Hajj is an annual pilgrimage (long journey) that Muslims must embark on at least once in their lifetime, as it is one of the five Pillars of Islam. Not all Muslims have to perform Hajj, however. Those that cannot afford it, are elderly, physically or mentally unfit are not obliged to go. It takes place in the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar - Dhu al-Hijjah. Once Hajj is complete, Eid al-Adha follows which is a 3 day celebration. These are only the basic facts about the pilgrimage but with this year’s Hajj being very close, it might be handy to learn more about it, especially if you or your loved ones will be travelling to Mecca in the future. Here is everything you need to know about the journey of Hajj.
What is the difference between Hajj & Umrah?
It is easy to get confused between Hajj and Umrah, as they are somewhat similar. Unlike Hajj, Umrah can be performed at any time of the year and it also isn’t compulsory to perform. What’s more, Umrah can be completed with one day whereas Hajj takes approximately 5 days as it takes a lot more rituals and steps.
It is possible to complete Hajj and Umrah in the same journey. This is called Hajj Tamattu, which is the most common and advised pilgrimage.
How is Hajj Tamattu performed?
Day 1 - 8th Dhu al-Hijjah
On the first day pilgrims must make their intentions to perform Hajj before entering the boundaries of the area (miqat), and assume the state of ihram. This means they must change their behaviour so they do not get angry, fight, swear or engage in sexual activities. The pilgrims are not allowed to wear any deodorants, perfumes or even use scented soaps. What’s more, the men must wear two white seamless cloths whereas the women are only required to cover up in loose-fitting clothes.
The pilgrims then travel of Mecca to perform ‘tawaf’, which is when they walk around the kaaba seven times and follow with a prayer. After the tawaf, the pilgrims can drink from the zamzam well and then complete sa’ay. This is when they walk between the hills of Safah and Marwah, seven times. Once this is done, the pilgrims can trim their hair and their Umrah is complete.
They then move onto an area called Mina, where they offer prayers for the rest of the day.
Day 2 - 9th Dhu al-Hijjah
On the second day, the pilgrims leave Mina to travel to Arafat - a sacred place in Islam. Mount Arafat is referred to as “The Mount of Mercy” and here they must stand before Allah and seek His forgiveness for all their sins and wrongdoings. They must also listen to khutbahs (sermons) given by scholars.
After sunset, they head towards Muzdalifah, where they collect pebbles which they will need for the next day of the pilgrimage.
Day 3 - 10th Dhu al-Hijjah, Eid al-Adha
The third of Hajj is the first day of Eid al-Adha, where people around the world will be celebrating. The pilgrims make their way back to Mina as soon as possible. They perform Rami al-Jamarat, which means ‘stoning of the Jamarat’ or ‘stoning of the devil’. They throw seven pebbles at the largest wall of the three - Jamarat. Once complete, the pilgrims sacrifice an animal, such as a sheep, cow or goat, to be given to the needy. They then shave or trim their hair.
Back in Mecca, they perform tawaf and sa’ay just as they did for Umrah, then head back to Mina.
Day 4 & 5 - 11th & 12th Dhu al-Hijjah
On both these days the pilgrims perform rami again, where they throw seven pebbles at each of the three walls. On the final day, they head back to Mecca to finish a final tawaf around the kaaba.
Hajj is now complete and the pilgrims can choose to visit Medina if they wish.
What is the story behind Hajj?
Many of the events that happened in Islamic history are the reason why Hajj is performed the way it is today. It dates back as far as when Ibrahim (pbuh) was a prophet of Allah and his wife, Sarah, wasn’t able to conceive children.
Zamzam Water & Sa’ay
Sarah suggested that Ibrahim (pbuh) should marry her handmaid, Hajar, in order to have children, which he accepted. But just months after Hajar had given birth to Ismail (pbuh), Allah ordered Ibrahim to abandon his wife and son in the dessert. He did so, leaving very little food and water with them.
Eventually the mother and child became very thirst and Ismail (pbuh) cried out in pain. In hopes to find water, or people to help her, Hajar paced between the hills of Safah and Marwah, seven times. When she couldn’t find water, she went back to her crying child. This is why sa’ay is performed today.
The angel Jibreel appeared, struck the ground and water cascaded out. Hajar built a small barrier around the water and it has not stopped flowing since. Millions of pilgrims drink this zamzam water to this day.
Stoning the Devil & Animal Sacrifice
The idea of stoning the devil comes from when Ibrahim (pbuh) had a dream which he interpreted as Allah telling his that he has to sacrifice his son, Ismail (pbuh). Ismail (pbuh) agreed to this and they went out to complete the deed. However on the way, the devil appeared in front of him three separate times to try to convince him to not sacrifice his son. But Ibrahim (pbuh) knew that he was the devil and each time he threw seven stones at him to make him disappear.
When the pair arrived at their destination, Ibrahim (pbuh) was about to complete the deed of sacrificing Ismail (pbuh), but in the last second Allah replaced his son with a ram. He was testing them to see if they would follow his orders without objection. Ibrahim (pbuh) sacrificed the animal instead. Today this is called Qurbani and carried out every Eid al Adha.
As mentioned earlier, Mount Arafat is a very sacred place in Islam. This is because this was the place that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) delivered his Farewell Sermon, where he left a message for all Muslims around the world in any time period. It is also known as “The Mount of Mercy” as it is the place where Adam (pbuh) was forgiven for his sins.
Using HalalGuide to help you
There are many different packages for Hajj and it can be quite confusing to organise by yourself. So if you’re thinking of performing Hajj in the future, you can use HalalGuide’s directory to find the right travel agency for you that specialises in Hajj and Umrah packages.
Alternatively, if you know of any travel agents please help us by adding them to our catalogue. Not only will you be helping your Muslim brothers and sisters, but you will also be receiving blessings from Allah.
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