JEDDAH: Muslims from across the world are gathering in Makkah in Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage to take part in the following rituals:
Pilgrims wear Ihram, which for men is a two-piece white seamless garment. Women wear loose dress, generally white, with only the face and hands exposed. During this period, pilgrims must abstain from sex and quarrelling, not use perfume and not cut their hair or nails.
Once in Makkah, pilgrims perform Tawaf, seven times counter-clockwise, around the Kaaba.
Pilgrims then walk seven times between Safaa and Marwa, emulating a search for water by Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) wife, in a ritual known as Sa’i.
These rituals are considered the Umrah, or lesser pilgrimage, and come ahead of the Hajj’s main rites when pilgrims head to Mina, around five-kilometre east of the Grand Mosque.
The next day, pilgrims gather on the hill known as Jabal al-Rahma [Mount of Mercy] and the surrounding Mount Arafat plain, 10 kilometres southeast of Mina, where they remain until evening for prayer and to read the Holy Quran.
After sunset, pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah, half-way between Arafat and Mina, where they stay at least until midnight. They gather pebbles to perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.
At the start of the Eidul Azha feast, pilgrims return to Mina for the first of three daily stoning rites. Traditionally, seven pebbles are thrown at a post representing the devil. Since 2004, it has been replaced by walls to accommodate the rising numbers of pilgrims and to try to avoid a repeat of deadly crushes at the site.
After the first stoning, sacrifices are made and the meat distributed to needy Muslims, symbolising Prohphet Ibrahim’s (AS) willingness to sacrifice his son Prophet Ismail (AS) on the order of God, who provided a lamb in the boy’s place at the last moment.
Men then shave their heads or trim their hair while women cut a fingertip-length of their locks. After that they can end their Ihram and change back into normal clothing.
They then return to the Haram Sharif in Makkah for Tawaf and performing Sa’i. The pilgrims then return to Mina to continue the stoning ritual for two or three more days.
Finally, they return to Haram Sharif for final Tawaf.