How is Hajj Performed?
By Charity RightJun 28, 2022
Shahada. Salat. Zakat. Sawm. Hajj.
It may be the fifth and final Pillar of Islam, but that doesn’t mean Hajj is one to overlook. On the contrary.
With millions congregating in Makkah for the annual Hajj pilgrimage every year, it’s easy to feel a little lost and overwhelmed. Fortunately, this handy little guide will give you a brief overview of what you need to know about how Hajj is performed.
Hajj is the Pillar of Islam that refers to the pilgrimage that every Muslim is expected to do at least once in their lifetime, so long as they’re financially and physically able to do so.
Each year, more than 3 million Muslims from all over the world congregate in Makkah to praise Allah SWT together, including 25,000 from the UK alone. This is in fact the largest gathering of people in the world, with a crowd so big it would fill up Wembley Stadium 40 times over.
Pilgrims journey to Makkah because this is not only where the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was born, but also where he received his first message from Allah SWT. As a result, it’s such a holy site that only Muslims are allowed entry.
The annual Hajj pilgrimage takes place during the early part of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah. Muslims participate in Hajj between the 8th to 12th or 13th day of the month, meaning Hajj is performed over a period of five to six days.
Hajj isn’t just a trip to Makkah for sightseeing. There are a range of rituals and sacred steps you need to take in order to complete your Hajj successfully. What follows are seven stages of Hajj that you can expect from the pilgrimage.
Step 1 – Enter Makkah Properly and Perform the First Rituals
Niyyah and Ihram
When you arrive in Saudi Arabia for your Hajj, you should make the niyyah, a prayer that shows your heartfelt desire and intention to do this for Allah SWT.
When your niyyah is made, Muslim men must don the Ihram – two white sheets; one worn around the waist, and another worn around the shoulders. Wearing the Ihram is important as it signifies that we are all one and equal before Allah SWT.
Muslim women can wear any colour they like. They are only required to wear straight, loose dresses that ensure they’re covered and maintaining respect.
With your Ihram on, you should start reciting the Talbiyah, a prayer that shows your intention to perform Hajj for the glory of Allah (SWT):
لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، انَّالْحَمْدَ، وَالنِّعْمَةَ، لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ، لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ
Labbayk Allaahumma labbayk, labbayk laa shareeka laka labbayk, ‘innal-hamda, wanni’mata, laka walmulk, laa shareeka laka.
‘Ever at Your service, O Allah, ever at Your service. Ever at Your service, You have no partner, ever at Your service. Verily all praise, blessings, and dominions are Yours. You have no partner.’
It’s best to make sure you’re wearing your Ihram by the time you reach one of the five entry points to Miqat, the outer boundary of Makkah.
Once inside the walls of Makkah, Muslims make their way to the Kaaba, a cube-like building in the centre of the Great Mosque built by Ibrahim AS and his son, and the most sacred site in Islam. Here, they perform Tawaf.
What is Tawaf?
‘Tawaf’ comes from the Arabic taafa which means ‘to walk around something’. Tawaf is the act of circling around the Kaaba anticlockwise seven times while reciting the Takbir. This is done as part of Hajj, or even part of Umrah, an Islamic pilgrimage undertaken any time throughout the year.
The Tawaf is seen as an act of devotion to bring you closer to Allah SWT, demonstrating the unity of Allah’s believers and the commitment to tawheed, the oneness of Allah SWT.
While performing Tawaf, Muslims pay special attention to the Hajr el Aswad, or the Black Stone, on the eastern corner of the Kaaba. The Black Stone was brought from heaven by the Angel Jibreel to complete the building of the Kaaba. Originally a pure white stone, it’s said that it was turned black due to the sins of mankind. However, touching the Hajr e Aswad can be seen to atone for one’s sins.
Some Exercise with Sa’ee
Before moving on to the next stage, many Muslims perform Sa’ee, another ritual pilgrimage done during Umrah too. Sa’ee refers to walking – or even running! – between two mountains in tribute to Hajar, Ibrahim’s wife, after he left her in the valley as commanded by Allah SWT. Desperate for water for her and her son Ismail, Hajar ran between the Safa and Marwa hills seven times in blistering heat until the Angel Jibreel provided a spring in the ground.
The Sa’ee is part of the Hajj to commemorate Hajar’s search for water and Allah’s resulting mercy. Fortunately, this is no longer done in the scorching heat, but instead through air-conditioned tunnels.
Step 2 – Mina, City of Tents
Muslims don’t stay in Makkah for the whole of Hajj. Instead, pilgrims stay at Mina, a small town 5-6 km from Makkah. There, pilgrims pray all five daily prayers, as well as non-compulsory prayers.
Although known as the City of Tents, rest assured that plenty of the essential modern amenities you would hope for are there for you to use.
Step 3 – Day of Arafah
On the second day of Hajj (the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah), pilgrims make their way to Mount Arafat for the Day of Arafah, the holiest day in the Islamic calendar. This is the location of Jabal al-Rahmah, the Mount of Mercy, said to be where Muhammad delivered his final sermon.
Throughout their journey to Arafat, they continue to recite the Talbiyah. Once they have arrived at the mount of Arafat, Muslims perform Wuquf; this refers to standing on their feet before Allah (SWT) until sunset. There, they pray, repent and may listen to soul enriching sermons.
Step 4 – Muzdalifah
After performing maghrib prayers at sunset on Mount Arafat, pilgrims continue on their journey. On the way back to Mina from Arafat, pilgrims stop off at the small town of Muzdalifah.
Here they perform Maghrib and Isha prayers before gathering pebbles for the following day and sleeping under the open sky.
Step 5 – Rami al-Jamarat (Stoning the Devil)
The third day of Hajj, Qurban/Udhiya Day, starts with prayers at Muzdalifa before pilgrims make their way back to Mina. Back at Mina, pilgrims perform Rami al-Jamarat, also known as ‘stoning the devil’. This involves throwing seven stones at Jamraat al-Aqabah, the largest of three pillars that represent the Devil.
This act commemorates the time in which the Devil attempted to make the Prophet Ibrahim turn his back to Allah (SWT), to which Ibrahim threw pebbles at him.
This continues from noon to sunset for the next two days as well, however on these days pilgrims throw seven stones at all three of the pillars.
Step 6 – Eid al-Adha and Nahr (Animal Sacrifices)
The third day of Hajj is also the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah which starts the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha.
Pilgrims perform animal sacrifices, using either camels or lambs. Although some sacrifice animals themselves, nowadays many opt for buying a voucher before Hajj, allowing professionals to slaughter the animal on their behalf on the correct day. A share of the meat is then distributed to the needy, ensuring every Muslim around the world can eat.
Eid al-Adha commemorates when the Prophet Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice his son Ismail to show his devotion to Allah SWT, before the Angel Jibreel provided a lamb to kill instead.
After the sacrifice, pilgrims go one step closer to showing their devotion by shaving their hair, known in Arabic as Halak. Although women aren’t permitted to do the same, they do still cut a lock of hair off also.
Step 7 – Farewell Tawaf
Before leaving Makkah on the 12th or 13th day of Dhul Hijjah, pilgrims perform a final farewell Tawaf. This one is known as ‘Tawaf al-Wadaa’, taken from the Arabic for ‘to bid farewell or say goodbye.’ Once more, pilgrims circle the holy Kaaba anti-clockwise seven times before heading home.
Hajj is the final but most sacred Pillar of Islam. Millions of Muslims from all over the world congregate in Makkah for a series of rituals and prayers to show their devotion to Allah SWT. Although a busy and bustling experience, it’s a sacred and spiritual one that stays with Muslims for the rest of their lives.