Hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam. It is a pilgrimage that occurs during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah to Mecca. It is from the 8th to the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to is obliged to make this trip at least once in their lifetime (Zahid).
When the pilgrim is around 10 km (6.2 mi) from Mecca, he must dress in Ihram clothing (Zahid). Ihram clothing differs between men and women. Men’s clothing consists of two white, un-hemmed sheets and are universal in appearance. Women’s clothing varies considerably. It reflects the regional and religious influences (BBC). The garments are meant to strip away the distinctions of class and culture (Zahid), so that the equality that everyone has in God’s eyes is more noticeable. The exact number of days this has to be worn differs according to the type of pilgrimage.
The main rituals of the Hajj are walking seven times around the Kaaba; touching the Black Stone; travelling seven times between Mt. Safa and Mt. Marwah; and pray for God’s forgiveness of their sins (Zahid). There are other rituals/traditions that go with this, but they won’t be listed here.
After a Muslim makes the trip, they are known as either hajj (male) or hajja (female). This means that they have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The actual pilgrim is known as a haji (BBC). The haji is honored in the Muslim community.
Islamic teachers say that the Hajj should be an expression of devotion to Allah, not a means to gain social standing. The believer should be self-aware and examine their intentions in performing the pilgrimage. This should lead to constant striving for self-improvement.
- BBC. “Religions – Islam: Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca.” BBC News. BBC, 08 Sept. 2009. Web. 25 July 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/practices/hajj_1.shtml.
- Zahid, Ishaq. “Five Pillars of Islam.” Five Pillars of Islam. Islam101, n.d. Web. 25 July 2012. http://islam101.com/dawah/pillars.html.