The pilgrimage to Makkah (the Hajj) is a one-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who are physically and financially able. Over two million people, from all corners of the globe, go for Hajj each year making it the largest gathering for peace. Hajj provides a unique opportunity for people from different nations to meet one another.
The annual Hajj begins in the twelfth month of the Islamic year. The Islamic year is lunar; consequently Hajj occurs throughout all seasons during one’s lifetime.
Pilgrims enter a state of sacredness where arguing and fighting, cutting a plant or even harming a fly is prohibited. They wear simple garments that strip away distinctions of class and culture, so that all stand equal before God.
The rites of the Hajj go back to Abraham and his family. They include visiting the Ka’bah and standing together on the whole wide plains of Arafat (a large expanse of desert outside Makkah). Here pilgrims pray for God’s forgiveness, in what is often considered a preview of the Day of Judgement. The Hajj provides a unique opportunity for Muslims to reflect on their lives, to refocus on God, and to return to their families and homes spiritually rejuvenated.
The close of the Hajj is marked by the Festival of the sacrifice, Eid al Adha. Pilgrims sacrifice a sheep or goat, commemorating Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own son. The sacrificial meat is distributed to the needy. Muslims around the world celebrate this day with prayers, ritual sacrifice, and an exchange of gifts.