Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Hijri calendar, has two major highlights for Muslims; Hajj and Eid al-Adha. Starting from the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah, Islamic sacred rituals of Hajj start in al-Masjid al-Haram, ending on the 12th day which also marks the end of Eid al-Adha days.
What is Hajj in Islam?
Hajj is the major pilgrimage in Mecca. For Muslims, it’s the fifth pillar of Islam. Hajj is a religious obligation that all Muslims must fulfill at least once in their lives if they have the financial and physical means to do so.
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass”
Allah commanded Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to declare Hajj to the people, and they would come to you on foot or on camels from every remote area.
Therefore, Muslims of all ethnicities, colors, socioeconomic classes, and cultures join together in solidarity in the world’s biggest yearly gathering of people following in the early footsteps of Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and his people on their first pilgrimage in Islam in the year 628.
Allah gave Hajj a huge significance in reward. As reported of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“One who comes to this House for Hajj and avoids all lewdness and sins, he returns as he was on the day his mother gave birth to him.”
(Bukhari and Muslim)
This indicates that everyone who conducts Hajj correctly and without committing any sins gets all of their prior sins erased and goes home as a child who has never sinned.
Every year, pilgrims go to Mecca for 5 days of Dhul-Hajjah month for Hajj. Pilgrims clean themselves with ablutions and prayer before arriving at Mecca. They next put on two seamless white robes known as ihram, which represent both human equality and ritual cleanliness.
Following that, they enter Mecca’s sacred precinct and complete the Hajj rituals, which include:
- Circumambulating the Kaaba seven times while reciting dua on the 8th day. That’s before leaving for Mina.
- Running between the hills of al-Safa and al-Marwa, just outside al-Masjid al-Haram, honoring Ibrahim’s wife Hagar and their son Ishmael’s faith and drinking from “Zam-zam” well that’s still going till now.
- On the ninth day of Dhul-Hajjah, pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat for afternoon prayer and the Arafah “standing” ritual (Waqfat Arafat), which commemorates both Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Farewell Sermon and the final revelation of the Quran.
- Pilgrims usually spend the day in Mina’s tent city and then stay until the next morning. In Mina, pilgrims perform five prayers, beginning with noon prayer (Dhur) and ending with dawn prayer (Fajr).
- Stoning the pillars representing the devil (Shaitan) multiple times. The narrative goes that Iblis (the devil) tried to persuade Ibrahim not to obey Allah’s orders and refuse to slaughter his son, so Ibrahim stoned him three times.
- On the last day, sacrifices of sheep, goats, and camels are made at Mina to commemorate Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, which is recognized across the Muslim world as Eid al-Adha.
What is Eid Al-Adha?
Eid Al-Adha is the greater of two Eids in Islam. It commemorates Ibrahim’s readiness to sacrifice his only son, Ismail, to obey Allah’s orders. Eid al-Adha marks the climax of the yearly Hajj trip.
Muslims around the world who are not on pilgrimage also join pilgrims in Mecca in commemorating Eid al-Adha, the “Feast of Sacrifice”. The night before Eid, Muslims in pilgrimage spend the day on the mount Arafah, praying and reciting dua, while Muslims in homes fast this day.
Muslims begin the Eid rituals the next morning with Eid prayers after fasting the day before Eid. Eid prayer consists of two rakaahs plus takbeers. Takbeerat Al-ihram (Allahu Akbar) is the first takbeer, followed by six more takbeers in the first rakah.
You must raise your hands and silently recite “subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wala ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar” after each takbeer from the Imam. Then you calmly listen to the Imam recite Fatiha and another Surah from the Quran.
For the second rakaah, five takbeers will be called, and you will repeat the imam’s call and action. Between takbeers, you must say “Subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wala ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar.”
After bowing and kneeling and reading Tashahud, you should follow Imam as he finishes the prayer by saying “Assalamu Alaikum” twice, as in regular prayers.
Then, for the rest of Eid days, Muslims who can buy a sacrificed animal should do so. Eid’s sacrifice, or “Udhaia” in Arabic, refers to an animal that Muslims slaughter during the Eid in order to emulate Prophet Ibrahim, who first did it as a ransom for his son, Ismail.
The sacrificial animal might be a sheep, lamb, goat, cow, bull, or camel. The difference is that a sheep, lamb, or goat has one Udhaia share, but a bull, cow, or camel has seven. This simply means that you and the other six individuals can pool their money to purchase one Udhaia.
The sacrificed animal should be carefully chosen. It must be in good health and of a certain age in order to be slaughtered in a “halal” Islamic way that does not terrify or torment the animal.
The Udhaia meat should then be split into three equal portions, with one-third going to you and your family, one-third going to friends or neighbors, and one-third going to the poor.
Equality, unity among Muslims, self-resistance, enduring adversity for Allah’s forgiveness, following in the footsteps of our great leaders Ibrahim and Prophet Muhammad, and following Allah’s orders are some of the teachings and values learned through Hajj.
Both Hajj and Umrah are pilgrimages with some rituals in common. Umrah is a trip to Mecca, like Hajj, but unlike Hajj, it is optional rather than obligatory. As a result, Umrah is referred to as a little pilgrimage. Umrah can be performed at any time of year, although Hajj has set dates.
Many values can be taught from the story and rituals of Eid al-Adha. Some of these are the concept of sacrifice for the sake of Allah, how Allah rewards us when we give up what we love to please Him, how we must include the poor in every blessing Allah gives us, and how must connect with our friends and family during the celebrations.