WHAT IS HAJJ
Millions of Muslims from around the world gather annually in Mecca in anticipation of Hajj - the Muslim pilgrimage, which follows the actions of the Prophet Muhammad 1,377 years ago.
This is an obligation for the Muslim world and every Muslim who is physically fit and can afford the trip should do that.
While the specific rituals carried out by Muslims today date back to the Prophet Muhammad's "farewell pilgrimage" in 632 AD, traveling to Mecca was a sacred annual rite for Arabian tribes centuries before the advent of Islam.
Every year two to three million people participate in this six-day ritual. Hajj occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, called Dhul-Hijjah, between the eighth and 13th days of the month.
It starts from around the Kaaba - a black silk-clad stone structure at the heart of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and continues to other places that have special names.
The factors that are needed for one to do the Hajj are being a Muslim, be healthy and wealthy enough to do the traveling and rituals. Of course, if there are some people who cannot do the rituals it is ok if they choose a person to the Hajj on behalf of them.
After entering Mecca in Saudi Arabia there are special steps with their special religious meanings that people should follow.
Let’s look at each one step by step.
Day 1, August 30:
Entering Ihram (the sacred state):
This is done in a special place called Miqat. Men and women should wear a special white dress that is defined for this big ritual. After entering ihram people should head to a place called Mina; an 8 km journey. People can either walk or use a bus or a car to get there. They should stay there for one day and under the tents special for the staying.
Pilgrims spend most of their time in worship inside tents in Mina.
Day 2, August 31:
Spending the day in Arafat:
The Day of Arafat is considered one of the most important days, not just of Hajj, but of the Islamic calendar. Mount Mercy at Arafat was the scene of the Prophet Muhammad's final sermon. After making the 14.4 km journey from Mina, pilgrims spend the day here in reverent prayer.
Elsewhere in the world, many Muslims choose to fast on this day.
After sunset, it’s time to move again, this time to Muzdalifah - a 9 km trip - where they spend the night under the stars. Many will also begin collecting pebbles here for tomorrow's rites, departing again just before sunrise.
Day 3, September 1:
Throwing stones at devil pillars: This day is the most dangerous and the longest day of the journey. This act is a symbolic stoning of the devil, based on historical tradition. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, the story goes, as proof of faith. It is believed that at this spot in Mina, the devil appeared and tried to dissuade Abraham from heeding the command. Abraham responded by throwing stones to scare him off.
Day 4 and 5, September 2,3:
Final days in Mina:
On each day, they will again symbolically stone the devil - this time throwing seven pebbles at each of the three pillars. After it is done people go back to Mina for two or three days and the last day they go back to Mecca for the last Tawaf.
Before heading home, many also go to Medina, the second holiest city in Islam, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried along with his closest companions. Visiting Medina, however, is not part of the pilgrimage.