The Hajj (dʒ/;Arabic: حَجّ Ḥaǧǧ "
pilgrimage") is an annual
most holy city for Muslims, and a
mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult
Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. It is one of the
five pillars of Islam, alongside
Sawm. The Hajj is the largest annual gathering of people in the world. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita'ah, and a Muslim who fulfills this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to
Allah). The word Hajj means "to intend a journey", which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th (or in some cases 13th) of
Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the
Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is
lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the
Gregorian year, the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year.
Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state in which pilgrims wear two white sheets of seamless cloth and abstain from certain actions.
The Hajj is associated with the life of
Islamic prophetMuhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of
Abraham. During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the
Kaaba (the cube-shaped building and the
direction of prayer for the Muslims), runs back and forth between the hills of
Safa and Marwah, drinks from the
Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of
Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of
Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic
stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three-day global festival of
Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year. This is sometimes called the "lesser pilgrimage", or ‘
Arabic: عُـمـرَة). However, even if they choose to perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime if they have the means to do so, because Umrah is not a substitute for Hajj.
The present pattern of Hajj was established by
Muhammad. However, according to the Quran, elements of Hajj trace back to the time of
Abraham. According to Islamic tradition, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife
Hajara and his son
Ishmael alone in the desert of ancient Mecca. In search of water, Hajara desperately ran seven times between the two hills of
Safa and Marwah but found none. Returning in despair to Ishmael, she saw the baby scratching the ground with his leg and a water fountain sprang forth underneath his foot. Later, Abraham was commanded to build the
Kaaba (which he did with the help of Ishmael) and to invite people to perform pilgrimage there. The
22:27-30.[n 1] It is said that the archangel
Gabriel brought the
Black Stone from Heaven to be attached to the Kaaba.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, a time known as jahiliyyah, the Kaaba became surrounded by
pagan idols. In 630 CE, Muhammad led his followers from
Medina to Mecca, cleansed the Kaaba by destroying all the pagan idols, and then reconsecrated the building to Allah. In 632 CE, Muhammad performed his only and last pilgrimage with a large number of followers, and instructed them on the rites of Hajj. It was from this point that Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam.
During the medieval times, pilgrims would gather in big cities of Syria, Egypt, and Iraq to go to Mecca in groups and caravans comprising tens of thousands of pilgrims, often under state patronage. Hajj caravans, particularly with the advent of the
Mamluk Sultanate and its successor, the
Ottoman Empire, were escorted by a military force accompanied by physicians under the command of an amir al-hajj. This was done in order to protect the caravan from
Bedouin robbers or natural hazards,[n 2] and to ensure that the pilgrims were supplied with the necessary provisions. Muslim travelers like
Ibn Jubayr and
Ibn Battuta have recorded detailed accounts of Hajj-travels of medieval time. The caravans followed well-established routes called in Arabic darb al-hajj, lit. "pilgrimage road", which usually followed ancient routes such as the