What is Hajj?
Muslims celebrate Hajj at least once in their lifetime as it is one of the five pillars of Islam. But what is Hajj and when is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca?
This year, Hajj is predicted to commence on Sunday, August 19 and last until Friday, August 24. The date tends to depend on the sighting of the moon of Dhul Hijjah. Millions of Muslims take part in this holy pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Pilgrimage starts on the eighth day of Dhul Hijjah. People gather at a spot just outside of Mecca called the Miqat.
The pilgrims, or Hajjis, will then bathe and change into special garments called the Ihram. The garments are two white cloths which symbolize equality for the millions who make the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage then ends on the thirteenth day of the same Islamic month, according to the Islamic Calendar. People perform a number of rituals for Hajj over five days.
On the first day, pilgrims enter Mecca’s Sacred Mosque and perform a ritual called a Tawaf, where they circle seven times around a 15m tall black building called the Kaaba. The Kaaba is thought to be the holiest place in the world and contains a black stone that is believed to have been delivered by an angel. The pilgrims then end the day by traveling three miles to Mina and continue their prayers before sleeping for the night.
On day two, they walk nine miles to Mount Arafat, where the prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon. After an afternoon of prayer, people travel another nine miles to Muzdalifah and collect stones for the next day. They travel to Jamari on their day to perform the stoning of the devil, where they throw rocks at the largest of three pillars that represent the temptations of the devil, before returning to the Kaaba to perform another Tawaf.
The final two days involve contemplative prayer in Mina. The Prophet made Hajj compulsory for Muslims to perform once in their lifetime if they are fit and well. The aim of the Hajj is to strengthen a person’s faith and release their sins.
On the tenth of Dhul Hijra, Eid al Adha also celebrated. Muslims traditionally slaughter an animal such as a sheep, goat or camel. This honors the sacrifice of Ibrahim, who intended to slaughter his son, Ismail, on Allah’s orders. However, Allah swapped Ismail with a sheep just before Ibrahim was about to do the sacrifice. His submissive act of faith was a big part of Hajj, as it showed his trust and total surrender to Allah.