Every world religion has a core belief or collection of core beliefs that provide structure and guidance to the believers of each faith. Islam is built upon the five basic pillars of Shahadah, Salaat, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj. These five principals are the foundation of the religion and are practiced universally across cultures, ethnicities, schools of thought and nations. The first pillar, Shahadah, is the declaration of faith that each Muslim embraces as the compassing force steering her or him along the path of Islam. The second pillar, Salah, is the observance of the five daily obligatory prayers that all Muslims are responsible for performing. Zakat, the third pillar, is the financial obligation upon all Muslims and is an important principal because its focus is upon giving in charity to those in need. The fourth pillar, Sawm, is the Arabic word for fasting and fasting is prescribed for all Muslims, particularly during the month of Ramadan.
The fifth pillar, Hajj, is the fulfillment of the obligatory pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are physically and financially able to do so. Over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe and Muslims are provided the unique opportunity to meet and fellowship with believers from various nations. The annual hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that hajj and Ramadan fall sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter). Pilgrims wear special clothes called ihram garments which are simple clothing that strip away distinctions of class and culture so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the hajj, which are of Abrahamic origin, include going around the Ka'bah seven times, and going seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa as it is believed that Hagar (Hajir, Abraham's wife) did during her search for water. The pilgrims later stand together on the wide plains of 'Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah) and join in prayer for God's forgiveness, in what is often thought as a preview of the Day of Judgment. The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, the 'Id al Adha, which is celebrated with prayers and the exchange of gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.
In 2004 we moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There was no intention that we wanted to do more, as soon as we settled, than to hasten our Hajj obligation. Therefore at the end of 2004 my husband and I along with our 2 young daughters (5 and 1.5 years) performed Hajj for the first time. Although it was not easy to run Hajj with the kids we had to be ready, since our test was our children. For this reason, when we completed all of the Hajj rituals, we were satisfied, relieved, and pleased. Not just because we got through it with the kids, but because we also had completed our obligations as a Muslim.
Sister Delina goes on to explain how the Hajj touched her life most:
For me, Hajj is not just a title that is carried proudly in front of our name. Hajj should be an improvement of my heart and faith. Each ritual of Hajj has its own significance. When I got together with millions of people in Arafat, Muzdalifah, Masjidil Haram, or Mina, I realized that so many people were struggling to set aside their money to be able to perform Hajj, for the sake of Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. It evoked a sense of gratitude to Him. Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, had paved the way for me and my family to complete our deen. When I did wuquf in Arafat, I mused, it is a miniature of a field Maghsyar, a place where all human beings will be resurrected after death; led on the field of Maghsyar to receive report cards of their deeds. When I did thowaf and sa'I, crammed with thousands of people, carrying my baby, I remembered Siti Hajar, leaving her baby, Prophet Ismail, in search of a drop of water under the hot sun. I was grateful that I did not bring my children out in the hot weather. Thowaf now is in an open shady place with a marble floor and sa'i is in a roofed area, equipped with air conditioning. Hajj makes me more grateful for His favors.