Hajj, The Holy Pilgrimage

The best way to begin this article is by this beautiful saying of Imam Sadiq (AS) regarding Hajj: “The pilgrims, i.e. performers of Hajj or ‘Umrah’ are the guests of Allah, if they ask for something, He will answer them; if they supplicate to Him, He will answer them; if they intercede, He will accept it; and if they keep quiet, He will be the beginner, and they will be compensated instead of one Dirham, a million Dirhams[i].

Literally speaking, Hajj means heading to a place for the sake of visiting. In Islamic terminology, Hajj is a pilgrimage made to Kaaba, the ‘House of God’, in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is obligatory for every Muslim to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime provided that he/she is physically and financially able to do so. The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Abraham who built Kaaba after it had been first built by Prophet Adam, are performed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth and ending on the thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.

Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals. Nearly two million Muslims from all over the world meet each other and refresh in themselves the faith that all Muslims are equal and deserve the love and sympathy of others, regardless of their race, wealth, status, class, culture and ethnic origin [1].

Generally, there are three kinds of Hajj: Hajj al-tamattu, Ifrad and Qiran. The first is the duty of a person whose home is located 16 farsakhs (about 90 km) away from Mecca. The second and the third (Ifrad and Qiran) are the duties of those who live in Mecca or outside it within this distance. Hajj al-tamattu differs from the two other kinds in its rituals and practices which is the focus of this article. It is also noteworthy that even Hajj al-tamattu becomes obligatory under certain circumstances, including sanity, adulthood [ii] and Istita’ah [iii] [2].

hajj, pilgrimage, Kaaba, Islam

In the context of Hajj al-tamattu, the question of ability to perform this task (Istita’ah) and who is capable of it (Mustati) is of utmost importance and a very sensitive issue. To be Mustati you should have the following abilities:

  1. financial ability – i.e. you have enough money to support yourself and your family on your journey,
  2. physical ability- i.e. Hajj is not obligatory for the sick, the old or those who are either unable or would face severe hardship,
  3. Sirbi ability - i.e. the route is open and safe,
  4. Time ability- i.e. that there should be enough time to go on Hajj after becoming Mustati [3].

Bearing these conditions in mind, let’s take a brief look at the rituals a person should perform when they go on Hajj.

Basically, Hajj al-tamattu consists of two parts: Umrah of Tamattu [iv] and the Hajjah, both have to be performed in the same year in Dhu al-Hijjah. The rituals that have to be performed in the first part (Umrah) include 5 stages:

  1. Ihram
  2. Circumambulation (Tawaf)
  3. Prayer of Tawaf
  4. Sa’y
  5. Taqsir

The pilgrims who visit Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) shrine and Imams' sepulcher in Medina before performing Hajj rituals, become Muhrim in Masjid al-Shajarah, and those who travel to Mecca from Jeddah become Muhrim in Juhfah. To be Muhrim, men should take out all the clothes that are stitched and instead wear a two-part unsewn and clean white garment, one covering the lower parts of their body and the other their shoulders. Women, however can wear stitched clothes provided that they are clean and white, and their face is not covered by anything. Then intending [v] to perform the Umrah of Tamattu, they should say: LabbaikAllahommalabbaik,labbaika la sharikalakalabbaikm [vi].

Now you are Muhrim and ready for entering the sacred house of God.

Masji al-Nabawi, Muhammad, prophet, Hajj, pilgrimage

There are twenty-five things which are forbidden in the state of Ihram. These are:

  • Hunting the land animal
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Kissing the woman.
  • Touching the woman
  • Looking at the woman and indulging in foreplay
  • Masturbation
  • Marriage
  • Using perfume
  • For men only: wearing the sewn clothes
  • Applying kohl on the eyes
  • Looking in a mirror
  • Wearing shoes or socks (For men only)
  • Cursing other people
  • Quarreling with others
  • Killing the insects on one’s body
  • Using cosmetics
  • Applying oil on the body
  • Getting rid of the bodily hair
  • For men only: covering the head. (Even submerging the head in a body of water is not allowed, for both men as well as women.)
  • Covering the face (For women)
  • For men: shading themselves from sun or rain.
  • Causing blood to come out of one’s body
  • Clipping the nail
  • Pulling out the teeth [4]

 After saying your intention (Niyyah), you have to circumambulate (turn around) Kaaba located in Masjid al-haram seven times; “a fixed point in the center and everything else moving round it; a circular movement… a sun in the center and turning round it are people, each a star in their own sky” [5]; you are performing Tawaf. The reason for this rite is that the heart and soul of the pilgrim should move around the House of Allah and his love for Allah should become so great that no worldly attraction, neither the East nor the West, would distract him from this path. Only the Oneness of Allah (Tawhid) should attract him. Tawaf also conveys the message of unity. The pilgrims have come from different countries in the world; they have all gathered in Masjid al-haram circumambulating around Kaaba. It seems as though they were drops of water that now have made a huge ocean all together [6].

When circumambulating, note that Kaaba should be on your left side, your clothes should be completely clean and you should perform Wudu (ablution) before starting. Also, be careful not to bump into other pilgrims and keep your shoulders straight. After completing this holy task you should perform a Salat which is called prayer of Tawaf (Tawaf’s Salat) and is performed like Morning Prayer behind Maqam Ibrahim.

Now, you have done your Tawaf and performed the Salat after it; what you will go through next is called Sa’y. you should walk the distance between Safa and Marwah seven times, starting from Safa and terminate the first lap at Marwah, then walk the second lap from it to Safa and so on till you terminate the seventh  lap at Marwah. Don’t worry, if you get tired you are allowed to take a brief rest and start over from where you stopped.

Last but not least, in the rituals that should be performed throughout Umrah al-tamattu is called Taqsir, meaning that you have to cut a short piece of your hair or nails. With this task done, your Ihram will be finished and everything that was Haram in this process will become Halal again and you can take off your Ihram clothes.

Congratulations! You made it, you have completed the first part of your pilgrimage. Now, you will enter the next phase, called Hajjah. It consists of 14 stages:

1. Wearing Ihram

2. Staying at Arafat

3. Staying at Muzdalifah (Mash'arul Haram)

4. Going to Mina

5. Stoning the Jamratul Uqba

6. Sacrificing an animal

7. Taqsir

8. Tawaf of Hajj

9. Prayer of Tawaf of Hajj

10. Sa’y

11. Tawaf-un Nisa

12. Prayer of Tawaf-un Nisa

13. Staying at Mina

14. Stoning the three pillars (Jamaraat) on the 11th and 12th of the month

kaaba, hajj, pilgrimage, Islam, Muslims

On the 8th day of Dhul-Hijja, pilgrims become Muhrim again and go to Arafah -a plain about 20 km Southeast of Mecca- and stay there on the 9th of Dhul-Hijja from noon to sunset. You can walk, sit or sleep, talk or keep quiet and think in there, but it is strongly recommended to spend the entire day, especially the afternoon, in supplication and Dua. At sunset, you have to set out to Muzdalifah (Mash’arul Haram) where you are supposed to stay until sunrise and at which you gather pebbles for hitting the Jamaraat. Then on the 10th day you leave for the land of Mina. You need to stone the Jamratul Uqba (biggest pillar) with seven pebbles, sacrifice a sheep, a camel or a cow, and shave your head or perform Taqsir [vii]. After performing three of these you can come out of Ihram, but there are still acts you have to do and ones that are forbidden like wearing perfume, hunting and marital relations.

Acts that remain to be performed:

Tawaf of Kaaba; you turn around Kaaba, seven times as you did for Umrah.

Salat of Tawaf; after performing Tawaf, recite two-Rak’at Salat behind Maqam-e- Ibrahim.

Sa’y; perform Sa’y the same as the one did for Umrah except for the intention which has to be of Hajj-al-Tamattu.

Tawaf-un-Nisa; retun to Kaaba and perform another Tawaf with the intention of Tawaf-un-Nisa of Hajj-e-Tamattu.

Salat of Tawaf-un-Nisa; recite another two Rak’at Salat behind Maqam-e-Ibrahim with the intention of Salat of Tawaf-un-Nisa of Hajj-al-Tamattu.

Spending the night in the land of Mina; it is obligatory (Wajib) to spend the night of 11th and 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah in Mina.

Rami al Jamaraat; while in Mina, you have to stone all the three pillars (Jamaraat) with seven pebbles between sunrise and sunset of both the 11th and 12th day.

After stoning the three Jamaraat on the 12th day, you will leave Mina for Mecca before sunset. Your Hajj is complete and you are free to do everything you were allowed to do before Ihram. There is also a great emphasis on visiting the Prophet's mosque in Madinah before or after Hajj. Pilgrims return to their countries after Hajj rituals and they are as pure as a newborn baby.

May God accept your Hajj.


[i]. a unit of currency in several Arab states

[ii]. People who have reached the age of shar‘ī puberty

[iii]. having the capacity to perform Hajj

[iv].  Not to be confused with the Umrah al-mufradah which refers to Umrah that is performed independently of Hajj, however they have some rituals in common.

[v]. for more information on intention refer to:  http://www.salamislam.com/html/Article/View/id/c_54ae7a2951c3b

[vi]. «لَبَّيْكَ اللّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ»: "Here I am (for Hajj). Oh Allah, here I am. Here I am. You have no partner. Here I am."

[vii]. Women clip their hair or the tip of their fingernail



[1]. http://www.performhajj.com/what_is_hajj.php

[2&3]. http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/

[4]. http://www.darassalam.com.au/index.php/wearing-ihram?start=4

[5]. Shariati, Ali. Hajj (The Pilgrimage)

[6]. http://www.al-islam.org/guidebook-women-rites-hajj-razia-batool-najafi/philosphy-circumambulation-tawaf