Islamic Holidays and Observances

Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Makkah

During the next week, Muslims from all over the world will converge on Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the Hajj or Islamic pilgrimage. Each year, roughly two million followers of the Islamic faith participate in the pilgrimage, which constitutes the world's largest international gathering.

One of the five "pillars" or essential acts of worship in Islam, the Hajj is obligatory at least once in a Muslim's lifetime, if conditions permit. The purpose of the pilgrimage is the same for every pilgrim who makes the journey: the worship of God at the Sacred House in Mecca, the Kabah. According to the Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, believed to have been revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century of the Christian era, the Kabah was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael, also a prophet, in ancient times. Abraham instituted the pilgrimage and established its rites around the Sacred House. Many centuries later, these rites were re-established by Muhammad.

The most important day of the pilgrimage is the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. On this Day of Arafat , the huge throng of pilgrims spends the afternoon at the vast Plain of Arafat, believed to be a prototype of the gathering place of the Last Judgment, praying for God's forgiveness and mercy. They then move on to the next station of the pilgrimage.

The Hajj is a profound spiritual experience for Muslims, taking them back to the origin of their God- centered faith in the prophet Abraham. It is also a time of experiencing the brotherhood and equality of humanity. It was this experience that led Malcolm X to cast aside his racist views and embrace what he called the "oneness of Man. . . under one God."

For more information on the Hajj, we suggest watching the fifty-minute film The Guests of God. For more information, e-mail the maintainer of this page.