Events and festivals have played a significant role in human life since the days of Adam. Festivals provide humans with an opportunity to assert their identities. The Hajj is the largest gathering of the Muslim community. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims.
What is the Hajj Festival?
The Hajj is the largest gathering of Muslims from all over the world, held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the holiest cities for the Muslims and people from every country gather here. The ‘Hajj’ is an Arabic word, in English, it is also spelled ‘Hadj, Hadji or Haj’. It means heading to a place for the sake of visiting. This five-day festival is the 2nd annual major Muslim celebration. The Hajj ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha. This is an annual pilgrimage and must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by a Muslim.
Some key facts about the Hajj Festival:
- It is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims have to visit Kaaba once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially capable.
- Kaaba is an immense stone structure in the heart of Mecca’s Grand Mosque. It is the most sacred place of worship for Muslims. Pilgrims circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times. This ritual is called ‘Tawaf’.
- During the week of Hajj, millions of pilgrims have to perform a series of rituals. They have to travel between two hills Al-Safa and Al-Marwa for also seven times. Pilgrims have to throw 49 stones to three particular pillars to symbolize stoning the devil.
- All pilgrims have to wear the same clothes.
- Every year about 2.5 million Muslims visit Mecca to perform the Hajj.
- The Hajj is also the festival of sacrifice because of performing a ritual of ‘Animal Sacrifice’ to celebrate the Eid-ul-Adha.
Overview of Hajj:
The Hajj is the largest annual gathering on earth where Muslims of every color, group, social status, culture unite before the house of Allah. Muslims perform Hajj during the month of Dhul Hajjah which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son Is’mail (AS) who was blessed with Prophethood later built Kaaba. Gradually people started worshiping false gods and walls of Kaaba became a place of poems, paintings, and statues. After many centuries Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) rebuilt Kaaba and started the actual Hajj of Islam.
History and Background of the Hajj:
The Hajj was first introduced four thousand years ago during the time of Prophet Ibrahim. According to Allah’s order Ibrahim (AS) brought his wife, Hajira, and his infant son, Is’mail (AS) to Mecca from Palestine and left them there on their own.
Hajira and her son, Is’mail (AS) had only a few supplies of food and water. Soon, they started suffering from hunger and thirst in the desert because all of their supplies ran out. Hajira ran up and down between the two hills called Safa and Marwa to have some little help and to search for water. She climbed those hills for 7 times. On her last arrival to Marwa, she saw angel Jibrail (AS) who kicked the ground with his heel or wing, and water rose. Some say the water sprang out when the baby Is’mail (AS) scraped the land with his feet. That’s how Allah saved their lives from certain death.
After some days, Ibrahim (AS) returned to Mecca for his family. This profitable well amazed him. That became known as well of Zamzam. Almighty ordered Ibrahim (AS) to build a monument dedicated to Allah at the site of the spring. Ibrahim (AS) and Is’mail (AS) built a small stone structure called ‘Kaaba’. After many years, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) restored the Kaaba to worship Allah only. In the year 628, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) set on the first pilgrimage with his 1400 followers.
Time Schedule of The Hajj Festival:
Every year, millions of pilgrims gather in Mecca for Hajj. Hajj occurs during the last month of the Islamic calendar. This month is ‘Dhul Hajjah’. Hajj occurs from the 8th to the 12th day of this month. Hajj lasts approximately 5 to 6 days depending on the lunar Islamic calendar. But the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year because lunar Islamic year is 11 days shorter than a Gregorian year. Islamic holiday, Eid-ul-Adha falls on the 10th day of this month.
Though the date of Hajj is fixed, ‘Umrah’ can be done throughout the year.
Best Places to Visit During Hajj:
- Mina: In Mina, pilgrims spend most of their nights during Hajj. It is located 8 kilometers east of Masjid al-Haram. In this place pilgrims throw a stone at Shaitan, remembering how Prophet Ibrahim stoned Shaitan when it came.
- Masjid al-Haram: Masjid al-Haram is the grand mosque of Mecca. Kaaba is in the center of Masjid al-Haram.
- Muzdalifa: Muzdalifa is in between Mina and Mount Arafat. Hajj pilgrims travel to Muzdalifa and spend a night there.
- Mount Arafat: Pilgrims come from Mina to Mount Arafat on 9th of Dhul Hajja and stay there till sunset. Standing in this place is a must do during Hajj.
- Cave of Hira: Cave of Hira is located 5 km away from Masjid al-Haram. In this place, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) got the first revelation from Allah.
- Cave of Thawr: During their journey to Mecca to Madinah Prophet Muhammad PBUH and Abu Bakr spent three days and nights.
Essential tips to help you enjoy the Hajj Festival:
- Make sure you have booked your hotel or living place after completing the registration for Hajj. Otherwise, it might be difficult to find good accommodation. Before booking your hotel or living place, please make some research about the place.
- Find the best travel agency with the best customer review.
- You will find many pilgrims from various cultures and societies, so always try to be humble with other people.
- Never harm others’ beliefs. Be respectful to their culture.
- Make sure you are carrying a proper Hajj guide and have at least two pairs of comfortable sleepers or sandals with you.
- Muslim pilgrims perform funeral prayer in all the mosques of Mecca and Madinah after all the prayers. So, before visiting Mecca to perform Hajj, you have to learn how to pray Salah of Funeral.
- The temperature of Mecca could be hotter than your country, so make sure you are prepared for it.
Safety Concerns During the Hajj Festival:
- You must carry your own ‘Prayer Mat’. Because if you get late for Salah, you might need it.
- Before visiting Mecca, make sure you have a mobile phone which supports the large sim, as you might get it harder to find a micro or Nano sim there.
- You must make some photocopies of your essential documents (Passport, ID, etc.) and keep them in all your luggage. You must carry local currency, your copies of Visa documentation, emergency contact numbers (Hotel, Travel Agency, Hajj Guide, etc.) along with you.
- Beware of fraud people.
- Make sure you are carrying all the essential medicine with you.
Hajj is the greatest annual festival of Islam when millions of Muslims gather in Kaaba to perform certain religious rites. Hajj reminds that people from all aspects of life are equal in the eyes of Allah. It improves the brotherhood and sisterhood between the Muslims of this world. If any Muslim can afford it and he or she is physically able, undertaking the Hajj is a must do.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What kind of clothing is recommended?
Answer: One needs to have specific clothing for himself. It’s called Ihraam. Besides, Mecca and Madinah are a hotter place during summer, and it becomes a little chilly at night during winter. So, we recommend the pilgrims to pack at least a warm cloth with some light clothes.
- What is the arrangement for the cleaning of my Laundry?
Answer: Generally, the hotels provide this service. Although, there are other launderettes in the local areas.
- What is the difference between Hajj and Umrah?
Answer: Hajj is performed within a specific time, which is in the last month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. It is mandatory for all Muslims. But Umrah is the worship which is performed independently of time. To learn more about the difference between Hajj and Umrah you can read the proper Hajj guide.
- What documents are required for filling-up of Hajj registration:
Answer: Colored photograph (Passport Size), Passport Scan Copy, Address Proof, Bank Pay-in-slip, Medical Certificate.
- Who will be my guide for the Hajj?
Answer: Every group of pilgrims has a group head who will guide the pilgrims to perform all the rituals.
- What is the cost of an average meal?
Answer: Charge of meals inside the hotels are higher than the outside. It can be 5 to7 USD per meal.
- What if I get ill during my stay?
Answer: The Saudi authorities will provide a certain amount of medical treatment to the ill. But we strongly advise all the visitors to take proper medical insurance and medications along with them.