A Quick Overview of the Hajj

The Hajj is a religious obligation that is considered to be the fifth and most important pillar of Islam. It is performed annually by millions of Muslims from all over the world. During the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, the month of Dhul Hijjah, the pilgrimage known as Hajj is performed at the city of Makkah in modern-day Saudi Arabia.

All Muslims who are able to do so are expected to do Hajj at least once in their lives. This is a spiritual obligation and a cornerstone of Islam. If you are truly seeking Allah’s blessings, you can also go more than once in your lifetime. From the eighth to the twelfth or thirteenth day of the Islamic calendar’s final month of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrimage rituals are carried out.

The Story Of Hajj

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blesssing be upon him) set the standard for the modern Hajj ritual. The Quran, however, traces some of the origins of Hajj back to Abraham’s time. Muslims believe that Abraham was told by God to abandon his wife Hajar and his son Ishmael in the desert outside of ancient Makkah.

Hajar rushed furiously between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times, but she never managed to find any water. When she returned to Ishmael in desperation, she saw the baby scraping the earth with his leg and a waterfall of water came gushing up from beneath the infant’s foot.

Soon after, God told Abraham to construct the Kaaba (with Ishmael’s assistance) and to start inviting people to make pilgrimages there. These events are described in the Quran (2:124–127 and 22:27–30). In the year 630 A.D., Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Makkah. Once there, he purified the Kaaba by removing all of the idols of other religions and then dedicated the structure to God.

In the year 632 A.D., Muhammad led a large group of his followers on what would be his lone and final pilgrimage. During this trip, he educated his followers on how to properly execute the rituals of the Hajj. After this, Hajj was recognised as one of Islam’s five pillars.

Hajj As We Know It Today

Over 2.5 million Muslims from every race, class, and culture in the globe go to Makkah during the month of Dhu al-Hijjah each year in order to fulfill the rituals of Hajj and stand equal before Allah (SWT). Many devote their life to saving up enough money to do the Hajj at least once, while others are fortunate enough to be able to perform it many times.

The month of Dhu al-Hijjah brings a multitude of blessings to Muslims all over the world, regardless of whether or not you have been able to participate in its festivities thus far. Muslims might earn a reward on par with that of performing Hajj by doing good deeds throughout the month of Dhu al-Hijjah. 

Who May Participate in Hajj?

The Pilgrimage of Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. As a result, it is obligatory for all Muslims at least once during their lifetime.

The Five Pillars Of Islam:

  • Shahadah (profession of faith)
  • Salat (prayer)
  • Zakat (almsgiving)
  • Sawm (fasting of Ramadan)
  • Hajj (pilgrimage)

Nonetheless, in order to be eligible to do the Hajj, one must first fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Firstly, Hajj is obligatory only for adult Muslims (male or female). This indicates that it is not obligatory for minors to perform the Hajj, however they are welcome to do so.
  2. Secondly, Muslims who are too frail, too sick, too old, or physically unable to make the journey are excused from doing so.
  3. And last, the Muslim must be in a financial position to cover the cost of Hajj. As a result, a debtor who wants to conduct Hajj must do so with the full aim of paying off his obligation. Although one may be in debt, they are still allowed to undertake Hajj if:
    1. The Lender Allows It.
    2. There is still time for the debtor to make payments.
    3. They are still able to pay off their debts despite participating in Hajj.

A Quick Guide to the Hajj Rituals

  1. Preparation and Intention 
  2. Enter state of Ihram 
  3. Tawaf and sa’ay
  4. Clip/Shave Hair (Umrah ends) 
  5. Resting and Praying
  6. Re-entering State of Ihram: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah (Tarwiyah Day)
  7. Arrival at Mina 
  8. Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah (Arafah Day)
  9. Muzdalifah (under the night sky)
  10. Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah (Qurban Day)
  11. Ramy al-Jamarat (stoning of the devil) 
  12. Hady (sacrificing animal) & Eid al-Adha
  13. Shaving of the Head 
  14. Tawaf Ziyarat/Ifadah
  15. Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah
  16. Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah
  17. Tawaf al-Wadaa

1. Preparation and Intention

Making your intention (niyyah) before arriving in Makkah is crucial to a successful Hajj. The Hajj must be performed solely for Allah’s sake and with the hope of a better afterlife. It shouldn’t be done for the sake of attention or material benefit.

2. Entering The State Of Ihram

The spiritual transformation into a more holy person, known as Ihram, is the first step in performing the Hajj rite. While in ihram, men must wear two identical white, seamless garments: one wrapped around the waist and falling to below the knee, and the other slung over the left shoulder and fastened at the right side.

Meanwhile, women must adhere to the Islamic requirements for public attire, but can leave their hands and faces exposed. Sandals are the only acceptable kind of footwear, and both men and women are required to wear them. When a pilgrim assumes the Ihram state, he or she must refrain from specific behaviors, such as:

  • Carrying weapons
  • Getting married
  • Covering the head (for men)
  • Covering the face/hands (for women)
  • Killing animals
  • Damaging plants
  • Using perfumes
  • Engaging in sexual activities
  • Shaving any part of the body
  • Clipping nails
  • Smoking

The purpose of the Ihram is to demonstrate that all pilgrims are equal before God, regardless of their socioeconomic status.The Ihram robes stand in stark contrast to such individuality. The garments used at Ihram are also reminiscent of the shrouds used in funerals. When you arrive in Makkah’s sacred Masjid al-Haram with these things in mind, you’ll be ready to embark on the most important spiritual trip of your life.

3. Tawaf and sa’ay

Following your arrival in Makkah, you will immediately begin doing your Umrah by performing the Tawaf and Sa’ay One of the most significant rituals of the Hajj is called tawaf, and it consists of going anticlockwise around the Kaa’bah seven times. Each of the seven full rounds of the Tawaf begins and ends with the black stone within the Kaa’bah.

After performing Tawaf, you will go on to Sa’ay (walking and running between the two hills of Safa and Marwa).The Sa’i begins from Safa Hill and proceeds to Marwa Hill. At some time, you’ll see a green marker; when you do, sprint to the next one, then keep on walking until you reach Marwa.This concludes one full circuit. 

Your second lap will bring you back to Safa. Complete your Sa’ay by walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa. Hajar’s personal experience with hardship highlights the commonality of the struggles we all face, hence why this is such an important ritual.

4. Clip/Shave Hair (Umrah Ends)

Men will shave or clip their hair short after Sa’i, while women will wear their hair short, usually no longer than the tip of their index finger. Your umrah is now complete, and you may leave the state of Ihram till the eighth day of  Dhu al-Hijjah.

5. Resting and Praying

After completing the Umrah, you’ll spend the remainder of this holy month in Makkah, among your Muslim sisters and brothers, completing the spiritual journey of Hajj. Get enough sleep and put your energy where it counts by engaging in meaningful acts of worship. On the eighth of Dhu al-Hijjah, you’ll begin your Hajj.

6. Re-entering State of Ihram: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah (Tarwiyah Day)

It is customary to remind pilgrims of their responsibilities on the eighth day of Dhu al-Hijjah. They re-dress in Ihram to reaffirm their commitment to the pilgrimage. Once Ihram has begun, all of its restrictions become once again effective. When you’re ready to enter the state of Ihram, you’ll start reciting the Talbiyah invocation.

لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لاَشَرِيْكَ لَكَ

Next, you and your Hajj group will head to the Makkan neighborhood of Mina, which is about 8 km from Makkah’s city center.

7. Arrival at Mina

When you go to Mina, you’ll be assigned a tent to live in. Salah (mandatory prayers) are offered here, including Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, ‘Isha, and Fajr. You should recite each of these five prayers in their entirety, without mixing any of them, as the Quran instructs.

You will spend the evening in worship of Allah (SWT), reading the Qur’an, and making spiritual preparations for the next day. Make the most of this opportunity for prayer and reflect on your actions. Ask Allah to forgive your sins and those of people close to you. 

8. Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah (Arafah Day)

The Day of Arafah, when we beg Allah (SWT) to forgive us, begins at daybreak in Mina and continues on the plains of ‘Arafah, where we recite Astaghfar (asking for forgiveness) and make supplications. A sermon will be given in Masjid al-Nimra (from where Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon) on Mount ‘Arafah on this day.

9. Muzdalifah (under the night sky)

You will leave ‘Arafah for Muzdalifah after dusk, which is a wide open plain between Mina and ‘Arafah. Maghrib and ‘Isha Salah will be performed consecutively after you reach Muzdalifah, with the ‘Isha Salah being shortened to two Rakat. 

You will be sleeping outside beneath the stars at Muzdalifah. No tents or other sleeping arrangements can be made at this location .After that, devote the rest of the evening to prayer or sleep. Instead of doing nighttime worship as he typically would, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) went to sleep and didn’t wake up until just before Fajr. 

Since you have a full day ahead of you, resist the urge to overwork yourself and get some rest instead. Pebbles for Rami (the stoning of the devil), which takes place over the course of three days, can also be gathered near Muzdalifah.

10. Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah (Qurbani Day)

Yawm al-Nahr, or the Day of Sacrifice, is another name for the tenth of Dhul Hijjah (Qurbani).Once you’ve finished your morning prayer at Muzdalifah, you’ll head back in the direction of Mina. It is important to constantly say the Talbiyah.

11. Ramy al-Jamarat (Stoning of the Devil)

Pilgrims undertake the symbolic Stoning of the Devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) in Mina by hurling stones at the largest of the three pillars, Jamrat al-Aqabah, from dawn to sunset. 

12. Hady (Animal Sacrifice) & Eid al-Adha

To commemorate the narrative of Ibrahim and Ismael, animal sacrifices take place after the stoning of the Devil in Makkah. This period also marks the beginning of the four-day holiday of Eid al-Adha, during which Muslims all around the world perform the ritual of Qurbani.

13. Shaving of the Head 

The ritual shaving or clipping of head hair is an essential part of Hajj, second only to the sacrifice of an animal (known as Halak). On the day of Eid al Adha, all male pilgrims shave or trim their heads, and female pilgrims clip only the ends of their hair.

14. Tawaf Ziyarat/Ifadah

Tawaf al-Ifadah, or the second tawaf around Makkah’s Holy Mosque, takes place either the same day or the day after the first tawaf. As a required aspect of the Hajj, it represents a hasty response to God and an expression of devotion for Him. On the evening of the 10th, everyone heads back to Mina for the night.

15. Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah

Pilgrims are required to repeat the act of throwing seven pebbles at each of the three pillars in Mina between the hours of noon and sunset on the 11th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

16. Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah

The pillars are stoned again on the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, just as they were on the 11th. Before the sun sets on the 12th, pilgrims are free to depart Mina and begin their journey to Makkah.

17. Tawaf al-Wadaa

Last but not least, before departing from Makkah, pilgrims do one more tawaf, known is the Tawaf al-Wadaa. The word “Wadaa” means “goodbye” in Arabic. Pilgrims go anticlockwise around the Kaaba seven times and, if possible, reach out to touch or kiss it.

Hajj Mubarak! Your Hajj is Now Complete!

The Hajj has both religious and social importance for Muslims. This pilgrimage must be completed between the eighth and twelfth days of the Islamic calendar’s last month to count toward the fulfillment of Hajj. A Muslim adult must undertake the Hajj in the year that he or she is physically and financially able to do so.

Don’t lose hope, those of us who can’t go on the Hajj pilgrimage. The first through tenth of the Islamic calendar month of Dhu al-Hijjah are among the year’s best for praying..These days, following Ramadan, offer a second opportunity to gain Allah’s (SWT) favor and pardon.

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