Hajj is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith and is the religious pilgrimage that every sane muslim should complete at least once in their lifetime, provided they can afford it.
When is Hajj?
Hajj happens from 8th – 12th Dhul- Hijjah which is the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
What is the purpose of Hajj ?
Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that was performed by the Prophet Muhammad and dates back as far as the times of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Its purpose is to instill a sense of unity and help muslims to renew their sense of purpose in this world. It is believed that a muslim who completes their Hajj with pure faith will have all their previous sins forgiven.
How many people go on Hajj every year ?
In 2017 two million Muslims from all around the world regardless of colour, creed, social status, wealth and culture flocked to Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
Who should perform Hajj ?
Generally speaking there are five key conditions that should be met in order for it to be obligatory for someone to complete Hajj. The conditions are:
- If the person is a Muslim.
- They are an adult (however this does not mean that children cannot perform Hajj).
- They are of sane mind.
- Being free.
- Being able to perform Hajj*
*A person should physically able to endure the pilgrimage and look after themselves as well as being financially stable with no debt.
If a person does not satisfy all of these criteria then it is not compulsory for them to perform Hajj.
What do Muslims wear during Hajj?
The dress for men and women during Hajj is somewhat different.
Men wear two plain pieces of white cloth, one that is wrapped around the waist and is intended to cover from the waist down. The second cloth covers the upper body apart from the right shoulder and arm. Women wear a loose white dress as well as a white headscarf. They are not allowed to cover their faces.
What are the different types of Hajj?
There are three types of Hajj which muslims can choose to perform. They all have slightly different variations of the rituals performed and the timeline in which they happen
- Tamattu : This is the most commonly practiced type of Hajj and has been recommended by the Prophet Muhammad. Within Tamattu’ muslims perform the rituals of the minor pilgrimage (Umrah) followed by the rituals of the major pilgrimage (Hajj).
- Qiran : This type of Hajj involves muslims honouring the rituals of both the minor and major pilgrimages but with no break between the two pilgrimages.
- Ifraad : Muslims completing Ifraad are only required to fulfil the rituals of the major pilgrimage (Hajj) and thus does not require an animal sacrifice.
What is the difference between Hajj and Umrah?
Hajj is considered as the major pilgrimage whereas Umrah is considered as the minor pilgrimage. Hajj is obligatory and can only be performed at a certain period in the Islamic calendar (primarily the month of Dhu al-Hijjah). The weight and importance of the Hajj also outweighs that of the Umrah. Umrah has fewer rituals to observe and can be done during the majority of the year (other than when only Hajj can be carried out).
What are the rites of Hajj?
The rituals of Hajj are completed over a period of 5 days from 8th to 12th Dhul-Hijjah.
The rituals of Hajj are as follows:
- Ihram: This is similar to what was described before where the intention has to be for the sake of God.
- Mina: On the first day of Hajj muslims head towards the area of Mina where they stay for the day in segregated tents.
- Arafat: On the second day of Hajj involves pilgrims heading towards Mount Arafat and to remain upon the mountain from the moment the sun begins to set till it has completely set. It is during this time they pray, ask for forgiveness and reflect.
- Muzdalifah: Still on the second day of Hajj after sunset the pilgrims pray the evening prayer (Magrib) in an area known as Muzdalifah which is between Arafat and Mina.
- Ramy: On the third day of Hajj before the sunrises the pilgrims go back towards Mina till they reach a stone monument known as Jamrat al Aqabah. It was erected to represent where the devil had appeared. Muslims are required to take seven stones and throw them at the Jamrat al Aqabah.
- Sacrifice: After Ramy has been completed then the pilgrims must sacrifice an animal.
- Haircut: Men must then remove the hair on their head and women only have to cut a small lock of hair.
- Tawaf and Sa’ey: Similar to the way it was completed in the Umrah, pilgrims must go around the Ka’bah and then walk between the two hills Safa and Marwah. Once both of these activities have been completed then the pilgrim is relieved from their state of Ihram and can go back to wearing their own clothes and partaking in their normal activities.
- Remy: On the fourth and fifth days of Hajj the pilgrims must go back to Jamrat al Aqabah after sunset to partake in stoning the monument again but this time they must also visit the Jamrat Oolah (the first jamrat) and Jamrat Wustah (middle jamrat), these are also monuments where the devil had been seen.
- Final Tawaaf: It is after all business both religious as well as personal commitments in Mecca have been completed that the pilgrims must perform a final seven rounds around the Ka’bah. During this the muslims should reflect on their experience. Once this is done then pilgrims should leave the area and begin their journeys to their respective home destinations.