Hajj is the religious pilgrimage Muslims perform at the holy mosque of Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, which means that every Muslim is required to do it at least once in their lifetime (so long as they are both physically and financially able to do so). The Hajj consists of about 18 steps, meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith and to memorialize the test of the prophet Abraham and his family.

Hajj rituals and places #

Muzdalifa – a place between Mina and Arafat where pilgrims stay overnight and pray the Maghrib and Isha prayers together. Praying Maghreb and Isha together and spending some time of the night there, approximately until after midnight, is obligatory. Pilgrims also collect the stones for stoning the devils here.

Safa and Marwah (Sa’ee)- is to walk, and at certain marked places, walk briskly, between the Safa and Marwah hills a total of seven times. One-way distance between them is considered one stretch. Sa’ee starts at Safa and is completed at Marwah. These are the two hills near the Kaabah where Hajar ran back and forth looking for caravans.

Mount Arafat

Mount Arafat is the place where Prophet Muhammad (SAW) gave his final sermon to Muslims.

During Hajj, pilgrims make their way to the following places and perform different prayers and rituals:

Arafat – a place where pilgrims travel as part of the Hajj and offer prayers throughout the day. The Hill of Arafat is also known as ‘Jabal ar-Rahmah’, meaning Mountain of Mercy. On the ninth day of the hajj, pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat, where they spend the day in prayer and reciting the Quran. A pilgrim’s Hajj is considered invalid if they do not spend the afternoon on Mount Arafat.

Makkah (Mecca) – the sacred city for Muslims, in present-day Saudi Arabia, where the Kaabah is located.


Mina – a place where pilgrims camp, located on the outskirts of Makkah. It is also here that the Hajj pilgrims perform the ritual stoning of the Devil on the last day of the Hajj. In the city of Mina, there is the Jamarat Valley. Three pillars stand here, representing Satan or the Devil. The pilgrims are required to stone these pillars, between sunrise and sunset on the last day of the Hajj.

Tents in Mina Valley

During Hajj, millions of pilgrims live in these tents in the valley of Mina.

What is Umrah? #

Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage, that can be performed at any time of the year. It is like a mini Hajj. It shares some of the same rituals and worship of Hajj.

Prophet Abraham is regarded as the founding father of monotheism, or “belief in One God”. He was ordered by God to take his wife, Hajar, and their little son, Ismail to a barren valley in Arabia and leave them there.

Hajar started looking around for food and water since she was worried about feeding her tiny child. In her desperate search for water, she would run seven times back and forth in the sweltering heat between the two hills of ‘Safa’ and ‘Marwa’ to provide for baby Ismail.

According to the Quran, a spring miraculously came out at Ismail’s feet in response to Hajar’s prayers, and Allah provided them with water in the hot and dry valley. This is known as the Well of Zamzam. It is located approximately 20 meters (66 ft) east of the Kaaba.

Eventually, some traveling merchants stopped in the valley and asked Hajar if they could hydrate their camels. The traders ultimately made the decision to settle in the small valley, and this is how the city of Makkah came into being.

Abraham would occasionally come to visit Hajar and Ismail. When Ismail was around thirteen years old, Abraham and Ismail built the Kaabah, an empty cube-shaped structure, as a location set aside for the worship of the One true God.

History of Hajj #

Well of Zamzam

The Historic Zamzam Well Mouthpiece

(File:بئر زمزم الأثري.Jpg – Wikimedia Commons, 2013)

Eid ul Adha #

Eid-al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, is celebrated on the tenth of Dhul Hijjah and lasts till the 13th of Dhul Hijjah. Although only the pilgrims in Makkah can participate in the Hajj, all the other Muslims around the world join them by celebrating Eid ul Adha.

On Eid ul Adha, Muslims around the world slaughter an animal – a goat, sheep, cow, or camel to reflect Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, for the sake of Allah. This meat must be given on the 10th, 11th, or 12th days of Dhul-Hijjah and can only be done AFTER the Eid prayer, not before.

The sacrificial meat is generally divided into three portions:

  • one for you,
  • one for your family or friends,
  • and one for the poor and those in need.


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