And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway

The Qur’an, chapter 22, verse 27

Hajj, the fifth of the pillars of Islam, is compulsory for those able to undertake this pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime. It is at a set time each year, in the Islamic month of Hajj, and brings together over 2 million Muslims to this holy sanctuary.

The rites of Hajj, which we learn from the pilgrimage of Prophet Muhammad  (peace be upon him), commemorate some of the actions of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his family (peace be upon them).

On the first day of Hajj, the pilgrims assemble in Mina (just outside Makkah), staying in tents or in the open. Men have to wear just two white sheets, whilst women maintain normal modest dress.

One the second day they all go to the Plain of ‘Arafat, where they listen to the Hajj sermon and pray together. That night, they sleep in the open in nearby Muzdalifah, before returning to Mina in the morning.

The third day of Hajj is the busiest for pilgrims: they throw small pebbles at columns of stone, symbolising the rejection of Satan and all evil; they arrange for the sacrifice of an animal, recalling Ibrahim’s submission to the Will of God when he was commanded to sacrifice his son, Ismail, only for him to be reprieved at the last minute; they go to Makkah to circle the Ka‘bah (the most holy place in Islam) and walk between Safa and Marwa; and they shave or cut their hair.

This day, which is always on the tenth day of the month of Hajj, is when all the rest of the Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha.

After completing these rites, men can change out of the two white sheets they have been wearing into their normal clothes. All the pilgrims stay in Mina for up to three further days.

Hajj is a unique experience. Just as the five daily prayers give a spiritual boost each day, and fasting in Ramadan gives an extra spiritual boost each year, so the Hajj can be a profound once-in-a-lifetime spiritual experience. For the most sincere who perform it correctly, it helps them to become a better person, less absorbed in their own material needs, and more considerate of the needs of others and of the life-hereafter. It brings together before Allah, standing equally side by side, people from every part of the world, from every walk of life.

Pilgrimage outside the season of Hajj is called ‘Umrah, and is only to the Ka‘bah in Makkah, without many of the rites of Hajj.

Many pilgrims also visit the mosque of Prophet Muhammad  in Madinah (the second most holy place in Islam).