SHAFAQNA – An annual Muslim pilgrimage – and one of the most eagerly-anticipated religious events of the calendar year – is coming.
Hajj will take place later this summer and is more commonly known as the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
It will begin on the evening of August 30 this year, with more than 25,000 British Muslims expected to make the journey to the birthplace of Islam, in Saudi Arabia.
The Hajj is a five-day pilgrimage that takes place from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month in the Islamic calendar.
In 2017, the Hajj is expected to begin on Wednesday, August 30 and last until Monday, September 4.
All adult Muslims who are healthy enough to make the journey, can afford to do so and able to support their family while they are away, must make the pilgrimage at least once.
It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm.
The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad 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 Ka’aba (the cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for the Muslims), runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-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 Eid al-Adha.
Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year.
This is sometimes called the “lesser pilgrimage”, or Umrah. 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.