MINA: Muslims performing Haj, the annual pilgrimage, will retrace the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who performed the ritual more than 1400 years ago.
This year, the Haj officially starts on Monday, Sept. 22, the eighth day of Dul Hijjah. Nearly two million pilgrims from around the world are expected to perform Haj this year. More than 1.2 million pilgrims have come from abroad this year.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) performed Haj only once. In Islamic texts, that particular Haj is known as the Farewell Pilgrimage (Hujjat Al-Wida). The Prophet (pbuh) taught the rituals of the pilgrimage to his followers, which marks the life of Prophet Ibrahim and his family as narrated in the Holy Qur’an.
The following is a detailed account of what the pilgrims do:
PRELUDE: As a prelude to Haj, pilgrims perform Umrah, or mini-pilgrimage, upon arrival in Makkah. The first step is to get into a state of ihram, when men put on a seamless two-piece outfit and women, their hair covered, put on modest clothes. Pilgrims then head to the Grand Mosque to walk around the Holy Kaaba seven times — a ritual called tawaf or circumambulation.
The next step is sa’ee, where pilgrims walk seven times between nearby Safa and Marwa, a 450-meter stretch where Prophet Ibrahim’s wife, Hajira, searched for food and water for her infant son Prophet Ismail. Male pilgrims then shave or trim their hair to mark the end of Umrah and women remove locks of hair.
DAY 1 (Tuesday, Sept. 22): The pilgrims move to Mina, a valley that is located 8 km from Makkah, to camp for the night. Mina is the city of tents.
DAY 2 (Wednesday, Sept. 23): The climax and centerpiece of Haj. It is called Wuqoof-e-Arafat. The pilgrims, chanting, “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (Here I am, oh Allah, here I am), begin the 14 km trek from Mina to the plains of Arafat. It is in these plains, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) delivered his final sermon, declaring that he had finally completed his mission and delivered God’s message.
The pilgrims stay in Arafat until sunset, when they come down to Muzdalifah to spend the night under open skies and also to collect pea-sized pebbles.
DAY 3 (Thursday, Sept. 24): The pilgrims go to Jamrat in Mina, where they throw stones at one of the three wall-structures — re-enacting Prophet Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil, who appeared three times to Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Ismail.
Prophet Ibrahim went to Mina to carry out Allah’s instructions to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail, before Allah replaced the son with a sheep.
Therefore, on this day, pilgrims join Muslims around the world who celebrate Eid Al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice) by slaughtering sheep to mark Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice and feeding the needy. The pilgrims then go to Makkah for another round of tawaf and sa’ee, and again cut their hair before returning to spend the night in Mina.
DAY 4 (Friday, Sept. 25): The pilgrims stone the three wall-like structures and again spend the night in Mina.
DAY 5 (Saturday, Sept. 26): The pilgrims stone the wall-like structures at Jamrat for a third time before returning to Makkah and performing a third tawaf to bid farewell to the holy city. Pilgrims may stay in Mina for another day and stone the pillars again, but those who wish to leave after the third pelting must do so before sunset.