Transformations as the Goal or Effect in Rituals Essay

This essay will focus on the elements of rituals that are performed when Muslim faithful make their pilgrimage to Mecca and the rituals that take place when God appears to Elijah in the mount of Horeb- the mountain of God after Elijah had fled away to escape the wrath of Jezebel. The meaning of elements in the two rituals is deduced and how they are physically and symbolically conveyed. The meanings are then looked at in the perspective of transformation and how these meanings relate to my personal experiences. Finally, similarities and differences in ritual elements that are witnessed in the two rituals are focussed on.

Muslims are obligated to make at least one trip to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia once in a lifetime. This trip is called Hajj. Hajj draws its descent to the time of Abraham (Ibrahim) when God commissioned him and he had to live his wife Hagar and child Ishmael in the wilderness. Prophet Mohammed used to take part in the pilgrimage from as early as the 7 Century.

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When the Prophets of Baal had all died, Jezebel was so disgusted and wanted the prophet Elijah killed. Elijah fled and went into hiding and wished death could come upon him. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and gave him food and reminded him of the long journey he still had to mount Horeb. Elijah arose and ate the food and begun a long journey (a journey of 40 days) to Horeb where he went and hid in a hole in the mountain.

Rituals are performed during Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca
Performance of rituals begins with the performance of tawaaf where pilgrims enter the sacred mosque-Masjid Al Haram. Every Muslim faithful has to walk counterclockwise about a cube-shaped building otherwise called Kabah. Kabah acts as the direction of prayer. The movements are supposed to be made seven times. In each counter-clockwise movement, the pilgrims have to say that God is great and all praises are to him. The pilgrims eventually kiss the black stone in the corner of the Kaaba.

This is known as Hajr Al Aswad. Those who are not able to reach the stone are supposed to point at it with their right hand. After the kissing of the black stone, the pilgrims are supposed to run back and forth between Al-safa and Al- Marwa. A compulsory drink from the well of Zam Zam then ensues. After the drink from the well, the victims go to the plains of Mount Arafat where they stand in a vigil after which they throw stones as a mark of defiance to the devil who tempted Abraham 3 times when Allah expected him to offer his son as a sacrifice to God. Animal sacrifice is finally offered. The pilgrimage epitomizes the celebration of the Eid al Adha (Shariati 3).

Rituals are performed when God Appears to Elijah at the mountain of God-Mount Horeb
Coincidentally it is on mount Horeb/Sinai where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments that were to guide the Israelites in their hence the name mountain of God. When Elijah has hidden the cave, a strong wind suddenly starts to blow that rents the mountains and breaks the rocks. But God is not found in these strong winds. The impact of an earthquake is felt. Fire burns out but God is not in the fire. Finally, a still small voice is heard. God is certainly present in this small voice.

By wrapping his face using a mantel, Elijah strategically positioned himself at the caves entrance. By hiding his face from God Elijah shows readiness for whatever God was to give. The instructions from God to Elijah are that he is supposed to ensure that Elisha is installed as a prophet; Jehu recaptures his seat as the Israelites king, while the kingdom of Syria goes to Hazel. With these instructions, Elijahs mission seems to come to an end as these three individuals are expected to carry on with his mandate (Provan 145).

Elements of Rituals that Feature In the Hajj
Counterclockwise movements are made because that is the Muslim way of worship. The running between Safa and Marwah seven times signifies the effort that Hagar made when looking for water for her son Ishmael. Eventually, in her frantic search of water, the angel appeared to her and showed her the Zam Zam well. The angel hit the ground with his heel and the water gushed out. The running can be done in the open air or tunnels.

Pilgrims are normally strongly advised to do the circuit between the green pillars. This marks the shortest section they are supposed to run. At mount, Arafat pilgrims are expected to stand in a contemplative posture. At this time they are expected to pray and recite the Koran. This is the hill where Muhammad gave his last sermon otherwise known as the Hill of forgiveness. Pilgrims are obliged to spend at least an afternoon in the area around Mount Arafat up to dusk.

Pilgrims are expected to reflect on their lives when praying in the plains of mount Arafat. It is needless to attend a pilgrimage without spending an afternoon around mount Arafat. From Arafat, the pilgrims set out for Muzdalifah where they collect stones used in the stoning of the devil-Shaitan. The throwing of stones is a sign of the pilgrims defiance to the devil. This symbolizes the tribulations of Abraham when he was faced with the tough choice of sacrificing his son as directed by Allah. The devil tempted Abraham three times but Abraham never gave in to the demands of the devil. The pillars symbolize the number of times Abraham was tested by the devil.

The biggest pillar is stoned first followed by the other two remaining pillars. Each individual has to throw seven pebbles. The last ritual involve the offering of animal sacrifices to show Gods mercy to Abraham when he finally gave Abraham a ram to offer instead of his son. The pilgrims slaughter the animal to be sacrificed by themselves. The meat from the sacrifice is then sent across the world to be used in feeding the less privileged. The pilgrims then walk around Kaaba to show their haste in responding to God and a show of love for him (Shariati 3).

Elijah and Mount Horeb and the ritualistic features involved
God uses the destructive powers of nature that are manifested in earthquakes, wind and fire. Unfortunately, God is never found in these destructive powers. Earthquake, wind, and fire are commonly used elements in Old Testament to show Gods coming to judge evil. Elijah expected God to do the same to his enemies but God never does that. is a sign of a change of strategy that God uses to judge evil. This is why God asks Elijah to anoint Elisha, Hazael, and Jehu to continue with Gods mission of eradicating worship of Baal (DeVries 237)

Hajj and transformation
Hajj is capable of transforming one spiritually. It brings pilgrims closer to God. This marks the end of confusion and fallacies that are evident in peoples lives. One, therefore, gets the utmost opportunity to correct the mistakes that they have made in their lives. One acquires impeccable moral standards as he/she keeps thinking about the lord and his doctrines. When one raises his/her hand towards Hajr-i-Aswad they touch Gods hands and make a solemn promise. The magnitude of Abrahams devotion is only realized when one is blessed with a son (Rizwan 1).

Elijahs pilgrimage to Horeb and transformation
Elijah because frustrations emanating from the feeling that God is not doing enough flees from his prophetic duty. He certainly suffers from spiritual and physical exhaustion. God transforms him by sending an angel who gives him food and water hence his ability to continue with his journey to Horeb. God then reassure him in a still voice. This completes his transformation. Elijah thereby retraces his steps and embarks on his ministry (Epp-Tiessen 33).

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