Thursday 25 October 2012


“Believers, Jews, Sabaeans or Christians - whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right - shall have nothing to fear or regret” – The Holy Qur’an

The Hajj (Arabic: حج‎ “pilgrimage) is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to the One and True God (“Allah” in Arabic).

The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year. In 2012, the Hajj is between October 24-29. Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state in which Muslims live while on the pilgrimage.

The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham (Ibrahim). Pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals.

The Hajj rituals involve each person walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer from all parts of the world. The pilgrim then runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, and throws stones in a ritual. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).

The pilgrimage is the religious high point of a Muslim’s life and an event that every Muslim dreams of undertaking. Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage, can be undertaken at any time of the year. The Hajj, however, is only performed during the specified five-day period once a year. In the past, and as late as the early decades of last century, few people were able to go to Mecca for the pilgrimage. This was because of the hardships encountered, the length of time the journey took and the expense associated with it. Pilgrims coming from the far corners of the Islamic world sometimes dedicated a year or more to the journey, and many perished during it due in part to the lack of facilities on the routes to Mecca and also in the city itself.

Muslims today undertake the pilgrimage easily, receive a warm welcome on their arrival in Saudi Arabia, and are provided with the most modern facilities and efficient services possible. Without the distractions that their forebears had to contend with, today’s pilgrims are free to focus solely on the spiritual aspect of the Hajj. One of the important aspects of the Hajj is the uniting force that allows Muslims from all corners of the earth to come together and perform the rituals required in a spirit of brotherhood and shared religious ideals. It is a powerful social force as well as a display of religious solidarity that crosses national and cultural barriers.


  1. Amazing! I have seen every inch of the architecture in Mecca, but I have never seen such a stunning photo of the pilgrims. How many people can squash inside at the peak of the pilgrimage period?

  2. your article about the Hajj is very interesting, thank you've shared.