What is the Hajj?

published on July 17, 2020

Every Muslim is obligated to complete a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life that is to say if they are financially and physically capable this pilgrimage is called the Hajj is considered one of the five pillars of Islam though this is described slightly

Differently based on your branch of Islam so for example we're 12 are Shias it's described as one of their ten ancillaries of faith and four is my Ely she as they describe it as one of their seven pillars of Islam though no matter

Your branch of Islam the Hajj is considered one of the most important obligations for Muslims worldwide the Hajj always occurs over the course of five days during the last month of the Islamic calendar now the Islamic

Calendar is a lunar calendar meaning that it's a little bit shorter than the 365 day Gregorian calendar because of this the Hajj always occurs at different times each year in 2019 it occurs in early and mid-august in 2020 it will be

Late July and early August but the Hajj is way more than just going to Mecca and then going home it's comprised of a series of rituals most of them symbolizing important episodes from the life of Abraham and

His firstborn son Ishmael now the back story of Abraham and Ishmael is a bit different in Islamic tradition compared to Jewish and Christian traditions for those of you that are familiar with the story from the Hebrew Bible Abraham had

Two sons Ishmael and Isaac but in the version in Genesis Isaac is the favorite son as he goes on to be the patriarch of the Israelite people in Islamic tradition Ishmael is the favorite son and travels to Mecca with his mother

Hagar and his father Abraham and you know that famous story about Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac well in Islamic tradition it's Ishmael who is almost sacrificed by Abraham so what does the Hajj entail before even

Entering Mecca you need to enter a ritually pure state called Ephraim this means refraining from sex refraining from cutting your nails or arguing wearing perfume or deodorant and also wearing a special

Type of pilgrimage clothing the pilgrimage then starts with walking seven times around the Kaaba a cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque that Muslims believe was rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael after

Noah's Flood and in the time of Muhammad it is said to have become overrun by pagan idols when Mohammed conquered Mecca he cleared the Kaaba and read educated it to the one God after walking around the Kaaba the pilgrims then walk

Or run seven times between two small hills called Safa and Marwah this ritual reenacts a famous story from Islamic tradition when Abraham leaves Hagar and Ishmael in the desert to test their faith as their supplies dwindle Hagar

Runs between these two hills seven times looking for water for her son until water is miraculously discovered today the route between these two hills is housed entirely in a corridor in the Grand Mosque after this pilgrims then

Moved to Mena a neighborhood right outside a mecca where the Saudis have built a massive tent city here the pilgrims spend the night in air-conditioned tents before traveling to Mount Arafat Arafat is said to be the

Location where Muhammad delivered his final sermon and pilgrims spend from noon to sunset there in prayer and contemplation on their way back to Mecca pilgrims spend the night at Mustapha where they gather forty nine stones to

Perform the stoning of the devil the stoning of the devil entails throwing seven pebbles at one of three walls this ritual reenacts an episode in Islamic tradition when the devil tries to tempt Abraham to ignore God's command to

Sacrifice Ishmael Abraham resists by throwing stones at the devil now historically this ritual involved three pillars but this proved pretty dangerous because of the crowds and because people would accidentally get hit by stones so

In the early 2000s the Saudis replaced the pillars with three walls and constructed a multi-tiered complex to help crowd control now the stoning of the devil occurs on one of the most important festival days of the Islamic

Calendar Eid al-adha festival sacrifice after performing the stoning of the devil pilgrims then slaughter an animal generally a sheep to symbolize the sacrifice that God provided as an alternative to sacrificing Ishmael

Muslims worldwide participate in this festival too sometimes slaughtering a sheep themselves or sometimes purchasing a voucher for a sheep to be slaughtered in their stead instead of doing the sacrifice themselves after all of this

The pilgrims then exit the ritual state of a from men will shave their hair women will trim their hair and they will change out of their pilgrimage clothing but even though they've exited the sacred state there's still some

Pilgrimage left the pilgrims then return to mina and then perform the stoning of the devil again this time throwing seven peb at each of the three pillars before returning once again to the Kaaba to do

A farewell circumambulation so that's a general overview of the Hajj but here in the 21st century certain topics come up again and again surrounding the Hajj that we should mention some logistical and some geopolitical first the

Logistics more and more people are attending the Hajj in the 1920s the total pilgrimage numbered fewer than one hundred thousand people by the 1970s it was around 700 thousand people but by 2018 there were over two million

Pilgrims attending the Hajj this has become a dangerous situation because of the crowds every few years there will be a stampede or a crowd crash where people get killed one of the most major crowd crushes happened in 2015 when about

2,000 people were killed and Mena near the stoning of the devil site now the Saudi government has built all sorts of infrastructure to help alleviate the crowds they have built the hallways between safa and marwah hills they built

A new bridge to help streamline the stoning of the devil and they even built a monorail between major sites but the crowds continue to be a major logistical problem and then there's some geopolitical challenges Mecca is located

In Saudi Arabia therefore the Saudi government wields a great deal of soft power by being custodians of the Hajj and even though the Saudis say they want the Hajj to remain apolitical

That has proven to be pretty impossible so for example the Saudi government enforces pilgrimage quotas controlling how many Hajj visas are distributed so for the countries that don't have diplomatic relations with the Saudi

Government such as Syria obtaining a pilgrimage visa can be very difficult the Hajj has also been a source of controversy for Iran in Saudi Arabia now these two countries are geopolitical adversaries and they've been waging a

Cold war or proxy war in the Middle East for years moreover Iran is majority Shia while Saudi Arabia is majority Sunni so this conflict runs across sectarian lines as well following the 2015 crowd disaster Iran ian's boycotted the 2016

Hajj and criticized the Saudis for incompetence the Supreme Leader of Iran even insinuated that the crowd collapse was premeditated calling the Saudis heartless and murderous for failing to protect pilgrims the Saudis responded by

Calling Ronni ins pagan fire worshipers which is a derogatory term for zoroastrians the religion that has its roots in ancient Iran so the Hajj can expose some of the same political rifts that we see around

The world but geopolitics aside for the average Muslim completing the Hajj is one of the most important things you can do in your lifetime and it remains a monumental unifying experience for the second-largest religion in the world as

Always thanks so much for watching and subscribing and I'll see you next time you

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