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Understanding the Hajj Pilgrimage to Makkah

Hajj is the pilgrimage to Makkah that every Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. Makkah is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammed and Kaaba is the holiest site in Islam. Makkah pilgrimage is extremely dear to Muslims all over the world as it was at this place where the teachings of Islam were bestowed upon Prophet Muhammed by Allah.   

How to Perform Hajj

Hajj involves a series of rituals that take place in and around Makkah over five to six days. There are a range of sacred steps you need to take to complete your Hajj successfully. 

Step 1 – Intention and Ihram – When you arrive in Saudi Arabia for your Hajj, you should reconsider your resolve to perform it only to honour Allah. Muslim men must wear the Ihram, which consists of two white sheets draped around the waist and shoulders. Muslim women can wear any colour they want. They are just obliged to wear straight, loose dresses and be completely covered to maintain respect. With your Ihram on, you should begin reciting Talbiyah, a prayer that demonstrates your intention to undertake Hajj for the honour of Allah. After Intention and Ihram, pilgrims walk around the Kaaba seven times in an anti-clockwise direction known as Tawaf. Pilgrims believe that they are running between the Safa and Marwa hills.

Step 2 – Mina, City of Tents – After performing the ritual, pilgrims spend time in Mina and Mount Mercy. 

Step 3 – Day of Arafah – On the second day of Hajj (the ninth day of Dhul Hijjah), pilgrims travel to Mount Arafat for the Day of Arafah, the holiest day in the Islamic calendar. This is the location of Jabal al-Rahmah, or Mount Mercy, where the revered Prophet Muhammad is claimed to have delivered his farewell sermon. Throughout their way to Arafat, they recite the Talbiyah. Once they arrive at Mount Arafat, Muslims perform Wuquf, one of the most important Hajj rituals. This alludes to being on their feet before Allah till dusk. There, people pray, repent, and hear soul-enriching teachings.

Step 4 – Muzdalifah – They then move to Muzdalifah and collect 49 pebbles for the next ritual. Here, they perform Maghrib and Isha prayers before gathering pebbles for the following day and sleeping under the open sky.

Step 5 – Rami al-Jamarat (Stoning the Devil) – The third day of Hajj (Qurbani/ Udhiya Day) starts with prayers at Muzdalifa before pilgrims make their way back to Mina. Back at Mina, pilgrims perform Rami al-Jamarat, also known as the ‘stoning of the devil’. This involves throwing seven stones at Jamraat al-Aqabah, the largest of three pillars that represent the Devil.

Step 6 – Eid al-Adha and Nahr (Animal Sacrifices) – Pilgrims make animal sacrifices, utilising camels or lambs. Although some people sacrifice animals themselves, many others now acquire a sacrifice voucher before Hajj, which allows experts to slay the animal on their behalf on the designated day. A portion of the meat is subsequently handed to the needy, guaranteeing that every Muslim across the globe can eat. After the sacrifice, pilgrims take one step closer to demonstrating their commitment by shaving their hair, which is known in Arabic as Halak. Women are not authorised to do the same, but they do cut a lock of hair off.

Step 7- Farewell Tawaf – Pilgrims conduct a final Tawaf before departing Makkah on Dhul Hijjah’s 12th or 13th day. This one is called ‘Tawaf al-Wadaa’, which comes from the Arabic for ‘to bid farewell or say goodbye’. Once again, pilgrims circle the sacred Kaaba anti-clockwise seven times to finish their Hajj journey before returning home.

During the Makkah prayer timings, the pilgrims gather in the courtyard of the Masjid al-Haram around the Kaaba. They then circumambulate (tawaf in Arabic) or walk around the Kaaba, during which they hope to kiss and touch the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad), embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba.

Hajj and Umrah are both sacred pilgrimages in Islam and share many of the same qualities, rites, and rituals. However, the main difference is that Hajj is that it is the fifth pillar of Islam and is required of every Muslim so long as they have the capacity, whereas Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage. The spiritual journey to Mecca, known as Hajj, is a pillar of the Islamic faith that must be completed once in a lifetime by those who are physically and financially competent. It’s a time for reflection, repentance, and forgiveness, with a distinctive blend of social worship and personal introspection. This pilgrimage emphasizes the importance of Mecca in Islam, bringing believers closer to their heritage and God.

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