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Hajj (Pilgrimage)



The pilgrimage to Makkah is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to do so. Over two million people go to Makkah each year from every corner of the globe, providing a unique opportunity for those of different nations to meet one another.


It really is an incredible sight; people of every colour and creed prostrate to Allah as one body, asking for His forgiveness and praising Him. Each person present knows that millions of their Muslim counterparts are also prostrating towards the Ka?bah, five times, a day everyday; here you only need to look up to see it! It?s an exhilarating, humbling and emotional experience.


The annual hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year (which is lunar, not solar, so that Hajj and Ramadhan fall in different seasons).


Upon arrival in Makkah, the pilgrim performs a series of ritual acts over the next few days which are symbolic of the lives of the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), his wife Hagar (Hajar) and their son Ishmael (Ismail), peace be upon them. The close of Hajj is celebrated with a holiday known as the Eid ul Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice. This festival celebrates Prophet Abrahams (pbuh) willingness to sacrifice his son, as God had commanded, as a sign of his devotion. Once Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had demonstrated his devotion, God stopped him from sacrificing his son and told him to sacrifice a sheep instead. Muslims everywhere arrange for a sheep to be slaughtered (except those brave enough to do it themselves). The meat is then distributed to the poor and the celebrations begin!


Pilgrims can also go to Makkah to perform some of the rituals at other times of the year. This is called the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). However, even if they perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime.





During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in a garment consisting of two sheets of white unhemmed cloth. Women are simply required to maintain their hijab and normal modest dress, which does not cover the hands or face. These simple garments, known as the Ihram clothing, strip away distinctions of class and culture, symbolising the fact that all stand equal before Allah whether prince or pauper. They also symbolise leaving away worldly possessions and concerns and remembering human fragility and their return to God. Pilgrims generally travel to Hajj in groups.


While the pilgrim is wearing the Ihram, they cannot shave, cut their nails, or wear perfume. They may not swear or quarrel, kill any living thing (even an insect) or engage in sexual intercourse.




Day 1


This consists of walking counter-clockwise around the Ka?bah seven times. The Ka?bah is the holiest place for Muslims and it is the direction in which all Muslims turn towards when praying, no matter where in the world they are. It is believed to be have been first built by Prophet Adam as a place to worship Allah and then re-built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismail peace be upon them.




The next step of the pilgrimage involves running or walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah.


This is a re-enactment of Hajar's frantic search for water when she was left in the valley of Makkah, a dry and inhabited place, with her son Ismail by Prophet Ibrahim peace be upon them. He was commanded to do so by God and he left them there with a heavy heart and with some supplies of food and water. The supplies did not last very long and soon ran out leaving Hajar and Ismail hungry and dehydrated.


In her desperation Hajar ran up and down two hills called Safa and Marwa ? looking for help. Finally she collapsed beside Ismail and prayed to Allah.


Ismail struck his foot on the ground and this caused a spring of water to gush forth from the earth. Hajar and Ismail were saved! Now they had a secure water supply in the middle of this arid land which they were then able to trade with passing nomads.


The well is still flowing with the same Zamzam water and pilgrims will drink from it after completing taqaf. It is this very water that turned the desolate area into a thriving city where millions now go on pilgrimage. Pilgrims now make their way to Mina, where they perform some prayers.


Day 2



On the second day pilgrims make their way from Mina to Mount Arafat. No specific rituals or prayers are said here (apart from the usual midday and afternoon prayer); the pilgrims just stand together on the wide plains of Arafat in the dry heat, praying and contemplating until sunset. This day is considered the greatest day of the Hajj, and pilgrims pray earnestly for acceptance of their Hajj, forgiveness of their past sins and God?s mercy and guidance. Other Muslims around the world who are not taking part in Hajj commemorate this day through fasting and supplication.




As soon as the sun sets, the pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, a valley between Arafat and Mina, where pebbles are gathered for the next day's ritual, Ramy al-Jamarat, in a place called Mina. Pilgrims pray the sunset and night prayers here and spend the night sleeping on the ground, in the open.


Day 3

Ramy al Jamarat


Back at Mina, the pilgrims perform Ramy al Jamarat or casting of the stones.


Throwing small pebbles at stone pillars symbolises Prophet Abraham?s (pbuh) rejection of Satan?s whispers and temptations when he tried to dissuade him from sacrificing his son as God had commanded, and marks the pilgrims? own determination to obey God?s commands and resist temptation.


Eid ul Adha


The close of the hajj is marked by a festival, Eid al Adha, with the traditional sacrifice of a sheep (the meat being distributed to the poor) and prayers said. Pilgrims are then free to leave their state of ihram, cut or shave their hair and change back into normal clothes. They perform Tawaf around the Kabah and Sa'y again on this day. They  then spend 2 to 3 days back at Mina, where they spend the days in meditation and supplication, performing the casting of the stones ritual on each day. Finally the pilgrims perform a final ?farewell tawaf? earnestly praying that God has accepted their Hajj, for the reward of an accepted pilgrimage is to return free of all past wrongdoing, and Paradise in the Hereafter.

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