Key Hajj Information
The pillars (Arkan) of Hajj are the rites that are compulsory for the validity and completion of the Hajj.
- Ihraam (with niyah).
- Wuqoof-bil-Arafat (Standing at Arafat).
- Tawaaf-al-Ifadah (Tawaaf for Hajj).
- Sa'ee for Hajj.
The Wajib (obligatory) rites of Hajj
The obligatory rites of Hajj are the rites that if omitted require the pilgrim to offer a Fidyah (expiation). This is a sacrifice commonly known as dumm. Many scholars rule that if these rites are omitted intentionally (premeditated) without any valid reason, then the Hajj is incomplete.
- Ihraam at the meqaat.
- Being at Arafat until sunset.
- To spend the night (or part of) in Muzdalifah.
- To ramy (cast pebbles) at the jamr'at.
- To shave the head or cut the hair.
- To spend the nights of Tashreek in Mina.
- To perform Tawaaf-al-Wadaa. (Menstruating women may omit this without expiation.
1st of Dhul-Hijja
Issue of the moon
In Saudi Arabia there is an official calendar that is used for business and other date-required events, except for the start of Ramadaan, Shawaal and Dhul-Hijja.
For the start and end of Ramadaan and for the start of Dhul-Hijja the practice is for any citizen to try and see the Hilal (crescent) and report it to the authorities. They will “verify” it and make the announcements on the radio and the television. If nobody sights the moon on the 29th then the month is automatically 30 days (as per the sunnah).
Cleaning of the Ka'bah
The cloth (known as the Kiswat) is changed on the day of Arafat, 9th of Dhul-Hijja. (You will not be able to see this, as you will be on Arafat.)
On the 10th of Dhul-Hijja when you are back in the Haram for Tawaaf-al-Ifadah, you will notice the striking black (with gold inscriptions) new cloth on the Ka'bah. (It is sight to remember!)
Arafat Day announcement and Hajji-Akbar
Most years the announcement of which day Arafat will be is made about 3-4 days into the month (Dhul-Hijja).
Is there such a thing as “Hajji-Akbar”?
Many people believe that if Arafat is on a Friday, there is more reward and they call it "Hajji-Akbar (Big Hajj)".
No, there is no such thing as “Hajji-Akbar”.
Yes, it is true that Arafat day was on a Friday during the Farewell Pilgrimage of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). However, there is no evidence from Qur'an or the sunnah that there is anything special about Arafat being on a Friday, apart from the best day of the week, and the best day of the year, being on the same day.
Disappointed? Don't be! Look at it this way. If Arafat is on Thursday or Saturday, then you have the best day of the week (Friday) and the best day of the year (Arafat) to seek Allah's Mercy and Blessings.
There is more good news: “Every year is Hajji-Akbar”. The 10th day of Dhul-Hijja is mentioned in the Qur'an by Allah as: "Yaum-ul-Hajjil-Akbar".
According to the scholars this day is called the greatest day, owing to the number of rites to be performed on this day (i.e. stoning, sacrifice, halq or qasr, Tawaaf-al-Ifadah and sa’ee for Hajj).
"And a declaration from Allah and His Messenger to mankind on the greatest day (the 10th of Dhul-Hijja) that Allah is free from (all) obligations to the Mushrikin and so is His Messenger..." Surah At-Taubah (9:3)
What to Expect
Expect the Unexpected! Experience has taught us that the best of plans and preparation can go wrong at the last moment due to circumstances that will be totally beyond your control. Leave it all up to Allah...
The official statistics show that in 1983 a record number of pilgrims performed Hajj, which was in excess of 3 million. There are on average 2 million people performing Hajj each year.
If Hajj (Arafat day) is on a Friday, this number increases dramatically and can reach 2.5 to 2.8 million people. (These numbers include the local residents who are performing Hajj.)
It is unlikely that the number of pilgrims will go much higher than this as the Saudi authorities have implemented a quota system to regulate the number of pilgrims from the various countries. Since 1999 a new rule was implemented to restrict all local residents as well to once every 5 years.
You have to be patient and be mentally prepared. Remember that all these people are here for the same reason you are. You cannot avoid it!
Most packages provide food for the Hajj days. If it was not included in your original package then you may have to pay extra for it.
Even though there are many arguments about the quality and timing of the food, we strongly recommend you take at least one for every two people. You may wish to check with the agent providing the food whether it will be pre-packed meals or meals cooked in big pots and served by plate directly from the pot. If it is pre-packed meals, then be sure that you will be eating cold food for the next 5 days.
Be prepared to have lunch at 3pm, dinner at 11pm etc. Lunch is when the food arrives.
There are no “real” food shops in Arafat and Muzdalifah. If you did not opt to take the food, make sure you have enough eatables for Arafat and Muzdalifah. You will be very hungry in Muzdalifah, so take something for late dinner as well as breakfast.
Although there are many shops in Mina to buy food from, keep some dry biscuits, dates, water and fruit with you. On one occasion there was a cholera outbreak in Mina, so the pilgrims were advised not to buy any food from the streets.
The price of everything doubles in Mina. Officially it is not supposed to, but be prepared to pay double for drinks and tea, and also double the normal price for most fruit.
Always a keep a flask of water with you and drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration. Also only eat fruit that requires it to be peeled, such as oranges and bananas.
Some of the bus journeys can be very long, so the water and biscuits come in handy. A small packet of sweets is also useful to give you some glucose.
Avoid getting into any arguments in Mina and Arafat about the food.