Having invested their life savings for this spiritual journey, pilgrims simply don the simple Ihram – two pieces of white cloth symbolising the equality of all men and a potent reminder of our death, as there will be the shroud.
We face towards the Kaaba five times a day, the black draped shrine. Every heart longs to see it and every eye eagerly awaits for this opportunity.
As the pilgrim’s eyes fall on the Kaaba in ecstatic devotion they utter the Prophet’s prayer:
“O Lord! Grant this house greater honour, veneration and awe; and forgive and grant peace to those who venerate it. O Lord! You are peace, peace comes from you so greet us with the greeting of peace”.
Why so much love and veneration? Adam and Eve met near here, Abraham and Ismail built the house of God here, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born around the corner from here. So much history, the roots of humanity are here.
The black stone is just 30 centimetres in diameter and beautifully encased in a silver frame in one corner of the Kaaba. Everyone eagers to kiss it or at least touch it. Why? This symbolises the Divine right hand and the pilgrim by kissing it renews his primordial covenant of ‘yaum-e-alat’ Pledging to be an obedient servant forever.
The pilgrim moves around the Kaaba doing tawaf, singing His praises, heart yearning for mercy and the eyes filled with tears. Seeking forgiveness and hoping for the Divine beautific vision in the hereafter. The sea of people circling the Kaaba symbolises the lover drawing nearer and nearer to his beloved. On completing the seven circuits of the Kaaba the pilgrim quenches his thirst with the water of Zam Zam, symbolising the life giving nature of devotion.
The highlight of this wonderful journey is spending the afternoon at the plains of Arafat (some 20km from Makka). Some 3 million pilgrims gather here. This is a cogent reminder of the grand assembly on the Day of Judgement. It is a premonition, a foretaste of that great event that will determine our ultimate fate, Paradise or Hell.
As the pilgrims return from Arafat, next day they stone the devil. Symbolising the devotees’ earnest desire to rid himself of the devils influence. Free himself from the shackles of the rejected. The devil is stoned seven times symbolising a complete severance of ties with him.