In previous posts, I wrote about the first four pillars of Islam: shahadah (the proclamation of faith), salah (prayer), saum Ramadan (fasting during the month of Ramadan), and zakat (almsgiving). Hajj, the fifth and final pillar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every able-bodied Muslim who is financially ready is required to perform the pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage to Mecca predates Islam. Mecca was on a major trade route and also home to Kaba, the holy sanctuary in the middle of the city that many people would visit for pilgrimage. For Muslims, the Kaba is the center of the Islamic worldview. During prayer, Muslims face the Kaba. Muslims also believe that Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kaba for the worship of one God and by the time of the Prophet Muhammad it had been filled with idols. Many of the rituals of the hajj stem from the Abrahamic story.
During hajj, the focus is just the worship of God. The rituals unify pilgrims and during the hajj they leave behind all worldly markers. Most Muslims who perform the hajj assert that they come back changed. The hajj is the ultimate experience for a Muslim.
Have you been to hajj? What was your experience? Have you been on a pilgrimage as part of another faith tradition? Did you feel it changed you? Please share your comments below.