Hajj lit­er­ally means, “to con­tin­u­ously strive to reach one’s goal.” The Hajj, or Pil­grim­age to Mecca, is a once-in-a-lifetime oblig­a­tion for those who have the phys­i­cal and finan­cial abil­ity to under­take the journey.

The Hajj is essen­tially a re-enactment of the rit­u­als of the great prophets and teach­ers of faith. Pil­grims sym­bol­i­cally relive the expe­ri­ence of exile and atone­ment under­gone by Adam and Eve after they were expelled from Heaven, wan­dered the earth, met again and sought for­give­ness in the val­ley of Mecca. They also retrace the fran­tic foot­steps of the wife of Abra­ham, Hagar, as she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa search­ing for water for her thirsty baby (which accord­ing to Mus­lim tra­di­tion, God answered with the well of Zam Zam). Lastly, the pil­grims also com­mem­o­rate the will­ing­ness of Abra­ham to sac­ri­fice his son for the sake of God. God later sub­sti­tuted a ram in place of his son.

Per­form­ing the rit­u­als of Hajj pro­vides a reminder of how the great prophets and teach­ers of faith estab­lished a deep and per­sonal rela­tion­ship with God. As the pil­grim makes his sup­pli­ca­tions to God, he real­izes that He is ask­ing of the same God that answered the prayers of those before him. These reminders are an impor­tant part of strength­en­ing one’s faith, trust and depen­dence in God. The faith­ful hope that the Hajj will bring about a deep spir­i­tual trans­for­ma­tion, one that will make him or her a bet­ter per­son. If such a change from within does not occur, then the Hajj was merely a phys­i­cal and mate­r­ial exer­cise devoid of any spir­i­tual sig­nif­i­cance. As all great reli­gions teach, we are more than mere phys­i­cal crea­tures in that we pos­sess an essence beyond the mate­r­ial world. Indeed, this is why all great reli­gions have a tra­di­tion of pil­grim­age. In the Islamic tra­di­tion, Hajj encap­su­lates this spir­i­tual jour­ney toward this essence. Hajj teaches one to show sin­cer­ity and humilty in one’s rela­tion­ship with God. The result of a suc­cess­ful Hajj is a rich inner peace, which is man­i­fested out­wardly in the val­ues of jus­tice, hon­esty, respect, gen­eros­ity, kind­ness, for­give­ness, mercy and empathy.