Making the pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s also every Muslim’s dream to make the journey at least once in their lifetime. However, what does making the Hajj journey entail? That’s the question we will answer today as we explain how to perform Hajj and Umrah. Additionally, we’ll also discuss some of the hajj rituals and their meaning. So, let’s start the journey now, shall we?


Because it would be host to His house, Allah made Mecca a sacred and holy city. As a result, one cannot enter Mecca unless they enter in such a way that praises and surrenders to Him. In other words, anyone wishing to enter the city must enter in a state of ritual purity known as Ihram. Thus, before any Muslim reaches Mecca, they must first start at one of the five Mawaqeet  – the places designated as entrance points to the city.

Because Muslims make the journey from the four corners of the world, they are located  north, south, east, and west of the city. It’s there that pilgrims wash themselves, put on white clothes, and make their intentions for performing Hajj known through Talbiah.  (Talbiah is the utterance of the Arabic phrase “Labbaika Allahuma Labbaik”  or  “I respond to Your call O Allah!” in English.). Afterwards, they can proceed to Mecca.


When pilgrims reach Mecca, they head straight to the Holy Mosque and circle the Kaaba seven times known as tawaf.  Starting at the Black Stone,  the pilgrims walk counter-clockwise with the Kaaba always on their left. This is one of the pillars of Umrah for those performing what is known as Tamattu Hajj. However, it is also performed by those performing the Ifradd Hajj – that is, those only those performing the rites of Hajj. Likewise, it must be performed by those performing the Qiran Hajj for both Hajj and Umrah (or the minor Hajj). (However, for those performing Umrah of the Qiran type need not make an animal sacrifice.)


After they complete the seven circles around the Kaaba,  pilgrims then move to the Maqam Ibrahim. This is a small square stone where Muslims believe that Ibrahim left the imprint of his foot on the stone. Further, it’s also believed that it is made when Ibrahim and Ismail began building the Kaaba in what is now the Great Mosque of Mecca. Nevertheless, it is here at this rock that pilgrims first say a small prayer and then begin the ritual walk known as sa’e.

Sa’e is a ritual where Muslims walk between the hills of  Safa and Marwah  seven times. For years, this was done outdoors, but today the path is now enclosed. (This actually also makes it easier for the pilgrims as the Hajj and Umrah rules require the rituals in the Grand Mosque to be performed barefoot.) Before walking between the two hills, however, once again Muslims state their intentions  through prayer.  This may include something  like “O Allah! I intend to perform seven rounds of Sa’e between Safa and Marwah to please You. Make it easy for me and accept it from me.”


Once Sa’e is complete, male pilgrims must shave their heads twice if they’re performing the Tamattu Hajj. They shave it once after performing the Sa’e and then again after they perform the ritual animal sacrifice. However, if a man is just performing Umrah, he may just get a trim for the time being. He can shave it completely again if he plans on performing all of the Hajj rituals a few days later.  As afar as the rules on Hajj and how to perform Umrah for ladies, they do not have to shave their heads. They do however, have their hair trimmed or just a lock of it cut off.

For those performing the lesser Hajj of Umrah, their journey is complete here.


For those continuing their Hajj,  after getting their haircut they head to the nearby city of Mina. Here they will find temporary housing (including air-conditioned tents) where they can spend their first night of Hajj. Men and women stay in separate tents, though they are next to each other for families. Since Muslims have no rituals to perform in Mina, they usually spend their time in prayer and reflection.


Pilgrims wake up and head over to Mount Arafat the next morning in time to perform both the noon (dhuhr) and afternoon (asr) prayers.  They stay until sunset asking Allah for his mercy and forgiveness.


Once the sun goes down on Arafat, Muslims head over to a place between Mina and Arafat known as Muzdalifah. Here they perform both the Maghrib and Isha evening prayers before they spend the rest of the night sleeping on the ground with a sky full of stars above them.


Before dawn,  the pilgrims rise and collect pebbles. They will need them as they return to Mina where they perform the ritual of stoning the devil.  A stone monument called Jamrat Al-Aqabah is their target at which they consecutively throw seven stones while shouting at the devil.

Afterwards, the men will once again shave their heads and the women will trim or cut a lock of their hair. This ritual, known as Tahallul, removes all the limitations of  Ihram except for that of sexual intercourse.

Next, all pilgrims must sacrifice an animal to Allah. However, for those who are a little squeamish about doing this themselves, they can simply purchase a sacrifice voucher. This voucher will allow a professional butcher to sacrifice the animal for them. Later, butchers will package the animal and send it to the poor. The important thing is that pilgrims perform or someone performs it on pilgrim’s behalf. This is to commemorate Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his son and serves as a symbol for one’s complete submission to Allah.


For the next three days, pilgrims return to Mina to spend the three nights of Tashreeq. Then, everyday for three days, they once again throw stones at the Devil.  Finally, just as in the Umrah, the Hajj requires pilgrims to return to the Grand Mosque and perform the Tawaf and Sa’e rituals if they have yet to do so. Regardless, if you are making  Hajj, Muslim leaders recommend waiting until after the stoning, haircut and animal sacrifice to do the Tawaf and Sa’e. Nevertheless, once pilgrims have finished those rituals, their Hajj is now complete. However, pilgrims usually return to Mina and spend the night there in prayer before their journey back home.


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