1. An Annual Pilgrimage to Mecca
Hajj is an annual pilgrimage by Muslims to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Millions of pilgrims from across the world make the pilgrimage each year. Some of the major rituals in the pilgrimage are conducted on the 9th day of Islam’s Dhul Hijjah month that ordinarily falls on October 14th. Only adult Muslims take part in Hajj.
2. One of the Pillars of Islam
Hajj is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam and all adults that practice Islam are expected to take at least one trip to Mecca in their lifetime if they are not financially or physically incapable of doing so. In 2012, over 3 million Muslims performed the Hajj based on statistics released by the Saudi Arabia government. 64% of these were men and 55% of those who participated travelled from other countries.
3. Growing Participation in Hajj
The overall number of Muslims participating in Hajj annually has been growing. By 2012, the number of Muslim Pilgrims had grown by over one million compared to those who participated in 2002.
4. Primary Hajj Rituals involve Number 7
Several rituals that are performed during Hajj involve digit 7. The tawaf, a ritual performed during Hajj involves going round the Kaaba seven times. According to Islam, Kaaba is the holiest site. Also, pilgrims typically travel to and from the hills of Marwa and Safa seven times during Hajj.
5. Hajj overlaps Eid al-Adha
Eid al-Adha is an important Muslim holiday that starts on day 10 of Dhul Hijjah and marks the end of Hajj. It is celebrated around the world and Muslims who have the financial resources make it a tradition to slaughter big animals like cows, sheep or goat and share the meet with the poor. Most American Muslims make donations to firms that slaughter animals as well as give to the poor abroad. This ritualistic sacrifice commemorates the story of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son to God in the Quran.
6. Stoning the Devil
‘Stoning of the devil’ is one of the ritual acts that take place during Hajj. This ritual sees pilgrims travelling 5 kilometers from Mecca to a small village called Mina where they throw pebbles towards stone pillars that represent the devil.
7. Men and Women are dressed in White
During Hajj, men and women have to dress in white to symbolize the state of purity that they enter. Changing clothes forms part of a process called ‘assuming Ihram’ which is a sacred state that Muslim pilgrims adopt when Hajj starts. Pilgrims also keep off from wearing perfumes, women leave their faces uncovered and men do not wear sewn garments at all.
8. Pilgrims drink from the Zamzam Well
During Hajj, pilgrims usually drink water from a well called Zamzam that is located some 20 meters, east of the Kaaba. This water is thought to possess special properties and is believed to share the same source as the spring that offered water to Ishmael.
9. Pilgrims stay in White Tents
During Hajj, most of the pilgrims live in numerous white tents that are pitched in the valley of Mina. Most pilgrims suffer exhaustion from the heat with temperatures ranging between 30 and 40˚C.
10. Hajj is performed at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram Mosque
Al-Masjid Al-Haram is the most sacred mosque in Islam where Hajj takes place. The Kaaba, a black building with a box shape, is located at the center of this mosque. The Kaaba surrounds a black stone that most pilgrims attempt to kiss. According to Muslims, the Kaaba was originally constructed by Abraham and Ishmael. Muhammad then re-dedicated the site.