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What Exactly is Hajj in Islam and What Rituals Define the Pilgrimage Experience?

Hajj - The Fifth Pillar of Islam

  The final pillar of Islam, which makes up the very core of the foundation of Islam, is Hajj – the sacred pilgrimage. It is one of the five tasks that Allah (SWT) has made obligatory upon all Muslims as an act of showing commitment to the Islamic faith.


    Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the city of Makkah in the sacred Month of Dhul-Hijjah, which is mandatory for all Muslims who can afford it financially and physically.


“And Hajj to the House (Ka‘bah) is a duty that mankind owes to Allah (SWT), those who can afford the expenses; and whoever disbelieves, then he is a disbeliever of Allah (SWT), then Allah (SWT) stands not in need of any of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists)” (Surah Imran: 97)


    Hajj is performed by millions of Muslims around the globe, who come together to worship the Almighty and stand as one ummah, every year. Hajj requires every individual to leave behind their status, class, culture, ethnicity and stand in front of Allah (SWT) as equals – no man is superior or inferior in the House of Allah (SWT) or in the eyes of Allah (SWT). It instills a sense of brotherhood and unity amongst the Ummah and redirects them towards the greater purpose of this world – to worship Allah (SWT)

Mina :

Derived from the word with the root letters ma-na-ya, Mina literally means ‘to find’ or ‘to undergo test’ or ‘to be put to the test.’ Further onwards, the term Mina is connected to the words ‘tamannd’ and ‘manna’, which means ‘to hope for’ or ‘awaken a desire.’

When we talk about Islamic history, like everything else, there is a story behind the name Mina. It is believed that the valley of Mina is connected to the test that Prophet Ibrahim (AS) had to undergo when Allah SWT commanded him to sacrifice his only son, Prophet Ismail (AS). However, by the command of Allah SWT, a lamb miraculously appeared between the blindfolded Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son and was sacrificed instead.

Therefore, the name “Mina” was given to the place, implying the “place where he succeeded” and the “place where he was tested.” Moreover, the word “Mina” also means “to flow” as it was the place where during Hajjat-ul-wada (the Farewell Pilgrimage), Muslims along with Prophet Muhammad PBUH sacrificed a hundred camels. Therefore, following the Sunnah, even today, pilgrims perform the sacrifice of animals at Mina during the religious festival of Eid ul-Adha.

According to Islamic teachings, there are specific religious practices and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad PBUH that must be performed during the period of Hajj. Muslims are instructed to spend the nights of the 8th, 11th and 12th Dhul Hijjah at Mina. After the completion of tawaf (circumambulation), Hajj pilgrims are instructed to return to Mina Hajj.

During their stay at Mina Hajj, pilgrims read the Holy Quran, offer prayers, worship Allah SWT, perform Zikr and listen to Islamic lectures all night. Following the break of dawn, Muslims are instructed to exit Mina and move towards Mount Arafat.

What Happens at Mina?

On the third day of Hajj, Muslims are instructed to move before sunrise to the sacred area of Mina to conduct the ritual of Stoning the Devils or Rami. For this ritual, pilgrims collect pebbles a day in advance, and they throw these pebbles at any of the three stone pillars standing in Mina. The stone structures are called the Jamarat.


The significance of the Stoning of Devil revolves around the historical incident when Satan tried to persuade Prophet Ibrahim (AS) into disobeying the command of Allah SWT to sacrifice his only son. Therefore, throwing pebbles at the three Jamarat signifies Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) strong faith and his rejection of Satan’s attempt at manipulation. Therefore, the specific ritual is considered the most risky and emotionally gratifying experience of the Hajj. After Rami, pilgrims conduct the ritual of sacrifice, followed by distributing the meat to the underprivileged and poor.


Mount Arafat beholds special significance during Hajj. Walking towards Mount Arafat and standing on staying there to pray is an essential part of Hajj; as said by Prophet Muhammad PBUH, “Hajj is Arafat.” [Al-Hakim] This means that whoever skips the part of standing on Mount Arafat, they miss Hajj.

On the 9th day of Dhul Hajj, also known as Day of Arafah, leave Mina for Mount Arafat. The last sermon (khutbah) is then delivered from Masjid-e-Nimra, and Zuhrain- combinational prayer of Zuhr and Asr – is prayed together by all the pilgrims in the valley of Mount Arafat. Later the pilgrims spend the entire day on Mount Arafat, invoking Allah SWT to forgive their sins.

What Happens at Mount Arafat?

On Mount Arafat, Muslim pilgrims spend their day making Dua. They combine the Zuhr and Asr prayers and stand until sunset, facing the Qibla, seeking forgiveness and requesting Allah SWT to shower his blessings over them.

It is said that on the day of Arafat, Allah SWT descends to the sky and says to the angels, “My slaves have come to Me, looking rough, from every deep valley hoping for My mercy, so if your sins were equivalent to the amount of sand or the drops of rain or like the foam on the sea I will forgive them. So go forth My slaves! Having forgiveness and for what or who you have interceded for.” [Tabarani]

Dua on the Day of Arafat

According to the Islamic traditions, Mount Arafat is a special mountain for Dua (supplication) as Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Prophet Muhammad PBUH made Dua at this very spot. The virtue of this place is asking from Allah SWT, and His response is promised. Therefore it is advised that when praying at Mount Arafat, a pilgrim’s heart should be pure and filled with nothing but neediness. One should thank Allah SWT for all the blessings and ask for his forgiveness. The Dua to be recited on the day of Arafah is as follows:

“Laa ilaaha ill-allaahu, waḥdahu laa shareeka lah, lahul-mulku wa lahul-ḥamdu, wa huwa ‛alaa kulli shay’in qadeer”

Prophet Muhammad PBUH said: “The best invocation on the day of Arafat, and the best of all the invocations I ever offered or other holy Prophets before me ever offered is: “There is no god but Allah: He is Unique; He hath no partner, the whole universe is for Him and for Him is the praise, and He hath power over all things.”[Tirmidhi]

In another place, Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “Apart from the day of the Battle of Badr there is no day on which the Shaitan is seen to be more humiliated, more rejected, more depressed and more infuriated, than on the day of Arafat, and indeed all this is only because of beholding the abundance of descending mercy (on the day) and Allah’s forgiveness of the great sins of the servants.” [Mishkat]

What Is Mount Arafat, Otherwise Known as Jabal Arafat?

Also known as Jabal ar-Rahmah, Mount Arafat is located in the southeast of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. On the 9th of Dhul Hajj, Muslim pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat, where they stand and perform a contemplative vigil and recite the Holy Quran. Mount Arafat is where the beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH delivered the last sermon to the Muslims who accompanied him for Hajj towards the end of his life. Read on to learn more about Mount Arafat and its significance in Islam.

The literal meaning of the word Arafat is “to know.” Based on Islamic history, it is believed that after being taken out of Jannah and placed back on Earth, it was Mount Arafat where Prophet Adam (AS) and Hawa (AS) reunited. Mount Arafat is also commonly known as Jabal Arafat, which means the “Mountain of Mercy.” Moreover, it is the place where Prophet Muhammad PBUH stood and delivered the Last Sermon, also known as Khutbat al-Wada, to his companions and all Muslim pilgrims who accompanied him on the Hajjat ul-Wida.


Muzdalifah (Arabic: مزدلفة) is an open area located southeast of Mina, on the way between Mina and Arafat. On the 9th Dhul Hijjah (second day of Hajj), pilgrims arrive here after sunset from Arafat and spend the night here.

  • Muzdalifah stretches from the Valley of Muhassar to the mountains of Ma’zamayn. It is four kilometres long and covers an area of 12.25 square kilometers.

Muzdalifah is also known as al-Mashar al-Haram, which is mentioned in the Quran:

  • فَإِذَا أَفَضْتُم مِّنْ عَرَفَاتٍ فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ عِندَ الْمَشْعَرِ الْحَرَامِ ۖ وَاذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَاكُمْ وَإِن كُنتُم مِّن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الضَّالِّينَ
  • But when you depart from Arafat, remember Allah at al-Mashar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray.
    [Surah al-Baqarah 2:198]

Stay at Muzdalifah

After arriving at Muzdalifah, there are several things you will want to do, including freshening up for the night. Toilets and wadhu facilities are easily accessible. However, due to the overcrowding of people, there are queues, so you should expect to wait patiently for your turn.

Another tip is to use the toilets at Arafat before your departure to avoid any complications.

After you’ve freshened yourself up, it’s time to prepare for your night at Muzdalifah and ensure you make the best of it. You can do this by practicing the following activities:

  • Pray at Mashar Al-Haram: Mashar Al-Haram, also known as ”The Sacred Grove,” is a mosque located in Muzdalifah. Located in an area where an ancient mountain used to be, you can make the most of your night at Muzdalifah by staying and praying at the Mashar Al-Haram.
  • Get rest: to be active on the rest of your journey, make sure you get rest some rest while you stay at Muzdalifah, eat well, and also keep yourself hydrated.
  • Take a walk: if you’re feeling well-rested and are done with your Salah, take a walk in the open area of Muzdalifah, the populous area that can be fascinating to witness during the 9thHowever, make sure to carry a mobile phone and flashlight with you to avoid any issues in case you get lost.

The Prophet’s Time at Muzdalifah

During the Prophet’s (ﷺ) journey of Hajj, he departed to Muzdalifah as soon as dawn rose after the Fajrsalah. He moved towards the hill at Mashar Al-Haram. There, he repeated the Talibyah in remembrance of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) and did wudhu.

Afterward, the Azhan and Iqama to the Maghrib prayer were called, and the Prophet (ﷺ) prayed his salah. Then, the Iqama has performed again, and the Isha prayer was read in Qasr. Qasr refers to the practice of shortening one’s prayer, especially when traveling long distances. So, the Ishasalah was reduced to two rakats, and no nafl prayers were performed between the two salah.

Narrated Ibn Umar:

The Prophet (ﷺ) offered the Maghrib and `Isha’ prayers together at Jam’ (i.e., Al-Muzdalifa) with a separate Iqama for each of them and did not offer any optional prayer in between them or after each of them. – Sahih al-Bukhari 1673

The Prophet (ﷺ) then rested until sunrise, after which he led the Fajrsalah. However, after the moon had set, he allowed some people who were physically unable to walk fast, such as children, women, and the elderly, to return to Mina at night instead of the next day,

Narrated Aisha (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَاا):

We got down at Al-Muzdalifa, and Sauda asked the permission of the Prophet (ﷺ) to leave (early) before the rush of the people. She was a slow woman, and he gave her permission, so she departed (from Al- Muzdalifa) before the rush of the people. We kept on staying at Al-Muzdalifa till dawn and set out with the Prophet (ﷺ), but (I suffered so much that) I wished I had taken the permission of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as Sauda had done, and that would have been dearer to me than any other happiness. – Sahih al-Bukhari 1681

The Prophet (ﷺ),after observing his Fajrsalah mounted on al-Qaswa, his camel and paid a visit to Mashar al-Haram, where he spent a brief time in supplication to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) before his departure towards Mina. The Prophet (ﷺ) also picked up seven pebbles and recited the Talbiyah throughout his journey.

Collection of Pebbles

Although the pebbles that are used to stone the shaytan at the Jamrah can also be collected at Mina or a nearby area, if you want to follow the example of the Prophet (ﷺ), you can collect them at the Muzdalifah before your journey back to Mina.

You need to collect 49 pebbles to perform Rami for the 10th, 11th, and 12thDhulHijjah.

  • 7 of the 49 stones will be used on the 10th Dhul Hijjah
  • 21 of the remaining stones will be used on the 11th Dhul Hijjah
  • 21 of the remaining stones will be used on the 12th Dhul Hijjah

To collect the stones, you can walk to the hills using the flashlight of your mobile phone and collect the pebbles from a clean area. Store these pebbles safely in a bag you have bought with you. If you do not have a bag, you can also use plastic bags or a water bottle.

Fajr At Muzdalifah

Wake up at the earliest part of dawn and perform wudhu for the Fajrsalah. You can either keep a full water bottle with you during the night to perform wudhu or use the toilet facilities available if you’re satisfied with using them.

However, be mindful of the queues. To avoid the crowd, it is recommended to wake up early to get done with your wadhu in time. You will be able to hear the Azaan from Mashar Al-Haram. However, just in case, remember that Fajr Azaan happens around 5 minutes later in Muzdalifah in comparison to Makkah.

You can also follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ) by performing Wuquf in Muzdalifah for a short period of time while standing in the direction of the Qibla.

Due to the shortness of time, your coach operator may ask you to hurry and leave early. In this case, you can offer your supplications and make your prayers while standing in the queue.

Importance of Muzdalifah

The place of Muzdalifah holds special significance in the context of Hajj. It is mandatory for pilgrims to stay at Muzdalifah from dawn to sunrise on the day of Eid-ul-Adha. The walk from Mina to Muzdalifah symbolizes the sacrifice and commitment that pilgrims undertake during their Hajj journey. The journey is also physically and mentally challenging irrespective of age group, gender, and race. It signifies the hardship pilgrims willingly endure in their devotion and love for (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى), as well as their willingness to leave behind the worldly comforts and materials and focus on their deen.

Moreover, the journey from Mina to Muzdalifah offers a glorious opportunity for pilgrims to come together from all over the world and unite. This symbolizes the sense of brotherhood and solidarity among Muslims as thousands of pilgrims go through this journey side by side; it also signifies a sense of camaraderie among the Muslim Ummah.