importance of hajj

The pilgrimage to Mecca – the “hajj” in Arabic – is one of the five pillars of Islam that every believer must accomplish at least once in his life if he has the financial means and the capacity. The pilgrimage to this holy city of Saudi Arabia takes place every year in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar, the month of dhul Hajj (8-13 of the lunar month). Before the Covid 19 crisis, around 2 million Muslims pilgrims used to come for the hajj. Their number has drastically decreased to reach around 60 000 in 2021.


The hajj is one of the most important religious events in the life of Muslims. The faithful who have made this pilgrimage may have the word haj or hajji appended to their name as an honorary mark when addressed to them.



The rites of the hajj


The pilgrimage is broken divided into several rites :


  • Ihram: the pilgrim has to proclaim, three times, his intention to perform this spiritual rite to put himself in a state of sacralization. To achieve this, he must be purified and wear only unstitched pieces of white cloth for men, while women wear clothes covering the entire body except for the hands and face. Pilgrims, during this period, must not wear perfume nor cut their hair or nails. They should refrain from any quarrels and sexual relations.
  • The Tawaf: this term is translated in English by circumambulation. The pilgrim has to walk around the Kaaba seven times, a cube-shaped granite construction within the Great Mosque of Makkah called Masjid al-Haram. The Kaaba is the monument to which Muslims turn and pray five times a day. If he can, the pilgrim touches and kisses the black stone embedded in one of the corners of the Kaaba.
  • The Sa’ee (the race in Arabic): in memory of Hajar, the wife of the prophet Abraham, the faithful must walk the path seven times between the two mounts of Safa and Marwa, 400 meters away and close to the Great Mosque. According to tradition, Hajar had run between these two places to fetch water from his son, the prophet Ismail, until the spring of Zamzam sprang up at his feet.
  • Travel to Mina: the pilgrim must then go to the Mina Valley, five km east of the Great Mosque, to spend the night there before the high point of the hajj, staying on Arafat Mountain, a day devoted to prayer and invocations.
  • Eid al-Adha: At nightfall, the pilgrims return to the plain of Muzdalifah to prepare the next day for Eid al-Adha, which consists of slaughtering a beast in memory of Abraham (peace be upon Him). According to tradition, the latter had almost immolated his son Ismail before the angel Jibril offered him in extremis to sacrifice a sheep in his place. Pilgrims have the option of paying the amount of the offering to a bank run by local authorities. The faithful then dedicate themselves to stoning the stelae representing Shaytan in Mina, 8 km from Muzdalifah. On the first day, seven stones must be thrown on the large stele, and 21 stones the next day or two on the three stelae (large, medium, small).
  • Taqseer (diminution, cleaning): Before returning home, the pilgrim must make a last circumambulation to say goodbye and come out of the state of sacralization.


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What is the Kaaba ?



According to the Koran, the Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael (peace be upon them) with the help of an eminence called Abraham’s Station. Other Islamic traditions claim that the Kaaba was first built by Adam himself and the first temple on Earth. According to Muslim tradition, the Kaaba was destroyed and rebuilt several times before Islam, twice afterwards.


With the advent of Islam, the “sacred mosque” (Masjid al-Haram) and the Kaaba will become a major place of worship to which the faithful turn to pray.


Initially, Muslims prayed towards Jerusalem (al Quds), but Allah the almighty instructed the Muslims to change their prayer direction toward Masjid al-Haram.



The Black Stone


As the name suggests, this stone is a centrepiece of the Kaaba. It is located in the southeast corner of the building. The black stone is an Islamic relic that dates back to the time of Adam and Eve according to Muslim tradition. It is embedded deep into the structure of the Ka’ba, and we see that its head has turned black due to the polytheists’ sins. As for the part inlaid in the Kaaba, it is white. According to Islamic sources, the Black Stone was whiter than milk and was the length of a humerus.



The Kiswa


For three decades, a factory has been entirely dedicated to manufacturing the Kiswa, the black fabric that covers this sacred building. This factory located in Saudi Arabia manufactures two: the first is changed on the last day of the hajj, while the second will serve as a backup.


The Kiswa is 14 meters high, weighs some 800 kg, including 670 kg of silk, and about 120 kg of gold and 50 kg of silver for calligraphy and ornamental motifs. It has dimensions of 14 × 47 meters, covering an area of 658 m2.


The upper part of the Kiswa is called the “Hizam”, literally “belt”. The Hizam is 95 cm wide and 45 m long and consists of 16 pieces. It is embroidered with silver threads covered with gold, with the bonus of some Koranic verses written in Arabic calligraphy.



the kaaba is important during the hajj



The same family has held the key since the time of the prophet PBUH.


Do you know that the Kaaba is locked? It is the Al-Shaibi family that has held the key for over 15 centuries. This family also takes care of all matters concerning this sacred place, such as its cleaning, the modification of the Kiswa, the changing of the lock or the reception of visitors inside the Kaaba.


Moreover, whatever the visitor’s status, he must ask permission from this small family to enter the heart of the cuboid construction of Mecca.


To return to the famous key, its lock was changed on October 9, 2013, after 30 years. And for a good reason, the old one being rusty made it difficult to open the door. A new solid gold lock replaced it.



Who can perform the Hajj?



The person who intends to perform the Hajj must fulfil the following conditions:


  • to be a Muslim. The hajj is strictly reserved for Muslim believers.
  • Intellectual faculties: To be mentally healthy.
  • Puberty: Being of legal age, children can accompany parents.
  • Freedom: The Muslim must be totally free and under no commitment which may compromise his pilgrimage.
  • The capacity: The capacity consists in being in good health and having the necessary means to go to Mecca and to finance his stay.



Can a woman perform the Hajj without a guardian (Mahram)?



The Hajj Ministry officially authorized in 2021  women, regardless of age, to make the great pilgrimage without a “guardian” (called Mahram in Arabic), that is, a close male member of the family, on condition that ‘they go there in groups.



Why is the Hajj so expansive?



The received idea


Enough of these crooks who get rich off the backs of Muslims! They take advantage of the Hajj’s sacredness and obligatory nature to make rain and shine in the Pilgrimage market, thus forcing the poor pilgrims to stall their exorbitant prices. It is shameful !!


Travel agencies and their touts abuse Muslims. They should fear Allah in His servants.


Do we agree ? as Muslims, we have heard this discourse often (we may have even said it ourselves).



No, but the reality of the price of hajj is not that.


I’m not denying that some dishonest people or even some agencies making extraordinary margins (up to $ 1000 per pilgrim), but overall that’s not what people tend to believe.


Let’s look at the average price of a Hajj (a standard offer of € 5,500, for example).


* The accommodation itself in Mecca and Medina can go up to 3200 €


*. The flight, on the 4 main regular companies (Saudia, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Egypt Air), costs around 1200 €, I know it can be shocking, but every year I see the bills with my own eyes.


* Services related to the Hajj ministry (transport by bus, tents in Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat plus full board) can go up to € 500, or even € 900 (depending on the quality of the services, meals, etc.)


* The various expenses of travel agencies (charges, taxes, levies, advertising budget …), in the 400/500 €


* The agency’s net margin which varies on average between 200 and 400 €


You can see that on the price of a hajj, on average, no less than 80/85% of the price absolutely does not depend on the travel agency. The latter is subject to Saudi prices (the hotel industry represents 2/3 of the price of a Hajj) and those of the airlines.


So if there is abuse, and there is, it is on the side of Saudi hoteliers and service providers that we will have to look at it.



the kaaba is full during the hajj



Something else regarding the cost of the Hajj


Hajj prices are almost the same everywhere in the world (minimal variability), it is inconceivable to think that all the agencies in the world have agreed to set the same prices for their customers, it is there too proof that prices are influenced, to a large extent, by external considerations.


We have seen that the main reason was due to the prices of the Saudi hotel industry, but there are 2 other indirect reasons.


The spectacular fall in the price of the euro (and almost all the fiat currencies in the world), for example, the euro has lost in a few years almost 30% of its value (for € 1000 5 years ago, for example, it is necessary to pay today 1300 €), this decrease. The Saudi professionals do not want to suffer it, and therefore pass it on to foreign providers, who, believe it or not, take care of part of this increase and only pass on the part of it to the pilgrims.


Finally, and this is a consequence of the previous point, the prices of plane tickets have also increased (increase in the price of oil, increased airport taxes, etc.).


Cheap hajj, is it possible?


This is of course relative, but there are “cheap” offers, in the 1000 € cheaper than the standard offers, this manifests itself most often by accommodation (in Mecca) further from the Haram, no board, a lower standard of hotels … but it’s worth looking into, after all, what is mandatory? The Hajj, or the Hajj less than 5 minutes from the Haram? 😉


But that is not really the point.


Allah has prescribed the Hajj for anyone who can afford it. If we Europeans judge € 5,500 as “too expensive”, other Muslims elsewhere in the world must have felt much worse than us when the Hajj was € 1,000. What should- they feel today at more than 5000 € ??


This is a really spiritual question. We did not cry scandal when the Hajj, in Europe, was still in the 1500/2000 €, is it because it did not call into question our way of life?


The question we all need to ask ourselves is whether we really make Hajj a priority. The notion of “expensive” or “cheap” is relative. It is above all our lifestyle, our consumption habits, and therefore our spending that become decisive.


To conclude, the hajj is one of the essential religions in the life of Muslims. In this article, we have discovered some significant things to know before performing hajj. Of course, the pilgrim will have to attend a course or read a book and watch some youtube videos to know about the details of all rituals.



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