This week marks the period of Hajj for Muslims and we will be remembering our Muslim brothers and sisters in our prayers as they journey to Mecca.
What is Hajj?
Is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime. The word Hajj is an Arabic word, meaning ‘to intend a journey’.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam – the others are shahadah (declaration of faith); salat (daily prayer); zakat (giving of alms); sawm (fasting in Ramadan).
Who should go on the Hajj?
It is mandatory for Muslim adults to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime. They must be of sound mind and physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. Those who complete the pilgrimage can add the title Hajji to their names.
When is Hajj?
The pilgrimage must take place during the month of Dhu al Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. The rites of Hajj are performed from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu al Hijjah, that’s Friday 9th to Wednesday 14th of September.
As the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar year, the date changes in the Gregorian calendar each year, and is 10 to 11 days earlier than the preceding year. In 2016, it is expected to be on 12th of September.
How many people go on Hajj?
Every year about 3.8 million people from across the world gather in Mecca for the Hajj. It is the largest single gathering of people on the planet.
How did Hajj start?
The rites performed at Hajj today were established by the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) but, based on the Qur’an, they can be traced back to the Prophet Ibrahim, (alaihis salaam), also referred to in English as Abraham.
Muslims believe that Ibrahim (alaihis salaam) was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar and his son Ismail alone in the desert of ancient Mecca. In search of water, Hajar desperately ran seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah but found none. Returning in despair to Ismail, she saw the baby scratching the ground with his leg and a water fountain sprang forth at the site.
This is the Well of Zamzam in the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. Pilgrims visit the well while performing Hajj or the Umrah pilgrimage to drink its water.