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All You Need to Know about Hajj Rituals: A Step-by-Step Guide

Each year, millions of Muslims head to the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. All able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are required to perform pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. It takes place during the first ten days of Dhu’al-Hijjah, the final month of the Islamic calendar.

What is Hajj?

Hajj is a spiritual experience for Muslims. It involves undertaking a set of rituals performed by Prophet Mohammed PBUH centuries ago. It can be traced back to the time of Prophets Ibrahim and Ismael.

Those who are unable to perform Hajj due to financial or health reasons are exempted. If someone is having a health condition, he/she may appoint another person to perform pilgrimage on his/her behalf.

Hajj lasts four to six days depending on the pilgrim’s speed. This year, it corresponds to June 14-June 19.

Hajj Preparations

The acts performed by pilgrims in their spiritual journey to the holy Kaaba in Makkah is known as Hajj rituals. These rituals last for five days from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu’al-Hijjah.

All You Need to Know About Hajj Rituals: A Step-by-Step Guide
Tawaf around the Kaaba

The first rite is called Ihram, where people declare their intention to undertake pilgrimage in certain places and times called Miqat. On the 8th day of Dhu’al-Hijjah, pilgrims wear “Ihram” garments. Male pilgrims wear two white seamless clothes. Female pilgrims are allowed to wear any white modest dresses when they enter “Miqat”.

At the “Miqat”, pilgrims perform ablution, declare their intention for Hajj and refrain from all prohibited activities, including sexual intercourse, using perfumes, cutting nails, shaving and slaughtering animals during the duration of the Hajj.

Types of Hajj

Pilgrims can choose between three types of Hajj. ‘Hajj al-Ifrad’, which refers to performing the rituals of Hajj only. In this type, sacrificing an animal (Hadee) is not obligatory. The performer of this type is called ‘Mufrid’.

The second type is ‘Hajj al-Qiran’, where a pilgrim (Qarin) performs Hajj and Umrah together with one Ihram for both. A Qarin must slaughter a ‘hadee’ to complete the rituals. Assuming ‘Ihram’ for Hajj and then entering ‘Ihram’ for Umrah renders the ‘Ihram’ for Umrah invalid.

The third and most common type is Hajj ‘al-Tamatt’u’. Prophet Mohammed PBUH encouraged his companions to perform it. The pilgrim (Mutamatti) assumes ‘Ihram’ for Umrah rituals during Hajj season, then releases himself from Ihram and enters Ihram for Hajj. He is required to sacrifice a hadee.

Day of Tarwiyah

On the day of ‘Tarwiyah’ (the 8th of Dhu’al-Hijjah), and after assuming Ihram, pilgrims begin Hajj at the Kaaba, where they circumambulate the Kaaba seven times in an anti-clockwise direction for the welcoming ‘Tawaf’. Then they pray in the mosque near the Kaaba and drink from the ‘Zamzam’ well.

After that, pilgrims must perform “Sa’y,” where they walk or run seven times between the Safa and Marwa hills near the Kaaba.

Pilgrims on all forms of Hajj leave for Mina (a town in Makkah), where they spend the day and perform Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha, Fajr prayers.

Day of Arafat

At the sunrise of the second day (day of Arafat), pilgrims head for Mount Arafat, where it is believed Prophet Mohammed PBUH gave his final sermon. There, they combine Dhuhr and Asr in Qasr prayers. Then they proceed to Jabal al-Rahma at Arafat, where they stay until sunset. This act is called “Waquf.”

All You Need to Know About Hajj Rituals: A Step-by-Step Guide
Pilgrims gather on Mount Arafat

After sunset, they leave for Muzdalifa (a town between Mina and Mt. Arafat) where they pray Maghrib and Isha prayers and rest until Fajr prayers. During this time, pilgrims prepare for the next day’s rite of stoning the devil (‘Rami’), by collecting 49 pebbles of the same size. The stoning of ‘Jamrat al-Aqabah’ typically takes place after midnight.

Eid Al Adha

On the 10th day of Dhu’al-Hijjah (Yawm al-Nahr), pilgrims return to Mina to stone ‘Jamarat al-Aqaba al-Kubra’ with seven pebbles one after the other while saying Allahu akbar.

After that, they can celebrate Eid Al Adha by slaughtering their sacrificial animals, shaving their heads or shortening their hair, in what is called a partial release from ‘Ihram’ (al-Tahallul al-Asghar).

All You Need to Know About Hajj Rituals: A Step-by-Step Guide
Stoning the devil (Rami al-Jamarat)

From 11 to 13 Dhu’al-Hijjah (Days of Tashreeq), pilgrims stay in Mina for another round of stoning Jamarat at three sites. The first two days are mandatory, while the third is not.

The Final Step

Before leaving Makkah, pilgrims perform a farewell known as ‘Tawaf Al Wadaa’, where they perform another circumambulation of the Kaaba for seven times.

It is a mandatory step, but pilgrims have until the end of Dhu’al-Hijjah to perform it. This step marks the end of Hajj rituals.

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