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Al-Haram mosque - Flickr - Al Jazeera English.jpg
Pilgrims at the Al-Masjid al-Haram on Hajj in 2008
Location(s) Mecca
Country Saudi Arabia
Attendance2,352,121 (2017)
Tents in Mina city (Saudi Arabia), just 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away from Mecca. The tents are air conditioned with evaporative cooling units made in Australia. Haji pilgrimage mina tent city.jpg
Tents in Mina city (Saudi Arabia), just 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away from Mecca. The tents are air conditioned with evaporative cooling units made in Australia.

The Hajj ( /hæ/ ; [1] Arabic : حَجّḤaǧǧ "pilgrimage") is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, [2] the holiest city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. [3] [4] [5]

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, claimed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Pilgrimage journey or search of moral or spiritual significance

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs.

Mecca Saudi Arabian city and capital of the Makkah province

Mecca, also spelled Makkah, is a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah, in a narrow valley 277 m (909 ft) above sea level, 340 kilometres (210 mi) south of Medina, its population in 2012 was 2 million, although visitors more than triple this number every year during the Ḥajj, held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhūl-Ḥijjah.


The literal meaning of the word Hajj is heading to a place for the sake of visiting. In Islamic terminology, Hajj is a pilgrimage made to Kaaba, the "House of God", in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The rites of Hajj are performed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth and ending on the thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. [6] It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salah, Zakat and Sawm. The Hajj is the second largest annual gathering of Muslims in the world, after the Arba'een Pilgrimage in Karbala, Iraq. [7] The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita'ah, and a Muslim who fulfils this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah). [8] [9] The word Hajj means "to attend a journey", which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions. [10]

The Five Pillars of Islam are some basic acts in Islam, considered mandatory by believers and are the foundation of Muslim life. They are summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel. The Sunni and Shia agree on the essential details for the performance and practice of these acts, but the Shia do not refer to them by the same name. They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage, if one is able.

Salah prayer in Islam

Salah, also called salat and namaz, is one of the Five Pillars in the Islamic faith, and an obligatory religious duty for every Muslim. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual act of worship that is observed five times every day at prescribed times. When they do this, they must face to Mecca, towards the Qiblah. In this ritual, one stands, bows, and prostrates oneself, and concludes sitting on the ground. During each posture, one recites or reads certain verses, phrases, and prayers.

Zakat A share of money and the like is required by Islamic law to make it for the poor and others under special conditions

Zakat is a form of alms-giving treated in Islam as a religious obligation or tax, which, by Quranic ranking, is next after prayer (salat) in importance.

The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th (or in some cases 13th [11] ) of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year. Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state in which pilgrims wear two white sheets of seamless cloth and abstain from certain actions. [8] [12] [13]

Dhu'l-Hijjah or alternatively Zulhijja is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar. It is a very sacred month in the Islamic calendar, one in which the Hajj (pilgrimage) takes place as well as the Festival of the Sacrifice.

Islamic calendar lunar calendar used by Muslims to determine religious observances

The Islamic, Muslim, or Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days. It is used to determine the proper days of Islamic holidays and rituals, such as the annual period of fasting and the proper time for the pilgrimage to Mecca. The civil calendar of almost all countries where the religion is predominantly Muslim is the Gregorian calendar. Notable exceptions to this rule are Iran and Afghanistan, which use the Solar Hijri calendar. Rents, wages and similar regular commitments are generally paid by the civil calendar.

Lunar calendar type of calendar

A lunar calendar is a calendar based upon the monthly cycles of the Moon's phases, in contrast to solar calendars, whose annual cycles are based only directly upon the solar year. The most commonly used calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is a solar calendar system that originally evolved out of a lunar calendar system. A purely lunar calendar is also distinguished from a lunisolar calendar, whose lunar months are brought into alignment with the solar year through some process of intercalation. The details of when months begin varies from calendar to calendar, with some using new, full, or crescent moons and others employing detailed calculations.

The Hajj (sometimes spelt Hadj, Hadji or Haj also in English) 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. During Hajj, 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: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba (the cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for the Muslims), runs back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. After the sacrifice of their animal, the Pilgrims then are required to shave their head. Then they celebrate the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha. [14] [15] [16] [17]

Muhammad in Islam Muslims consider him a master, legislator and the last prophet of the prophets in Islam

Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbdul-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, commonly known as Muhammad, is the seal of prophets and Prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam. Muslims believe that the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad by God, and that Muhammad was sent to restore Islam, which they believe to be the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Ibrahim, Musa, 'Isa, and other Prophets. The religious, social, and political tenets that Muhammad established with the Quran became the foundation of Islam and the Muslim world.

Abraham in Islam Prophet and the greatest ancestor to Muhammad

Abraham, known as Ibrahim, in Arabic, is recognized as a prophet and messenger in Islam of God. Abraham plays a prominent role as an example of faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Muslim belief, Abraham fulfilled all the commandments and trials wherein God nurtured him throughout his lifetime. As a result of his unwavering faith in God, Ibrahim was promised by God to be a leader to all the nations of the world. The Quran extols Ibrahim as a model, an exemplar, obedient and not an idolater. In this sense, Abraham has been described as representing "primordial man in universal surrender to the Divine Reality before its fragmentation into religions separated from each other by differences in form". The Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha is celebrated in memory of the sacrifice of Abraham, and each able bodied Muslim is supposed to perform the pilgrimage to pay homage at the Ka‘bah in the Hijazi city of Mecca, which was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael as the first house of worship on earth.

<i>Kaaba</i> Building in Mecca; the most sacred site and Qibla in Islam

The Kaaba, also referred to as al-Kaʿbah al-Musharrafah, is a building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, Great Mosque of Mecca, in the Hejazi city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the Bayt Allāh, and has a similar role to the Tabernacle and Holy of Holies in Judaism. Its location determines the qiblah. Wherever they are in the world, Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba when performing Salah, the Islamic prayer.

Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year. This is sometimes called the "lesser pilgrimage", or ' Umrah (Arabic : عُمرَة). [18] However, even if they choose to perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime if they have the means to do so, because Umrah is not a substitute for Hajj. [19]

The ʿUmrah is an Islamic pilgrimaged image to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims, that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Ḥajj, which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

In 2017, the number of pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj was officially reported as 1,752,014 and 600,108 Saudi Arabian residents bringing the total number of pilgrims to 2,352,122. [20]


The word in Arabic : حج [ħædʒ, ħæɡ] comes from the Hebrew : חגḥag [χaɡ] , which means "holiday", from the triliteral Semitic root ח-ג-ג. The meaning of the verb is "to circle, to go around". [21] [22] Judaism uses circumambulation in the Hakafot ritual during Hoshanah Rabbah at the end of the Festival of Sukkot and on Simchat Torah; traditionally, Jewish brides circumambulate their grooms during the wedding ceremony under the chuppah. From this custom, the root was borrowed for the familiar meaning of holiday, celebration and festivity. In the Temple, every festival would bring a sacrificial feast. Similarly in Islam, the person who commits the Hajj to Mecca has to turn around the Kaaba and to offer sacrifices. [23]


A 1907 image of the Great Mosque of Mecca with people praying therein Masjid al-Haram 1.jpg
A 1907 image of the Great Mosque of Mecca with people praying therein
The Kaaba during Hajj

The present pattern of Hajj was established by Muhammad. [24] However, according to the Quran, elements of Hajj trace back to the time of Abraham. According to Islamic tradition, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife Hajara and his son Ishmael alone in the desert of ancient Mecca. In search of water, Hajara desperately ran seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah but found none. Returning in despair to Ishmael, she saw the baby scratching the ground with his leg and a water fountain sprang forth underneath his foot. [25] Later, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba (which he did with the help of Ishmael) and to invite people to perform pilgrimage there. [26] The Quran refers to these incidents in verses 2:124–127 and 22:27–30. [n 1] It is said that the archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from Heaven to be attached to the Kaaba. [26]

In pre-Islamic Arabia, a time known as jahiliyyah , the Kaaba became surrounded by pagan idols. [27] In 630 CE, Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca, cleansed the Kaaba by destroying all the pagan idols, and then reconsecrated the building to Allah. [28] In 632 CE, Muhammad performed his only and last pilgrimage with a large number of followers, and instructed them on the rites of Hajj. [29] It was from this point that Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam.

During the medieval times, pilgrims would gather in big cities of Syria, Egypt, and Iraq to go to Mecca in groups and caravans comprising tens of thousands of pilgrims, [30] often under state patronage. [31] Hajj caravans, particularly with the advent of the Mamluk Sultanate and its successor, the Ottoman Empire, were escorted by a military force accompanied by physicians under the command of an amir al-hajj . [32] [33] This was done in order to protect the caravan from Bedouin robbers or natural hazards, [n 2] [32] [33] and to ensure that the pilgrims were supplied with the necessary provisions. [32] Muslim travelers like Ibn Jubayr and Ibn Battuta have recorded detailed accounts of Hajj-travels of medieval time. [34] The caravans followed well-established routes called in Arabic darb al-hajj, lit. "pilgrimage road", which usually followed ancient routes such as the King's Highway.

Timing of Hajj

The date of Hajj is determined by the Islamic calendar (known as Hijri calendar or AH), which is based on the lunar year. [35] [36] Every year, the events of Hajj take place in a five-day period, starting on 8 and ending on 12 Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. Among these five days, the 9th Dhul-Hijjah is known as Day of Arafah, and this day is called the day of Hajj. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date for Hajj changes from year to year. Thus, each year in the Gregorian calendar, the pilgrimage starts eleven days (sometimes ten days) earlier than the preceding year. [36] [37] This makes it possible for the Hajj season to fall twice in one Gregorian year, and it does so every 33 years. The last time this phenomenon occurred was 2006. [38]

The table below shows the Gregorian dates of Hajj of recent years (the dates correspond to 9 Dhul-Hijjah of Hijri calendar):

AH Gregorian date
14322011, 5 November [39]
14332012, 25 October
14342013, 14 October [40] [41]
14352014, 3 October [42]
14362015, 23 September [43]
14372016, 11 September [44] [45]
14382017, 31 August [46]
14392018, 20 August [47]
14402019, 10 August [47]
14412020, 30 July [47]
14422021, 19 July [47]
14432022, 8 July [47]


Artwork showing locations and rites of Hajj Hajj locations and rites.png
Artwork showing locations and rites of Hajj

Fiqh literature describes in detail the manners of carrying out the rites of Hajj, and pilgrims generally follow handbooks and expert guides to successfully fulfill the requirements of Hajj. [48] In performing the rites of Hajj, the pilgrims not only follow the model of Muhammad, but also commemorate the events associated with Abraham. [49]


When the pilgrims reach the appropriate Miqat (depending on where they're coming from), they enter into a state of holiness – known as Ihram – that consists of wearing two white seamless cloths for the male, with the one wrapped around the waist reaching below the knee and the other draped over the left shoulder and tied at the right side; wearing ordinary dress for the female that fulfills the Islamic condition of public dress with hands and face uncovered; [50] [ page needed ] taking ablution; declaring the intention (niyah) to perform pilgrimage and to refraining from certain activities such as clipping the nails, shaving any part of the body, having sexual relations; using perfumes, damaging plants, killing animals, covering head (for men) or the face and hands (for women); getting married; or carrying weapons. [8] [12] The ihram is meant to show equality of all pilgrims in front of God: there is no difference between the rich and the poor. [49]

Donning such unsewn white garments entirely distances man from material ostentation and engrosses him in a world of purity and spirituality. Clothes show individuality and distinction. They create superficial barriers that separate man from man. The garments of Ihram, however, are the antithesis of that individualism. You join a mass and become nothing but a drop of water in an ocean that has no special identity of its own. Ihram clothing is also a reminder of shrouds which every human has to wear after death. This helps you assume your original shape as a man, just one of the "descendants of Adam" who will die one day. [51]

First day of Hajj: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah

On the 8th Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims are reminded of their duties. They again don the ihram garments and confirm their intention to make the pilgrimage. The prohibitions of ihram start now.

Tarwiyah Day

The 8th day of Dhu al-Hijjah coincides with the Tarwiyah Day. The name of Tarwiyah refers to a narration of Ja'far al-Sadiq. He described the reason that there was any water at Mount Arafat in the 8th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. If pilgrims wanted to stay at Arafat, he would have prepared water from Mecca and carried it by themselves to there. So they told each other drink enough. Finally, this day called Tarwiyah [52] that means to quench thirst in the Arabic language. [53] The Tarwiyah Day is the first day of Hajj ritual. Also at this day, Husayn ibn Ali began to go to Karbala from Mecca. [54] Muhammad prophet nominated to Tarwiyah Day as one of the four chosen days. [53]

Tawaf and sa'ay

Direction of the Tawaf around the Kaaba Tavaf.jpg
Direction of the Tawaf around the Kaaba

The ritual of Tawaf involves walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba. [55] Upon arriving at Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (Arabic : المَسجِد الحَرَام, The Sacred Mosque), pilgrims perform an arrival tawaf either as part of Umrah or as a welcome tawaf. [56] During tawaf, pilgrims also include Hateem – an area at the north side of the Kaaba – inside their path. Each circuit starts with the kissing or touching of the Black Stone (Hajar al- Aswad). [57] If kissing the stone is not possible because of the crowds, they may simply point towards the stone with their hand on each circuit. Eating is not permitted but the drinking of water is allowed, because of the risk of dehydration. Men are encouraged to perform the first three circuits at a hurried pace, known as Ramal, and the following four at a more leisurely pace. [50] [ page needed ] [57]

The completion of Tawaf is followed by two Rakaat prayers at the Place of Abraham (Muqam Ibrahim), a site near the Kaaba inside the mosque. [57] [58] However, again because of large crowds during the days of Hajj, they may instead pray anywhere in the mosque. After prayer, pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque. [59]

Although the circuits around the Kaaba are traditionally done on the ground level, Tawaf is now also performed on the first floor and roof of the mosque because of the large crowds.

This rite is actually the manifestation of Tawhid, the Oneness of God. The heart and soul of the pilgrim should move around Kaaba, the symbol of the House of Allah, in a way that no worldly attraction distracts him from this path. Only Tawhid should attract him. Tawaf also represents Muslims’ unity. During Tawaf, everyone encircles Kaaba collectively. [51]

Tawaf is followed by sa'ay, running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, located near the Kaaba. [55] [58] Previously in open air, the place is now entirely enclosed by the Sacred Mosque, and can be accessed via air-conditioned tunnels. [60] Pilgrims are advised to walk the circuit, though two green pillars mark a short section of the path where they run. There is also an internal "express lane" for the disabled. After sayee, the male pilgrims shave their heads and women generally clip a portion of their hair, which completes the Umrah.


Pilgrims wearing ihram on the plains of Arafat on the day of Hajj Arafat pilgrims.jpg
Pilgrims wearing ihram on the plains of Arafat on the day of Hajj
Mount Arafat during Hajj Mount Arafah.jpg
Mount Arafat during Hajj

After the morning prayer on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims proceed to Mina where they spend the whole day and offer noon, afternoon, evening, and night prayers. [61] The next morning after morning prayer, they leave Mina to go to Arafat.

Second day: 9th Dhu al-Hijjah

The 9th Dhul-Hijjah is known as Day of Arafah, and this day is called the Day of Hajj. [45]


On 9th Dhu al-Hijjah before noon, pilgrims arrive at Arafat, a barren and plain land some 20 kilometers east of Mecca, [62] where they stand in contemplative vigil: they offer supplications, repent on and atone for their past sins, and seek mercy of God, and listen to sermon from the Islamic scholars who deliver it from near Jabal al-Rahmah (The Mount of Mercy) [61] from where Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon. Lasting from noon through sunset, [62] this is known as 'standing before God' (wuquf), one of the most significant rites of Hajj. [8] At Masjid al-Namirah, pilgrims offer noon and afternoon prayers together at noon time. [61] A pilgrim's Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Arafat. [15] [62]


A scenery of Muzdalifa Muzdalifah.jpg
A scenery of Muzdalifa

Pilgrims must leave Arafat for Muzdalifah after sunset without praying maghrib (sunset) prayer at Arafat. [63] Muzdalifah is an area between Arafat and Mina. Upon reaching there, pilgrims perform Maghrib and Isha prayer jointly, spend the night praying and sleeping on the ground with open sky, and gather pebbles for the next day's ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan). [64]

Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah

After returning from Muzdalifah, the Pilgrims spend the night at Mina.

Ramy al-Jamarat

Pilgrims performing Stoning of the devil ceremony at 2006 Hajj Amellie - Stoning of the devil 2006 Hajj.jpg
Pilgrims performing Stoning of the devil ceremony at 2006 Hajj

Back at Mina, the pilgrims perform symbolic stoning of the devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) by throwing seven stones from sunrise to sunset at only the largest of the three pillars, known as Jamrat al-Aqabah. [15] [65] The remaining two pillars (jamarah) are not stoned on this day. [66] These pillars are said to represent Satan. [67] Pilgrims climb ramps to the multi-levelled Jamaraat Bridge, from which they can throw their pebbles at the jamarat. Because of safety reasons, in 2004 the pillars were replaced by long walls, with catch basins below to collect the pebbles. [68] [69]

Animal sacrifice

After the casting of stones, animals are slaughtered to commemorate the story of Ibrahim and Ismael. Traditionally the pilgrims slaughtered the animal themselves, or oversaw the slaughtering. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Mecca before the greater Hajj begins, which allows an animal to be slaughtered in the name of God (Allah) on the 10th, without the pilgrim being physically present. Modern abattoirs complete the processing of the meat, which is then sent as charity to poor people around the world. [15] [60] At the same time as the sacrifices occur at Mecca, Muslims worldwide perform similar sacrifices, in a three-day global festival called Eid al-Adha. [16]

Hair removal

After sacrificing an animal, another important rite of Hajj is shaving head or trimming hair (known as Halak). All male pilgrims shave their head or trim their hair on the day of Eid al Adha and women pilgrims cut the tips of their hair. [70] [71] [72]

Tawaf Ziyarat

Pilgrims performing Tawaf around the Kaaba Kaaba 2.JPG
Pilgrims performing Tawaf around the Kaaba

On the same or the following day, the pilgrims re-visit the Sacred Mosque in Mecca for another tawaf, known as Tawaf al-Ifadah, an essential part of Hajj. [71] It symbolizes being in a hurry to respond to God and show love for Him, an obligatory part of the Hajj. The night of the 10th is spent back at Mina.

Fourth day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah

Starting from noon to sunset on the 11 Dhu al-Hijjah (and again the following day), the pilgrims again throw seven pebbles at each of the three pillars in Mina. This is commonly known as the "Stoning of the Devil". [65]

Fifth day: 12th Dhu al-Hijjah

On 12 Dhu al-Hijjah, the same process of stoning of the pillars as of 11 Dhu al-Hijjah takes place. [65] Pilgrims may leave Mina for Mecca before sunset on the 12th.

Last day at Mina: 13th Dhu al-Hijjah

If unable to leave on the 12th before sunset or opt to stay at free will, they must perform the stoning ritual again on the 13th before returning to Mecca. [65]

Tawaf al-Wadaa

Finally, before leaving Mecca, pilgrims perform a farewell tawaf called the Tawaf al-Wadaa. 'Wadaa' means 'to bid farewell'. The pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times counter-clockwise, and if they can, attempt to touch or kiss the Kaaba. [15]

Journey to Medina

Though not a part of Hajj, pilgrims may choose to travel to the city of Medina and the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Mosque of the Prophet), which contains Muhammad's tomb. [60] The Quba Mosque and Masjid al-Qiblatayn are also usually visited. [73]

Arrangement and facilities

A Saudi security officer on vigil Saudi security forces on parade - Flickr - Al Jazeera English (16).jpg
A Saudi security officer on vigil

Most of the Hajj related issues are handled by Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a logistic challenge for the government of Saudi Arabia, which has, since the 1950s, spent more than $100 billion to increase pilgrimage facilities. [31] [35] Major issues like housing, transportation, sanitation, and health care have been addressed and improved greatly by the government by introducing various development programs, with the result that pilgrims now enjoy modern facilities and perform various rites at ease. [60] The Saudi government often sets quotas for various countries to keep the pilgrims' number at a manageable level, and arranges huge security forces and CCTV cameras to maintain overall safety during Hajj. [31] [35] [74] [75] Various institutions and government programs, such as the Haj subsidy offered in Pakistan or the Tabung Haji based in Malaysia assist pilgrims in covering the costs of the journey. [76] For the 2014 Hajj, special Hajj information desks were set up at Pakistani airports to assist the pilgrims. [77]

Technology solutions

The Saudi government employs technology to provide a safe and great experience for the pilgrim’s journey. Recently, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has introduced the Hajj pilgrims' e-bracelet program that stores pilgrims essential data which helps to provide them with the necessary support. [78] In 2018, SAFCSP organized the Hajj Hackathon event in Jeddah, west of Saudi Arabia, with 2,950 participants from over 100 countries. the event aims at exploring the use of technology to provide solutions for Hajj pilgrims. [79] [80]

Visa requirements

In order to enter Saudi Arabia to participate in the Hajj, visa requirements exist. [81] [82] [83] [84] Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is planning to ease visas issuance by enabling Hajj and Umrah pilgrims to obtain e-visa within minutes through campaigns and companies. [85]

Makkah Route Initiative

Is an initiative made by the Saudi government to facilitate the pilgrims entries to Saudi Arabia by completing it in the airports of their countries.The initiative has been implemented since 2018 by the Saudi The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [86] In 2019, the initiative is planned to provide service to around 225,000 pilgrim from airports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. [87] The provided services include:

  1. Issuance of visas.
  2. Making sure that the pilgrims health conditions comply with the requirements.
  3. Codifying and sorting the luggages at the pilgrims’ airports and delivering them to the pilgrims’ hotels directly upon arrival. [87]


A step by step guide to hajj

Traditionally, the pilgrimage to Mecca was mainly an overland journey using camels as a means of transport. During the second half of the nineteenth century (after 1850s), steamships began to be used in the pilgrimage journey to Mecca, and the number of pilgrims traveling on sea route increased. [88] This continued for some time, [89] until air travel came to predominate; Egypt introduced the first airline service for Hajj pilgrims in 1937. [90] [91] Today, many airlines and travel agents offer Hajj packages, and arrange for transportation and accommodation for the pilgrims. [92] King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina have dedicated pilgrim terminals to assist the arrival of pilgrims. [93] [94] Other international airports around the world, such as Indira Gandhi in New Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, Jinnah in Karachi and Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta also have dedicated terminals or temporary facilities to service pilgrims as they depart and return home. [95] During Hajj, many airlines run extra flights to accommodate the large number of pilgrims. [35] [93]

During official Hajj days, pilgrims travel between the different locations by metro, bus or on foot. The Saudi government strictly controls vehicles access into these heavily congested areas. However, the journey could take many hours due to heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic. In 2010, the Saudi government started operating the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro line as an exclusive shuttle train for pilgrims between Arafat, Muzdalifa and Mina. The service, which operates only during the seven days of Hajj, shortens the travel time during the critical "Nafrah" from Arafat to Muzdalifah to minutes. Due to its limited capacity, the use of the metro is not open to all pilgrims.

Modern crowd-control problems

Pilgrim numbers have greatly increased in recent years, which has led to numerous accidents and deaths due to overcrowding. The first major accident during Hajj in modern times occurred in 1990, when a tunnel stampede led to the death of 1,462 people. [96] Afterwards, various crowd-control techniques were adopted to ensure safety. Because of large crowds, some of the rituals have become more symbolic. For example, it is no longer necessary to kiss the Black Stone. Instead, pilgrims simply point at it on each circuit around the Kaaba. Also, the large pillars used for pebble throwing were changed into long walls in 2004 with basins below to catch the stones. [68] [69] Another example is that animal sacrifice is now done at slaughterhouses appointed by the Saudi authorities, without the pilgrims being present there. [50] [97] [98]

For the Hajj in 2016, Saudi authorities will also be giving pilgrims GPS-tracked electronic bracelets. [99] [ needs update ]

Despite safety measures, incidents may happen during the Hajj as pilgrims are trampled or ramps collapse under the weight of the many visitors. During 2015 Hajj, a stampede resulted in 769 deaths and injuries to 934 others, according to the Saudi authorities. [100] [101] A report from Associated Press totalled at least 1470 fatalities from official reports from other countries, making it the most deadly such episode to date. [100] Concerns were raised in 2013 and 2014 about the spread of MERS because of mass gatherings during the Hajj. [102] [103] Saudi Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabia said authorities have detected no cases of MERS among the pilgrims so far. [104] He also said that, despite few cases of MERS, Saudi Arabia was ready for the 2014 pilgrimage. [105] [106] [ needs update ]

In November 2017, Saudi authorities banned selfies at the two holy sites. [107]


To the Muslims, Hajj is associated with religious as well as social significance. [108] The obligation for performing this pilgrimage is only fulfilled if it is done on the eighth to twelfth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar. If in a given year, an adult Muslim is in good health and his life and wealth is safe, they must perform the Hajj in the same year. Delaying it is considered sinful unless the delay is caused by reasons beyond their control. [109]

Apart from being an obligatory religious duty, the Hajj is seen to have a spiritual merit that provides the Muslims with an opportunity of self-renewal. [108] Hajj serves as a reminder of the Day of Judgment when Muslims believe people will stand before God. [110] Hadith literature (sayings of Muhammad) articulates various merits a pilgrim achieves upon successful completion of their Hajj. [n 3] After successful pilgrimage, pilgrims can prefix their names with the title 'Al-Hajji', and are held with respect in Muslim society. [111] However, Islamic scholars suggest Hajj should signify a Muslim's religious commitment, and should not be a measurement of their social status. [111] Hajj brings together and unites the Muslims from different parts of the world irrespective of their race, colour, and culture, which acts as a symbol of equality. [8] [70]

A 2008 study on the impact of participating in the Islamic pilgrimage found that Muslim communities become more positive and tolerant after Hajj experience. Titled Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering and conducted in conjunction with Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the study noted that the Hajj "increases belief in equality and harmony among ethnic groups and Islamic sects and leads to more favorable attitudes toward women, including greater acceptance of female education and employment" and that "Hajjis show increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions." [112]

Malcolm X, an American activist during the Civil Rights Movement, describes the sociological atmosphere he experienced at his Hajj in the 1960s as follows:

There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and the non-white. America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held. [113]

Panorama of the Great Mosque during Hajj, 2007. Masjid al-Haram panorama.JPG
Panorama of the Great Mosque during Hajj, 2007.

Hajj and the Saudi economy

In 2014, Saudi Arabia was expected to have earned up to $8.5 billion from Hajj. [114] Saudi Arabia's highest source of revenue after oil and gas is Hajj and the country is expected to depend more on Hajj as the amounts of available oil and gas for sale decline. [18]

Furthermore, the increase of religious tourism from about 12 million Muslims annually to almost 17 million by 2025 has given rise to increasing luxury hotel businesses in the area to accommodate pilgrims. The Abraj al-Bait firm intends to build hotels, shopping malls and apartments which is claimed to be an estimated value of three billion dollars. [115] According to The Embassy of Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government are working towards establishing programs which promote sanitation, housing, transportation, and welfare as the amount of visiting pilgrims increases.

Number of pilgrims per year

Pictographic world map comparing the largest periodic human migration events Annual human migration world map.svg
Pictographic world map comparing the largest periodic human migration events

There has been a substantial increase in the number of pilgrims during the last 92 years, and the number of foreign pilgrims has increased by approximately 2,824 percent, from 58,584 in 1920 to 1,712,962 in 2012. [117] Because of development and expansion work at Masjid al-Haram, the authority restricted the number of pilgrims in 2013. [118] [119] The following number of pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia each year to perform Hajj:

Gregorian year Hijri year Local pilgrimsForeign pilgrimsTotal
1920133858,584 [117]
1921133957,255 [117]
1922134056,319 [117]
19501369100,000 (approx.) [3]
1950s150,000 (approx.) [120]
1960s300,000 (approx.) [120]
1970s700,000 (approx.) [120]
1980s900,000 (approx.) [120]
19891409774,600 [121]
19901410827,200 [121]
19911411720,100 [121]
199214121,015,700 [121]
19931413992,800 [121]
19941414997,400 [121]
199514151,046,307 [121]
19961416784,7691,080,465 [121] [122] 1,865,234
19971417774,2601,168,591 [121] [122] 1,942,851
19981418699,7701,132,3441,832,114 [121] [123]
20001420466,430 [124] 1,267,3551,733,785 [124]
20011421440,8081,363,9921,804,800 [125]
20031423493,2301,431,0121,924,242 [126]
20041424473,004 [127] 1,419,706 [128] 1,892,710 [127]
200514251,030,000 (approx.)1,534,7692,560,000 (approx.) [129]
20061426573,1471,557,4472,130,594 [130]
20061427724,2291,654,4072,378,636 [131]
20071428746,5111,707,8142,454,325 [132] [133]
200814291,729,841 [134]
20091430154,0001,613,0002,521,000 [135]
20101431989,7981,799,6012,854,345 [136]
201114321,099,5221,828,1952,927,717 [137]
201214331,408,6411,752,9323,161,573 [138]
20131434700,000 (approx.) [139] 1,379,531 [140] 2,061,573 (approx.)
20141435700,000 (approx.) [141] 1,389,053 [142] 2,089,053 (approx.) [141]
20151436615,059 (approx.)1,384,941 [143] 2,000,000 (approx.) [43]
20161437537,537 [144] 1,325,372 [144] 1,862,909 [144]
20171438600,1081,752,0142,352,122 [20]
20181439612,9531,758,7222,371,675 [145]

Differences between the Hajj and Umrah

Hajj Badal

Hajj is one of the most important acts of faith a Muslim can commit. The act is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is considered mandatory for those who practice Islam. As presented above, the pilgrimage is entrenched in traditions and codified by a multitude of holy texts. Muslims are bound in a contract with Allah and Hajj is one of the payments which Allah requires of his followers. [148]

For this reason, those who are unable to make themselves, are permitted to send another in their place under specific circumstances. First, the person who send someone in their place must be unable because of an incurable sickness or old age. If the sickness may be cured, the follower of Allah must go when they are able. Also, Hajj Badal may be performed on a person's behalf if they are already deceased. This act is considered a form of vicarious atonement. In this case, one of the Five Pillars of Islam can be completed for a Muslim who was not able to fulfill their duties while living. [149]

Like the requirements for the person who is having Hajj being completed on their behalf, there are also requirements for those who are carrying out the act. When the person committing the act enters the Ihram—the holy garb worn during Hajj—they must acknowledge the person who they are representing. Also, when the Ihram is donned, the Hajj can only be for the single person who they represent and not for themselves. Another qualifications is that the present person must be Muslim and in good standing with the Islamic community. Because there are multiple distinct types of Hajj, the person performing the ceremony in another's place must attend the type which is desired by the unable. [150] Lastly, if the person is still alive, then the performer of the Hajj Badal must ask for the permission of the person they hope to represent. [151]

The basis of Hajj Badal can be found in the writings of Abd Allah ibn Abbas who recorded the Prophet Muhammad's words. When approached by a woman from Juhayan, this exchange occurred between the two: "My mother vowed to go for Hajj, but she died before she did so. Can I perform Hajj on her behalf?" The Prophet replied: "Yes, perform Hajj on her behalf. Do you not think if your mother owed a debt that you would pay it off for her? Fulfil her debt to Allah; for Allah is more deserving that what is owed to him should be paid." (Hadith No.77, narrated by Ibn Abbas) [152] Other instances of recorded conversation which solidified the act were recorded by other Islamic scholars such as Abdullah bin Az-Zubair and Al-Fadl ibn 'Abbas. [153]

However, the validity of Hajj Badal has been questioned by other Islamic scholars. The Ulama, a large body of Islamic scholars, oppose Hajj Badal because of its imitation of Christian beliefs. Also, the Qur’an contains phrases which state that no man can truly bear the responsibility of others. Hajj Badal is an act which shifts the Islamic duty of a person to another which contradicts the teaching of the Qur’an. [154] Hadiths, which are supposed sayings of the prophet Muhammed, cannot contradict the Qur’an according to Usool-e-Fiqh—the guiding Jurisprudence principles of Islam. [155]

Another reason why Hajj Badal is criticized stems from lack of consistency. Out of the Five Pillars of Islam, none are subject to vicarious atonement. If prayer, Kalima, fasting, or Zakat are not able to be atoned for vicariously, then why can Hajj. [156] Permitting vicarious atonement harms the strictness of performing Islamic traditions on the living and could harm the religion as a whole. [154]

Lastly, passages in the Qur’an—specifically 22:28—stress the importance of witnessing the traditions of Hajj with one's own eyes. [157] Hajj Badal effectively prevents a follower of Islam from partaking in the ceremonies. This contradiction with the word of the Qur’an is another reason why Islamic scholars disapprove of the practice.

See also


  1. The verses read: "And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled.... Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).... And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (2:124–127)" and "And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, through deep and distant mountain highways, that they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed one, the needy. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House." (22:27–29)
  2. Ibn Jubayr noted the skeletons of the faithful who had died of thirst en route. In the 17th century, a group of Egyptian pilgrims lost over 1,500 people and 900 camels. In 1924 around one-fifth of a group of Syrian pilgrims died and two years later, 12,000 are thought to have died during the journey. [Islam in the World by Malise Ruthven. Granta Publications, 2006. p. 2. ISBN   1-86207-906-4.]
  3. For example, one such Hadith says: Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Whoever performs Hajj for Allah's pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew." Sahih al-Bukhari , 2:26:596

Related Research Articles

Black Stone rock set into the eastern corner of the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The Black Stone is a rock set into the eastern corner of the Kaaba, the ancient building located in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is revered by Muslims as an Islamic relic which, according to Muslim tradition, dates back to the time of Adam and Eve.

Stoning of the Devil

The Stoning of the Devil is part of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. During the ritual, Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls, called jamarāt, in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj. It is a symbolic reenactment of Abraham's hajj, where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey God and preserve Ishmael.

Ihram is, in Islam, a sacred state which a Muslim must enter in order to perform the major pilgrimage (Hajj) or the minor pilgrimage (Umrah). A pilgrim must enter into this state before crossing the pilgrimage boundary, known as Miqat, by performing the cleansing rituals and wearing the prescribed attire.

Mount Arafat mountain in saudi arabia

Mount Arafat or Mount Arafah is a granite hill about 20 km (12 mi) east of central Mecca in the plain of Arafat. Mount Arafat reaches about 70 m (230 ft) in height and is also known as the "Mount of Mercy". According to Islamic tradition, the hill is the place where the Prophet Muhammed stood and delivered the Farewell Sermon to the Muslims who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his life. Muslims also say that it is also the place where Adam and Hawa reunited on earth after falling from Heaven. It is the place where Adam was forgiven, hence it is also known as the "Mount of Mercy". A pillar is erected to show the place where the aforementioned took place.


Kiswah is the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is draped annually on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj. The term kiswah is Arabic for 'pall', the cloth draped over a casket.

The "mut'ah of Hajj" is the relaxation of the ihram between the Umrah and Hajj, including its dress code and various prohibitions.

In Twelver Shia Islam, the ten Ancillaries of the Faith are the ten practices that Shia Muslims have to carry out.

Muzdalifah City in Makkah, Saudi Arabia

Muzdalifah is an open, level area near Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is associated with the Ḥajj. It lies just southeast of Mina, on the route between Mina and Arafat.

<i>Tawaf</i> in Islam, the ritual sevenfold counterclockwise circumambulation of the Kaaba (the first thrice hurriedly in the outer part of the crowd, the latter four times slowly in the inner part), symbolizing the unity of the believers in worship

Tawaf is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to go around the Kaaba seven times, in a counterclockwise direction; the first three circuits at a hurried pace on the outer part of the crowd, followed by four times closer to the Kaaba at a leisurely pace. The circling is believed to demonstrate the unity of the believers in the worship of the One God, as they move in harmony together around the Kaaba, while supplicating to God.

Meeqath Arabic word meaning "A Stated Place"

Mīqāt are the principal boundary points of the area within which Muslim pilgrims on the Hajj must be in the state of ihrām. These prohibited activities include clipping the nails, shaving any part of the body, having sexual relations; using perfumes, damaging plants, killing animals, covering one's head or one's face and hands ; getting married; or carrying weapons.

Farewell Pilgrimage

The Farewell Pilgrimage is the final and only Hajj pilgrimage Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, participated in 632 CE. The Muslims observed every move, act, and gesture of Muhammad on this occasion, and everything that he did became a precedent to be followed by Muslims all over the world.

Ihram clothing

Ihram clothing includes men's and women's garments worn by Muslim people during the Ihram pilgrimage (Hajj) and or (umrah). The main objective is to avoid attracting attention. Men's garments often consist of two white un-hemmed sheets and are universal in appearance. The top is draped over the torso and the bottom is secured by a belt; plus a pair of sandals. Women's clothing, however, varies considerably and reflects regional as well as religious influences, but they often do not wear special clothing or cover their faces.

Day of Arafah Day 9 of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar, where the pilgrims stand on Mount Arafa

The Day of Arafah is an Islamic holiday that falls on the 9th day of Dhu al-Hijjah of the lunar Islamic Calendar. It is the second day of the Hajj pilgrimage and the day after is the first day of the major Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. At dawn of this day, Muslim pilgrims will make their way from Mina to a nearby hillside and plain called Mount Arafah and the Plain of Arafah. It was from this site that Muhammad gave one of his last famous sermons in the final year of his life. Muslims hold that part of the Qur'anic verse announcing that the religion of Islam had been perfected was revealed on this day.

Great Mosque of Mecca Grand Masjid in Saudi Arabia, Al-Masjid al-Ḥarām

The Great Mosque of Mecca is a mosque that surrounds the Kaaba in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a site of pilgrimage for the Hajj, which every Muslim must do at least once in their lives if able, the rites of which includes circumambulating the Kaaba within the mosque. It is also the main phase for the ‘Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year. The Great Mosque includes other important significant sites, including the Black Stone, the Zamzam Well, Maqam Ibrahim, and the hills Safa and Marwa. It is open, regardless of date or time.

History of the Hajj

The History of the Hajj is not clear as there is no evidence of its existence in its current practice until the start of islam in the mid 7th century. Islamic writers claim it started from the time of Abraham through the establishment of the Islamic Hajj by Islamic prophet Muhammad, to the present-day hajj where millions of Muslims perform their pilgrimage annually. In Islamic tradition, pilgrimage was introduced during the time of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). Upon God's command, he built Kaaba which became the destination of pilgrimage. For the pagan Arabs in the Pre-Islamic Arabia, Kaaba was still the center of their worshiping. The present pattern of the Islamic Hajj was established by Prophet Muhammad, around 632 CE, who made reforms to the pre-Islamic pilgrimage of the pagan Arabs. During the medieval times, pilgrims would gather in chief cities like Basra, Damascus, and Cairo to go to Mecca in groups and caravans comprising tens of thousands of pilgrims.


Manasik is the whole of rites and ceremonies that have to be performed by Islamic pilgrims in and around Mecca. The Qur'an differentiates between two manasiks: The Manasik of Hajj, has to be donein the month Dhu al-Hijjah and The Manasik of ʿUmra, which can be performed any time of the year. The knowledge of manasik is an independent part of Fiqh.


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Further reading