a) In 630 C.E., Prophet Mohammed(P.B.U.H.) led his followers from Madina to Makkah and upon his triumphant return cleansed the Holy Kaaba of all pagan idols and re-consecrated the holy structure to Allah. In 632 C.E. Prophet Mohammed performed his last Hajj with his followers and instructed them on the rites of the Hajj. It was from this time that for Muslims, the Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam.
b) It is required of every Muslim man and woman who is physically and financially capable to perform Haj at least once in their lifetime.
c) The word Haj means ‘to intend a journey’ which connotates the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions. The capability to perform Hajj is called ‘Istitah’ and a Muslim who fulfills this condition is called ‘Mustati’.
d) Once in a year Muslims of every ethnic group, colour and social status gather together in Makkah and stand before the Holy Kaaba and praise the almighty. The Hajj thus promotes Islamic brotherhood by demonstrating that everyone is truly equal in the eyes of God.
e) Pilgrims wear ‘Ihram – a seamless white garment ’ , it is forbidden to contain any stitching in ‘Ihram’ in order to emphasize equality of all Muslims before god. Post donning ‘Ihram’ pilgrims enter into a spiritual state of purity which denotes shedding of symbols of materialism, giving up worldly pleasures and focusing on inner self over outward appearance. Women are required to wear loose fitting clothing and cover their heads and abstain from applying make-up.
f) It is also forbidden for pilgrims while in ‘Ihram’ to cut hair, trim nails, have sexual intercourse, to argue, lose temper and fight during the Hajj. Inevitably though huge crowds and physical exhaustion test the tolerance and patience of pilgrims.
g) The date of Hajj is as per the Islamic Hijri calendar which is based on the lunar year, so it changes every year. The Hajj takes place in the last and the 12th month of the Islamic calendar over a five day period commencing on 8th and concluding on 12th Dul-Hijjah. Out of these five days, the 9th Dul-Hijjah is known as the day of ‘Arafah’ and also called the day of Hajj.
h) While performing Hajj, pilgrims follow the rites as instructed by Prophet Mohammed (P.B.U.H.) and also commemorate the events associated with Prophet Ibrahim.