You may have heard Muslim friends and colleagues talking about the event of Hajj, in which any able Muslim, should make the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The holiest of cities in the Islamic faith. Hajj, meaning “to attend a journey”, is an expectation for all able-bodied Muslims to attend at least once in their life and is one of the basic acts of the Islamic faith, better known as the Five Pillars of Islam.
How Long Does Hajj Last?
The Hajj rites are traditionally performed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth day of the final month of the Islamic calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah, and lasting through to the twelfth or thirteenth day. There is no fixed date in the Gregorian calendar for Hajj as the Islamic calendar, based on the lunar calendar, is shorter in length leading to the date changing by approximately ten days every year. At the end of the Hajj, Pilgrims perform Qurbani and celebrate a three-day festival, known as Eid al-Adha or “Greater Eid”. Eid ul-Fitr or “Lesser Eid” is celebrated at the end of Ramadan once Zakat has been paid, to find out how to pay Zakat, click here.
Why is Hajj Important?
The Hajj is one of the basic acts of Islam and is thought to date back thousands of years, with associations to both Abraham and the prophet Muhammad. Islamic tradition states that on the prophet Muhammad’s last journey to Mecca, he instructed his followers on the rites of Hajj, establishing it as one of the Five Pillars and a duty to all future Muslims and followers of the Islamic Faith.
What Takes Place During Hajj?
There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims that attend Hajj every year and they must perform a series of rites during their time at Mecca. The list is extensive with Pilgrims needing to refer to expert guidance and handbooks to correctly perform all the rites of Hajj as commanded by the prophet.
One of the most important rites of Hajj is to enter a state of holiness, known as Ihram and involves wearing plain white clothing to signify that everyone is coming together as one, with no man or woman in attendance held in higher regard than the other, whether rich or poor or coming from near or far.
After entering Ihram, Pilgrims perform a series of rituals like those told in the story of Abraham including;
The ritual of Tawaf, in which Pilgrims must walk around the Kabba, the building at the centre of Mecca, in a counterclockwise direction. The walk must be completed a total of seven times while pointing towards the Kabba as they pass at the start of each circuit.
Stand on the open plains of Arafat while repenting sins and listening to sermons delivered from the same spot the prophet is said to have delivered is own last sermon.
Several days throughout Hajj, Pilgrims must perform a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles at a wall built to represent the three pillars.
Sacrifice an animal (or pay towards the sacrifice of an animal) following the story of Ibrahim, who chose to sacrifice his son Ismael in the name of Allah.
Before leaving Mecca on the final day, Muslims must once again walk around the Kabba seven times in a counterclockwise direction and attempt to kiss or touch the building before their circuits have completed.
Hajj is a deeply spiritual time for Muslims making the pilgrimage but can also be stressful when trying to arrange such an in-depth journey with such a large amount of people in attendance. For anyone making the pilgrimage for the first time, make sure to read up on staying safe and hydrated during long periods of worship and atonement to ensure you stay healthy during your journey.