The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. These pillars are the fundamental (basic) rituals (ceremonial observations and devotions), and they make up the individual’s faith. The shahada is the first pillar that means affirmation of the Absolute Oneness of Allah and of the fact that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His Servant and Messenger. Salat is the second pillar of the faith. It means the performance of prayers in the set manner. “Zakat” forms the third pillar of the faith. It means “purification” as the Muslim who pays 2.50 per cent of his total savings and assets (property and funds) to the needy each year and, thus, purifies his wealth and himself. Siyam, the fast, is the fourth pillar, and, as we know, the whole month of Ramazan is devoted to it. The hajj, the fifth pillar, is the last of the devotional stages of the Muslim in his relationship with God.
The hajj is, in another sense, the highest point (culmination) of all the prayers and religious ceremonies that bring the believer closest to God. Ceremoniously, it involves five rites that a pilgrim has to perform. Namely, the tawaf, the circumambulation of the Kaaba (going round and about it), the sa’i, the trekking (making a long hard walk) back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa, the waquf or the standing at Arafat, the udhiya or the ritual of sacrifice, and the jamarat or the stoning of the Devil. These rites are all performed in Makkah and its surroundings up to 1.80 to 260 kilometres on all sides.
As the Kaaba lies at the centre of Makkah, the five rites performed here stand for the central beliefs of Islam. For example, the tawaf is the faithful’s clear admission and affirmation of his complete submission to the centre, to the House of God and to God Himself.
The rituals, which include wearing a special garment by all pilgrims, represent unity and humbleness, Without much hair on the head, and wearing a loose sheet of cloth, the pilgrim moves steadily onwards.
All the experiences of the Hajj contribute to the pilgrim’s total purification, inward and outward. When he returns to the sea of daily corruption and impurities, he can easily sail on the boat of faith to the everlasting life of heaven.