The general term ḥajj includes the ʿumra (lesser pilgrimage) to the Kaʿba, which can be performed at any time of the year but does not itself fulfil the obligations of ḥajj.
The area around Mecca is designated ḥarām (holy); the male pilgrim on reaching the boundary exchanges his usual clothes for two pieces of white cloth, covering the upper and lower parts of the body, and wears sandals; women, also in white, cover their whole body except face and hands. The pilgrim has now entered the state of iḥrām, and until the end of the ḥajj ceremonies he must not put on other clothes, wear shoes, cut nails or hair, engage in sexual relations, take part in arguments, fighting, nor hunting of game. The talbīyah is repeated frequently.
In Mecca itself the pilgrim goes first to the Masjid al-Ḥarām for the rites of ṭawāf, ‘circumambulation’ of the Kaʿba, and of saʿy, ‘running’, and will if possible kiss the Black Stone. The ḥajj proper begins on the seventh day, with a khuṭba (sermon) at the mosque. On the eighth day, all pilgrims move eastwards from Mecca, spending that night at Minā or, further on, at ʿArafāt. On the ninth day, the central and essential part of ḥajj takes place, the wuqūf (‘standing’) at ʿArafāt, before a small hill named Jabal al-Raḥma. Then pilgrims hurry back to the small town of Muzdalifa within the Meccan boundaries, to stay overnight. On the tenth day, which is ʿId al-Aḍḥā, they move to Minā, first to throw seven small stones (see RAJM) at a rock called Jamrat al-ʿAqaba, then to perform the ritual sacrifice. From Minā the pilgrims return to Mecca to perform another ṭawāf; then the head can be shaved, or the hair cut, and the state of iḥrām is over.
hajj (häj), the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, one of the five basic requirements (arkan or
) of Islam. Its annual observance corresponds to the major holy day id al-adha, itself a commemoration of Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son on Divine orders. While the hajj is a religious obligation to be fulfilled at least once in the course of the life of each Muslim, religious law grants many exclusions on grounds of hardship. The hajj is a series of extensively detailed rituals. These include wearing a special garment that symbolizes unity and modesty, collective circumambulations of the Kaaba, and the symbolic stoning of evil. A central event of the pilgrimage is at the station on the plain of Arafat, some ten miles from Mecca, where, the massive crowds notwithstanding, the pilgrim is required to be completely alone with God performing the rite of wuquf or
It is here that the Prophet Muhammad addressed his followers during his last pilgrimage. The Mecca rituals are customarily followed by a visit to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina. The hajj, gathering more than 2 million Muslims annually today, was perhaps the greatest impetus to voluntary mobility before modern times. The economic, cultural, and political importance of this major annual gathering of Muslims from around the world has further increased with the advent of telecommunications and transport technologies, though the increased numbers have taxed the available facilities. Those who have completed the pilgrimage are entitled to add the phrase al-Hajj or hajji (pilgrim) to their name.
See R. F. Burton's Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to el-Medinah and Meccah (1857); J. S. Birks, Across the Savannas to Mecca (1978); S. M. Zafar, Haj (1978); G. A. W. Makky, Mecca (1978); V. Porter, ed., Hajj (2012).