Eid Al Adha is the time where millions of Muslims travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform a pilgrimage called Hajj, which is a mandatory religious duty in Islam for all Muslims who are physically and financially able to make at least once in their lives as. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is the largest annual gathering of people in the world, bringing more than one million Muslims to perform Hajj.

Eid Al Adha begins on the 10th day of Dhu Al Hijjah (The one of pilgrimage), the 12th month on the Hijri or Islamic Calendar, and ends at sunset. It is during Dhu Al Hijjah that Muslim from all around the world congregate at Mecca to perform Hajj, which is performed on the seventh, eighth, ninth and the 10th of this month. Day of Arafah takes place on the ninth of the month. This is the fourth holy month during which war is banned.

Millions of Muslims travel to Al Masjid Al Haram in Mecca in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), considered the holiest city for Muslims, to perform Hajj where pilgrims perform acts of worship, and they renew their faith and sense of purpose in the world. It takes five to six days to complete Hajj.

The male Hajjis or pilgrims wear simple white clothes called Ihram which promotes the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. The male pilgrims also shave their heads bald for Sunnah, which is the way of life prescribed as the norm for Muslims based on the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and interpretations of the Quran. Female pilgrims cover their bodies from head to toe with the exception of their faces and hands.

Each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer, then runs back and forth between the hills of Al Safwa and Al Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, and throws stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil.

Once the Hajj is complete, pilgrims then celebrate Eid Al Adha. Male and female pilgrims shave or trim their hair to signify they have completed their Hajj.

The Kaaba and its history

The Kaaba itself is believed to have been rebuilt by Ibrahim and Ismail. There is a spot just next to the Kaaba, called the Station of Ibrahim, which marks where it is believed he stood while erecting the stones to raise the wall.

Many of the rites of Hajj refer back directly to Ibrahim and his life. In the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim, Hagar and their infant son Ismail found themselves in a barren valley with no trees or water. Hagar was desperate to find water for her child, and ran seven times between two hills but found none. It was when she returned in despair that she saw the baby Ismail kicking on the ground, from where a spring emerged and she was able to quench their thirst. This spring, called Zamzam, still flows through Makkah. During Hajj, Muslims reenact Hagar’s search for water when they pace several times between the hills of Safa and Marwa.

Muslims may visit the Kaaba anytime of the year to perform Umrah, a non-mandatory Islamic pilgrimage, most popularly performed during the holy month of Ramadan. It is known as the minor pilgrimage, performing circumambulation of the Kaaba and Sa’i between Safa and Marwa, which generally can be completed in a few hours to two days.

The exemptions

All adult Muslims who are physically fit and who can financially afford Hajj are obligated to make the journey to Makkah at least once during their lifetime. For this reason, the physically disabled and the poor are exempt from this Islamic obligation. During pregnancy and menstruation, women are also free from performing Hajj. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita’ah, and a Muslim who fulfils this condition is called a mustati. A person may perform the hajj by proxy, appointing a relative or friend going on the pilgrimage to ‘stand in’ for him or her.

Hajj registration

The allocation of quotas for pilgrims from various countries is set by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj. They also initiated the electronic registration pathway for pilgrims.

In Qatar, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) oversees the registration of those who wish to go to Hajj. They have also launched an electronic registration platform hajj.gov.qa. Registration opens a year before a new Hajj season.

Qatari pilgrims should at least be 16 years old and may be accompanied by five companions. Pilgrims who are Gulf citizens, meanwhile, should at least be 18 years old. They have the option to take only one companion. All pilgrims should have a valid Qatar ID.

Qatar residents who wish to join and register for Hajj should at least be 40 years old and a resident of Qatar for a period of no less than 10 years. They are also allowed to take only one companion.

Hajj may cost up to at least QAR20,000 per person and even more with Hajj campaigns organised by Hajj and Umrah travel agencies.

Author: Ola Diab

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