The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia’s holy city, that every adult Muslim must make at least once in their lives. The Hajj is the fifth of the five Islamic pillars that make up the religion’s core beliefs and primary practices. The pilgrimage rite starts on the 7th of Zilhaj (the Islamic year’s final month) and ends on the 12th.
All Muslims who are physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj must do so, provided their absence does not create any challenges for their families. A person can also complete the Hajj by proxy, which means they can appoint a cousin or friend to ‘stand in’ for them on the journey.
Four main pillars of the Hajj
The four key pillars of Hajj include Ihram, Saee, Waqfat, Arafah, and Tawaf al-Ifaadah.
A brief history of the Hajj
The Hajj dates back to 2,000 B.C. when Prophet Ibrahim’s young son (Prophet Ismail) was trapped in the desert. With Prophet Ismail near death from dehydration, his mother Hajra rushed back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water until the angel Jibril (Gabriel) landed on earth and constructed the Well of Zamzam, a stream of fresh water for the baby.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is claimed to have built a monument at the spring site known as the Kaaba on God’s orders. Worshipers of all faiths flocked to the site around 630 A.D., led by the Prophet Mohammed.
How to prepare for the Hajj?
Muslims are obliged to enter a condition of purity and dress appropriately before crossing the Miqat boundary, known as Ihram. The men wear outfits with two basic white sheets wrapped around the body, exposing the right shoulder. Women can also utilize white sheets or dress modestly in any color, exposing only their face and hands.
To get into the state of Ihram, an individual must complete their hygiene rituals, such as trimming their nails and removing armpit and naval hair. They should also perform ghusl or Wudhu if Ghusl is not possible.
The History of Sai
The Sai ritual commemorates the actions of Lady Hajra, Prophet Ibrahim’s wife, who traveled back and forth seven times between the two hills in search of water for her infant son Prophet Ismail, who was thirsty.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) transported his wife and newborn to Makkah after the birth of Prophet Ismail (AS), and according to Allah’s commands, he left them under a tree with few provisions. Lady Hajra was initially terrified, but after realizing that these were Allah’s orders, she knew that Allah would never abandon them. She then awaited Allah’s blessing.
After their water ran out, Lady Hajra, still nursing Prophet Ismail, could not feed her baby. Prophet Ismail began to wail and was on the verge of dying, prompting Lady Hajra to flee into the desert in search of water, hoping to acquire a better view of the region or spot a passing traveler who could assist them.
She ran between the two hills seven times before returning to check on her son. She then witnessed the ground explode, releasing water, which Lady Hajra drank and used to feed her child. Following that, angel Jibril told Lady Hajra that she would not die and that Prophet Ismail (AS) would assist his father, Ibrahim, in constructing the House of Allah, Al-Kaba’a, at this exact spot.
What happens at the Hajj?
Pilgrims travel to Mina on the first day (the Day of Quenching Thirst). Some parties prefer to travel the 5-6 miles from Makkah to Mina either the night before or on the morning of the 8th day of Zilhaj.
Pilgrims walk to Mount Arafat on the second day (the Day of Arafat), where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered his farewell speech which included teachings on how women should be treated and how all Muslims should strive to remain united.
To do Wuquf al-Arafat correctly, you must be present at Mount Arafat from midday on day two until the start of Fajr on day 3.
The remaining part of the second day is spent in prayers, reciting Talbiyah, reading the Holy Quran, and connecting with Allah. It is the most crucial aspect of the pilgrimage, and one must avoid eating, talking, or sleeping during this time.
The third day, or Eid day, is known as the Day of Sacrifice. Certain rites must be performed in a specific order on this day (the 10th) or between dawn and sunset on the 12th day of Zilhaj to be valid.
Health & Safety Protocols
The Saudi government has put an excellent health care system in place from when the pilgrims arrive in the Kingdom to when they leave for their home countries. To this end, the ministry also assigns thousands of practitioners and administrative staff to serve the pilgrims. Makkah, Madinah, and other holy sites also provide a slew of health facilities. At the same time, many advanced emergency centers are also made available in the Holy Mosque in Makkah.