The Hajj (Arabic: حج Ḥaǧǧ) is the pilgrimage to Mekkah for Muslims. It is the fifth pillar of Islam, an obligation that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every Muslim who is physically able and can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of all Muslims and demonstrates submission to Allah.
Note: Details for Hajj and Ummrah here
When is Hajj? The Hajj occurs from the 7th to 13th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year.
What is Hajj about?
The Hajj is associated with the life of prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) and was reinstituted for Muslims by prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, during his lifetime.
Hajj to Makkah for Muslims is like reaching back thousands of years to relive the pilgrimage of Ibrahim and his son Ishmael.
the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham). Pilgrims (“hajji” is one pilgrim and “hujajj” a group) join the ritual processions of millions of other Muslims every year. All of them come together at the same time in the month of Dhul Hijjah (last month of the Lunar calendar) to perform a series of rituals, all commemorating the important experience of prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail (Ishmael in English), as explained and demonstrated by prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
What does one wear in Hajj?
Pilgrims enter into a state of “Ihram” (meaning forbidden to do things that are normally permitted). It is forbidden for the pilgrim to cut the hair, trim the finger nails, contract for marriage, have intimate marital relations, kill any type of creature, etc. once entering into “ihram”.
What does a pilgrim wear in Hajj?
Upon making the intention of Hajj, and entering into the state of “ihram”, the pilgrim takes a bath and puts on the “ihram clothing”. For women, it is the normal attire she would wear during her prayers. For men, there are two garments made from white cloth without stitching, pockets or fasteners (like buttons, zippers, etc.). Basically, similar to two large, white beach towels.
What are the Hajj rituals?
For the first ten days of the month of Hajj (Dhul Hijjah) Muslims begin various acts or rituals of worship, each one representing different actions and events relating to Hajj.
The first ritual is the circumambulation or going seven times “in tawwaf” around the kabah (cube shaped building toward which Muslims face in prayers, originally built by Ibrahim and his son, Ismail). The hajji (pilgrim) keeps the kabah on his left side while going around in a counter clockwise direction, all the while reciting portions of the Quran, making thikr (remembering Allah with praises) and saying various prayers. Note: It is not essential to kiss the black stone if there is difficulty or in case it may cause problems for others in hajj).
Second, there is a prayer offered near Ibrahim’s station, consisting of 2 rakah (units of ritual prayer).
Third, each Muslim makes their way to the two hills of Safa and Marwah where they walk between the two peaks of the hills, back and forth seven times (called “saiy”). All the while reciting prayers and remembering Allah (thikr). Note: Drinking zam zam water is a very good custom of the prophet, peace be upon him, and very refreshing too.
Next is the trip out to Mina, a place on the way from Makkah to the Plain of Arafat. Staying in camp at Mina until the day for visiting Arafat is also a part of the Hajj.
On the 9th day of Hajj, the pilgrims all converge on the Plain of Arafat, a few miles from Makkah. The come walking, riding in cars, busses, trucks, motorcycles and any form of transportation you might imagine, all heading to the same area within the boundries of Arafat.
After praying Dhuhr (noon time prayer) and Asr (afternoon prayer) combined together, the pilgrims move on to the area of Arafat (if they have not done so yet) where the pilgrims stand to offer up a lifetime of requests, prayers, supplications and dua (calling upon Allah). Anything and everything is prayed for on this occassion and in this place, for it is the very place where Ibrahim, Muhammad and all the prophets, peace be upon them all, did similar rituals. Note: It is not necessary to actually stand on or close to the Mount of Arafat, as long as the pilgrim is within the boundries of the Plain of Arafat.
Next, just after sunset, the pilgrims do not offer the customary prayer of Maghrib (sunset prayer). Instead, they all head for Muzdelifa, where they will combine the prayers of Maghrib (sunset) and Esha (night prayers).
Just before the sunrise (Fajr time), pilgrims arise and offer the morning prayers (Fajr salat) and then begin to make their way back to camp at Mina.
A trip back into Makkah for another series of circling the kabah, and going between the mounts of Safa and Marwa is done again after the day of Arafat.
Throwing stones (rummi al jammarat) at the large pillar on this day begins the three days of camping at Mina and visiting the area of the pillars of the jammarat. Although it is understood the devil is not really in the pillars or even nearby, the ritual of “stoning the pillars” commemorates Ibrahim throwing pebbles at the devil who tried to convince him not to sacrifice his son according to a dream Ibrahim had seen.
After completing the rituals of stoning, tawwaf and saiy, the men shave their heads completely, while the women only cut a small amount from their hair.
A sacrifice of an animal to be given to the poor is an important part of the hajj, as it commemorates the substitution of the animal provided by Allah for Ibrahim to slaughter instead of his son.
The Eid Al-Adha (celebration of the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah) brings to a close the rituals associate with hajj, and it is celebrated by all Muslims, whether or not they were able to perform Hajj themselves.
Muslims can also perform the lesser pilgrimage (umrah) at anytime of the year. However, this does not count as the obligatory hajj which must be completed according to the rituals and times mentioned above. The umrah does not involve more than simply doing the tawaf around the kabah, saiy between Safa and Marwa, sacrificing an animal (if able to do so) and cutting the hair, etc. There is nothing in umrah concerning a visit to Mina, Arafat, Muzdelifa or stoning the pillars, etc.
Note: The number of pilgrims (hujjaj) performing Hajj various between three million and five million every year for the last ten to fifteen years. A visa is required from the government of Saudi Arabia and there are certain restrictions to be followed