Hajj: Who started it and who is required to perform it?

Hajj literally means intending to visit a place of significance. In common use, it refers to the pilgrimage to Mecca and its vicinity that all Muslims are required to do at least once in their lives, if they can. Hajj incorporates the performance of approved religious acts, at prescribed times, at particular places, and in a specific manner.

It was first proclaimed by Prophet Abraham and has been revived by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). Hajj is considered one of the five pillars of Islam.

More on the specific steps of Hajj.

Why can Hajj only be performed at one time during the year?

Muslims are allowed to visit the holy city of Mecca throughout the year and perform what is referred to as the minor pilgrimage ('Umrah). The obligatory pilgrimage (Hajj) has to be performed from the eighth day to the 13th day of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Zul-hijjaj. Hajj, being a form of worship, manifests the universality of Islam and unity of all believers. During Hajj, people from all parts of the world gather at the same place, at the same time, in the same attire, doing the same prescribed acts, thus reflecting the harmony and fraternity of all believers. Each of these acts and places where they are performed have a purpose and serve as a reminder to the mindful, lesson to the heedful, exhortation to the faithful, instruction to the dutiful, and source of reflection for the wise.

What is the significance of pilgrimage to Mecca for the modern-day Muslim?

Hajj is the largest annual convention of faith, where between three to five million faithful gather to perform their prescribed religious duties. It is a wholesome demonstration of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood, linking the individual pilgrim to the totality of humanity, for believers from every part of the earth are represented there. It acquaints pilgrims with Mecca and thus with the historical and spiritual environment of the prophets Abraham, Ishmael, and Muhammad. It serves as a bridge that links the present with moments of ancient history, and it is also a means of identifying the pilgrims with the commitment and struggles of past prophets. The rituals performed are in fact reenactments of fundamental aspects of that sacred history. Finally, Hajj serves as a reminder of the grand assembly of the Day of Judgment.

Why do Muslim women need to be accompanied by a mahram?

A mahram is a woman's husband or a legally approved male companion to whom marriage is prohibited. It is strongly recommended that a woman travel with a mahram for the express purpose of safety, protection, and the safeguarding of modesty.

What is 'Eid-al-'Adha, and what is its significance?

'Eid-al-'Adha is the celebration of sacrifice, and sacrifice is one feature of the pilgrimage in which Muslims all over the world also participate. It occurs on the 10th day of the month, and it is a day of festivity. On this day, Muslims who have returned from 'Arafat, or Mount Mercy, after a daylong vigil proceed to slaughter an animal in order to commemorate the preparedness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son. In Islam, the sacrificing signifies the willingness of the sacrificer to sacrifice all his/her interests and desires in the cause of truth, justice, and goodness. The sacrifice is thus an outward symbol of the sacrificer's readiness to lay down his or her life for the cause of God.

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