Understanding the Hajj (pilgrimage)

Frontier Scan, March 1998

Condensed from the March 1998 issue of the Global Prayer Digest Pray for a Church for Every People in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Meaning of the Hajj

"I stand up for thy service, O God! I stand up! I stand up! There is no partner with Thee! I stand up! Verily thine is the Praise, the Blessing and the Kingdom! There is no partner with Thee!"

This song is not from an ancient Christian or Jewish hymn but is the text from the Talbijah, the Muslim song pilgrims sing on their way to Mecca. Understanding the rituals and beliefs of the Muslim peoples is the first step in praying for the people and against the spirit that binds them. Dr. Ali Shariati, a leading Muslim apologist martyred in pre-Revolution Iran, stresses that the enemies of Islam see the Hajj, or the pilgrimage to Mecca, as empty ritualism. He says, "Hajj is man's evolution toward Allah." It is one of the five pillars of the Muslim religion. the Hajj is a play with many actors, the most important actor being the pilgrim himself. The pilgrim acts as if he was Adam, Abraham, and Hagar in the confrontation between Allah and Satan.

Just as Christians fall into empty ritual, so Dr. Shariati sees the Muslim falling into an empty ritual forgetting the meaning behind the form. The pilgrimage taken by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers great; Malcolm X; and Ayhan, the Istanbul taxi cab driver, are very similar in nature. the Hajj is to be done by everyone who is financially and otherwise capable of performing it. He may perform it by proxy, appointing a relative or friend to go on the pilgrimage for him.

the Hajj is part of the Muslim's desire to seek Allah. Mohammed set the pattern for the pilgrimage in the last year of his life, AD 632. There have been variations in the past according to the desires of the ruling leadership. Ib'n Saud, a Saudi Arabian king, reestablished the pattern set by Mohammed in the early 20th Century.

The pilgrim endeavors to conform with the practice of the Prophet Mohammed in accordance with the example set by him on his only pilgrimage.

Ayhan, our Istanbul taxi driver, is a typical pilgrim. He begins the hajj by praying twice and then divesting himself of his clothes, assuming the ihram, the pilgrim's sacred robe. The ihram is composed of two white seamless sheets or towels, one of which is wrapped around the waist with the other draped over the shoulder. The head remains uncovered. Ayhan then faces Mecca making the intention, a prayer of resolution. As he travels he recites or sings with a loud voice along with the other pilgrims, hymns like the one printed earlier. Upon arrival he washes himself in the sacred mosque and he encounters the Ka'bah. He has dreamed of seeing this since he was a child.

Just as Christians and Jews have deep connections with Jerusalem, so Muslims have a connection with Mecca. Mecca is 45 miles to the east of Jiddah, which lies on the Red Sea. The route between the two cities follows the ancient camel tracks leading into Alamain, or two pillars, marking the beginning of the sacred territory of Mecca. No non-Muslim is allowed beyond this point. Mecca lies about halfway up the trade route that ran along the Red Sea coast from the southern tip of Arabia to the Mediterranean. Commonly, caravans carried frankincense and myrrh. Mecca is the home of 658,000 inhabitants (1996). This population swells dramatically during the pilgrimage. Truly Mecca has extended its influence throughout the world.

A Christian apologist of the eighth century called the Muslim faith a heretical form of Christianity. Mohammed integrated many of the beliefs of both the Christian and the Jew with pagan beliefs to build this great movement on the foundations of Mecca and the Ka'bah. Muslims sincerely want to serve Allah. They need to understand that their prayers and rituals are not the way to the True God.

Pray for Muslims:

  • For God to call millions of Christians around the world into united, focused prayer, crying out to God for the revelation of Jesus to spring forth among Muslim people as they go on the Hajj.
  • For cooperation between denominations, churches, and Para church groups in unified times of loving prayer for Muslims.
  • Pray that the Christians of the Arab world will actively take Christ to their Muslim neighbors.
  • For "Daniels" and "Esthers" to rise up in places of influence throughout the Muslim world.
  • For the enemy's plans against the gospel to be thwarted.
  • Islam means "submission to God." Pray for Muslims to become fully submitted to God in Christ.

Copyright 1998 by the U.S. Center for World Mission. May be used freely for educational and promotional purposes. The FrontierScan is a monthly summary of the Global Prayer Digest, both of which are published monthly by the U.S. Center for World Mission.

Muslims are normal sincere people who need the Lord Jesus. Please take the time to pray for them.

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