Muslims pray at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
CAIRO - 29 August 2017: The Muslim pilgrimage (hajj) is a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in life by those capable, as it is one of the five basic pillars of Islam. One of the largest annual gatherings of people around the world is observed in the twelfth Muslim lunar month (Dhu al-Hijjah) and concludes with Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice). It is determined based on the lunar cycle, which means the date of the pilgrimage varies from year to year.
During the season, millions of Muslims from around the world converge in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the ritual, including visiting certain places at specific times and performing particular actions.
Mecca is one of Muslims’ two holiest cities, as it is home to the Kaaba, located at the center of the most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Furthermore, Mecca is the direction to which Muslims face when they pray. It is also the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad and the site of his first revelation of the Qur’an.
This year, it is estimated that Saudi Arabia will receive about two million pilgrims. In 2016, the total number of pilgrims reached 1.8 million, according to Sky News.
The secretary general of the Islamic Research Academy (IRA), Mohiuddin Afifi, explained that pilgrimage is a spiritual worship that aims to purify pilgrims of their sins and renew their relationship with God and other people. This is in accordance with Prophet Muhammad’s saying, “whoever offers hajj for Allah’s sake without committing obscenity or acting sinfully will return as pure as the day he was born."
Afifi added that during pilgrimage, Muslims learn the true meaning of cooperation, and they practice kindness and altruism. It also brings together the teachings of the other four pillars of Islam: “Shahada” (declaration of faith), prayer, charity and fasting.
The conditions obligating Muslims to perform pilgrimage include being a free rational adult who is physically and financially able to perform the pilgrimage rites.
The following video explains the Muslim pilgrimage's pillars that start on the 8th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and end on the 13th of the same month.
The Ihram: A declaration of intention to perform pilgrimage occurs at stations known as “Miqat”. Pilgrims enter this state before performing pilgrimage by carrying out cleansing rites and wearing specific attire. Following Ihram, pilgrims converge to Al-Masjid Al-Haram to start performing pilgrimage.
During Ihram, men wear a two-piece white seamless garment, and women wear loose dresses with only the face and hands exposed. Once entered in Ihram, pilgrims must abstain from sex and quarreling, not use perfume and not cut their hair or nails.
Following Ihram, pilgrims recite the “Talbiya”, a prayer to announce their arrival for pilgrimage to God.
First day of Hajj: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah
This day includes the following rituals:
Al-Tawaf (circumambulation): Pilgrims go around the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times, starting from the Black Stone. It demonstrates the unity of Muslims as they move in harmony together while supplicating to God. At the end of the circumambulation, pilgrims go to the station of Ibrahim to pray, and they then drink water from the sacred well of Zamzam before proceeding to the next ritual.
Sa’y (shuttling) between Safa and Marwa: Safa and Marwah are two small hills located in Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca. Muslims walk between them seven times during pilgrimage, emulating the search for water by Ibrahim’s (Abraham) wife, Hagar.
Mina: After the morning prayer on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims proceed to Mina, where they spend the whole day and perform noon, afternoon, evening and night prayers. The next morning, after the morning prayer, they leave Mina to go to Arafat.
Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah
It is known as the day of Arafah and the day of pilgrimage. It includes the following rituals:
Standing at Mount Arafat: The culminating event of the pilgrimage and the day prior to Eid Al-Adha is when Muslims stand together at Mount Arafat. During this day, pilgrims travel from Mecca to Mount Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell sermon in the year of his death. Pilgrims stay on the mountain until sunset and pray for God's mercy and forgiveness. Muslims around the world not participating in the pilgrimage often fast during this day.
Travelling to Muzdalifah: Muzdalifah is an area between Arafat and Mina. Pilgrims leave Mount Arafat after sunset to Muzdalifah to pray Al-Maghrib (evening) and Isha (night) prayers jointly. They spend the night there and gather seven pebbles for the symbolic stoning of the devil.
Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah
Pilgrimage rituals on this day include:
Stoning the devil: In Mina, pilgrims perform the symbolic stoning of the devil from sunrise to sunset.
Animal sacrifice: Following the first day of stoning the devil, pilgrims slaughter animals and distribute the meat to the needy. At the same time, Muslims around the world perform similar sacrifices, marking Eid Al-Adha.
Hair removal: After sacrificing the animals, men shave their heads or trim their hair, while women cut a fingertip length of their hair, marking the end of the Ihram, and change back to normal clothing.
Tawaf al-Ifadah (circumambulation): Pilgrims re-visit Mecca to perform another tawaf, known as “Tawaf al-Ifadah”. They then return to Mina and spend the night there.
Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah
On this day, the ritual of stoning the devil starts in Mina.
Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah
On this day, pilgrims perform the same ritual of stoning the devil. Some pilgrims leave Mina to Mecca before sunset.
Last day: 13th Dhu al-Hijjah
Pilgrims who did not leave on the 12th perform the devil-stoning ritual again before returning to Mecca. Before leaving Mecca, pilgrims return to Al-Masjid Al-Haram and circumambulate the Kaaba seven times for “the farewell tawaf.”
For more information, visit The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Kaaba website: www.dalil-alhaj.com/en/index.htm, where you can find details and plans for performing pilgrimage.