How to Perform Hajj in Steps
The pilgrimage / Hajj begins on the 8th day of the month of Dhul-Hijjah
ذو الحجة on the Islamic calendar. Pilgrims will spend the next five or six days undertaking a series of rites in Mecca, Mina and on Mount Arafat.
- Ihram – Start of Hajj
The first official day of the pilgrimage in which pilgrims enter ihram – the sacred state that entails wearing two white, un-stitched pieces of cloth for men, and any loose-fitting clothing for women, before crossing the outer boundaries of the city of Mecca, called Miqat.
While in ihram, pilgrims may not cut their hair, hunt or engage in sexual activity.
- Tawaf and sa’ay: 8th Dhu al-Hijjah
The ritual of Tawaf involves walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba. Upon arriving at Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (Arabic: الـمَـسـجِـد الـحَـرَام, The Sacred Mosque), pilgrims perform an arrival tawaf either as part of Umrah or as a welcome tawaf. During tawaf, pilgrims also include Hateem – an area at the north side of the Kaaba – inside their path. Each circuit starts with the kissing or touching of the Black Stone (Hajar al- Aswad).If kissing the stone is not possible because of the crowds, they may simply point towards the stone with their hand on each circuit. Eating is not permitted but the drinking of water is allowed, because of the risk of dehydration. Men are encouraged to perform the first three circuits at a hurried pace, known as Ramal, and the following four at a more leisurely pace.
The completion of Tawaf is followed by two Rakaat prayers at the Place of Abraham (Muqam Ibrahim), a site near the Kaaba inside the mosque. However, again because of large crowds during the days of Hajj, they may instead pray anywhere in the mosque. After prayer, pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque. Although the circuits around the Kaaba are traditionally done on the ground level, Tawaf is now also performed on the first floor and roof of the mosque because of the large crowds.
Mina, After the morning prayer on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims to Mina where they spend the whole day and offer noon, afternoon, evening, and night prayers. The next morning after morning prayer, they leave Mina to go to Arafat.
- Arafat day 9th Dhu al-Hijjah
The pilgrims leave Mina for the 14.4km journey to the plain of Arafat – on a day considered one of the most important in the Islamic calendar.
Mount Arafat was the location of the Prophet Muhammad’s final sermon, and it is here that pilgrims will spend the day in prayer and reflection until sunset.
Muslims who are not at the hajj join them in spirit by fasting this day.
At sunset, pilgrims head to Muzdalifah, about 9km away, where they will spend the night under the open sky until just before sunrise; while some will begin to collect pebbles for the next day’s rites.
- Third day: 10th Dhu al-Hijjah
While Muslims around the world will be celebrating the holiday of Eid al-Adha today, those at Hajj begin their longest day.
Before dawn, pilgrims begin heading back to Mina, where they converge at the Jamarat bridge to perform the Ramy – a symbolic rite in which pebbles are thrown at pillars that represent the temptations of Satan.
While tossing their pebbles, pilgrims recall the story of Satan’s attempt to dissuade the Prophet Abraham from following Allah’s command to sacrifice his son, according to historic tradition.
After casting their stones, the pilgrims sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow or camel and give away the meat to the poor – in line with the historic tradition in which Abraham went to sacrifice his son, and found that God had placed a ram there to be slaughtered instead.
At this time, pilgrims trim (or shave if they are men) their hair and remove their ihram clothes.
- Final Day: 11th Dhu al-Hijjah
Many will move on to Mecca to perform tawaf and sa’ee – circling the Kaaba seven times, and walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa, in remembrance of the plight of Abraham’s wife Hajar, who desperately scoured the area in search of water for herself and son before a spring, known as zamzam, welled up before her. When all is done, the pilgrims return to their campsite in Mina.
Pilgrims spend the next two or three days in Mina. On each day, they will again symbolically stone the devil – this time throwing seven pebbles at each of the three pillars.
The pilgrims then return to Mecca to perform the final circulation of the Kaaba, in what is known as the Farewell Tawaf before heading back to their respective homes across the globe.