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Explain how Hajj is an essential vehicle for the expression of beliefs in Islam

Nicole Nanayakkara

Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, and is a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city, Mecca. Hajj is the process of retracing the steps of the prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad. The three main compulsory fard aspects of Hajj are, the circling of the Kaba, pilgrims changing into Ihram clothing and the standing at Arafat. There is also the jumraat, which is the stoning of three stone pillars. Hajj is an important medium for the expression of the beliefs of Islam as all four of these characteristics of Hajj are of utmost importance and stem from the Islamic faith and the religious texts of Islam; the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunna. The Quran, which is in the Islamic faith the words of God, states, Perform the pilgrimage and the visit [to Mecca] for Allah. (Surah 2:196). Circling the Kaba seven times is an important aspect of Hajj, which very clearly expresses the beliefs of Islam. This action is completed upon arrival in Mecca. It is a compulsory fard aspect of the Hajj, and therefore must be completed if a Muslim wishes to attain the Hajji status; that of a person who has completed the Hajj pilgrimage. The Kaba is a place of worship in Mecca, which every Muslim faces when praying. Circling the Kaba seven times is of great significance, as it represents and symbolises the seven portals to heaven and the common belief in all Abrahamic religions of the sevenday creation story. Hajj is retracing the footsteps of Muhammad, thus, they circle the Kaba seven times, just as Muhammad did after he restored it, reaffirming their belief in God and His prophets. The Quran clearly emphasises how revered and respected the Kaba is, The first house [of worship] ever set up for mankind was indeed the one at Mecca Pilgrimage to this House is a duty owed to God. (Surah 3:95-7). This action of circling the Kaba clearly expresses the beliefs of the Islamic faith as it reasserts how truly important Muhammad and Abraham are as prophets. Another significant aspect of Hajj is a pilgrim changing into Ihram clothing to represent a sense of equality amongst the Muslim people on the pilgrimage; this too is a compulsory fard aspect, as well as an avenue through which the fundamental beliefs of Islam are expressed. This action is completed on the 8th day of Dhul Hajj, and is when male pilgrims change into two white cloths and women are required to wear modest clothing. When Muslims are in Ihram clothing, gender, race or wealth does not matter. This is a time for Muslims to be humble and be satisfied with not having to worry about earthly possessions or stresses. Ihram is also a pure state of mind, where patience and respect is practised and an individual focuses solely on God. The Quran states, Whatever good you do Allah knows it of whosoever intends to perform Hajj therein, assuming Ihram (Surah 2:197). These are the words of Allah, and highlights that Ihram is a time to recognise the wonders of Islam as a faith, putting all prejudice and bias towards others aside. This aspect of Hajj illustrates the beliefs of equality, personal development and peace in the Islamic faith, and the dedication of Muslims to Allah. Standing at Arafat is seen as the climax of Hajj and it too represents a sense of equality, as there is no discrimination based on gender, race or wealth, expressing the beliefs in Islam. It is also a compulsory fard aspect of Hajj and is a very sacred time for Muslims on the pilgrimage. This action takes place on the 9th day and pilgrims must make their way up to the mountain. Mount Arafat was the place of the prophet Muhammads last sermon, where all pilgrims are closest to God. Arafat is a bare, dry desert as it is about exposing your bare soul to God as a practice for the Judgement Day. No prayer is required, however many prayer and ask for redemption from God. The Quran shows how Allah guides His people, From Arafat, remember God at the holy place, and remember Him as the One who guided you after you had indeed been lost on your way. (Surah 2:128) For the reason that Allahs people are guided and judged whilst their souls are exposed, the day of Arafat symbolises absolute and complete devotion to Allah. This aspect of Islam is representative of Muslims reflecting on their life decisions and asking forgiveness from God for any wrongdoings, so when they return to their everyday lives, they are changed for the better.

The stoning of the three stone pillars or jumraat, although not a compulsory fard aspect of the Hajj, is seen as an essential part of Hajj to convey the beliefs of Islam as it is about refraining from sin. On the 10th day Jumraat al-Aqaba, the largest of the three stone pillars is stoned with seven pebbles each. This aspect follows Islamic history that while Abraham was on the way to sacrifice his son Ishmael, Satan tempted him to disobey God and save his son, and where Abraham defied Satan and therefore sin each stone pillar represents the place where Satan tempted Abraham and Abraham defied him and threw pebbles at him. The other two smaller stone pillars are stoned at with seven pebbles each on the 12th and 13th day; Jumraat al wusta and Jumraat al sughra respectively. Pilgrims throw these pebbles to try and renounce all the sin from their lives and be just like the prophet Muhammad, however, the prophet Muhammad was free from sin, as his heart was cleaned of it at a young age. A quote from the Hadith of one of Muhammads teachings was, Whoever performs Hajj will come out as the day he, or she, was born pure and free from sins. Thus, this action, part of Hajj is symbolic of being reborn and purified, and being once again free from sin and of demonstrating the key values of Islam. Clearly, therefore, Hajj is an essential vehicle for the expression of beliefs in Islam as it emphasises the belief of how important Abraham and Muhammad are as prophets, through circling the Kaba seven times, retracing Muhammads footsteps. Also through a pilgrim changing into Ihram clothing, accentuating that money and status are not important to pilgrims; that all are equal despite their gender, race or wealth. Standing at Mount Arafat is symbolic of reflection on ones actions it is the pinnacle of Hajj and is where everything is exposed for God to see and redeem. The stoning of the three stone pillars, Jumraat, is representative of defying sin and being truthful to God, just as Abraham was. All these aspects ensure that Muslims will have a clean slate after achieving the Hajji status and strengthening their relationship with God by completing these rituals, which express the core beliefs of Islam.