Hajj is one of the "five pillars" of the Islamic faith. (The other pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during the month of Ramadan.) Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.
When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day (January 10*) of Eid ul-Adha (EED-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two major Muslim holidays.
The obligatory and optional activities of Hajj include:
In the Quran, Islam's revealed text, God says: "Thus We settled Abraham at the site of the House (the Ka'aba) (saying): 'Do not associate anything with Me, and purify My house for those who walk around it, and those who stand there (praying), and those who bow down on their knees in worship. Proclaim the pilgrimage among mankind: they will come to you on foot and on every lean (beast of burden); Let them come from every deep ravine, to bear witness to the advantages they have, and to mention God's name on appointed days..." Chapter 22, Verses 26-28.
The main benefit of Hajj for many people is the sense of purification, repentance and spiritual renewal it instills.
Because Dhul-Hijjah is a lunar month, it begins about eleven days earlier each year.
The sacrifice commemorates the Prophet Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son, identified in Islam as Ishmael, at God's request. This is not a blood offering. In the Quran God states: "Neither their meat nor their blood ever reaches God, but heedfulness on your part does reach Him." (Chapter 22, Verse 37) The meat is distributed to relatives and to the needy.
Yes, but only for those who are physically and financially able to make the trip.
All pilgrims must do "tawaf," or circling the Ka'aba. This obligation creates a stunning scene as thousands of people circle the building at all times of the day and night. Also, the standing at Arafah on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah presents a scene in which several million people all dressed alike and with the same intention to worship God, gather on a barren plain.
Hajj is a high point in a Muslim's life. Questions are welcome and congratulations are in order. Most community’s welcome visitors at Eid ul-Adha prayers. Just ask a Muslim friend to act as an escort and guide.