Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and is a religious pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims aim to undertake at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically and financially able. The steps of Hajj are as follows:
- Ihram: The pilgrimage begins with the intention (niyyah) to perform Hajj and entering into a state of ihram. Ihram is a sacred state where pilgrims must follow specific rules and restrictions, including wearing simple, white, seamless clothing for men and modest attire for women, refraining from certain activities such as cutting hair or nails, using perfume, or engaging in sexual activities.
- Arrival in Makka: Pilgrims travel to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, and enter the Haram, the central area around the Kaaba.
- Tawaf: Pilgrims perform Tawaf, which involves circling the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure located at the center of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca, seven times counterclockwise. It symbolizes the unity of Muslims and their devotion to Allah.
- Sa’i: After completing Tawaf, pilgrims proceed to perform Sa’i. Sa’i involves walking or running between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. This act commemorates the story of Hajar (Hagar), the wife of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), who ran between these two hills searching for water for her son Ismail (Ishmael).
- Arafat: Pilgrims travel to the plain of Arafat, which is located outside of Mecca, on the 9th day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. They spend the day in earnest prayer and supplication, seeking forgiveness from Allah and engaging in spiritual reflection. This day is considered the most important part of Hajj.
- Muzdalifah: After sunset, pilgrims move to Muzdalifah, where they spend the night under the open sky, engage in prayer, and collect pebbles for the next step.
- Stoning of the Devil: Pilgrims travel to Mina, where they perform the ritual of Rami al-Jamarat, which involves stoning three pillars that symbolize Satan. The stoning represents the rejection of evil and temptation. This act is performed by throwing seven pebbles at each pillar.
- Animal Sacrifice: After the stoning ritual, pilgrims offer an animal sacrifice, typically a sheep or a goat, as an act of obedience and gratitude to Allah. The meat is then distributed to the needy.
- Hair Cutting: Pilgrims, especially men, have their hair cut or shaved after the sacrifice. Women typically trim a small portion of their hair. This act symbolizes the completion of the pilgrimage rituals.
- Tawaf al-Ifadah: Pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca and perform another Tawaf, known as Tawaf al-Ifadah. This Tawaf is similar to the initial Tawaf, but it is done as part of the Hajj rituals.
- Farewell Circumambulation: Before leaving Mecca, pilgrims perform a final Tawaf called Tawaf al-Wida (Farewell Circumambulation). This act marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage.
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