Hajj: Step by Step Guide in Pictures
1. MakkahHajj takes place in the twelth month of the Islamic calendar and every Muslim who is physically and financially able must perform this pilgimage at least once in their lifetime. It is a rigorous journey - a reminder of the purpose of life and man's ultimate end.
Before going on pilgrimage, Muslims are recommended to discharge all debts, seek the forgiveness of anyone they have upset and re-establish good relations with all. Muslims believe that if their pilgrimage is accepted, all of their sins are washed away.
2. Meeqat and IhramThe image above: Masjid Taneem, where Pilgrims make their intention to enter into a state of Ihram. Ihram is the changing of the mental state to that which is most sacred. Pilgrims prepare to communicate with God in what is believed to be the world's most sacred ground.
All men wear the same clothing: two sheets of plain white cloth. This dress is a mark of equality between all humans. It is also a reminder of the shroud Muslims wear in death. For the sake of modesty, women do not have to conform to this dress and may wear any modest clothing and may not cover their face.
3. UmrahPilgrims first travel to the Kaaba and perform what is called 'the lesser pilgrimage'. They walk around the Kaaba seven times, praising God. Pilgrims then drink from the Zam Zam well. This well is believed to be the one Ishmael and Hagar, son and wife of Prophet Abraham, drank from when they were left in the area.
Pilgrims then walk between two mountains called Safa and Marwa, which are a distance of around 500 yards apart, seven times. This is again in remembrance of Hagar, who searched between these mountains looking for water for Ishmael, before the Zam Zam water was found.
4. MinaPilgrims travel to Mina. This a large area of land a few kilometres away from the Kaba and is completely tented. Mina is a preparation for the following day. Pilgrims stay in tents. The day of Mina is a feast day. Pilgrims meet Muslims from all around the world and spend their time making friends, as well as reciting the Qur'an and remembering God.
5. ArafatAt dawn, pilgrims then make their way to the plain of Arafat. Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj. It is a reminder of the Day of Judgement, where Muslims believe mankind will stand on a similar plain, in scorching heat, waiting for judgement. Muslims spend the entire day in Arafat, praying to God and thinking over the purpose of their lives. It is an extremely emotional time.
6. MuzdalifahAfter the evening prayers, pilgrims make their way to Muzdalifah, another massive plain. Pilgrims spend the night here, under the stars, with no tents or other covering. People stay close to their groups and their guides so they do not become lost in the multitudes of people. Hajj is one of the best examples of how humans, regardless of race, gender, language or status, can live without discrimination.
7. JamaratThe day after Arafat is Eid for the rest of the Muslim world. Pilgrims do not celebrate Eid in the normal way, however, as they have yet to complete the rites of Hajj.
After leaving Muzdalifah, pilgrims make their way over to the Jamaraat. The Jamaraat are three tall, stone pillars which represent Satan. The pillars remind pilgrims of the three temptations that were presented to Abraham as he was getting ready to sacrifice his son. Just as Abraham resisted the temptations, pilgrims symbolically reject Satan and all of life's temptations, by throwing pebbles at the pillars.
8. SacrificeOn the day of Eid, Muslims must distribute what is known as Qurbani. This is the slaughter of an animal, which is then given to the poor of the community on Eid day. This is done all over the world.
Pilgrims traditionally oversaw the sacrifice of their animals themselves, but there are now too many people. After the pilgrims have left the Jamaraat, the animal will already have been sacrificed on their behalf and the meat given to the poor.
9. Cutting of the HairOnce the pilgrim has completed the Jamarat ritual, they cut or shave their hair and in doing so leave the state of Ihram physically. It is recommended that men shave their heads completely, but women need only cut a lock of hair. This is symbolic of being reborn and cleansing the body as well as soul. Pilgrims may now wear normal clothes and wear scented fragrances, which they were not allowed to do in the natural state of Ihram.
9. Farewell TawafThe final act of Hajj is the farewell Tawaf. Tawaf is the Arabic word for the circling of the Kaba seven times. After this, the Hajj is complete. Many pilgrims will visit Medina afterwards.