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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 8

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The Islamic Bulletin

Issue 8

Like most Italians, Leccesi was brought up a Roman Catholic, but

for years he felt that something was missing from his life. He says,

“When I read the Bible, I totally agreed with everything it said, but

I saw that practice was very different from the theory. People didn’t

behave in a way that did (the bible) justice”, he said. A series of

visits to the Naples mosques, together with the Italian friend who

had already converted to the Islamic faith, convinced Leccesi that

becoming a Muslim would give him what he defines as “the some-

thing extra” that he was looking for.

His friends were skeptical at first. “It was quite hard at the beginning.

People were upset because it seemed such a strange thing to do. To

them, it was a step into the unknown. Some of my more intelligent

friends looked at me with a sort of admiration, even though they still

thought I was a bit crazy,” said Leccesi. His wife found the decision

hard to accept at first. For a start, she had to get used to calling the

man she married as Franco by his new name of Omar. “Now, she

sometimes calls me Franco and sometimes Omar, though I really

don’t mind which,” said Leccesi. “You can’t force people to believe

the things you do, and I’ve never tried with her, but even she is

showing more interest than she once did. You could now describe

her as a sympathizer.”

Muslim population as a whole is nearly 30,000. For years Rome’s

community has been forced to pray in an annex of the cramped

Islamic Center in the residential Parioli neighborhood of the city.

Nowmore than two decades after the idea was first proposed by the

late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Rome’s Muslims are finally getting

ready to take possession of their own mosque- a magnificent, 17

domed structure, whose prayer hall alone will accommodate 2000

people at a time.

Abdurrahman feels totally integrated with the people whose religion

he has chosen to adopt, and he predicts, in the years to come, that

many more Europeans will follow suit.

“Islam rises above cultural divisions,” he said. “I am a Muslim, just

as a Filipino or an Indonesian may be. There is absolutely no dif-

ference. The rhythm of my lifestyle is similar to theirs, and different

from that of the society to which I once belonged. I pray five times

a day, and in between those prayers I find I’m not angry or violent.

I’m not competitive and I don’t prevaricate. I think in the future

there are going to be a great many more people who will make the

same choice as I have.”

To subscribe to Il Messagero dell’Islam, contact Centro Islamico Via

Rovigo, 11 Milan-20132 , Italy. Telephone number is 25.66.885,

Annual subscription is 25.000 Italian Lire which is about 21.00

U.S. dollars. L’Islam Credo, Pilastri, vertice e perfezione and Mu-

hammad, L’Inviato di Dio can be ordered at Edizioni del Calamo

Via Maiocchi, 27 Milan-20129 Tel/Fax 02- or contact

The Islamic Bulletin.

The Hajj--the Pilgrimage to Mecca--is essentially a series of rites

performed in and near Mecca, the holiest of the three holy cities of

Islam--Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. As it is one of the five pillars

of Islam, all believers, if they are financially and physically able,

must make this Pilgrimage at least once in their life.

The Hajj must be made between the eighth and the 13th days of

the 12th month (called Dhu al-Hijjah) of the Muslim lunar year.

Donning the Ihram

In a general sense, the Pilgrimage begins with the donning of the Ih-

ram, a white seamless garment. The Ihram is symbol of the pilgrims’

search for purity and their renunciation of mundane pleasures. For

men this garment consists of two lengths of white material, one

covering the body from waist to ankle, the other thrown over the

shoulder. For women it is customarily--but not necessarily--a simple

white gown and a head covering without a veil.

At the moment of donning the Ihram the pilgrims enter a state of

grace and purity in which they may not engage in any disputes,

commit any violent acts or indulge in sexual relations.

Uttering the Talbiyah

In donning the Ihram the pilgrims also make a formal Declaration

of Pilgrimage and pronounce a devotional utterance called the

Talbiyah: “Doubly at Thy service, O God,” a phrase which they will

repeat frequently during the Pilgrimage as an indication that they

have responded to God’s call to make the Pilgrimage.

Entering the Haram

After donning the Ihram- and only after- the pilgrims may enter the

Haram. In a sense, the Haram is merely a geographical area which

surrounds Mecca. But because its frontiers were established by

Abraham and confirmed by Muhammad, the Haram is considered

a sacred precinct within which man, undomesticated plants, birds

and beasts need fear no molestation and all violence, even the

plucking of a wild flower, is forbidden.

For the duration of the Hajj, Mecca and the Sanctuary that surrounds

it have a special status. To cross the frontiers of the Haram--which

lie outside Mecca between three and 18 miles from the Ka’bah--

pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia must now have a special Hajj

visa in their passports. The visa must be stamped by immigration

officials stationed at various check points on roads leading into the

Haram and it entitles pilgrims to travel only within the Haram and

to certain other places that pilgrims must, or customarily do, visit.

Non-Muslims are strictly forbidden to enter the Haram under any


Going to Mina

On the eighth day of Dhu al-Hijjah the assembled pilgrims begin

the Hajj by going--some on foot, most by bus, truck and car--to

Mina, a small uninhabited village five miles east of Mecca, and

there spend the night--as the Prophet (pbuh) himself did on his

Farewell Pilgrimage--meditating and praying in preparation for “the

Standing” (Wuquf), which will occur the next day and which is the

central rite of the Hajj.

Standing at ‘Arafat

On the morning of the ninth, the pilgrims move in masse fromMina

to the Plain of ‘Arafat for “the Standing,” the culmination--but not

the end--of the pilgrimage. In what is a basically simple ceremony

the pilgrims gather on the plain and, facing Mecca, meditate and

pray. Some pilgrims literally stand the entire time--from shortly

before noon to just before sunset--but, despite the name of the

ceremony, are not required to do so. Pilgrims may, and most do, sit,

talk, eat, and, although not required to do so, climb to the summit

of a 200-foot hill called the Mount of Mercy (Jabal al-Rahmah) at

the bottom of which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) delivered his

Farewell Sermon during his Pilgrimage.

Going to Muzdalifah

Just after sunset, which is signaled by cannon fire, the pilgrims

gathered at ‘Arafat immediately proceed in masse to a place called

Muzdalifah a few miles back toward Mina. Traditionally, there, the

pilgrims sleep under the stars after gathering a number of pebbles for

use during the rites on the following days. Some gather 49 pebbles,

other 70, and still others wait until they get to Mina.

Stoning the Pillars

Before daybreak on the 10th, again roused by cannon, the pilgrims

continue their return to Mina. There they throw seven of the stones

which they collected at Muzdalifah at one of three whitewashed,

rectangular masonry pillars. The particular pillar which they stone

on this occasion is generally thought to represent “the Great Dev-

il”--that is, Satan, who three times tried to persuade Abraham to

disobey God’s command to sacrifice his son--and the throwing of

the pebbles symbolizes the pilgrim’s repudiation of evil.

Performing the Sacrifice

Now begins the greatest feast of Islam: the ‘Id al-Adha--the Feast of

Sacrifice. After the throwing of the seven stones the pilgrims who

can afford it buy a sheep, a goat or a share of some other sacrificial

animal, sacrifice it and give away a portion of the meat to the poor.

The Sacrifice has several meanings: it commemorates Abraham’s

willingness to sacrifice his son; it symbolizes the believer’s pre-

paredness to give up what is dearest him; it marks the Muslim

renunciation of idolatrous sacrifice; it offers thanksgiving to God;

and it reminds the pilgrim to share his blessings with those less


But as Muslims everywhere are the same day performing an

identical sacrifice--and thus vicariously sharing in the elation of

the pilgrims in Mecca--the Sacrifice is also an integral part of a

worldwide Muslim celebration that unites those on the Hajj with

those elsewhere.

Donning the Ihram

As the pilgrims have now completed a major part of the Hajj, men

shave their heads or clip their hair and women cut off a symbolic

lock to mark partial deconsecration. At this point the pilgrims may

remove the Ihram, bathe and put on clean clothes, but although

the period of consecration is now at an end, the prohibitions against

intercourse still obtain, for the Pilgrimage is not yet over.

Making the Tawaf

The pilgrims now proceed directly to Mecca and the Sacred

Mosque, which encloses the Ka’bah, and, on a huge mar-

ble-floored oval, perform “the Circling” (Tawaf). The Tawaf consists

essentially of circling the Ka’bah on foot seven times, reciting a

prayer during each circuit. It signifies the unity of God and man

and reminds believers that the Patriarch Abraham, his son Ishmael

and Muhammad (peace be upon them), emphasized the impor-

tance of the Ka’bah.

Kissing the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone)

While circling the Ka’bah the pilgrims should, if they can, kiss or

touch the Black Stone (Hajar Al-aswad), which is embedded in the

southeastern corner of the Ka’bah and which is the precise starting

point of the seven circuits. Failing this, they salute it.

Kissing the Stone is a ritual that is performed only because the Holy

Prophet (pbuh) did it and not because any powers or symbolism

attach to the Stone per se.

After completing the last circuit of the Ka’bah, the pilgrims go to

the “Place of Abraham,” also within the courtyard, and worship

the spot where Abraham himself offered up his devotions to God.

That site is now marked by an octagonal metal and crystal structure

recently built.

The Tawaf after Mina is called the Tawaf of the Return and is the

last essential ritual. The pilgrims are now fully deconsecrated and

are hajjis--that is they have completed the Hajj.

Making the Sa’y

Although the key rituals of the Hajj have been completed, most

pilgrims also include “the Running” (Sa’y), a reenactment of the

search for water by Hagar, wife of Abraham. Hagar was led into

the desert with her infant son Ishmael and left near the present

site of Mecca. Frantic for water for the child, she ran desperately

back and forth seven times between two rocky hillocks, one called

al-Safa the other al-Marwa, until the Angel Gabriel appeared and,

stamping the ground with his heel, brought forth water for her

and her child.

This is the origin of the Well of Zamzam, now enclosed in a marble

chamber beneath the courtyard of the Sacred Mosque. Pilgrims

drink from the well before starting the Sa’y.

In performing the Sa’y, the pilgrims enter a spacious enclosed

gallery or corridor appended to the Sacred Mosque and called the

“the Place of Running” (al-Mas’a) and approach al-Safa, one of

the hillocks, now little more than a knoll at the end of the gallery.

Facing toward the Ka’bah, the pilgrims declare their intention of

performing the Sa’y, descend to the Mas’a and walk briskly between

the hills seven times.

Returning to Mina

It is also customary for the pilgrims to return to Mina between the

11th and 13th--for the third time--where they cast their remaining

pebbles at each of the three pillars, seven stones at each pillar on

each of the days they are there, for a total of either 49 or 70 pebbles.

They also visit with other pilgrims.


Before leaving Mecca it is also customary to make a final Tawaf

around the Ka’bah as a means of bidding the Holy City farewell

and most pilgrims, if they have time, also take this opportunity to

pay a visit to the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, 277 miles to

the north. This is not a part of the Pilgrimage, but it is considered

meritorious to pray in the mosque which the Prophet (pbuh)

himself founded.

The Umrah

Upon first entering Mecca, before beginning the Hajj, pilgrims also

perform a Tawaf and a Sa’y. But done then, these two rites --coupled

with the donning of the Ihram at the border of the Sanctuary--con-

stitute the ‘Umrah, or “the Lesser Pilgrimage.”

The ‘Umrah is essentially a mark of respect paid to the city of

Mecca upon first entering it--and although it is a requirement

for pilgrims arriving from outside Mecca--a necessary prelude to

the Pilgrimage--and involves two of the same rites, it is not part

of the Hajj. It is also required for Muslims who visit Mecca at

other times of the year because that was the practice of the Holy

Prophet (pbuh) himself.

But there is only one Hajj--the ceremony which on those special

days of Dhu al-Hijjah gathers and unites more than a million of the

faithful from every corner of the earth.