It’s Hajj time of the year, time for unique spiritual experience for Muslims in general, and those blessed to perform Hajj in particular. It’s time to reminisce on the events that took place in that Holy Land long years ago and involved the noble prophets and our pious Muslim predecessors.       It’s also time to reflect on the moral and wisdom of Hajj, return to Allah in repentance, and mark a new start of the year to come and perhaps one’s entire life. It’s a season of purity, repentance, and spiritual retreat, even for Muslims who weren’t able to join the holy pilgrimage, and that by just engaging their hearts in contemplating the Hajj rituals and grasping the implications of this highly spiritual experience. It’s time to think of Prophet Muhammad, his struggle against polytheists of Mecca, and how blessed we are being saved from the ignorance of idols worshiping. It’s time to think of Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, Lady Hajar, his wife, and Prophet Ishmael, his son, and the famous story of the slaughtering of the beast. It’s time to reflect on the process of building the Kaaba and the events the lands of Mecca witnessed long years ago, ones which started and largely shaped the entire history of Islam ever since. This article is rather meant to speak of the spiritual dimensions of Hajj, yet I shall try to offer some practical information about Hajj as well. There are three types of Hajj. There’s Hajj al-Tamattu’, which  entails performing Umrah and then Hajj, with one Ihram for each. This type of Hajj is considered the best form of Hajj as it is the one Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, urged his followers to perform. Hajj al-Tamattu’ is also followed by most pilgrims nowadays. And there’s Hajj al-Ifrad, which is performing just the normal Hajj rituals, without having to sacrifice an animal. And there’s Hajj al-Qiran which involves combining Umrah and Hajj, depending on just one Ihram for the two. Now let’s go a little bit deeper. Idiomatically, Hajj is the Muslims’ pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and which comprises one of the Five Main Pillars of Islam that’s obligatory for every Adult, Sane and Muslim individual who is physically and financially able to perform it. Literary the term Hajj means “to set out for a place”.  And for Muslims, this specific place is the Kaaba in Mecca. Looking into the main rituals of Hajj, you’d find them highly significant, carrying much wisdom and meanings beyond the physical acts involved. For example the Ihram. It reflects the strict emphasis Islam lays on purity and personal cleanness, that involves verbal and spiritual cleanness, and not just physical cleanness of the body. Also Al Miqat, the station where a Muslim should start his Ihram for Hajj or ‘Umrah, or minor pilgrimage and becomes Muhrim. It’s highly significant. It reflects the importance Islam gives to unity and brotherhood amongst Muslims, bringing them to one main start point from which they can begin their spiritual and physical journey of Hajj (as well as Umrah). The White garment Muslims wear during hajj, and specifically the one men wear and which shouldn’t involve any ornaments or be sewed. It signifies purity, equality and reminds Muslims of the white cloth in which they are wrapped after death and before being buried. It’s a gentle reminder of the end of one’s life and the hereafter. The Talbeya (the recitation of Duaa Muslims commit to throughout Hajj) is itself highly significant and renews Muslims’ submission to their lord, admitting His Lordship, and His Oneness, giving thanks to Him, and reviving their covenant with Him. “Here I am O Allah! Here I am! Here I am, there is no partner for You, here I am! Surely, all praise, blessings, and dominion are for You. There is no partner for You!” “Labbayk Allahummma labbayk, Labbayka la shareeka laka labbayk. In Al Hamda wal Ni’mata laka wal Mulk, la shareek lak!” Then there’s the Tawaaf or Circumambulating, where Muslims revolve around the Kaaba, asserting their unity and remembering the Day of Resurrection. A further assertion of their supreme submission to their Lord and attachment to Him and not the Kaaba, the Kaaba is just a spiritual center for Muslims, marking the direction of their prayers. Then comes the Sa’y or moving between Al Safa and Al Marwa, reminding Muslims of the famous incident of Lady Hajar when she kept moving between the two spots in search for support for her crying son, Ishmael, and before Allah bestowed His blessings upon them, sprouting from underneath the foot of Ishmael the Well of Zamzam. It reminds Muslims of the supreme will of Allah and His power that’s capable of all things. And there’s the standing on Mount Arafaat, a situation resembling the Day of Resurrection, where humanity stand before Allah awaiting to be brought to account. “It is no crime in you if you seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when you pour down from (Mount) Arafaat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, you went astray. Then pass on at a quick pace from the place whence it is usual for the multitude so to do, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. So when you have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as you used to celebrate the praises of your fathers, yea, with far more heart and soul. There are men who say: “Our Lord! Give us (Thy bounties) in this world!” But they will have no portion in the Hereafter. And there are men who say: “Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!” To these will be allotted what they have earned; and Allah is quick in account. Celebrate the praises of Allah during the Appointed Days. But if anyone hastens to leave in two days, there is no blame on him, and if anyone stays on, there is no blame on him, if his aim is to do right. Then fear Allah, and know that you will surely be gathered unto Him.” – Quran (2:198-203) The there is the stoning of the devil in the three main spots where it appeared to Prophet Abraham, his son Prophet Ishmael and Lady Hajar, attempting to lure them to ignore the command of Allah that Prophet Abraham kills Prophet Ishmael. It’s a reminder for Muslims to submit to the order and command of Allah no matter how difficult and seemingly impossible. Then there is the sacrifice of a beast that’s a reminder of the blessings Allah bestowed upon Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael as a reward for their unconditional submission to His will and command. A reminder of the mercy and generosity of Allah with those who strictly follow His orders and commands, without skepticism or hesitation. This is the deeper meaning of Hajj rituals beyond the physical actions. And the more you reflect on this holy pilgrimage, the more meanings you will uncover. May those who were blessed to perform Hajj this year have it accepted. And may those yet to receive the divine call to perform it, perform it next year and have it also accepted. Keep us in your Dua. May Allah accept the best of your deeds and ours.- Amen! Wassalaam Maha Youssuf Posted on: October 1, 2012