms. ) Many pilgrims follow the practice of setting out from home on the right foot, a symbol
of good omen and fortune. Similarly, it is auspicious to enter mosques, including the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, on the right foot and depart on the left; the right/left symbolism is associated with several ritual gestures in Islam as well as in other traditions. As on so many occasions during the hajj, the actual moment of departure calls for the recitation of a particular verse from the Our'an, and departing pilgrims recite the words of Noah, uttered to those escaping the deluge: "Board [the Ark]; in God's name be its course and mooring. My Lord is forgiving, merciful" (11: 41) . Indeed, the symbolism of separation, salvation, and safe passage is found in the pilgrimage rituals of many religious traditions. Those who complete the hajj will be entitled to the epithet hajj or hajji (hajjah or hajjiyah if female) .
This honorific title indicates socially perceived status enhancement in the sense of recognition by one's peers that a sacred duty has been
fulfilled, and this is a matter of universal value, if not universal achievement, in Islam. Most pilgrims require assistance in arranging for travel, lodging, and proper guidance in the execution of rites
and prayers within the Mcccan precincts. During the Middle Ages, caravans of pilgrims assembled and travel, together from Egypt,
South Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. Their common wayfaring experiences on the road have not produced an Islamic Canterbury Tales, although
one Muslim writer has observed that material for such a literature abounds within the communities of pilgrims who journey each year to Mecca. During the Middle Ages hospices and hostels were established along the pilgrimage routes from religious endowments given by those in possession of both piety and wealth. In recent
times, hajj travel organizations in Muslim countries have helped to arrange for chartered air, sea, and overland travel and for local
accommodations in Mecca. Of considerable importance throughout the centuries have been the hajj guides (known as mutawwifs) . The
responsibilities of these guides and their agents include leading groups of pilgrims through the proper performance of rituals and prayers at each pilgrimage station as well as seeing to food and lodging needs. Employing a trustworthy guide is a major concern for pilgrims, as attested in hajj manuals and in conventional wisdom about preparing for the hajj. Since the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE, the Muslims of Arabia, especially the Meccans, have served a growing "hajj industry" of services for pilgrims from around
the world. Recognising that opportunities invariably arise to take advantage of those who are far from home and in a state of intense piety, in modern times the government of Saudi Arabia has sought to regulate the offering of religious, material, and health services to the millions of visitors who enter its national boundaries each Year to fulfill the sacred duty. Travel accounts by pilgrims reveal other dimensions of the hajj, such as opportunities for adventure, business,
education, and even marriage. The intention to engage in business with other pilgrims is lawful, especially if it is meant to help defray the costs of the journey. Hajj manuals nonetheless caution wariness of unscrupulous sellers of goods and services. even those who may be found within the sacred precincts. Marriage among pilgrims is also permitted, and the hajj provides occasions for establishing friendships and personal relationships, although marriage and sexual
contact are forbidden during the period of sacred observance at the Meccan precincts. In former times, when travel was considerably more difficult, many pilgrims followed an open itinerary and lingered at towns and cities along the way; those who thirsted for knowledge found opportunities to attend the lectures of famous teachers at mosque colleges. Biographical literature in Islam indicates that the hajj has been for many individuals an important moment or phase of life
that has had numerous ramifications of lasting personal, if not social, significance. Ihram, the Condition of Consecration. The hajj season lasts from the beginning of the tenth month of the Muslim calendar, Shawwal, until the tenth day of the twelfth month, Dhu al-Hijjah. Although the actual hajj rites do not begin until the eighth of Dhu al-Hijjah, the two-and-a-half-month period known as al-miqat al-zamamyah is reserved for travel and ritual preparations for the hajj
ceremonies. The rites of preparation and consecration are comprehended by the term ihram. Pilgrims assume the condition of ihram before they pass the territorial markers, al-miqat al-makaniyah, that are situated several miles outside of Mecca along the ancient routes for caravans from Syria, Medina, Iraq, and the Yemen. Within the territory bounded by these markers lie the sacred precincts of Mecca. For the vast majority of Muslims who in modern times
disembark from air and sea travel at the west Arabian port of jidda, the rites of ihram are begun on board before arrival, or at Jidda itself.
Muslims may enter Mecca and its vicinity at any time without assuming the condition of ihram, but if their intention is to perform the rites of hajj or 'umrah (see below) , ihram is required. Assuming
the condition of ihram before passing the territorial markers has several aspects. 1. Ihram requires a state of ritual purity, and pilgrims who enter it must perform ablutions much the same as they do for the daily canonical prayers, salat. The special condition of ihram also requires pilgrims to trim their fingernails and remove underarm and
pubic hair, and men must shave off beards and mustaches. The further cutting of nails and hair is part of the rite of deconsecration, tahallul, and is not permitted until the hajj and/or 'umrah rites
have been completed. A pilgrim in the state of ihram is also forbidden to use perfumes or carry symbols of personal wealth, such as silk and gold jewelry. 2. Ihram is initiated and sustained by prayers of several kinds. (a) The niyah is the prayer by which each pilgrim declares his or her intention in the rites that follow. At any time of the Year except during the three days of the hajj itself, Muslim visitors may enter the Meccan precincts with the intention of performing rites at the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, which enshrines the Ka'bah. This is known as the 'umrah, or "lesser pilgrimage.

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