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Pilgrimage to Mecca: An Abrahamic Tradition
Hajj  (pilgrimage to Mecca) literally means to set out for a place. However, islamically it refers to the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Mecca, Saudi Arabia with the intention of performing certain rites in accordance with method prescribed by God (Chap. 2 Verse 28).  s

 This Islamic tradition has entirely to do with Prophet Abraham (pbuh), who is the Patriarch of all 3 monotheistic religions.  Therefore, it is important to understand this tradition and benefit from its teaching. Details of these events are included in the Qur’an (2; 125-140)

 About 3 million people travel to perform the Hajj every year. Hajj is not only the fifth pillar of Islam, it is duty mankind owes to Allah. In order to qualify a Muslim must be sane, and wise enough to understand the meaning of every step as well as resources to travel to perform the Hajj. Before departing for Hajj, all your debt must be paid off.  Your hates and angers toward relatives or friends must disappear.  A will must be drawn. 

 The Kaaba was built by prophet Abraham with the help of his son Ismael, described as the first house of worship appointed for mankind. The Kaaba is a cubical structure that is draped in black silk cloth embroidered with Quranic verses, in the center of grand mosque and at the epicenter of pilgrimage rites. All Muslims must face the direction of Kaaba (Qiblah) during prayers, which is northeast from USA, and west from India. 

 The Pillars of Hajj are five: 

1.                  The donning of 2 pieces of white cloth (Ihram) for men, and removal of old cloths means removal of bad habits and practices; women wear their usual clothes.

2.                  Circumbulation of Kaaba – 7 times.

3.                  Running between 2 hills of safa and Marwa to symbolize the Hagar’s frantic search for water and safety of the baby Ismael, when they were left in the desert on order of God who had guaranteed their safety.

4.                  Praying at plain field of Arafat – on the 9th of Zil-hijja (12th month of lunar calendar)– called Essence of the Hajj.

5.                  Trimming of hair.

 Stoning of Satan at 3 difference places, symbolizes Satans attempt to prevent prophet Abraham to sacrifice his only son, followed by sacrificing of animal. (Eidul-Adha) to finalize the Hajj. Offering to sacrifice his only son for sake of  God was a supreme act of faith and conviction in Allah. 

Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice all for god is admired by all Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The theme of connecting the three religions as part of the abrahamic religion runs all through Qur’an. The Jews and Christians are referred as people of the book. On more than one occasion the following verses appear in Qur’an: “ Verilly they who believe and they who are Jews and Christians…. Whosoever believes in God and the last day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve”(5:69)  

It is part of Muslim daily prayers to say, “ May the blessings of God be upon Abraham and his progeny”. It is heartening to see that Hanukkah, Christmas, and Eidul-Adha to be celebrated on December 30th falling in the same month, provides symbolism of the same belief. Appreciation of this Abrahamic tradition may united the Jews, Christians, and Muslims in attaining a peaceful co-existence.

This year Muslims will celebrate Eidul-Adha on December 30th, 2006 at Masjid Al-Ihsaan in Moline, IL at 8:30 AM prayers are followed by sacrifice of the animal and three days of festivities follows exchanging of gifts, visiting of family friends and eating of special sweets.

Anis Ansari M.D

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