The Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is one of the five pillars of Islam, the obligations that all Muslims must uphold. Every adult Muslim (male or female) who has the physical and financial means is required to travel to Mecca to perform the Hajj once in his or her lifetime. In Mecca, Muslims from all over the world gather in a display of faith, unity, and solidarity by recreating the ritual that the prophet Muhammad performed in his last pilgrimage
· As with all forms of Muslim worship, the Hajj must be undertaken with sincerity and out of a devotion to God (Allah). The Hajj cannot be performed for the purpose of gaining worldly recognition or material gains in this life.
· The Hajj must be performed in accordance with the prophet Muhammad's words and deeds as described in the Sunnah.
· Tamattu'. This is the most common form of pilgrimage and the one recommended by the prophet Muhammad himself. Tamattu' involves the pilgrim performing the rites of the minor pilgrimage ritual known as Umrah, then performing the rites of the Hajj. Pilgrims performing Tamattu' are called Mutamatti. As this is the most common type of pilgrimage, especially for foreigners to Saudi Arabia, the rest of this guide assumes you will be performing this type of pilgrimage.
· Qiran. In this option, the pilgrim performs the rites of both the Umra and Hajj in one continuous act with no "break" in the middle. Pilgrims performing Qiran are called Qaarin.
· Ifraad. Finally, this form of pilgrimage involves performing only the rites of the Hajj - not of the Umra as well. This form of pilgrimage is also notable for being the only one that does not require animal sacrifice. Pilgrims performing Ifraad are called Mufrid.
· The Hajj occurs from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the date of the Hajj changes from year to year on the Western Gregorian calendar. Note that, according to the Saudi government, the last day that pilgrims are allowed to arrive at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah for the Hajj is the 4th of Dhu al-Hijjah.
· The Saudi government offers special "Hajj visas" to American Muslims who have not made the pilgrimage in the last five years. Obtaining one of these visas requires an up-to-date passport, a completed application form, copies of marriage or birth certificates, and an up-to-date immunization record.
· Pilgrims often travel to perform the Hajj in groups as a sign of solidarity. Contact members of your local Muslim community to see if any are performing Hajj this year - if so, you may want to consider coordinating your trips.
· All people - women and men - who are attending the Hajj should prepare to be exceedingly modest for the duration of their stay in Saudi Arabia. Clothing must be modest and unadorned - for much of the pilgrimage; special religious garb is required for men. Cologne, perfume, makeup, and scented soap should be avoided. When a pilgrim enters the sacred Ihram state of ritual purity, smoking, swearing, shaving, cutting one's nails, and sexual intercourse are forbidden.
· Men: Shave, comb your hair, trim or shape your facial hair, cut your nails, and remove unwanted body hair. Bathe (or perform wudu, partial ablution) with the intention of Ihram, but don't apply cologne or other scents. Sincerely repent for your sins.
· Clothe yourself in clean, plain Ihram sheets - wrap one around your waist and wear the other over your upper body. Wear simple sandals or flip flops that don't cover the top portion of your foot. Avoid covering your head. These simple garments signify the equality of all before God - the wealthiest king and the lowliest beggar wear the same clothes on the Hajj.
· Women: As with men, you should shave and groom yourself, bathe, avoid applying scents, etc. You should also avoid applying makeup or other cosmetics. However, besides the requisite sandals, women don't have special clothes for Ihram - their ordinary clothes should be used, provided that they are clean and modest.
· Note that in Islam, covering the head with a veil, scarf, etc. is "mandatory" attire for women and should be done on the Hajj too.
· "Here I am O Allah, (in response to your call), here I am. Here I am, you have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to you. You have no partner."
· If she or he has not already entering into the state of Ihram, the pilgrim must do so at the Miqat before crossing.
· Note - it is tradition to enter these holy entryways and most other holy buildings right foot first.
· Next, begin to move to the right. Draw close to the Black Stone (the Eastern cornerstone of the Ka'bah) and, if possible, kiss it. If can't get close enough to kiss it, you may touch it with your hand. If you can't get close enough to touch or kiss it, lift your hands to your ears, palms facing towards the Black Stone, and recite this short prayer: "Bismi'Llah Allahu akbar wa li'Lah al-hamad". Don't shove or fight for a chance to touch the Black Stone.
· Begin to circle the Ka'bah. Walk counter-clockwise so that the Ka'bah stays at your left. Circle the Ka'bah seven times, praying as you do so. There are no designated prayers for the Tawaf, so you may use ones from your daily life or simply pray from your heart. You may also point at the Black Stone each time you walk by it.
· When you've completed seven circles, you are finished. Men can now cover their right shoulder.
· When you reach the top of Safa, recite another Niyyah, saying: "" O Allah! I perform Sa’ey between Safa and Marwah to please You. Make it easy for me and accept it from me." Then, add: "Inn-as-Safa wal-Marwah min Sha’a’irillah" ("Indeed Safa and Marwah are among the Signs of Allah.") Finally, face the Ka'bah and recite "Allahu Akbar" three times. Add any additional prayers you may wish, then proceed towards Marwah.
· As you move towards Marwah, recite: "Subhan-Allah wal-hamdu-lillahi wa la ilaha ill-Allah wa-Allahu Akbar wa la haula wa la quwwata illa-billa", or, if you can't remember this, use the shortened form, "Subhan Allah, Alhamdu Lillah, Allahu Akbar." You may add any prayers you wish. At the top of Marwah, repeat the glorification of God while facing the Ka'bah, then walk down from the hill again.
· When you've walked back and forth seven times, you are finished.
· After the ritual hair-cutting, Umra is complete and the restrictions of Ihram are lifted. You can return to your normal activities, wear your normal clothes, etc. However, if, like many pilgrims, you will proceed to complete the Hajj in the next few days, know that you will need to re-enter Ihram to do so.
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