Pilgrimage (Hajj)




Hajj literally means, “to continuously strive to reach one’s goal.” The Hajj, or Pilgrimage to Mecca, is an once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

The Hajj is essentially a re-enactment of the rituals of the great prophets and teachers of faith. Pilgrims symbolically relive the experience of exile and atonement undergone by Adam and Eve after they were expelled from Heaven, wandered the earth, met again and sought forgiveness in the valley of Mecca. They also retrace the frantic footsteps of the wife of Abraham, Hagar, as she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa searching for water for her thirsty baby (which according to Muslim tradition, God answered with the well of Zam Zam). Lastly, the pilgrims also commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. God later substituted a ram in place of his son.

Muslims from every part of the earth, people of every race, language, age and background, come together to perform the extraordinary act of mass devotion. The visual impact of this vast human gathering is unparalleled by any event in the world.

Early traditional history

If we go back in time, to the origin of the history of mankind, it is claimed that when Adam (ﷵﷷ) and live   , were forgiven their sin by Allah, they were reunited and dwelt on the hill that overlooks the vast plain of Arafat. They built a shrine, to worship Allah, not far from Arafat. In the valley of Bakkah (now called Makkah). The shrine and the village which grew around it disappeared after several centuries due to natural disaster which, according to some historians, coincided with the Great Flood of the time of Prophet Noah (ﷵﷷ). In around 850 BC when Makkah was no more than a desert valley with two small hills known as Safa and Marwah, the Prophet Ibrahim (ﷵﷷ) left his wife Hajir  and their infant son Ismail (ﷵﷷ) there. He had been ordered by Allah to do so. But the food and water left with them soon ran out. Hajir   , when she realised her child was dying from thirst, started rushing in desparation from one hill top to the other, hoping to spot a passing caravan, which might have water to save the life of her child. She ran back and forth seven times. Lo! Her reward was much better than a passing caravan. A mighty spring began to gush forth from the ground near where the child scrabbled with his feet. And it was not a mirage but a miracle. This spring became the celebrated Zam zam well, where pilgrims even now quench their thirst. It was also near here that Allah tested Ibrahim (ﷵﷷ). He dreamed that Allah required him to sacrifice his son Ismail (ﷵﷷ), and decided to do this. lsma`il (ﷵﷷ) accepted that this was God`s will and prepared to die. Satan appeared as a strange visitor, to try to make them to change their minds. Neither would do so, and in the end threw some stones at the stranger to drive him away However, when Ibrahim (ﷵﷷ) was about to cut Ismail`s (ﷵﷷ), throat, Allah`s angel stopped him, and he was told to sacrifice a male sheep (a ram) instead.With this new water supply the caravans came regularly and camped there, and a village of tents sprang up. The village grew, and gradually mud and stone replaced the tents, and this is how Makkah came to exist.

Conditions for performing Hajj

Certain conditions must he met for a person’s pilgrimage to Makkah to be valid:

I. You must be a Muslim.

2. You must be an adult over the age of twelve.

3. You must be of sound mind, that is, a sane person.

4. You must not be in debt.

5. You must be in a physical and financial position to accomplish the pilgrimage, without hardship to others.

6. Women must be accompanied by a close relative, (for example: husband, father, son, brother) or a trusted women friends.

Types of Pilgrimage:

There are two types of pilgrimage:h

l. UMRAH: (or lesser pilgrimage) This is the visiting of the Ka`bah which can be performed at any time of the year other then Hajj time.

2. HAJJ: (or greater pilgrimage) This is the visiting of the Ka ‘bah during the fixed dates.

The following three months of the Islamic calendar are declared as Hajj months:

The month of Shawwal: l0th month of Islamic calendar (following the month of Ramadan)

The month of Dhu`l Qa'adah: 11th month of Islamic calendar

The month of Dhu`l Hijjah: l2th month of Islamic calendar.

The pilgrim can start the pilgrimage from 1st of Shawwal but the actual rituals of Hajj take place from 8th to 12th Dhu`l Hijjah.

The ritual state of lhram

This is special state of ritual purity, when a pilgrim is totally dedicated to Allah, to be in His presence and in His service. This involves wearing special clothing. It is made up of two unsewn pieces of white cloth.

  • One piece is wound round the waist to cover the waist down to below the knees.
  • The second piece is to cover the body loosely except the head.

Women can wear their normal dress but it should be preferably simple. It does not have to be white.

While in the sacred state of lhram the following things are forbidden:

1. For men to wear sewn garments (shirts, underpants, vest etc) or shoes that do not leave the heels and the toes bare. Women are permitted to wear their normal dress but it should preferably be simple.

2. Men should not wear jewellery (rings and wedding hands included). Women are excused from this prohibition.

3. Men should not cover their heads. Women should not cover their faces. They may carry umbrellas to prevent sunstroke.

4. Neither men nor women should use perfume.

5. Soap may he used for washing as long as the soap is unscented.

6. Finger or toe nails should not be cut.

7. Hair should not be removed from the body by any means (plucking, shaving or merely shortening the hair). It is allowed to shave or to cut hair only when an illness makes it necessary (for example a skin rash) or if one has to get rid of lice. But if this is the case. The removal of hair should be compensated for by the sacrifice of an animal. If hair falls out of its own accord, as when it is being combed, this is not regarded as an infringement of this rule.

8. Sexual intimacy, flirting, kissing or becoming engaged are not allowed. Any sexual act during the sacred state of ihram automatically makes the pilgrimage not valid.

9. The slaying of all land animals is forbidden. With the exception of harmful animals and insects that can endanger life (such as snakes, scorpions etc).

10. It is forbidden to cut the trees or any green plants or in any way destroy the greenery of the sacred territory. Only the plucking of dried up grass is permitted.

11. One should not commit any acts of violence, have arguments or quarrel or to enter into law-suits with anybody.


The pilgrims put on ihram either when they start from home for Hajj or before reaching the point called Miqat, specific places of entry, the closest being 4 Kms from the area of Sacred Territory, As soon as the pilgrim put on lhram they enter a sacred state. They should start reciting Talbiyah, the prayer of arrival:



lahbayka allahumma labbayka,

labbayka la sharika laka labayka.

innal hamda wan-ni'mata laka wal mulk, la sharika laka


"Here I am O Lord, here I am,

here I am, O You without partner, here l am

surely the praise, the blessings and the kingdom are Yours

O You without partner."


Performance of Hajj

The performance of Hajj involves a number of rituals:

1. NIYYAH: Niyyah means stating your deliberate intent to perform Hajj before starting out from your home for Hajj.

2. IHRAM: Putting on the lhram special garments for this occasion

3. TAWAF: this means going round Al -Ka bah seven times. The pilgrims go round the Ka bah seven times as soon as they arrive in Makkah and again on 10th Dhul Hijjah after sacrificing an animal. Those performing Umrah perform Tawaf once on their arrival in Makkah

4. SA’EE: A fast walk between Safa and Marwah seven times is called SA’EE.

5: VISITING AND STAYING AT MINA: 8th Dhul Hijjah, the pilgrims arrive it Mina and stay there for the night.

6. 9th DHU’ L HIJJAH, the pilgrims go to the plain of Arafat and stay there till sunset .this is called Wuquf or ‘Stand before God’. SALAT for Zuhr and ASR together are performed there. At sunset the pilgrims move to Muzdalifah, perform the salat for Maghrib and Isha together, and spend the night there. They collect pebbles for the symbolical ‘Stoning of Satan.’

7. 10th DHU’ L HIJJAH, After salat -ul -Fajr the pilgrims move back to Mina. Pilgrims throw seven pebbles at a pillar called Jamrat al- Aqabah that   represents Satan.

8. EID UL ADHA. Next the pilgrims sacrifice animal (goat, sheep cow or camel). This feast is called Eid ul- Adha and is in memory of the testing of the Prophet Ibrahim (ﷵﷷ) when he was asked to sacrifice Ismail ( ﷵﷷ). It also ends the Hajj. The sacrifice and the feast are duties for all Muslims everywhere throughout the world, not just those on Hajj.


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