The Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca
Beliefnet blogger Reed Hall explains the ins and outs of the Hajj.
The so-called “Five Pillars of Islam” are the foundations and cornerstones -- or, as the term itself suggests, the “pillars” or supports – of Islamic faith and practice. All five are incumbent upon every physically and financially able Muslim:
(1) the recitation of the shahadah or creed (“There is no god but God [Allah], and Muhammad is his messenger”);
(2) formal prayers five times each day (at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall, always while facing Mecca);
(3) institutionalized charity to the poor (a percentage of one’s wealth [commonly 2.5%] is donated annually);
(4) the annual month-long fast during Ramadan (no food, no drink, no smoking, and no sex from dawn till dusk throughout the ninth month of the Islamic calendar); and
(5) the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Islamic holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia (during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, a month known as Dhu al-Hijjah).
Within Dhu al-Hijjah each year, the 8th to the 12th days of the month are dedicated to the annual Hajj (Arabic for “pilgrimage”). On the Western or Gregorian calendar this year, the upcoming Hajj period is estimated to coincide approximately with October 24 - 28, 2012.
During that time frame, approximately three million Muslims from all over the world will converge upon Mecca as pilgrims, fulfilling the fifth of Islam’s “Five Pillars” by participating in one of the world’s largest religious pilgrimages: the Hajj, or holy pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Hajj is not optional, but mandatory. As one of Islam’s “Five Pillars,” going on the pilgrimage to Mecca is a required religious duty, which must be performed at least once in the lifetime of every Muslim who is physically as well as financially able to do so.