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What is Hajj? Importance of Hajj in Islam

Every Muslim is required to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Each year, millions of Muslims from around the world travel to Makkah, modern-day Saudi Arabia, to perform Hajj.

It takes place during the same time each year, in the sacred month of Dhul Hijjah – the twelfth month in the Islamic Calendar. Hajj begins on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah and lasts approximately five to six days depending on the moon sighting. When the new crescent moon is sighted, Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, a four-day festival.

In the Holy Qur’an, Allah (SWT) commands Muslims to perform the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj:

“You will enter the Sacred Masjid, God willing, perfectly secure, and you will cut your hair or shorten it (as you fulfil the pilgrimage rituals) there. You will not have any fear. Since He knew what you did not know, He has coupled this with an immediate victory.” 

Qur’an | 48:27

While Hajj is required of every Muslim, it is only required so long as they have the capacity. There are conditions which make Muslims eligible to perform Hajj and exempt from performing Hajj.

Hajj In Islam: What Is It?

An integral part of the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj is a series of rituals and rites – some in order – which provide spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges to the pilgrim. Since Hajj requires some travel between several locations in and around Makkah, pilgrims can expect to walk 5km-15km per day. In the Masjid al-Haram, where the Kaaba is located, most of the pilgrimage takes place.

As a spiritual duty and pillar of Islam, Hajj is for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going more than once is permitted if sincerely seeking Allah’s (SWT) (which means ‘The Most Glorified, The Most High’) pleasure.

According to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him):

The person who performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene words or do any evil deed will return (free of sin) as his mother conceived him.

Hajj: What Happens?

The sacred pilgrimage of Hajj requires Muslims to undergo a series of rites and rituals, each of which serves a unique purpose.

At a glance, here are the 18 steps of Hajj:

  • Intention and preparation
  • Enter Ihram state
  • X7 Tawaf
  • Safa and Marwa
  • Hair (Umrah ends) should be clipped or shaved
  • Praying and resting
  • Enter Ihram state
  • Mina is reached
  • Arafah Day
  • Under the night sky (Muzdalifah)
  • The stoning of the devil (Rami)
  • In qurbani
  • Head shaved
  • Al-Ifadha Tawaf
  • Tawaf al-Wida, farewell

Hajj: Why Do Muslims Perform It?

Every Muslim is required to perform Hajj as one of the five pillars of Islam.

The Five Pillars of Islam are as follows:

Islam’s Profession of Faith (Shahada). The belief and declaration that only Allah is worthy of worship, and Muhammad ( ) is the final prophet sent by Allah.

  • Kalma
  • Salah (prayer)
  • Zakat (alms)
  • Sawm (fasting)
  • Hajj (Pilgrimage)

A Muslim is only required to perform the Hajj once during their lifetime if they are physically, emotionally, and financially capable. However, if they have the resources, they may go more than once.

Hajj pilgrimage can be challenging spiritually, emotionally, and physically, as well as being a test of patience and temperament. The sanctity of this occasion provides a unique opportunity for Muslims to draw closer to Allah (SWT), so many Muslims strive to perform the Hajj their whole lives.

What is the number of Muslims who go on Hajj?

Approximately 2-3 million Muslims travel each year by land, sea, and air to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform Hajj.

In previous years, how many people have attended Hajj?

  • Over 1.8 million people in 1999
  • Over 2.3 million people attended in 2009
  • Over 3.1 million in 2012

What Do You Do To Prepare For Hajj?

Muslims around the world are encouraged to prepare for Hajj, even though Hajj is first and foremost a spiritual obligation.

As pilgrims walk on average between 5km-15km per day, it is encouraged for Muslims to physically prepare for Hajj weeks in advance, so that traveling between locations over the five-six-day pilgrimage does not shock the system. When one is physically prepared for Hajj, it is easier to deal with the emotional and spiritual demands of the journey.

Here is our step-by-step guide to performing Hajj, including everything you need to know about preparation.

Hajj vs. Umrah: What’s the difference?

The Hajj and Umrah are both sacred pilgrimages in Islam and share many of the same qualities, rites, and rituals. Although there are some major differences, one of the biggest is that Hajj is a fifth pillar of Islam and requires all Muslims if they have the capacity, whereas Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage.

The following are some other differences between Hajj and Umrah:

The Hajj can only be performed between the 8th and the 12th or 13th of Dhul Hijjah each year, whereas the Umrah can be performed anytime.

Hajj lasts approximately five to six days (depending on the sighting of the crescent moon), whereas Umrah can be performed much more quickly – even within a day.

Hajj consists of 18 steps, whereas Umrah consists of fewer.