The ritual pilgrimage to the holy city of mecca (Makka), called in Arabic ḥajj [cf. Hebrew ḥāg, a feast of the Lord, from the verbal root ḥ-gg (also ḥ-w-g ), to circle around]. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, and commanded by the Qur’ān: "Pilgrimage to the House of Allah is a duty owed to Allah for those who find a way thereto" (3.91, 97). According to Islamic law every adult Muslim, who is free and of sound mind, and who is able to afford it, is obliged to make the ḥajj at least once in the lifetime. A man who has made the hajj is known as a hajji, and a woman, a ḥajjah. The present Islamic ḥajj generally combines two ancient Arabian rites, viz, the 'umra and the hḥajj proper, following a precedent set by the Prophet muḤammad on his "farewell pilgrimage" in the year a.h. 10 (see hijra), though it is probable that the two had been previously associated in pagan practice.
The ritual begins with the entrance of the pilgrims into the sacral state of ritual purity (’iḥrām ), either as they first set out for Mecca or as they enter the sacred area (al-ḥaram ) and pronounces the talbiya, i.e., the formula labbayka ["we stand here before You (O Lord)"]. Upon their arrival at the sacred mosque they perform seven times the ritual circumambulation (ṭawâf ) of the Ka'ba; then going to Ṣafâ, some 50 yards away they make the sa’y, which consists in running seven times from Ṣafâ to Marwa, a small hill not far away, praying at each. This much of the ritual belongs properly to the 'umra.
Thereafter the hajj proper begins. On the eighth day of dhu l-Ḥijja (the yawm al-tarwiya ) the pilgrims leave the city for the plain of ‘Arafāt where, on the ninth day the rites officially begin with the ritual halt (wuqūf ) or standing before the Lord, from noon till sunset, while the pilgrims listen to homilies and shout out the talbiya. After this they make the 'ifāḍa a run to Muzdalifa, which is accomplished with much tumult of shouting, shooting, and music, and is followed by the two evening prayers. On the tenth day (yawm al-naḥr ) another wuqūf is made at the mosque before sunrise. After this the pilgrims depart for Minā, where each throws seven stones at the jamrat al-‘aqaba, one of three heaps of stones found there. This symbolic stoning of Satan, with the shouting of the talbiya, officially ends the ḥajj. There follows the Great Feast (al-’īd al-kabīr ) or the Feast of the Morning Sacrifice ('īd al-‘aḍḥā ), which is celebrated as an obligation throughout Islam with the sacrifice of goats and sheep and perhaps a few camels by the wealthy. The pilgrim may then shave his head and put off the ’iḥrām. During the ensuing three days (’ayyām al-tašrīq ) the pilgrims stay at Minā where they throw seven stones each afternoon at each gamra of the three.
Originally, it would seem, the 'umra and the ḥajj were quite distinct, the former a spring festival in the month of Rajab (the seventh month of the Islamic calendar), the latter a feast involving a great common fair at the autumnal equinox. However, because of inadequacies in intercalation, the ḥajj fell during the spring in the time of Muḥammad, the original significance having been lost altogether. Since the rise of Islam, because of the use of a strict lunar calendar, the ḥajj may fall at any season of of Muh the year.
Bibliography: d. e. long, The Ḥajj Today: A Survey of the Contemporary Makkah Pilgrimage (Albany, NY 1979). m. wolfe, The Ḥadj: A Pilgrimage to Mecca (London 1994). f. e. peters, The Ḥajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places (Princeton, N.J. 1994). m. wolfe, One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage (New York 1997). m. w. hofmann, Journey to Makkah (Beltsville, Md. 1998).
[r. m. frank/eds.]