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How to do Hajj


By Amina Banawan

Had 2020 been a normal year, millions of Muslims around the world would have been preparing to journey to Mecca right now, by every means possible, hoping to complete the sacred pilgrimage known as the

When does it start? While pilgrims can start their journeys earlier, the main events of Hajj occur in the month of Dhul-Hijah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.

The first thing pilgrims do is make a sincere intention or "niyah" in their hearts to answer God's call and perform the Hajj.Once they reach a designated boundary outside of Mecca, known as the Miqat (there are several boundary areas, depending on which direction the pilgrims are coming from), they assume the state of ritual purity called Ihram.  In this state, pilgrims are not allowed to cut their nails or hair, use 'scented lotions or perfumes', and among other things, engage in sexual activity. 

There, at the Miqat, men discard their normal clothing and dress themselves in two sheets of seamless cloth. Stripped of fancy clothing and 'brands', pilgrims come to God in their truest and most vulnerable position. They come as servants of God.

 Next, Muslims head to the Kabah, the first house of worship believed to have been built by Prophet Abraham. On their way, pilgrims reaffirm their belief in God and chant His Oneness..."La bayka Allahuma La bayk.Labayka la shareeka laka. 

Here, I am, my Lord. Here I am. Here I am. You have no partner (no equal)"

Once at the Kabah, Muslims circumambulate it 7 times in an anticlockwise direction. This is known as Tawaf. As they walk around the Kabah, they spiritually realign themselves with their purpose in this world.: to obey God and revolve their lives around pleasing Him.  

Afterwards, the pilgrims run between the hills of Al Safa and Al Marwa. This is known as "Al Saee" and it commemorates Hajar, Prophet Abraham's wife who was left alone in the Meccan desert with her infant, Ismael. Trusting God's Plan for her and her baby, she ran between the hills of Al Safa and Al Marwa searching for water. Nowadays, the 'saee' is much easier, as the hills have been enclosed within Al Masjid Al Haram (The Grand Mosque). 

Pilgrims then head to Mina, a tiny "city" within the city of Mecca, filled with 100,000 tents. There, the pilgrims move into their "new home": a tent with shared bathrooms. 

The 9th day of Dhul-Hijja is the most crucial day in Hajj. Pilgrims make their way to the plains of Arafat; standing there is considered an essential pillar of the Hajj that cannot be missed. There, they supplicate to God, begging Him to forgive them for their sins and repent of their wrongdoings, hoping to be of those of whom He boasts to His angels. 

As the sun sets, the pilgrims then head to Muzdalifa in buses and on foot. Located to the southeast of Mina, Muzadlifa is "an open land'.  Muslims should pray both Maghrib and Isha prayers there. Ideally, the Muslims sleep out in this open land until fajr.  

Once the sun rises, the busiest day of Hajj begins, Yawm Al Nahr. Muslims have the choice of going to the Kabah and performing Tawaf al  Ifadah, another ritual circumambulation around the Kabah (and the Saee) or heading to the Jamarat, an area made up of three pillars and pelting the greatest pillar, Jamarat Al Aqba with small stones.  Muslims pelt the pillars to remember how Prophet Abraham stood firm and steadfast despite Satan's attempts to talk him out of obeying God's command to sacrifice his son. (It is said Prophet Abraham threw stones at Satan.)  Both pelting Jamarat al Aqba and Tawaf al Ifada need to be done, but most scholars agree it is permissible for pilgrims to complete them in whichever order the pilgrim chooses to do so. In the last two (or three) days of Hajj, all that the pilgrims need to do is visit the pillars at the Jamarat again, and pelt all 3 pillars before sunset, and spend the nights at Mina.Once they have finished all of this, the Muslims make one last Tawaf around the Kabah..the farewell Tawaf. And while they say farewell to the Kabah, their hearts are forever changed, and they pray that they take this change with them back home and that their Hajj is accepted.

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