Hajj Pilgrimage To Makkah

The pilgrims begin arriving by air, sea, and land during the weeks prior to the pilgrimage period. They usually arrive into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the major port city nearest to Makkah (45 miles distance). From there they travel with their Hajj group to Makkah. As they approach Makkah, they stop at one of the designated areas to shower and change clothing, entering into a state of devotion and purity for the pilgrimage. They then begin reciting an invocation:

Labbaik Allah humma labbaik
Labbaik la sharika laka labbaik
Innal hamda
Wan-ni’mata
Laka walmulk
Laa sharika lak.

Here I am, Oh God, at Your command!
Here I am at Your command!
You are without associate!
Here I am at Your command!
To You are all praise, grace and dominion!
You are without associate!

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On the first official day of the pilgrimage, the millions of pilgrims that have now gathered travel from Makkah to Mina, a small village east of the city. There they spend the day and night in enormous tent cities, praying, reading the Quran, and resting for the next day.

On the second day of the pilgrimage, the pilgrims leave Mina just after dawn to travel to the Plain of Arafat for the culminating experience of the Hajj. On what is known as the Day of Arafah,” the pilgrims spend the entire day standing (or sitting) near the Mount of Mercy, asking Allah for forgiveness and making supplications. Muslims around the world who are not at the pilgrimage join them in spirit by fasting for the day.

After sunset on the Day of Arafat, the pilgrims leave and travel to a nearby open plain called Muzdalifah, roughly halfway between Arafat and Mina. There they spend the night praying, and collecting small stone pebbles to be used the following day.

On the third day, the pilgrims move before sunrise, this time back to Mina. Here they throw their stone pebbles at pillars that represent the temptations of Satan. When throwing the stones, the pilgrims recall the story of Satan’s attempt to dissuade Prophet Ibrahim (PbUH) from following God’s command to sacrifice his son. The stones represent Abraham’s rejection of Satan and the firmness of his faith.

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After casting the pebbles, most pilgrims slaughter an animal (often a sheep or a goat) and give away the meat to the poor. This is a symbolic act that shows their willingness to part with something that is precious to them, just as the Prophet Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son at God’s command.

Throughout the world, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, on this day. This is the second of the two major holidays in Islam each year.

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The pilgrims then return to Makkah and perform seven tawaf, turns around the Kaabah, the house of worship built by Prophet Ibrahim (PbUH) and his son. In other rites, the pilgrims pray near a place called “The Station of Abraham,” which is reportedly where Abraham stood while constructing the Ka’aba. The pilgrims also walk seven times between two small hills near the Ka’aba (and enclosed in the Grand Mosque’s complex). This is done in remembrance of the plight of Abraham’s wife Hajar, who desperately searched in the area for water for herself and her son, before a spring welled up in the desert for her. The pilgrims also drink from this ancient spring, known as Zamzam, which continues to flow today.

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In the days and weeks after Hajj, many Muslims take advantage of their travel time by visiting the city of Madinah, 270 miles north of Makkah. The people of Madinah provided refuge to the early Muslim community, when they were being persecuted by the powerful Makkan tribes. Madinah became a center for the growing Muslim community, and was home to the Prophet Muhammad and his followers for many years. Pilgrims visit the Prophet’s Mosque, where Muhammad is buried, as well as other ancient mosques, and the many historical battle sites and graveyards in the area.

Pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia are required to leave the country by the 10th of Muharram, about one month after the completion of the pilgrimage.

After Hajj, pilgrims return home with renewed faith and are given honorific titles.

Source Link: http://islam.about.com/od/hajj/ss/hajj_steps_3.htm