The Significance of Hajj to Muslim Culture and Pilgrimage

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The significant practice of Hajj is an Islamic pilgrimage that is performed in Mecca once a year during Dhu al-Hijjah, expected for Islamic adherents to perform once in their life, applying to both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims as it is one of the five pillars, if physically and financially able. The importance of Hajj is understood as the ultimate profession of faith to Allah and a time for renewal and rebirth; also known to “bring no reward but Paradise.” (Al-Bukhaari 1773 Hadith) to individual adherents that complete all rituals and practises of Hajj, highlighting their devotion to Islam as a way of life that stems beyond beliefs and practises.

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Hajj is recognised to “enable Muslims from all around the world, of different colours, languages, races and ethnicities” (Council of Islamic Education) to form relationships with one another through their collective experience of performing Hajj. This emphasises how Hajj influences the community (umma) it enables Muslim adherents to recognise the universality within Islam, opens opportunities to strengthen relationships and reaffirm unity with their equal love and submission to the will of Allah. This is specifically shown through entering the state of Ihram, which creates a sense of purity and belonging amongst all adherents, also allowing everyone, despite financial or physical differences, to be perceived as equal in the eyes of Allah. Within Ihram are specific requirements one must obtain to fully and completely prepare for Hajj, listing that adherents “should not have sexual relations, not commit sin, not dispute unjustly during the Hajj.” (al-Baqarah 2:19, Quran)

In this way, Islam is perceived as a way of life through acknowledging how the teachings of the Quran shift the lives of individual adherents through providing spiritual testing and purification which therefore contributes to their experience in the afterlife, known as Ahkira. This belief is demonstrated through the moveable ritual in the Plain of Arafat, where Muslims seek for forgiveness and prepare for the Day of Judgement. Although Hajj is recognised as a “a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship the One God together.” according to the Council of Islamic Education, the diversity among Islamic variants prevails different perspectives upon the role of women within Hajj. Sunni law requires that all women must be accompanied by their husband or close relative whereas Shi’a law allows women to take part in the pilgrimage alone, permitted she feels safe. This has caused controversy within Saudi government, arguing in a CNN article that “If women perform Hajj without ‘mahram’ it means they are not following Sharia”, which provides evidence upon the differing interpretations among variants regarding the roles of women and marriage’s influence upon a woman’s life.

Moreover, this prevails that although varying perspectives emerge regarding Shari’a law and its impact upon an adherent’s life, both variants acknowledge that the Quran’s teachings are at the heart of Islam and thus should be the main source of guidance when making moral choices that affect the community (umma).

Therefore, it is evident that Muslim adherents are enabled through Hajj to experience rebirth and solidarity with other variants of Islam despite differing views, highlighting how the pilgrimage of Hajj unites communities globally and becomes a way of life for many that are strongly embedded within the teachings of the Quran and its role as the heart of Islam.

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