The fifth act of Islamic worship is the performing of the Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca. A Muslim must perform this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime if economic and political conditions are favourable. The focal point of this pilgrimage is the Ka’ba, which was rebuilt by Prophet Abraham some 4,000 years ago. Today, the Ka’ba stands in the middle of a large courtyard of Masjid al Haram or the Sacred Mosque. The courtyard of Masjid al Haram contains, besides Ka’ba, the Maqam a Ibrahim and the fountain of Zamzam.
The Hajj is performed during the Muslim month of Dhul Hijjah which comes two months after the festival of Eid al Fitr. The various ceremonies of the Hajj include:
- Entering into the state of ihram by wearing only two seamless white sheets. This is done by the pilgrims when they reach certain designated places close to Mecca.
- Saying of talbiyah starting at the place where the ihram is worn. Talbiyah consists of saying aloud the following:
Here we come, O God, here we come No partner have You, here we come
Indeed, praise and blessings are Yours, and the Kingdom too No partner have You, here we come
- On entering Mecca, the pilgrims perform the first tawaf which consists of going around the Ka’ba seven times in an anticlockwise direction.
- After completing the tawaf, the pilgrims perform the sa’ yy which consists of running between the two little hills of Safa and Marwa located near the Ka’ba. These are the two hills where Hajirah ran in search of water when Prophet Abraham had to leave her there on Divine command.
- After performing the sa’ yy, the pilgrims move to Mina, a plain located about four miles east of Mecca, and spend the night there.
- Next morning, the pilgrims leave for the Plain of Arafat located nine miles southeast of Mecca. They arrive there in the early afternoon, say the combined Zuhr and Asr Prayers and listen to a sermon given by the Imam. The pilgrims stay in the Plain of Arafat only till sunset. This is the same plain where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon.
- After sunset the pilgrims leave Arafat and come to a place called Muzdalifah. In the Holy Quran, this place is referred to as al Mash’ar al Haram, the Sacred Monument. On reaching Muzdalifah, the pilgrims say their combined Maghrib and Isha Prayers and spend the night there. In the morning, after saying the Fajr Prayer, the pilgrims return to Mina once again.
- The pilgrims reach Mina on the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah. This is the busiest day of the pilgrimage. The first ceremony that is performed at Mina is the throwing of small stones or ramy al jimar. In this ceremony the pilgrims throw stones at three pillars in a symbolic act of striking the devil.
- The tenth day of Dhul Hijjah is also the day when pilgrims sacrifice their animals. This day is also celebrated all over the Muslim world as the festive day of Eid al Adha.
- After performing the sacrifice the pilgrims have their heads shaved or their hair clipped. After this they emerge from the state of ihram by wearing their everyday clothes.
- Clad in their everyday clothes the pilgrims perform another tawaf of the Ka’ba. This tawaf is called tawaf e ziarat.
- Before the tenth day of Dhul Hijjah ends, the pilgrims perform another sa’ yy between the hills of Safa and Marwa.
- After this the pilgrims return once again to Mina where they stay until the twelfth or thirteenth day of Dhul Hijjah. During these two or three days the pilgrims continue to perform the ceremony of ramy al jimar or throwing of stones.
- On the afternoon of the twelfth Dhul Hijjah (or of the thirteenth) the pilgrims return to Mecca for the last ceremony of the pilgrimage. This ceremony consists of the farewell tawaf of the Ka’ba after which the entire pilgrimage is completed and the pilgrims are free to go wherever they wish.
Although not part of the prescribed pilgrimage, many pilgrims carry on to Medinah and visit Masjid al Nabvi or the Prophet’s Mosque. It was in the compound of this Mosque that Prophet Muhammad was buried.
While the Hajj may only be performed during the prescribed dates of the month of Dhul Hijjah, a Lesser Pilgrimage called Umrah may be made individually at any time during the year.