Hajj Terminology: Meaning of words with Pictures

fUpon arrival in Mecca, the pilgrim (now known as a Hajji), performs a series of ritual acts symbolic of the lives of Hazart Abraham (Ibrahim) and Hazart Hajar. The acts also symbolize the solidarity with Muslims worldwide.

The greater Hajj (al-hajj al-akbar) begins on the eighth day of the lunar month of Dhu al-Hijjah. If they are not already wearing it upon their arrival, pilgrims put on ihram clothing, and then leave Mecca for the nearby town of Mina, where they spend the rest of the day. The Saudi government has put up thousands of large white tents at Mina, to provide accommodations for all the pilgrims.

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On the first day of the Hajj, the 8th day of Dhul Hijjah {the 12th month}, the pilgrims perform their first Tawaf. This consists of walking anti-clockwise around the Kaaba seven times. Men are encouraged to perform the first three circuits at a hurried pace, followed by four times, more closely, at a leisurely pace. On each circuit the pilgrim is supposed to kiss the Black Stone, but this is not possible because of the large crowds, and so it is acceptable to simply point at the Stone on each circuit.

Safa Marwa


After Tawaf, the pilgrims perform sa`i, running or walking seven times back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This is a re-enactment ofHazrat Hajar’s frantic search for water, before the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by an angel sent by God. The circuit used to be in the open air, but is now entirely enclosed by the Masjid al-Haram mosque, and can be accessed via air-conditioned tunnels. Pilgrims are advised to walk the circuit, though two green pillars mark a short section of the path where they are allowed to run, along with an ‘express lane’ for the disabled. The safety procedures are in place because previous incidents in this ritual have resulted in stampedes which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

As part of this ritual, the pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam Well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque. The pilgrims then return to their tents.



The next morning, on the ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat. This is considered the highlight of the Hajj, as they stand in contemplative vigil, near a hill from which Hazrat Muhammad gave his last sermon. Pilgrims must spend the afternoon within a defined area on the plain of Arafat until after sunset. No specific rituals or prayers are required during the stay at Arafat, although many pilgrims spend time praying, talking to God, and thinking about the course of their lives.

Ramy al-Jamarat


As soon as the sun sets, the pilgrims leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, an area between Arafat and Mina, where 49 pebbles are gathered for the next day’s ritual of the stoning of the Devil (Shaitan). Many pilgrims spend the night sleeping on the ground at Muzdalifah, before returning to Mina. It is now the 10th of the month, the day of Eid ul-Adha.

Ramy al-Jamarat

At Mina, the pilgrims perform Ramy al-Jamarat, throwing stones to signify their defiance of the Devil. This symbolizes the trials experienced by Hazrat Abraham, as he wrestled with whether or not to sacrifice his son per God’s demand. The Devil challenged him three times, and three times Hazrat Abraham refused. Each pillar marks the location of one of these refusals. Each pilgrim must hit each pillar at least seven times. Because of the crowds, in 2004 the pillars were changed to long walls. Pilgrims climb ramps to the multi-leveled Jamarat Bridge, from which they can throw pebbles at the three jamarat.


Eid ul-Adha

After the Stoning of the Devil, an animal is sacrificed. This symbolizes God having mercy on Hazrat Abraham, and replacing his son with a ram, which Hazrat Abraham then sacrificed.

Traditionally the pilgrim slaughtered the animal himself or oversaw the slaughtering. Today many pilgrims buy a sacrifice voucher in Mecca before the greater Hajj begins; this allows an animal to be slaughtered in their name on the 10th without the pilgrim being physically present. Centralized butcher houses will sacrifice a single sheep for each pilgrim, or a cow can represent the sacrifice of seven people. The meat is then packaged and given to charity, shipped to poor people around the world. At the same time as the sacrifices occur at Mecca, Muslims worldwide perform similar sacrifices, in a three day global festival called Eid ul-Adha.


 Journey to Medina

Though it is not required as part of the Hajj, many pilgrims also travel to visit the city of Medina and the Mosque of the Prophet. Hazrat Muhammad’s tomb is enclosed by the mosque