Hajj is the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca during the Islamic Holy month of Dhul Hajj. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and should be performed by all able-bodied Muslims and those with the financial ability to do so at least once in a lifetime.
The Hajj pilgrimage is performed every year by millions of Muslims from hundreds of different countries and backgrounds. Muslims travel from all around the world to make this Pilgrimage. Muslims who complete the ritual are customarily given the title of Hajj(for males) and Hajjat(for females).
Hajj as a ritual, is intended to promote a sense of brotherhood and togetherness between Muslims from different walks of life through showing them that they are all from one God and that all are equal in front of Him.
Islam teaches that for one who successfully completes the Hajj and has it accepted by Allah, Allah forgives all his sins and he or she leaves the pilgrimage sinless like a newborn baby. The Prophet(PBUH) is reported to have said:
“Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene speech or do any evil deed, will go back (free of sin) as his mother bore him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Muslims are required to enter Mecca in a state of purity known as Ihram. Ihram is a sacred state in which muslims perform certain rituals to cleanse themselves and wear specific type of attire in preparation of doing the pilgrimage. Muslims are supposed to complete the state of ihram by declaring an intention to perform the pilgrimage which is known as Talbiya.
Once in the state of Ihram, pilgrims are not allowed to cut their nails or shave their hair and beards or hunt any animals until they are out of the state of Ihram.
Males are supposed to wear two stitchless sheets and wrap them around their bodies. Use of perfumes or deodorants is also forbidden.
Women are allowed to wear their regular clothes and are not supposed to cover their faces and hands. The clothes worn by women should completely conceal their bodies.
During the pilgrimage, muslims are also not allowed to smoke, engage in any sexual activity, or use any swear words. Pilgrims are required to be on their best behavior in order to have their pilgrimage accepted by the Almighty Allah.
Unlike in mosques and in other Muslim gatherings, males and females are not separated from each during the pilgrimage and they pray together in the same lines. This is to remind Muslims that they will be standing side by side on the day of judgment regardless of their gender, waiting for the judgment of their Lord.
Hajj commences on the 8th day of Dhul Hijja and ends on the 13th day of the holy month of Dhul Hijja. During the pilgrimage, Muslims visit holy places outside Mecca that include: Mina, Arafah and Muzidalifah.
The rituals include circumnavigating around the Kaaba seven times, walking or running between the small hills of Marwa & Safa seven times and throwing pebbles at pillars in Mina among a number of other activities performed.
The end of the Hajj pilgrimage is marked by a celebration known as Eid Al-Azhar. On this festival, Muslims sacrifice animals to commemorate the event in which Allah ordered Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael but later sent him a sheep which he was instructed to sacrifice instead of his son.