Saudi Arabia (MNN) — Over two million Muslims have descended on Mecca
this week for the annual pilgrimage known as the Hajj, reports Operation Mobilization. Pilgrims hope the Hajj, which is
one of the five pillars of Islam, will wash away their sins.
"Praying Through the Arabian Peninsula" explains
in its prayer guide: "Today on the Web, young women are asking if the Hajj will cleanse them
of sins, not only their small common sins, but also their big serious sins.
These women want to be clean, and they are told, 'YES, the Hajj cleanses you
from all sins.'"
This year, the Hajj runs from November 14 to November 17. In the Islamic calendar, it falls on the 8th
day of the 12th month of Dhul Hijjah. This calendar is based on the cycle of the
moon, so the Hajj begins nine days earlier every year.
Pilgrims began cleansing rituals on Sunday and will finish on Wednesday
by circling a stone in the Grand Mosque. Today, the pilgrims will pray all day in the Plain of Arafat.
The four days of the Hajj are as follows: first, Ihram: the day of cleansing; second,
Wuqoof: the day of standing in the Plain of Arafat; third: the ritual of stoning and sacrifice;
and fourth: the ritual of running between.
On Sunday, pilgrims entered Mecca at six different points, called
Miqat. The pilgrims must enter Ihram, a
state of ritual cleansing, as they pass through these points. In the state of Ihram, they wrap white cloths
wrapped around them, which symbolize their equality with one another. The special clothing also symbolizes the
state of purity the Muslims must enter before conducting the Hajj.
The first thing the pilgrims do after entering the city is visit the
Kaaba in the Grand Mosque. The Kaaba
contains a stone that predates the Muslim religion, and some believe that the
angel Gabriel gave this stone to Abraham. As the pilgrims enter the city, they chant a prayer known as the
"Here I am at Thy service O
Lord, here I am. Here I am at Thy service and Thou hast no partners," the
prayer says. "Thine alone is All Praise and
All Bounty, and Thine alone is The Sovereignty. Thou hast no partners." The phrase "Thou hast no partners" comes from
Muslim disagreement with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.
Monday is the day when the pilgrims believe they receive full
forgiveness of sins. After morning
prayers, they spend the standing day in the Plain of Arafat. They believe that during the last pilgrimage
of Muhammad, he delivered his final sermon from Mount Arafat.
It is reported that Muhammed said, "Fasting on the Day of Arafat
expiates the sins of the preceding year and the coming year." Many Muslims who do not perform Hajj also
fast on this day.
On the third day, the pilgrims remember a day when they believe God
told Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael, and Satan tempted Abraham to disobey. They throw stones at three pillars which
represent three temptations by Satan. After
this symbolic act, the pilgrims sacrifice an animal. This is Islam's most important feast, called
Eid el Kabir or Eid el Adha, and Muslims all over the world celebrate it.
At the end of the Hajj, the pilgrims go back to the Grand Mosque in
Mecca. They circle the Kaaba seven
times, pointing to the stone or kissing it. Finally, they run between the hills of Safa and Marwah, and drink from
the well of Zamzam. The running
symbolizes Hagar's search for water for her son, Ishmael; Muslims believe that
God miraculously provided the Zamzam Well to quench Ishmael's thirst.
Pilgrims often take great pride in their completion of the Hajj. Pray that God will show them that forgiveness
cannot come from a pilgrimage. Pray that they will feel the futility of these rituals, and that God will lead them to the truth of the Gospel and
forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus Christ.