The Haj (Arabic: حج "pilgrimage ") is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm. The Haj is the largest annual gathering of people in the world.
The pilgrimage rite begins on the 7th day of Dhū al-Ḥijjah (the last month of the Islamic year) and ends on the 12th day.
Haj is obligated by Allah upon every Muslim, male and female, who is physically and financially capable. It is obligatory only once during the lifetime of a Muslim. Allah Almighty Says (what means):
“…And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way….” [Quran 3:97]
The Prophet sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
“Islam is built upon five (pillars): the testimony that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, the establishment of the prayer, paying Zakaat, Haj to the House (i.e. Ka’bah,) and fasting in Ramadan.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Haj was prescribed in the sixth year after Hijrah (migration) upon the revelation of the following verse in which Allah Says (what means):
“And complete the Haj and ‘Umrah for Allah.”[Quran 2:196]
Haj is rightly said to be the perfection of faith, since it combines in itself all the distinctive qualities of other obligatory acts of prayer, patience, privation of amenities of life, devotion, Zakaat (alms), slaughtering the sacrifice and supplication. In fact, the physical pilgrimage is a prelude to the spiritual pilgrimage to Allah when man would bid goodbye to everything of the world and present himself before Him as His humble servant saying:
“Here I am before you, my Lord, as a slave.”
The Haj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals and demands of the believer great sacrifice. On this unique occasion, nearly two million Muslims from all over the globe meet one another in a given year. Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special clothes (Ihram) - two, very simple, unsown white garments - which strips away all distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together and equal before Allah (God).