The Journey to Hajj and title 'Hajji' or 'Hajjah' 2011

Published October 31st, 2011 - 12:18 GMT

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Packing the Hajj Suitcase: Traveling light is the easiest way given rigorous air-security, and given the spiritual nature of this 
enterprise that enjoins you to be free of material possessions. The pressure's on when it is described as the journey of a 
lifetime, so one has to be very selective of what to take or leave out of that carry-on!
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Image 1 of 17: Packing the Hajj Suitcase: Traveling light is the easiest way given rigorous air-security, and given the spiritual nature of this enterprise that enjoins you to be free of material possessions. The pressure's on when it is described as the journey of a lifetime, so one has to be very selective of what to take or leave out of that carry-on!

'Package Hajj' offers: The sublime associations with Hajj somewhat evaporate with mention of Hajj visas.
Once secured, many pilgrims fly to Jeddah, then travel to Mecca by bus. Airlines have special deals for Muslims
Mecca-bound, as the Hajj subsidy in India. Ships also transport pilgrims. People wait a lifetime to afford this spiritual luxury.
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Image 1 of 17: 'Package Hajj' offers: The sublime associations with Hajj somewhat evaporate with mention of Hajj visas. Once secured, many pilgrims fly to Jeddah, then travel to Mecca by bus. Airlines have special deals for Muslims Mecca-bound, as the Hajj subsidy in India. Ships also transport pilgrims. People wait a lifetime to afford this spiritual luxury.

The Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram: Male Muslims put on 2 clean, unstitched, white,
pieces of cloth. One sheet is wrapped around the lower part of the body and the other sheet around the upper body; the 
head should not be covered. Women may perform pilgrimage in the cloths they are wearing, without the face veil.
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Image 1 of 17: The Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram: Male Muslims put on 2 clean, unstitched, white, pieces of cloth. One sheet is wrapped around the lower part of the body and the other sheet around the upper body; the head should not be covered. Women may perform pilgrimage in the cloths they are wearing, without the face veil.

Mecca is a place that is holy to all Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter. Mecca cannot therefore be on your list of tourism visits. While Islam is the one qualification required, the rest is a veritable feast of multiculturalism and social cohesion as all manner of nationalities and creeds stand shoulder to shoulder.
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Image 1 of 17: Mecca is a place that is holy to all Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter. Mecca cannot therefore be on your list of tourism visits. While Islam is the one qualification required, the rest is a veritable feast of multiculturalism and social cohesion as all manner of nationalities and creeds stand shoulder to shoulder.

Early arrival is encouraged as things to tend to get crowded: Most pilgrims who come for the Hajj arrive a few days 
before it actually starts and perform Umra first. Combining the Hajj with the Umrah is called a Hajji-Umrah 'Qaren', by some.
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Image 1 of 17: Early arrival is encouraged as things to tend to get crowded: Most pilgrims who come for the Hajj arrive a few days before it actually starts and perform Umra first. Combining the Hajj with the Umrah is called a Hajji-Umrah 'Qaren', by some.

The passage or pilgrimage begins just outside Mecca, at Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj. When the pilgrim reaches
Miqat, fully washed & in correct attire (Ihram), they say 'Talbiyah'- a vow to perform Hajj. After reaching Mecca, 
one should head straight to Ka’aba ,in the vicinity of Masjid-el-Haram, and perform 'Tawaaf' (circumambulation).
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Image 1 of 17: The passage or pilgrimage begins just outside Mecca, at Miqat, or entry station to the Hajj. When the pilgrim reaches Miqat, fully washed & in correct attire (Ihram), they say 'Talbiyah'- a vow to perform Hajj. After reaching Mecca, one should head straight to Ka’aba ,in the vicinity of Masjid-el-Haram, and perform 'Tawaaf' (circumambulation).

Debut of the Hajj: The 1st day, the 8th day of the month Dhul-Hijjah in the Hijri calendar, scheduled 4th November, 2011, 
opens up with the pilgrim's arrival at 'Mina'-  another Hajj milestone - and stay until Fajr (dawn). After, the pilgrim moves to
 the valley of Arafat to submit 'Waqoof', a supplication to Allah in the open.
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Image 1 of 17: Debut of the Hajj: The 1st day, the 8th day of the month Dhul-Hijjah in the Hijri calendar, scheduled 4th November, 2011, opens up with the pilgrim's arrival at 'Mina'- another Hajj milestone - and stay until Fajr (dawn). After, the pilgrim moves to the valley of Arafat to submit 'Waqoof', a supplication to Allah in the open.

One leaves Arafat after sunset, reaching Muzdalifah by evening of 9th Dul-Hajj. Prayers are 
offered. The pilgrims spend the night, not before gathering together 49 or 70 small stones for use the next day.
 (Health & safety: bags of tiny pebbles or even gravel are sold to prevent injuries, together with safer fare-ways in place for positioning.)
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Image 1 of 17: One leaves Arafat after sunset, reaching Muzdalifah by evening of 9th Dul-Hajj. Prayers are offered. The pilgrims spend the night, not before gathering together 49 or 70 small stones for use the next day. (Health & safety: bags of tiny pebbles or even gravel are sold to prevent injuries, together with safer fare-ways in place for positioning.)

10th day: (officially day Eid begins) In the morning, pilgrims return to Mina and throw their share of stones, an initial 7, at pillars called
 Jamraat. These represent the devil. This act of casting stones is called Rami.
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Image 1 of 17: 10th day: (officially day Eid begins) In the morning, pilgrims return to Mina and throw their share of stones, an initial 7, at pillars called Jamraat. These represent the devil. This act of casting stones is called Rami.

A symbolic sacrifice called a Qurbani should be made at this point. If the pilgrim intends to sacrifice an animal, 
whereby usually a lamb or sheep is slaughtered and the meat distributed among the poor, they do so after casting stones
when they have technically all but fulfilled their hajj requirements.
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Image 1 of 17: A symbolic sacrifice called a Qurbani should be made at this point. If the pilgrim intends to sacrifice an animal, whereby usually a lamb or sheep is slaughtered and the meat distributed among the poor, they do so after casting stones when they have technically all but fulfilled their hajj requirements.

After offering the sacrifices, a male pilgrim should have his head shaven and female pilgrims are required to cut a small part
of her hair, say a lock of their hair. Female pilgrims are not permitted to have their heads shaven. After the hair cut, 
one can remove the Ihram and may now wear regular clothes.
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Image 1 of 17: After offering the sacrifices, a male pilgrim should have his head shaven and female pilgrims are required to cut a small part of her hair, say a lock of their hair. Female pilgrims are not permitted to have their heads shaven. After the hair cut, one can remove the Ihram and may now wear regular clothes.

Tawaf is the ritual of walking around the Ka'aba seven times, again figuratively enacting the Qaranic story: It is said that when one has his/her first glance at Ka’aba, whatever prayers one makes is granted.
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Image 1 of 17: Tawaf is the ritual of walking around the Ka'aba seven times, again figuratively enacting the Qaranic story: It is said that when one has his/her first glance at Ka’aba, whatever prayers one makes is granted.

Taawaf-e-Afaza: First , another, or additional, circuit of the Ka’ba, then it's back to Mina for 3 or 4 days, 
stoning the pillars each day. Pilgrims by now can in theory step out of their pilgrim attire and 'state' of Ihram.
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Image 1 of 17: Taawaf-e-Afaza: First , another, or additional, circuit of the Ka’ba, then it's back to Mina for 3 or 4 days, stoning the pillars each day. Pilgrims by now can in theory step out of their pilgrim attire and 'state' of Ihram.

Final rituals: The farewell Tawaf falls on the 12th/13th, and is a final opportunity to ask Allah's forgiveness, make 'du'a' or blessing for loved ones. This final circuit signals that the pilgrim drink water from Zamzam, 
kiss the threshold of the door of the Ka’aba, and leave the Ka’aba walking backwards, looking at it the last time.
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Image 1 of 17: Final rituals: The farewell Tawaf falls on the 12th/13th, and is a final opportunity to ask Allah's forgiveness, make 'du'a' or blessing for loved ones. This final circuit signals that the pilgrim drink water from Zamzam, kiss the threshold of the door of the Ka’aba, and leave the Ka’aba walking backwards, looking at it the last time.

Many people then go to the 'Prophet's Mosque' in Medina, but this is optional.
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Image 1 of 17: Many people then go to the 'Prophet's Mosque' in Medina, but this is optional.

A man who has completed the Hajj is called a Hajji, and a woman, a Hajjah. It becomes a title for life, the spiritual kin if you like to the academic PhD, and said to endow more much wisdom. Once back home, people
 pay their respects and congratulate the honorable Hajjis. During such visits they drink ZamZam water, eat dates, hold prayer
 beads.
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Image 1 of 17: A man who has completed the Hajj is called a Hajji, and a woman, a Hajjah. It becomes a title for life, the spiritual kin if you like to the academic PhD, and said to endow more much wisdom. Once back home, people pay their respects and congratulate the honorable Hajjis. During such visits they drink ZamZam water, eat dates, hold prayer beads.

Set to fall November 6th, 2011: At the end of the Hajj, Muslims from all over the world celebrate the holiday known as the Eid ul Adha or Festival of the Sacrifice.
For the Hajj, he has reached a state of new enlightenment and reaffirmed faith and his Eid is spent with Allah at the Haram.
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Image 1 of 17: Set to fall November 6th, 2011: At the end of the Hajj, Muslims from all over the world celebrate the holiday known as the Eid ul Adha or Festival of the Sacrifice. For the Hajj, he has reached a state of new enlightenment and reaffirmed faith and his Eid is spent with Allah at the Haram.

Curious about the Hajj season and wondering what the whole journey to Hajj entails (not to mention attainment of a new status, becoming the esteemed title holder - 'Hajji'- or one who has completed the journey of a life time)? Albawaba offers an overview of what is involved in the process and ultimate journey of pilgramage to Mecca.

Managing the flow of pilgrims to Mecca in the year 2011, will represent no small challenge to Saudi authorities. According to a recent statement by the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah in KSA, a record number of pilgrims are expected to perform the Hajj. With the world population set to peak at 7 billion somewhere around today (end of October), what of the Muslim population of pilgrims? Hajj 2011- over 3.4 million anticipated over the five days of the pilgrimage.

Hajj 2011: expected to fall between November 4th--9th, 2011, with Eid al Adha set to be marked November 6th-9th.

Historically, the Hajj in its modern day practice, represents and harks back to a story narrated in the Quran of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) with his wife, Hajira (Hagar) and their child Is'mail in Arabia. When Abraham was tested by God, he had to leave wife and son in the Arabian wasteland, or valley of Mecca, without supplies. The Hajj ritual, (with all its dehydration, spinning and seeking water & relief that it connotes) that sprung from this 'tale' was initially endowed with pre-Islamic and even heathen practices, with the Ka'aba stone being used to worship idols. But this monolithic structure has since come to be the preserve of Islam and Muslim pilgrims exclusively.

That dramatic story of the Prophet's (Peace Be Upon Him) forefathers, in mind, the Hajj, as we know it today, takes on a re-enactment quality, re-producing the story from the Quran (almost like the nativity of Christ as it were ,where people year after year (often traditionally children at school) perform an enactment of the story of Jesus' birth. As with the nativity which focuses on Mary, earthly mother of Jesus, there is a key woman character, Hagar, who suffers before finding salvation (water) for herself and child.

Qualifications and accessiblity

The Hajj is a real pilgrimage - a journey, with rites and rituals to be done along the way to the 'kingdom' of the Prohphet (PBUH).

One of the pillars of Islamic faith, the Hajj must be carried out at least once in the lifetime by any Muslim who has the ability to do so. Pilgrims perform a series of rituals including walking around the Ka'aba, keeping vigil on Mount Arafat and a ritual Stoning of the 'Devil'. At the end of the Hajj, this year Sunday 6th November, the three day festival of Eid al-Adha begins around the world.

It' can be all quite a lottery as to whether you get to go: Each country has a quota of Hajj visas it is allowed to issue. It's like with a prestigious sporting tournament, where it's one thing to want to go and to have the money or wherewithal to do so, but securing a place requires a stroke of luck together with logistics to do with national restrictions on age each year (in the pursuit of making the journey attainable for Muslim citizens in their lifetime). Of course, money and circumstance can go a long way in propping up your chances, in reality.

According to a report, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's revenues from Hajj and Umrah (the mini pilgrimage) range between 10 billion USD to 12 billion USD. According to the report, a pilgrim spends SR4,600 on an average, which is the equivilent to roughly 1,200 plus USD. Not all Muslim world citizens can afford such funds, so for some people one time is literally all they can dream of. With this in mind, and the Muslim growing population, the authorities impose restrictions and quotas on nations and age groups.

Preparation

Hajj, like Ramadan or other holy rites of passage in the Islamic tradition, requires certain rules and regulations be observed to ensure that the pilgrim's performed Hajj is legitimate in the eyes of Allah.

Men usually don a special white cloth together with observing other requirements that amount to a state of Ihram (simply, wearing white). Women are simply required to maintain their hijab - normal modest dress, which does not cover the hands or face, for that same 'Ihram'.

The pilgrim, man or woman, makes a statement of intention, to enter into state of 'Ihram', with the intention to perform the pilgrimage. Once in 'Ihram' and observant of the regulations below, the pilgrim is set.

The person on the Hajj may not:

-Shave or cut their nails (til the Hajj is complete, and then as a symbolic gesture)

-Engage in marital relations

-Use cologne or scented oils (scented soaps are frowned upon)

-Kill or hunt anything (til the sacrifice component comes into play)

-Fight or argue

-Women must not cover their faces, even if they would do so in their ordinary life.-Men may not wear clothes with stitching.-Bathing is allowed but foregoing the scented soaps or shower gels.

The following preview of The Journey of a Life Time-- from airline tickets, visa permits to rituals and holy water priviledges, skims over the spiritual experience in a pedestrian narration that might not tally up to a Muslim scholarly guide to Mecca. 

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