1. Hajj is is done between the 8 and 13 of Dhul-Hijjah the twelfth month of the Muslim year and is the fifth pillar of Islam. Every Muslim is expected to complete Hajj at least once in their lifetime. It is the visit to Al-Ka’bah the house of Allah in Makkah. The Al-Kabah was the first house to be built for the sole purpose of the worship of Allah originally built by Adam and later rebuilt by Ibrahim and his son Isma’il.
On arriving outside Makkah the pilgrims enter the state of ihram, so they can dedicate themselves to prayer and worship. They get changed into white unsewn cloth – this is to represent single-mindedness, equality and self-sacrifice. It also reminds the pilgrim of his position in relation to Allah. It also reminds him that after his death he will be wrapped in a plain white cloth and all his other clothes will be left behind. This is also so everyone has the same status in the house of Allah the status of His servants. The Restrictions of Irhram means that they think of their ultimate goal – which is success in life after death – and nothing else.
On actually entering Makkah they say a prayer called the talbiyah, this is the answer to the call to come to Makkah. This is also to remind the pilgrim that he belongs to Allah, will return to Allah and must do as Allah commands.
After changing they circle the Ka’bah seven times at a fast pace, this is to symbolise their love for God. This is called the Tawaf. Whilst doing this the pilgrims try to touch the black stone but as most of them can’t, due to the crowds most of them just raise their arms and shout in salute every time they go past it. They do this because they believe that it was either dug out of the ground by Isma’il at a place indicated by Jibril, or that Jibril brought it from paradise and gave it to Adam or that it was given to the decendants of Nuh after the flood.
After doing the Tawaf the pilgrims do Sa’y this is the walk seven times between Safa and Marwah. This is in memory of Hajar’s search for water for her dying son. Her actions symbolised the souls search for what gives life and it symbolises patience and perseverance. It is also proof of the importance given to women by Islam.
The ritual of Hajj that has the most symbolic and spiritual meaning is the stand before God for judgement at the Mount of Mercy. The pilgrims stand from noon to sunset. The stand has the most symbolic meaning because the Mount of Mercy is where God is said to have reunited Adam and Eve. If the stand is not done Hajj is not valid. It is on the Mount of Mercy pilgrims ask forgiveness for past sins and gain the promise of paradise.
After the stand the pilgrims head to Mina it is here they perform another of the rituals with a lot of symbolic meaning. It was here that the devil tempted Ibrahim when he was on the way to sacrifice his son Isma’il for Allah. Ibrahim and his son fought the temptations and to get rid of the devil threw stones at him. This happened three times. As Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son Allah appeared and gave him a goat to sacrifice instead as he had proven his loyalty. This shows Allah’s compassion towards for not being swayed by temptation. In memory of Ibrahim’s temptations and his loyalty to Allah the pilgrims throw stones at three pillars, which shows that they too will not be swayed.
2. Women in Islam are held in high esteem by the men but are not equal. Islam recognises the leadership of men over women but the men shouldn’t dominate the woman. Muslim women accept only Allah as their master and they do not see themselves as inferior to their husbands. She has the right to choose her husband and can’t be forced to marry against her choice as this is forbidden in Islam and doomed to failure. Most Muslims have arranged marriages as they believe that sometimes being under the influence of love is a dangerous state of mind and could cloud the judgement. If the marriage is unsuccessful the woman can ask for a separation called a Khula.
The Qu’ran asks the Muslims to treat women kindly and this makes the husbands responsible for the wife’s maintenance. In return the woman has to be obedient and chaste.
A woman has the right to own property and she can dispose of her earnings and properties as she wants as long as she stays in the bounds of Halal and Haram
When a women goes out she wears Hijab, which is a covering cloak to help stop men’s desire and attraction for her.
Muslim women do not have to go to the Mosque and if they do they sit at the back, behind a curtain, on a balcony or in a different room to men this is because she could distract and embarrass the men.
The women must believe in the Tawhid and the practice of Islam. They must perform Salah, pay Zakah out of her own wealth, go on Hajj if she can afford it. Friday prayer (Jumah) is optional. During her period she can defer Sawm but she must make up lost days she also does not do Salah during this time as you must be clean and pure.
Islam sees the family as a unit and the man and the woman each have equal responsibilities for the success of the unit. Women may not be viewed to be on the same level as men but are equally important in Muslim life.
3. It is currently difficult for a Muslim man to practise his beliefs mainly due to the fact of discrimination caused by the recent terrorist attacks by Al Queda. Due to the Al Queda being a Muslim terrorist group and saying they are doing the attacks for Allah has caused a stereotypical belief that all Muslims think like this. This has caused people to be more wary of Muslims around them and less trustful of them. Vandalism attacks on Mosques have increased since September 11th. Verbal and physical abuse of Muslims has also increased and many Muslims fear for their safety. There has always been slight wariness towards Muslims but it is especially prominent in the current time.
Muslims in Britain also have more temptations away from Muslim life than in purely Muslim countries created by the western lifestyle. Television programs, music and the way schools and workplaces are run create most of these temptations.
Muslims have stopped some of these temptations by creating their own communities, with purely Muslims schools and workplaces and where Mosques are more common placed. Although this has some advantages it does add to the resentment people feel, and they wonder what is the point of them coming to this country if they are just going to shut themselves into their own Muslim community and not mix or learn the language, creating a vicious circle of mistrust.
If a Muslim is truly dedicated to his faith nothing should distract and stop him from practising his religion. To be able to be able to ignore the distractions and practise his belief shows a great strength of character and that he is very committed to the faith.