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Key Takeaways

  • The Hajj is a pilgrimage taken part by the Muslims at least once in their life time.
  • It is believed to give them salvation and is taken to the holiest place for them, which is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
  • The Hajj comprises of various rituals that they have to follow, which are done in remembrance of Prophet Ibrahim.
  • Prophet Mohammed was the first to go to Mecca and restore the worship of Allah.
  • India has enacted the Hajj Committee Act to provide rules and regulations and lend a supporting hand to the Muslim people for their Hajj.
  • Hajj is a practice followed by Islamic people from all around the globe and Europe is considered to be global centre for Hajj.

Origin

Hajj is the pilgrimage of the Islam religion. The practice has been going on for centuries. Though the exact story of origin has not been witnessed by anyone but the story of the origin has been discussed and passed down from generation to generation.

The origin story dates back to the 2000 B.C. when Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his wife Hager got stranded in the desert and their infant son, Ishmael, was close to death due to thirst. The Angel Jibril (Gabriel), seeing the desperation of the parents, came down to Earth and created a spring of fresh water. The spring is known as the Well of Zemzem. Ibrahim after that followed the instructions of the God and built a monument on the very place of the spring which is called the Kaaba.

In the 630 A.D., Prophet Mohammed travelled there with a group of Muslims and re-dedicated the place in the name of Allah. This was the very first official Hajj. The path taken by Mohammed is retraced as a ritual of Hajj which also includes Hager’s walk between Safa and Marwa, stoning Satan’s wall, an animal’s slaughter to remember the sacrifice made by Ibrahim for saving his son.

Speciality of Mecca

Hajj pilgrimage is taken to Mecca. Mecca is the birth place of Prophet Mohammed and it is where he received the first revelations. It has been considered as the heart and spiritual centre of the Islam. It is considered as the centre of Earth by the Muslims.

Prior to Islam, it was an important site for pilgrimage of the Arab Tribes of North and Central Arabia. The tribes came there for worship once a year to worship Allah, even though they believed in many deities. It was an important commercial centre as any kind of violence was forbidden within Mecca and this helped in flourishing trade. After Prophet Mohammed’s revelation, the worship of one God was restored and it came to be known as the holiest city for the Islamic people.

Rituals of Hajj

The pilgrimage takes place in the designated last three months of the Muslim calendar known as Miqat Zamani. The main act though starts in the last 5 days of the last month, but the starting can begin for pilgrims in the tenth month itself. The pilgrims travelling by road come across Kufa (Iraq), damascus (Syria) and Cairo (Egypt) whereas, pilgrims travelling by sea have to enter Arabia via the Port of Jedda. It also includes the nearby sites of Arafat, Mina and Muzdalfah as holy sites for pilgrimage.

The Hajj has an elaborate ritual starting with tawaf which includes walking around the Kaaba seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. The rituals are carried out by the people since ages and it could be extremely dangerous leading to robbery or serious health issues of the pilgrims. It also led to death at times but dying on Hajj was expected to lead the pilgrims to heaven. Due to the modernization, the pilgrims now travel on plane to Saudi Arabia which makes the journey safer and quicker.

Pilgrims arrive in Arafat, a desolate and plain place 20 kilometres east of Mecca, on the third day before midday, where they stand in thoughtful vigil, offering supplications, repenting and atoning for past misdeeds, seeking God's mercy, and listening to the discourse from Islamic experts. On the fourth day, the pilgrims throw seven pebbles at each of Mina's three pillars from midday to dusk. The "Stoning of the Devil" is what it's called.

Finally, before leaving Mecca, pilgrims conduct the Tawaf al-Wadaa, a farewell tawaf. The pilgrims make seven counter-clockwise circles around the Kaaba, attempting to touch or kiss the Kaaba if they are able.

Hajj Committee in India

The city of Bombay has a long history with the Hajj. During British rule and before, Muslims travelled to Mecca by the sea route, beginning their holy journey in Bombay's seaport. The Hajj Committee, Bombay, was established in 1927, according to the data available. The President of the Hajj Committee, Bombay was then-Commissioner of Police Mr. D. Healy, Esq., and important Muslim Public Representatives were members. The Hajj Committee of Bombay conducted its first formal meeting on April 14, 1927.

The Port Hajj Committees Act of 1932 was passed on October 1, 1932, to form committees in the major ports of pilgrim traffic to aid Muslim pilgrims to Hedjaz. It called for the formation of a Calcutta Port Hajj Committee and a Bombay Port Hajj Committee.

The Port Hajj Committee of Bombay continued to function till April 1939, under the leadership of the Commissioner of Police of Bombay. Mrs. Khadija Shuffi Tyabji was chosen President of the Port Hajj Committee in Bombay on April 4, 1939.

Until 1959, the Port Hajj Committee in Bombay provided required services to pilgrims on their way to Hajj. The Hajj Committee Act of 1959 (No.51 of 1959) was passed on the 17th of December, 1959, to establish a Committee in the Port of Bombay for helping Muslim Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Jordan, as well as things related thereto.

Mr. Mustafa Fakih was the first Chairman of the Hajj Committee, which was established under the Hajj Committee Act of 1959. Passenger ship travel has dwindled as a global phenomena. People began to travel by air. Air travel was eventually introduced for Hajj Pilgrims as well. Until 1994, approximately 5,000 Pilgrims travelled by ship from the Sea Port of Bombay to perform Hajj, and another 19,000 Pilgrims travelled by air. However, beginning in 1995, Hajj Pilgrims who travelled by sea were no longer permitted to do so, and all Hajj Pilgrims were required to travel by air.

It was no longer required for all Hajj Pilgrims to travel to Bombay after the introduction of air transport. Other Embarkation Points were gradually added. Year after year, the number of Embarkation Points increased.

With the addition of more and more Embarkation Points, Hajj management has become more diverse. The Hajj Committee of India felt it was vital to have appropriate representation from all regions of the country. As a result, the Hajj Committee Act of 2002 (No.35 of 2002) was passed. It envisions all sections of India being represented in the Hajj Committee of India.

Hajj around the Globe

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the United Kingdom, helped sponsor the British Hajj Delegation in 2000 to provide consular support and medical services to British citizens on the ground in Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that France is nominally secular, the French government maintains a consulate in Jeddah to assist French citizens performing the Hajj. The most recent consul, Lewis Blaine, a convert, did most of his work on a motorcycle, zipping around Mecca and the holy places assisting French citizens.

Russia, which has the highest Muslim population of any European country with 14 million Muslims, has done the most to support its citizen-Hajj pilgrims. Russia's Muslims have had subsidised flights to Jeddah during the Hajj season on Aeroflot, the state carrier, since the early 2000s, thanks to the Putin regime. Visas and transportation are arranged by a state-run Hajj liaison office.

After annexing Crimea from Ukraine last, Russia offered Crimean Tatars large Hajj subsidies ($1000 per person, approximately a third of the cost of an economy package tour) in a clear attempt to foster their loyalty toward Moscow rather than Kiev.

Hajj in Europe

By the end of the nineteenth century, Europe's imperial powers had colonised much of Asia and nearly all of Africa, as well as enslaved the majority of the world's Muslims. (Only Persia, Afghanistan, and the Ottoman Empire survived European colonialism among the world's Muslim states.) Each of the great imperial powers of the day, the British, Dutch, French, and Russians, ruled over more Muslims in their empires than any one sovereign Muslim state in the decades leading up to World War I.

For the first time in history, the Hajj came under European influence and control as a result of colonial dominance in Muslim-majority areas. The Meccan pilgrimage had been done almost exclusively under the patronage of Muslim rulers, via Muslim-ruled regions, and with the assistance of Muslim officials along the way since its eighth-century origins after the establishment of Islam. Non-Muslims could not enter the Holy City of Mecca, which was (and still is) confined to Hajj pilgrims.

Muslims made the Meccan pilgrimage under the aegis of Islamic empires before the era of worldwide European conquest. The Mamluk, Mughal, and Ottoman imperial governments all invested a lot of money to help Hajj pilgrims make the long and often dangerous trek to Mecca by land and water routes.

As Hajj benefactors, the Ottomans were perhaps the most ambitious. They supported imperial Hajj caravans along important land routes to Mecca every year. By the early 1800s, these were massive gatherings of people and animals, led by military escort, and involving as many as 50,000 pilgrims.

The Ottomans reinforced desert routes between Damascus and Cairo to Mecca, building fortifications, wells, and cisterns along the way to protect the caravan from bandit attacks and to manage the Hajj traffic under their supervision.

In the sixteenth century, things began to alter slowly. As Europeans made their way into the Indian Ocean and sections of Asia, they seized Muslim-majority areas and took direct control of extensive stretches of traditional Hajj routes. In the nineteenth century, as European empires increased, so did their interest in and participation in the Hajj.

By the turn of the century, the majority of Hajj pilgrims arriving in Mecca were colonial subjects. Due to the global mobility revolution that European imperialism had also delivered, they arrived in unprecedented numbers as many as 300,000 each year.


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