Hajj is Islam’s most ceremonial requirement. It is one of the world’s greatest pilgrimages. It occurs once a year at various religious places in and around Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam.
The Hajj follows a set of rites established by the Prophet Muhammad. It connects the journey to Adam and Hawa (biblical Eve), the prophets Ibrahim (biblical Abraham) and Ishmael, and the Day of Judgement.
Most Muslims regard the Hajj as one of the five pillars of Islam. In addition to the profession of faith (shahadah), daily prayer (salah), the practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm), and charitable giving (zakat). As a result, they believe that every Muslim who has the resources must undertake the Hajj before dying. If a person is ill or otherwise unable to do so, they may nominate someone to conduct the Hajj.
Mecca and the Ka’ba
Hajj is the trip to Mecca that every Muslim must do at least once in their lives if they can. It is the most significant spiritual event that a Muslim experiences. It has various ceremonies performed in the most holy locations in the Islamic world. The Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca. The haven there and the Ka’ba are Islam’s most religious places. As a result, it is a highly sacred destination for Muslims worldwide. It is the core of Islam.
At the center of Mecca’s sanctuary is the Ka’ba, a cube-shaped structure that Muslims believe was erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael. In the early seventh century, the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations at Mecca. As a result, the city has traditionally been regarded as a spiritual center and the beating heart of Islam. The rites of Hajj have remained constant since its inception, and it remains a tremendous religious activity that brings Muslims from all over the world together, regardless of nationality or religion.
Mecca was a vital pilgrimage place for the Arab tribes of north and middle Arabia even before Islam. Despite their multiple gods, they journeyed to Mecca yearly to worship Allah. Conflict was prohibited within Mecca during this sacred month, allowing trade to increase. As a result, Mecca grew in importance as a commercial center. The enlightenment of Islam to the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632) returned the Arab people to their old faith in the One God. He made Mecca the holiest city in the Islamic world.
What is Hajj in Islam?
Every year, millions of Muslims worldwide go to Mecca for Haj—the solemn pilgrimage to the holy mosque of Masjid al-Haram.
Hajj is a spiritual responsibility and a pillar of Islam, which means that every Muslim must do Hajj at least once in their lifetime, as long as they are financially, physically, and emotionally capable of doing so.
The sacred journey of Hajj comprises several ceremonies and rituals, some in order, that give the pilgrim a spiritual, emotional, and physical challenge.
Each stage of Hajj has its distinct purpose and knowledge, and it takes place at various sites in and around Mecca.
When is Hajj?
The pilgrimage must occur during the Islamic calendar’s last month, Dhu al-Hajj. The Hajj rituals are carried out from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu al Hijjah. The timing varies according to the lunar calendar, but Hajj is usually conducted about two months and ten days after Ramadan. In the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul-Hijjah. It is ten to eleven days earlier than the previous year.
The History of Hajj
The ceremonies done during Hajj are similar to those performed by Islam’s Prophet, Muhammad, roughly 1,400 years ago. Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) is claimed to have erected the gardens and place known as the Kaaba, where the revered mosque remains today, around 2,000 BC, on Allah’s commands. In the ninth year of the Islamic calendar, Hajj was proclaimed mandatory for Muslims, and during this time, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) led a party of Muslims there in the first known Hajj and re-dedicated the place in the name of Allah.
Why is Hajj Important?
Hajj is a crucial religious requirement for physically and financially capable Muslims. It is one of the most essential occasions in a Muslim’s life. The act of doing Hajj displays submission and devotion to God. It permits Muslims from all over the world to assemble for prayer in one area.
Hajj recalls Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) legacy, his wife Hajar, and his son Ismail, as well as their steadfast devotion, faith, and confidence in God. Hajj is seen as a pilgrimage of cleansing and repentance, allowing pilgrims to reaffirm their faith, grow spiritually, and reflect on themselves.
A Step-By-Step Approach To Performing Hajj
Muslim pilgrimage commemorating the Prophet Muhammad’s acts 1,377 years ago. Participating in the expedition at least once in one’s lifetime is a primary responsibility for all financially non-disabled Muslims, and between two and three million people engage in the six-day ceremony each year.
Traveling to Mecca was a holy yearly event for Arabian tribes centuries before the birth of Islam. However, the precise rites performed by Muslims today date back to the Prophet Muhammad’s “farewell pilgrimage” in 632 AD.
According to Islamic history, in biblical times, the Prophet Abraham erected the Kaaba, a black silk-clad stone building at the center of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
Said, Hajj is complicated. There are multiple methods of conducting it and numerous schools of Islamic philosophy, with considerable intellectual disagreements. The following is a summary of the stages involved in doing Hajj.
Enter ihram (the sacred state)
The very first ceremony of Hajj is entering the ihram – a pilgrim’s holy status – while crossing Mecca’s outer limits, known as Miqat.
Pilgrims enter the ihram on the ninth of Dhul-Hijjah, requiring simple garments. There are two unstitched clothes for males and loose-fitting clothing for women adhering to specific prohibitions, such as not becoming angry or indulging in sexual behavior.
Head to Mina, A Sprawling Tent City
The pilgrims then proceeded in large numbers from Mecca to the enormous tent city of Mina, either on foot along pilgrim trails or by buses and vehicles. It is an 8-kilometer trek.
The pilgrims would spend the day at Mina before departing before dawn the next morning. The majority of Mina’s time is devoted to prayer and commemorating Allah.
Visit Arafat for the day
The Day of Arafat is regarded as one of the most significant days not just for the Hajj but also for the Islamic calendar as a whole. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) delivered his farewell sermon on Mount Mercy in Arafat. Pilgrims spend the day here in respectful devotion after traveling 14.4 kilometers from Mina.
Many Muslims throughout the world opt to fast on this day.
Collect Pebbles at Muzdalifah
After dusk, it’s time to move on to Muzdalifah, a 9-kilometer journey away, where they’ll spend the night under the stars. Many will also start gathering stones for tomorrow’s rituals, leaving shortly before daybreak.
Throw Stones at the Pillars
For those undertaking Hajj, the day is known as yawm-ul Hajj al-Akbar (The Great Hajj Day), and it is likely the longest and most challenging day of the trip. The 10th of Dhul-Hijjah is Eid al-Adha, a day Muslims observe as the most important of the two Muslim festivals.
Pilgrims begin the day at Muzdalifah and leave for Mina before daybreak. They executed the first rami in Mina by tossing seven stones at the biggest of three columns, Jamarat.
According to ancient tradition, this act represents the devil being stoned. According to the tale, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son as proof of faith. The devil is said to have appeared at this location in Mina and tried to convince Abraham not to obey the instruction. Abraham retaliated by throwing stones at him to scare him away.
Millions of pilgrims go to the Jamarat Bridge, which has three columns depicting the devil, to reenact the narrative.
In the past, the bridge has been the site of disastrous stampedes, with over 350 people crushed to death in 2006.
However, in previous years, the event has gone off without a hitch.
Pilgrims must conduct the sacrifice after throwing their stones. To finish the tale, when Abraham went to sacrifice his son, he discovered that God had placed a ram there instead to be slain.
Pilgrims must slaughter a sheep, goat, cow, or camel. Pay for it to be done in their honor.
At this moment, pilgrims cut or shave their hair (men only) and remove their ihram clothing. Many people then travel to Mecca to do tawaf and see, which involves circling the Kaaba seven times and walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa.
When everything is over, they return to their Mina campground.
Final Days In Mina
Every day, they would stone the devil figuratively, this time tossing seven stones at each of the three pillars. Pilgrims will spend the next two or three days in Mina, completing their journey’s most challenging leg.
When the pilgrims’ stay in Mina is up, they return to Mecca to conduct the last circuit of the Kaaba, known as a “farewell” tawaf.
Before returning home, many people visit Medina, Islam’s second holiest city, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried among his closest associates. Visiting Medina, on the other hand, is not part of the pilgrimage.
What’s the distinction between Hajj and Umrah?
Pilgrims can visit Mecca at any time of year to conduct the rites. This trip is called Umrah. It is optional, unlike Hajj, which takes place on established Islamic dates.
Islam has five pillars: Shahadah, Salat, Sawm, Zakat, and Hajj. However, the term pillar is more of an analogy used to define the five components that form the foundation of the Islamic religion. These are the five main qualities that characterize a Muslim: five responsibilities that Allah (SWT) has mandated for all capable Muslims. Hajj, meaning in Islam, is a spiritual responsibility and a cornerstone of Islam, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. Going more than once in a lifetime is permissible if you are honestly seeking Allah’s (SWT) (which means ‘The Most Glorified, The Most High) pleasure.