Millions of Muslims across the globe take part in the annual Islamic pilgrimage to the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is mandatory for all financially and physically capable adult Muslims at least once in their lives.
The hajj is a five-day pilgrimage that takes place over a holiday in Mecca and three nearby sites.
During the hajj, pilgrims perform a series of rituals as an act of worship to obtain a pardon for their sins.
According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad carried out the first pilgrimage to Mecca in AD 628, with 1,400 followers.
Abraham, the common patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions, is a prophet in Islam. Like in Judaism and Christianity, Islam tells the story of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son when God commanded him to do so, and the son was saved. According to Islam, that son was Ishmael.
Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure in Mecca just 20 meters from the sacred well. It is a place to worship God, and the hajj commemorates this story.
Muslims enter Mecca in a state of spiritual purity. Men wear simple sheets. Women wear black loose-fitting clothes that cover their bodies but not their faces.
On the first day, the pilgrims walk around the sanctuary of the Grand Mosque in Mecca seven times, and then walk between the nearby hills seven times. They drink water from the sacred well and stay overnight in Mina.
On the second day, the pilgrims attend the hajj sermon. After sunset, they pray and collect pebbles for the next day’s rituals.
On the third day, pilgrims throw seven stones at three pillars in Mina. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha on this day, offering a goat, sheep, or cow in a ritual sacrifice to God.
Then, pilgrims must hit the pillars every day for the next two or three days.
During the final days of the hajj, pilgrims again walk around the Kaaba and between the hills.
Men may shave their heads and women cut off locks of hair as an act of sacrifice and renewal.
Source: What Is the Hajj Pilgrimage, the Fifth Pillar of Islam?
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