Today is Yowm ul Hajj — the day of the Islamic pilgrimage. For Muslims, this prehistoric event is a reminder of Islam’s biblical heritage; it is also the celebration of Abraham as the central figure of monotheistic tradition For Muslims, Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and mandatory upon all those who are physically and financially able to take this journey. Hajj and its rites were first established by the Prophet Abraham as he was commanded by God to build the first House of God — the Kabah — in the city of Mecca.
With time, the true monotheistic practices of Abraham were lost and the Kabah became a house of idols. As Abraham and Ishmael were building the Kabah, they asked God to send a prophet from among their progeny to guide humanity. Prophet Mohammed was the answer to their prayer. Mohammed revived the true spirit of Abraham’s monotheistic teaching and revived worshiping one true God.
Just like Abraham, pilgrims leave their native lands for the holy city of Mecca. As pilgrims near Mecca, they change into two simple unstitched sheets like clothes worn by Abraham and Ismael. The simple attire of Hajj for men removes all signs of status, race and ethnicity and brings all the Muslims together as servants of one true God. They walk around the house of God to solemnize their covenant with God as Abraham did. Then they perform Sai, in memory of Abraham’s wife Hagar’s search for water. At Mina, commemorating Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son, pilgrims offer sacrifice and throw pebbles where Abraham had thrown stones at Satan, who had tried to thwart God’s will.
Assembly of all the pilgrims on the plain of Arafat is spiritually the highpoint of Hajj. It reminds them of standing before God on the day of Judgment. Here they make a commitment to God to live by the example of Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar by following God’s commands, whatever they may be, and basing their lives on the truth as well as giving up comforts and pleasures. Here they promise that for the rest of their lives, God will be their focus, a goal from which they will never be diverted by the forces of evil.
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The plain of Arafat also reflects and echoes the words of Mohammed’s last sermon: “God says, O people, We created you from one male and one female and made you into tribes and nations, so as to be known to one another. Verily in the sight of God, the most honored amongst you is the one who is most God-fearing. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab or for the white over the black or for the black over the white except in God-consciousness.”
Rabia Khan, resident scholar, Islamic Foundation of South Florida, Sunrise