Hajj, paying tribute to Abraham and his devotion to God

Added on Aug 19, 2018

At this moment, over 1.5 million people from dozens of countries around the world are in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to perform the hajj, the Islamic religious pilgrimage.

People may be surprised to learn that the hajj has very little to do with the Prophet Mohammed. Rather, it mostly commemorates events in the life of the Prophet Ibrahim — that is, Abraham.

The hajj — Arabic for “pilgrimage” — is a five-day religious pilgrimage to Mecca and nearby holy sites in Saudi Arabia that all Muslims who are physically and financially able must perform at least once in their lives.

It is one of the five pillars, or duties, of Islam, along with the profession of faith in the one God and Mohammed as his prophet, prayer, charitable giving, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

The hajj takes place only once a year, in the 12th month of the Islamic calendar; pilgrimages to Mecca made at other times in the year are encouraged but do not count as the hajj, but rather named Umrah, or visit.

Over the five days of the hajj, pilgrims perform a series of rituals meant to symbolize their unity with other believers and to pay tribute to God. On the last three days of the hajj, pilgrims and other Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice.

Hajj is a huge event — in terms of both its significance in Islam and the massive logistical challenge of having that many people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe descend on one relatively small place all at once.

At the end of the hajj, pilgrims return home and are often given the honorific “hajji,” meaning one who has performed the hajj.