The Pilgrimage to Mecca
Every year millions of Muslims take part in the Hajj which means "towards gods," or "pilgrimage" in Mecca, Saudia Arabia. It is the duty of evry Muslim to partake in the Hajj at least once in their lifetime, however if a Muslim is unable due to health or monetary reasons they are exempt. The goal of the Hajj is not only to unite the Muslim community, but also, according to Muslim scholar Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah the fana or "annihilating the ego" is "assimilating one's self with the will of God." The five day pilgrimage beginning on 7th day of the last month in the Islamic calendar.

Map of Mecca

About Hajj

Hajj is a worship act. It means to visit the holy house of Allah in Mecca at a certain period of time - in the month of Dhil-hajj and complete certain rituals according to the Islamic Laws.
Who has to do Hajj?
One who has the following qualifications must necessarily visit the house of Allah and complete hajj rituals:

  1. Maturity: that is being fifteen complete lunar years old in the case of a male and nine years in the case of females.
  2. Should be sane and free, that is, he should not be insane and should not be a slave.
  3. He or she should has the required ability which consists of:

Financial ability and opportunity for traveling to Mecca which in turn consists of the following factors:-
( a ) Physical ability; thus, a person suffering from illness or a weak one because of old age has no hajj obligation.
( b ) There must be enough time to go there and complete the prescribed hajj rituals within their due time:
( c ) One must be sure of the safety about his life, honor, and belongings on the way to Mecca, during hajj and back home:
( d ) One must have enough money for the traveling and transportation expenses.
( e ) Besides the money for hajj expenses one must have other money or means to make a living afterwards and maintain his dependents during hajj and after it.

It is wajib (a must) for every Muslim, who is able to afford, to go once in his or her life-time to take part in the hajj, and thus come back with a radiant heart and a new resolve for perfection.
Al-Imam Ja'far al_Sadiq (a.s) has said: "Whoever forsakes his wajib hajj without a religious excuse, will leave this world not as a Muslim but will be considered on the Judgement Day among the non-Muslims."

A person will qualified as above is not allowed to postpone his hajj from the year he has been accountable for the duty.
It is preferable to visit the Holy House of Allah, although one does not have the means mentioned above or has already performed hajjatul Islam (the hajj which is necessary only once in life time). It should in one and the same year be performed repeatedly if possible. A person without financial ability is allowed to have preferable hajj. The same is true of one who performs a preferable hajj with borrowed money, provided, he is confident of his ability to pay it back afterward. During hajj one should also preferably extend his expenses.

Some Situations:

  1. If a wife can go to Mecca but does not have any means of support on her return, and if her husband is also poor, and cannot provide her subsistence, subjecting her to hard life, Hajj will not be obligatory on her.
  2. If a person does not possess necessary provision for the journey, nor any means of transport, and another person asks him to go for Hajj undertaking to meet his expenses as well as of his family during his Hajj, and he (i.e. the person who is asked to go for Hajj) is satisfied with what the other man offers, Hajj becomes obligatory on him.
  3. If a person is given an amount to cover expenses just sufficient for Hajj, with a condition that on his way to Mecca he will serve the person who gave the expenses, Hajj does not become obligatory on him.

by (Ahmed Al-Yaqub)

Sarwar , Muhammad. The Islamic Seminary:Rules of Hajj. 1. New York: 2004.

Kinds of Hajj

1. Al-Tamattu: meaning advantageous, this kind allow you to do Umrah then stay in Mecca the do Hajj.
2. Al-Qiran: meaning combined, this kind allow you to do Umrah and Hajj in the same acts.
3. Al-Ifrad: meaning individualistic, this kind allow you to do just Hajj.

by (Ahmed Al-Yaqub)

Sarwar , Muhammad. The Islamic Seminary:Rules of Hajj. 1. New York: 2004.

How to do Hajj

It consists of thirteen compulsory worship acts:
It must be actualized by wearing two pieces of clothe, intention and reciting the Talbiya on ninth of Dhilhajj anywhere in Mecca.
It is necessary to stay in Arafat (name of a place next to Mecca) from noon or an hour later on ninth of Dhil'hajj till sunset of the same day:
It is necessary to stay in Mash'ar (also name of a place between Arafat and Mecca) from dawn to sunrise on tenth of Dhil'hajj.
4. RAMY "Stoning of the Devil":

It is necessary to throw seven pebbles successfully on the Jamarah of Al-aqabah (a block of stones) in Mina on tenth of Dhilhajj.
It is necessary to shave one's head or cut some hairs of the head, mustache, beard or cut some nails in Mina after the sacrifice offering on the same day. With this all that is prohibited in the state of Ehram become allowed except women perfumes, sexual intercourse or marriage.
When one is back in Mecca from Mina he has to walk seven successive times around the Ka'ba (the House of Allah) on 10th, 11th, or 12th Dhilhajj.
It is necessary to say two Rak'at prayer soon after Tawaf behind Maqam of Ibrahim.
9. SA'AY:
It is necessary to walk between Safa and Marwa seven times after Tawaf. After this, the use of perfume also becomes allowed.
This Tawaf and prayer are the same as other Tawaf’s and prayers. After this, one will be allowed to have sexual intercourse and to marry someone.
It is necessary to stay in Mina for the eleventh and twelfth of Dhilhajj and also the thirteenth night, in case, one violates the law by hunting or does not leave Mina on 12th of Dhilhajj before sunsets.
13. RAMY "Stoning of the Devil":

It is necessary to throw seven pebbles, in the same way mentioned before, on the three Jamarat on the 11th and 12th days of Dhilhajj and also on 13th of Dhilhajj, provided, one has stayed that night at Mina.

by (Ahmed Al-Yaqub)

Sarwar , Muhammad. The Islamic Seminary:Rules of Hajj. 1. New York: 2004.


The “Lesser Pilgrimage”

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Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that can occur at any time in the year. Unlike the Hajj, Umrah is not a requirement of all Muslims, and is simply optional.Umrah in Arabic means “to visit a popular place”. The most frequent times to take the pilgrimage of Umrah are close to Hajj and during the last week of Ramadan. There are two different types of Umrah, some pilgrims (in Arabic mu’tamir or Haji) decide to combine Umrah with Hajj which is called Umrat al-tammatu, where the rituals of Umrah are preformed before the traditional rituals of Hajj. The other, al-Umrat al mufradah is when Umrah is done at a separate time than Hajj. In Verifying and Explaining Many Matters of Hajj, Umrah & Ziyarah, A. Bin Baz quotes the prophet saying, “to perform ‘Umrah after ‘Umrah serves as the expiation for the sins committed between them and the reward for Hajj Mabrur (accepted) is nothing but Paradise.” One of the reasons to make the “lesser pilgrimage” is to repent for sins done between Hajj each year. The Prophet commands, “one should arrange for his expenses for Hajj and ‘Umrah out of his lawful earning.” The rituals that are performed during Umrah signify the life the prophet Abraham, a descendent of Muhammad, along with his handmaiden Hagar. These rituals performed are a tawaf, a sa’I and either halq or taqsir.

A Tawaf is when the pilgrim circles the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise. Performing a sa’I involves walking at a fast pace between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times. This signifies Hagar’s search for water. Water was found when the baby Ismael cried and hit the ground and water sprang from the ground, also known today as the Well of Zamzam. Drinking from the Well of Zamzam is not a ritual of Umrah but most pilgrims drink the water anyway. The third ritual is to perform either a halq or taqsir. The halq is when a Muslim completely shaves their head, and the taqsir is shortening of the hair, performed mostly by women. The various forms of Islam perform these rituals slightly differently. In Verifying & Explaining Many Matters of Hajj, Umrah & Ziyarah, A. Bin Baz says, “A pilgrim should strive to secure the Divine Pleasure, success and bliss in the Next Life through his Hajj and ‘Umrah.” Pilgrims make their journey to Mecca to repent for their sins as the Prophet commands. Making the “lesser pilgrimage” may not be required but helps to secure the Divine Pleasure needed for the Next Life.

Rebecca Conroy
Bin Baz, Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah. Verifying & Explaining Many Matters of Hajj, Umrah & Ziyarah. Darussalam, New York, 1996

The Kaaba

the-kaba-01-5001.jpgIn the center of Mecca there lies a cube-shaped building that is regarded as the holiest and most sacred site in all of Islam. It is called the Kaaba or House of God and it is where David King says the “hearts of Muslims beat as one.” It is said to be the oldest functioning place of worship in all of Mecca according to Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah. The pilgrimage, known as the Hajj, which is required by the Five Pillars of Islam revolves around the Kaaba. Muslim tradition professes it was built by the Prophet Abraham and is the center of the entire world. In the years between the Prophet Abraham and the Prophet Mohammed, the Kaaba became filled with idolatries of pagan gods the people of Mecca worshipped for economic prosperity. Upon his return from exile in Medina, the Prophet Mohammed destroyed the idolatries and all remnants of pagan worship. As a result, the original religious purity of the Kaaba was restored.

In Mahir Saul’s Islam and West Africa Anthropology, he states the Kaaba “stands for God's covenant with the Muslim community.” On the Hajj while praying around the Kaaba, the Muslim community is unified. The unifying of their faith is not only spiritual, but physical as well considering over three million people perform the Hajj each year. This pilgrimage reminds Muslims they are apart of a global community of believers. Saul comments, “even in the daily routine of an observant Muslim, turning toward the Kaaba in prayer reorients and resignifies local space by making it part of a global expanse.” Therefore, no matter where a Muslim practices their faith, recognizing the holiness of the Kaaba connects Muslims around the world.

Muslims partaking in the Hajj, called pilgrims, must walk around the Kaaba counter
kaaba2.jpgclockwise. This act of circumambulating or walking around the Kaaba is called the Tawaf. The Tawaf further identifies the unified Muslim community around the Kaaba. In his book The Blessed Cities of Islam, Mecca-Medina, Omer Faruk Aksoy declares the Kaaba as the “noblest and the most historical diamond; it carries traces from every past age, and is an ancient building that always remains new while increasing in value.” Aksoy asserts the building is the tangible connection between heaven and earth.

The Kaaba is made of granite and built on a marble foundation. The building is covered in a silk fabric called the kiswah which is replaced annually. Near the top of the Kaaba, a strip of gold thread recites verses from the Qu’ran. On one corner of the Kaaba sits the Black Stone which Muslims are expected to kiss while on the Hajj. The Black Stone is believed to date back to Adam and Eve when God dropped the stone on Earth to help Adam and Eve decide where to build their alter.

During Hajj, Muslims are united. This unity is the direct result of the Kaaba. It is a collecting point that holds the Islamic faith together and reaffirms the connection between God and man.

(Max Katsarelas)

Aksoy, Omer Faruk. The Blessed Cities of Islam Mecca-Medina. Cincinnati: Light,, 2006. Print.
Hamidullah, Dr. Muhammed. Introduction to Islam. Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1981.
King, David. "Two Iranian World Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca." Imago Mundi 49 (1997): 62-65. JSTOR. Web. 18 Feb. 2010.
Saul, Mahir. "Islam and West African Anthropology." Africa Today 56.1 (2009): 11-12. Project Muse. Web. 18 Feb. 2010.

Wensinck, A. J; Ka`ba. Encyclopedia of Islam IV p. 317


Ihram is a sacred state that a Muslim must enter in order to carry out the hajj (major pilgrimage) or umrah (lesser pilgrimage). Before crossing the pilgrimage boundary, known as miqat, a Muslim must enter into ihram. Once a Muslim has entered ihram, they cannot abruptly end it without completing the intended hajj or umrah. It is stressed that the ihram symbolizes the pilgrim’s separation from the world and his intention to be with God alone. It also demonstrates the unity of Muslims and the equality of all its followers without any religious hierarchy or authority arising from worldly attributes.

There are many things that a Muslim must do before they enter into the state of ihram. Because the removal of bodily hair while in the state of ihram is strictly prohibited, Muslims will shave their head, and any other body hair that may need to be trimmed before entering into the state of ihram. They must also cut their nails before entering ihram, as that is also forbidden. For men, there is special attire that must be worn while in ihram. This garment consists of two pieces of white seamless cloth. One is worn around the hips and falls to the knees. The other is draped around the upper half of the pilgrim’s chest. The outfit is capped off with sandals (or, if necessary, shoes that do not cover the ankle). It is forbidden to wear any sewn garments while in the state of ihram. They must refrain from arguments, hunting, sexual intercourse, or using perfumes. They can, however, wash themselves and scrape their skin in moderation, only if it does not cause any hairs to fall out. For women, there is not a special outfit that they must wear. They are permitted to wear normal clothes but they are not permitted to wear gloves or a face cover that has an opening for their eyes (they cannot cover their face while in ihram). After completing the umrah or hajj, the prohibitions implemented during ihram cease on the return to normal life.

What is permitted in the state of ihram:

  • Wearing a wristwatch, eyeglasses, money belt, rings, sunglasses, hearing or speech aid, etc
  • bath or shower with unscented soap and to wash and gently scratch one's head and body making sure hair does not fall out
  • Changing one’s ihram garments
  • Having shelter over one’s head, whether it be in a car, umbrella or building.
  • Covering one’s feet (but not head) while sleeping with either a blanket or their ihram garment

What is not permitted in the state of ihram (aside from what has already been mentioned):

  • For men:
o Not wear any underwear or headgear
  • Both men and women:
o Neither marry, give anyone else in marriage, nor propose marriage
o Perform any act that may arouse your partner or engage in any intimate marital relations
o Commit any act of disobedience to Allah, such as smoking
o Get involved in fights, arguments, or quarrels

(Kyle Bennett)


Wensinck, A.J. "Iḥrām." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY. 24 February 2010 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-3506
ihram. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 24, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/282481/ihram
"Ihram" Oxford Dictionary of Islam. John L. Esposito, ed. Oxford University Press Inc. 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Michigan State University Library. 24 February 2010 http://www.oxfordreference.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t125.e980

Ihram. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2010, from Hajj Portal: http://www.hajj.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=55
Ihram. (2009, October 24). Retrieved February 24, 2010, from Haq Islam: http://www.haqislam.org/ihram/

Stoning of the Devil

In the city called Mina, east of Mecca, takes part the stoning of the devil. Muslim Pilgrims throw stones at three walls called the jamarat.

The significance of the three walls dates back to the time of Ishmael, son of Abraham. He was confronted by the devil three times. Once at each pillar and in order to make the devil go away, Ishmael cast seven stones each time he was confronted by the devil. This is an act of getting rid of all of ones selfish desires. In order to get closer to their god, the pilgrims get rid of their desires and temptations at the stoning of the devil.
Originally, stones were thrown at three pillars but because of the vast number of pilgrims, stones were being accidentally thrown at others when they missed the giant pillar. When putting millions of people and a confined space together, accidents and deaths are bound to happen. During every Hajj, pilgrims are crushed to death or even trampled by the vast number of people trying to move about.

Susan O'Brien, Pilgrimage, Power, and Identity: The Role of the Hajj in the Lives of Nigerian Hausa Bori Adepts

The Well of Zamzam

The Zamzam well or the Well of Zamzam is located within the Masjid al Harm (The Sacred Mosque) and is one of the stops during the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). To the right, the well water was redirected to an area east of the Kaaba because of the vast amount of people during the Hajj. Here, pilgrims store the water in containers to bring back for the ill who could not make the journey.
[[image:file/view/image006.jpg align="right"]]
There are many variants of how the well was created. One story says that around the year 2000BC, Hagar, wife of Abraham, and her son Ismail were evicted by Abraham and was wandering in the desert in search of much needed water. According to Muslim tradition, the angel Gabriel came down and unearths water for the two. As Avinoam Shalem states, “The Zamzam well is the ‘Well of Life’ which saved Hagar and Ismail, the primordial mother and the son in Arab geneology.”

To this day, the water coming out of the Zamzam well is consumed by the pilgrims because it is said that the water has health-giving powers.

G. R. Hawting, The Disappearance and Rediscovery of Zamzam and the 'Well of the Ka'ba',No. 1 (1980), pp. 44-54
Susan O'Brien, Pilgrimage, Power, and Identity: The Role of the Hajj in the Lives of Nigerian Hausa Bori Adepts