The Hajj Arabic: حَجّ “pilgrimage“; sometimes also spelled Hadj, Hadji or Haj in English) is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims. Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.
In Islamic terminology, Hajj is a pilgrimage made to the Kaaba, the “House of Allah”, in the sacred city of Makkahin Saudi Arabia. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat and Sawm. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission toAllah. The word Hajj means “to attend a journey”, which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.
The rites of pilgrimage are performed over five to six days, extending from the 8th to the 12th or 13th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year.
The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century AD, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Makkahis considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (A.S.). During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of millions of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba (a cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for Muslims), trots (walks briskly) back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times, then drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. After the sacrifice of an animal (can be accomplished by using a voucher (see below)), the Pilgrims then are required to either shave or trim their heads (male) or trim the ends of their hair (female). A celebration of the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha proceeds thereafter.
Muslims may also undertake an Umrah (Arabic: عُمرَة), or “lesser pilgrimage” to Makkahat other times of the year. But this is not a substitute for the Hajj and Muslims are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime if they have the means to do so.
In June 2020, while not cancelling the Hajj outright, the Saudi Government announced that they would only welcome “very limited numbers” of pilgrims who are residents of Saudi Arabia due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kaaba during Hajj
The present pattern of Hajj was established by Muhammad(S.A.W.)However, according to the Quran, elements of Hajj trace back to the time of Ibrahim (A.S.). According to Islamic tradition, Ibrahim was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajara (A.S.) and his son Ismail(A.S.) alone in the desert of ancientMakkah. In search of water, Hajara (A.S.) desperately ran seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah but found none. Returning in despair to Ismail (A.S.), she saw the baby scratching the ground with his leg and a water fountain sprang forth underneath his foot. Later, Ibrahim was commanded to build the Kaaba (which he did with the help of Ismail (A.S.) and to invite people to perform pilgrimage there. The Quran refers to these incidents in verses 2:124–127 and 22:27–30. It is said that the archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from Heaven to be attached to the Kaaba named as “Hajar al Aswad”
In pre-Islamic Arabia, a time known as jahiliyyah, the Kaaba became surrounded by pagan idols. In 630 AD, Muhammad (S.A.W.) led his followers from Madina to Makkah, cleansed the Kaaba by destroying all the pagan idols, and then consecrated the building to Allah. In 632 AD, Muhammad (S.A.W.) performed his only and last pilgrimage with a large number of followers, and instructed them on the rites of Hajj. It was from this point that Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam.
Timing of Hajj
The date of Hajj is determined by the Islamic calendar (known as Haji calendar or AH), which is based on the lunar year. Every year, the events of Hajj take place in a ten-day period, starting on 1 and ending on 10 Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. Among these ten days, the 9th Dhul-Hijjah is known as Day of Arafah, and this day is called the “Day Of Hajj”. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date for Hajj changes from year to year. Thus, each year in the Gregorian calendar, the pilgrimage starts eleven days (sometimes ten days) earlier. This makes it possible for the Hajj season to fall twice in one Gregorian year, and it does so every 33 years. The last time this phenomenon occurred was 2006.
Diagram of the locations and rites of Hajj
Fiqh literature describes in detail the manners of carrying out the rites of Hajj, and pilgrims generally follow handbooks and expert guides to successfully fulfill the requirements of Hajj. In performing the rites of Hajj, the pilgrims not only follow the model of Muhammad (S.A.W.), but also commemorate the events associated with Ibrahim (A.S.).
Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state, state of holiness, which marks the start of the ritual of Hajj for each person. Ihram is initiated upon the arrival to the Miqat or prior to reaching it, depending on where they have come from.
When a pilgrims enter into the state of Ihram, they are required to abstain from certain actions. While in state of ihram, males are required to wear two white seamless cloths, with one wrapped around the waist reaching below the knee and the other draped over the left shoulder and tied at the right side. For females this involves wearing ordinary dress that fulfills the Islamic condition of public dress with hands and face uncovered.
Other prohibitions include refraining from clipping the nails, shaving any part of the body, having sexual relations, using perfumes, damaging plants, killing animals, covering head (for men) or the face and hands (for women), getting married, or carrying weapons.
1– The Ihram is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in front of Allah, with no difference between the rich and the poor.
2– Donning such unsewn white garments entirely is believed to distance man from material ostentation, and engross him in a world of purity and spirituality.
3– since clothes are believed to show individuality and distinction and create superficial barriers that separate individuals.
4-The garments of Ihram are seen as the antithesis of that individualism.
5- Ihram clothing is also a reminder of shrouds worn after death.
First day of Hajj: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah
On the 8th Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims are reminded of their duties. They again worn the Ihram garments and confirm their intention to make the pilgrimage. The prohibitions of Ihram start now.
The 8th day of Dhu al-Hijjah coincides with the Tarwiyah Day. The name of Tarwiyah refers to a narration of Ja’far al-Sadiq. He described the reason that there was any water at Mount Arafat in the 8th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. If pilgrims wanted to stay at Arafat, he would have prepared water from Makkah and carried it by themselves there. So they told each other drink enough. Finally, this day called Tarwiyah that means to quench thirst in the Arabic language. Tarwiyah Day is the first day of Hajj ritual. Also at this day.
Tawaf and sa’ay:
Direction of the Tawaf around the Kaaba
The ritual of Tawaf involves walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba. Upon arriving at Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (Arabic: المَسجِد الحَرَام, The Sacred Mosque), pilgrims perform an arrival tawaf either as part of Umrah or as a welcome tawaf. During tawaf, pilgrims also include Hateem – an area at the north side of the Kaaba – inside their path. Each circuit starts with the kissing or touching of the Black Stone. also point to the stone and recite a prayer. (Hajar al- Aswad). If kissing or touching the stone is not possible because of crowds, pilgrims may simply point towards the stone with their hand on each circuit. Eating is not permitted but the drinking of water is permitted and encouraged, because of the risk of dehydration. Men are encouraged to perform the first three circuits at a hurried pace, known as Ramal, and the following four at a more leisurely pace.
The completion of Tawaf is followed by two Rakaat prayers at the Place of Ibrahim (Muqam Ibrahim), a site near the Kaaba inside the mosque.However, again because of large crowds during the days of Hajj, they may instead pray anywhere in the mosque. After prayer, pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque.
Pilgrims visiting the well of Zamzam.
Although the circuits around the Kaaba are traditionally done on the ground level, Tawaf is now also performed on the first floor and roof of the mosque because of the large crowds.
This rite is said to be the manifestation of Tawhid, the Oneness of Allah. The heart and soul of the pilgrim should move around Kaaba, the symbol of the House of Allah, in a way that no worldly attraction distracts him from this path. Only Tawhid should attract him. Tawaf also represents Muslims’ unity. During Tawaf, everyone encircles Kaaba collectively.
Tawaf is followed by sa’ay, running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, located near the Kaaba. Previously in the open air, the place is now entirely enclosed by the Sacred Mosque, and can be accessed via air-conditioned tunnels. Pilgrims are advised to walk the circuit, though two green pillars mark a short section of the path where they run. There is also an internal “express lane” for elderly or disabled people. After sa’ay, male pilgrims shave or trim their hair and women generally clip a portion of their hair, which completes the Umrah.
Sa’yee towards Safa
Tents at Mina.
After the morning prayer on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims proceed to Mina where they spend the whole day and offer noon (Note: On Friday, Friday Prayer is Offered, instead of Dhuhr Prayer, at Mina), afternoon, evening, and night prayers. The next morning after morning prayer, they leave Mina to go to Arafat.
Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah
The 9th Dhul-Hijjah is known as Day of Arafah, and this day is called the “Day Of Hajj”.
On 9th Dhu al-Hijjah before noon, pilgrims arrive at Arafat, a barren and plain land some 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Makkah, where they stand in contemplative vigil: they offer supplications, repent on and atone for their past sins, and seek the mercy of Allah, and listen to the sermon from the Islamic scholars who deliver it from near Jabal al-Rahmah (The Mount of Mercy) from where Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon. Lasting from noon through sunset, this is known as ‘standing before Allah’ (wuquf), one of the most significant rites of Hajj. At Masjid al-Namirah, pilgrims offer noon and afternoon prayers together at noontime. A pilgrim’s Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Arafat.
A scenery of Muzdalifa
Pilgrims must leave Arafat for Muzdalifah after sunset without praying maghrib (sunset) prayer at Arafat. Muzdalifah is an area between Arafat and Mina. Upon reaching there, pilgrims perform Maghrib and Isha prayer jointly, spend the night praying and sleeping on the ground with open sky, and gather pebbles for the next day’s ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan).
Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah
After returning from Muzdalifah, the Pilgrims spend the night at Mina.
Ramy al-Jamarat: Stoning of the Devil
The largest Jamarah (pillar).
Back at Mina, the pilgrims perform symbolic stoning of the devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) by throwing seven stones from sunrise to sunset at only the largest of the three pillars, known as Jamrat al-Aqabah. The remaining two pillars (jamarah) are not stoned on this day. These pillars are said to represent Shaitan. Pilgrims climb ramps to the multi-levelled Jamaraat Bridge, from which they can throw their pebbles at the jamarat.
After the casting of stones, animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of Ibrahim and Ismael (A.S.). Traditionally the pilgrims slaughtered the animal themselves or oversaw the slaughtering. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Makkah before the greater Hajj begins, which allows an animal to be slaughtered in the name ofAllah on the 10th, without the pilgrim being physically present. Modern abattoirs complete the processing of the meat, which is then sent as a charity to poor people around the world. At the same time as the sacrifices occur at Makkah, Muslims worldwide perform similar sacrifices, in a three-day global festival called Eid al-Adha.
After sacrificing an animal, another important rite of Hajj is shaving head(known as Halaq) or trimming hair (known as Qasar). All male pilgrims shave their head or trim their hair on the day of Eid al Adha and women pilgrims cut the tips of their hair.
Pilgrims performing Tawaf around the Kaaba
On the same or the following day, the pilgrims re-visit the Sacred Mosque in Makkah for another tawaf, known as Tawaf al-Ifadah or Tawaf al Ziarah, an essential part of Hajj. It symbolizes being in a hurry to respond to God and show love for Him, an obligatory part of the Hajj. The night of the 10th is spent back at Mina.
Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah
Starting from noon to sunset on the 11 Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims again throw seven pebbles at each of the three pillars in Mina. This is commonly known as the “Stoning of the Devil“
Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah
On 12 Dhu al-Hijjah, the same process of the stoning of the pillars as of 11 Dhu al-Hijjah takes place.Pilgrims may leave Mina for Mecca before sunset on the 12th
Last day at Mina: 13th Dhu al-Hijjah
If unable to leave on the 12th before sunset or to stay longer, they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th before returning to Mecca.
Finally, before leaving Mecca, pilgrims perform a farewell tawaf called the Tawaf al-Wadaa. ‘Wadaa’ means ‘to bid farewell’. The pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise, and if they can, attempt to touch or kiss the Kaaba.
Journey to Madina
An optional part of Hajj where pilgrims may choose to travel to the city of Medina (approximately 450 kilometres (280 mi) to the northeast) and the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet), which contains Muhammad (S.A.W)’s tomb. The Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Qiblatayn are also usually visited.
To the Muslims, Hajj is associated with religious as well as social significance.The obligation for performing this pilgrimage is only fulfilled if it is done on the eighth to twelfth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar. If in a given year, an adult Muslim is in good health and his life and wealth is safe, they must perform the Hajj in the same year. Delaying it is considered sinful unless the delay is caused by reasons beyond their control.
Apart from being an obligatory religious duty, the Hajj is seen to have a spiritual merit that provides the Muslims with an opportunity of self-renewal. Hajj serves as a reminder of theDay of Judgment when Muslims believe people will stand before Allah. Hadith literature (sayings of Muhammad (S.A.W.) articulates various merits a pilgrim achieves upon successful completion of their Hajj. After successful pilgrimage, pilgrims can prefix their names with the title ‘Al-Hajji’, and are held with respect in Muslim society. However, Islamic scholars suggest Hajj should signify a Muslim’s religious commitment, and should not be a measurement of their social status. Hajj brings together and unites the Muslims from different parts of the world irrespective of their race, colour, and culture, which acts as a symbol of equality.
Panorama of the Great Mosque during Hajj, 2007.
Differences between the Hajj and Umrah
- Both are Islamic pilgrimages, the main difference is their level of importance and the method of observance.
- Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is obligatory for every Muslim once in their lifetime, provided they are physically fit and financially capable.
- Hajj is performed over specific days during a designated Islamic month. However, Umrah can be performed at any time.
- Although they share common rites, Umrah can be performed in less than a few hours while Hajj is more time-consuming, and involves more rituals.
Hajj is one of the most important acts of faith a Muslim can commit. The act is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is considered mandatory for those who practice Islam. As presented above, the pilgrimage is entrenched in traditions and codified by a multitude of holy texts. Muslims are bound in a contract with Allah and Hajj is one of the payments which Allah requires of his followers.
For this reason, those who are unable to undertake Hajj themselves, are permitted to send another in their place under specific circumstances. First, the person who sends someone in their place must be unable to undertake Hajj themselves because of an incurable sickness or old age. If the sickness may be cured, the follower of Allah must go when they are able. Also, Hajj Badal may be performed on a person’s behalf if they are already deceased. This act is considered a form of vicarious atonement. In this case, one of the Five Pillars of Islam can be completed for a Muslim who was not able to fulfill their duties while living.
As the requirements for the person who is having Hajj being completed on their behalf, there are also requirements for those who are carrying out the act.
1– When the person committing the act enters the Ihramthey must acknowledge the person who they are representing.
2– Also, when the Ihram is donned, the Hajj can only be for the single person who they represent and not for themselves.
3– Another qualification is that the present person must be Muslim and in good standing with the Islamic community. Because there are multiple distinct types of Hajj, the person performing the ceremony in another’s place must attend the type which is desired by the unable.
4-Lastly, if the person is still alive, then the performer of the Hajj Badal must ask for the permission of the person they hope to represent.
The basis of Hajj Badal can be found in the writings of Abd Allah ibn Abbas (R.A.) who recorded Muhammad’s words. When approached by a woman from Juhayan, this exchange occurred between the two: “My mother vowed to go for Hajj, but she died before she did so. Can I perform Hajj on her behalf?” The Prophet replied: “Yes, perform Hajj on her behalf. Do you not think if your mother owed a debt that you would pay it off for her? Fulfil her debt to Allah; for Allah is more deserving than what is owed to him should be paid.” (Hadith No.77, narrated by Ibn Abbas).
Other instances of recorded conversation which solidified the act were recorded by other Islamic scholars such as Abdullah bin Az-Zubair and Al-Fazal ibn ‘Abbas.