Thousands of years ago the Patriarch Abraham (Ibrahim in the Arabic), upon the commandment of our Creator, traveled with his family, wife Hajar and son Ismail, south out of Palestine and into the deserts of Arabia to a barren valley known at that time as Becca (today’s modern Mecca). He left his wife and infant son there and turned around and started to walk away. Despite the pleas of his wife he did not answer her until she asked him, “is this what your Lord commanded?”. On that question he answered in the affirmative and continued to walk. Hajar then replied, “then we shall persevere”.
A few days later their provisions ran out. Her milk stopped. The baby started to cry. Hajar runs to the top of a near by hill, now called Mount Safa, and calls out for anyone to hear her. She then runs down and to another hill about 1/4 of a mile away now known as Mount Marwah. She calls out from there as well. She runs between the two hills seven times calling out for help at each hill. Her baby, down in the valley is crying and kicking. Upon the completion of her seventh circuit between the two hills, she suddenly sees down by the feet of her son a spring of water had erupted and water was gushing forth. This miraculous spring is known as Zamzam, and except for a short time when the ancient Meccans had buried it, it has flowed for thousands of years to this day providing travelers and pilgrims life sustaining water.
With the flow of water in that barren valley, birds began to fly there. Caravans following the birds also soon arrived. The great city of Mecca is built at that site. About nine years go by and Ibrahim returns to visit his family and see the good fortune that was promised would come their way. He finds a small city has grown around where he left his family. It was at this time that he was commanded to build the first sanctuary for the worship of the One God and he lays down the foundation of that house. It was also at this time that he was commanded to sacrifice his son Ismail. It was this miraculous event where as he was about to draw the blade across his son’s throat, with his eyes closed unable to bear the sight of what he was about to do, hears his young son laughing heartily off to the side. When he opens his eyes, he finds a ram in the place of his son.
He once again leaves his family only to return years later when his son is a young man. At this time he and his son raise the house of worship, now known as the Ka’ba, a cubic shaped building. Its corners are loosely aligned with one pair along the East-West line and the other pair along the North-South line. Once they completed the house, Ibrahim calls out in supplication that the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth accept the effort that they made. God replies to him by commanding him to make the call to all humanity to come and worship at that house. Ibrahim then calls out in as loud a voice as he could. It reverberated through all the canyons and ravines and every deep crack, and still echos to this day.
In response to that call made thousands of years ago, on this night the faithful respond: “Hear we are in service O Lord Here we are replying to your call. Here we are in service, there is no associate with You, Here we are! Truly all praise is to you, all blessing from you, and to you is the dominion over all things. There is no associate with You!”
And for the next 9 days, approximately 2 million Muslims of the nearly 1.75 billion on earth, begin to congregate on Mecca to perform the largest annual religious spectacle on the planet – The Hajj.
During the Hajj, Muslims sacrifice their livelihood by leaving it behind, leaving their families behind, their homes and trek out into the desert in worship of the One God, repeating the rites that were done by Hajar, Ibrahim and Ismail thousands of years ago. Of course no human sacrifices are performed, being prohibited in Islam, but other sacrifices are made showing our devotion to God and our lack of care for material wealth. It culminates in 9 days on the plain of Arafah 13 miles out in the desert and then back to Mecca on the 10th day where the faithful will circumambulate around the Ka’ba for 3 days during the Holiday of Sacrifice in commemoration of Ibrahim and what he did before they return home. It is the biggest Muslim holiday of the year, being the second of only two holidays.
The start of the Hajj coincides with the beginning of the 12th month of the year Dhul-Hijjah, the month of the pilgrimage. The month in the Islamic calendar, as always, starts with the sighting of the new crescent moon, which was seen world round this evening. Here is the view from Campbell California.
Dhul Hijjah Moon, 1433
So to all my Muslims readers, Hajj Mabrur!