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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:33 PM
Q. When is the Hajj?


A.

Every year, millions of Muslims gather in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage, called Hajj. Arriving from every corner of the globe, pilgrims of all nationalities, ages, and colors come together for the largest religious gathering in the world. One of the five "pillars of faith," pilgrimage is a duty upon every Muslim adult who is financially and physically able to make the journey. Every Muslim, male or female, strives to make the trip at least once in a lifetime.

During the days of the Hajj, millions of pilgrims will gather in Mecca, Saudi Arabia to pray together, eat together, remember historical events, and celebrate the glory of Allah.

The pilgrimage occurs during the last month of the Islamic year, called "Dhul-Hijjah" (i.e. "The Month of Hajj").

The pilgrimage rites occur during a 5-day period, between the 8th - 12th days of this lunar month. The event is also marked by the Islamic holiday "Eid al-Adha," which falls on the 10th day of the lunar month.

In the year 2005-2006 (Islamic year 1426 H.), the pilgrimage will fall during early January 2006.

The Eid holiday is expected to be on or around January 10, 2006.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:34 PM
Q. Is every Muslim required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca?

A.
Performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is required of every adult Muslim, male or female, if physically and financially possible. Many Muslims spend their entire lives saving and planning for this journey; others make the pilgrimage more than once if they are able.

The requirements for performing the pilgrimage are as follows:

* Maturity and sound mind, in order to understand the significance of the pilgrimage experience;
* Physical capability to travel and perform the pilgrimage rites;
* Financial stability, free of debt, so that one is able to bear the pilgrimage expenses as well as provide for dependents during travel.

For one who meets these criteria, performing the pilgrimage is obligatory.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:35 PM
Q. How does one arrange to go for Hajj?

A.


If one wants to travel for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj), can one just get on the plane and go? Unfortunately it's not that simple.

In recent years, the annual pilgrimage has drawn crowds of nearly 3 million people. The logistics of providing housing, transportation, sanitation, food, etc. for such large numbers of people require a great deal of coordination. The government of Saudi Arabia has therefore instituted policies and procedures that potential pilgrims must follow in order to ensure a safe and spiritual pilgrimage experience for all. These policies and procedures include:

* All potential pilgrims must apply for a Hajj visa through a qualified travel agent in their home country. Here is a list of authorized agents in the United States.
* All foreign travel agents must be pre-approved by the Ministry of Hajj and have a partnership contract with a local (Saudi) Hajj provider.
* All qualified travel agents and their Saudi partners are responsible for providing their Hajj group with travel documents, transportation and housing throughout the Hajj experience.
* Quotas have been placed on the number of pilgrims from each country, and in some cases on the number of times any one individual can perform the pilgrimage within a certain number of years.
* In order to obtain a Hajj visa, a pilgrim must apply through a qualified travel agent to their country’s Saudi Embassy.

The visa application must include:
o a passport valid for the next 6 months
o 2 visa photographs
o A completed visa application
o Roundtrip airline ticket
o Proof of vaccination against meningitis and ACYW 135
o Proof of relationship for accompanying mahram for ladies
o Fee for pilgrimage services; check with local embassy for current fees
o Proof of legal residence for those who are not citizens of the country from which they are applying
o Islamic certificate, notarized by an Islamic Center, for those who have converted to Islam
* Pilgrims must leave Saudi Arabia by the 10th of Muharram, about a month after the completion of Hajj.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:36 PM
Q. Why are only Muslims allowed to visit the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia?

A.
These are cities of great importance in Islamic tradition -- centers of pilgrimage and prayer, sacred places where Muslims are free from the distractions of daily life. The ban on non-Muslim visitors is mentioned in the Qur’an as follows: "Oh you who believe! Truly the idolaters are unclean; so let them not, after this year, approach the Sacred Mosque...." (9:28). This verse specifically refers to the Grand Mosque in Mecca; later scholars have included Madinah in this ruling as well. There are some Islamic scholars who would permit exceptions to this general rule, for trade purposes or for people who are under treaty permission. There is also some debate about the exact area and borders of the restricted area(s). The government of Saudi Arabia, which controls access to the holy sites, has decided upon a strict ban on both cities in their entirety.

Restricting access to Mecca and Madinah is intended to provide a place of peace and refuge for Muslim believers and preserve the sanctity of the holy cities.

At this time, millions of Muslims visit the cities each year, and additional tourist traffic would simply add to the congestion and detract from the spirituality of the pilgrimage visit.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:37 PM
Q. Can pilgrimage be made only during the designated days of Hajj?

A.

The Hajj must be performed during a specific period of time in the Islamic calendar, beginning on the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah (the "month of Hajj"), the 12th month in the Islamic calendar. The dates of the Hajj have been set since ancient times, when the Prophet Abraham first called people to make the pilgrimage.

"Proclaim the pilgrimage among people; they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways. That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, throughout the appointed days..." (Qur'an 22:27-28).

Muslims believe that these "appointed days" (beginning with the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah) have been set since the time of Abraham, and were recognized and practiced by the Prophet Muhammad.

However, there is another type of pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the umrah (lesser pilgrimage), which may be performed any time during the year.

During umrah, Muslims observe some of the same pilgrimage rites as during Hajj. However, while this experience is commendable, it does not relieve one from the requirement of performing the Hajj during the appointed annual time.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:37 PM
Q. What do Muslims wear during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca?

A.

When undertaking the pilgrimage, Muslims shed all signs of their wealth and societal distinctions by donning simple white garments, commonly called ihram. The required pilgrimage dress for men is two white cloths, one of which covers the body from the waist down, and one that is gathered around the shoulder. Women usually wear a simple white dress and headscarf, or their own native dress. The ihram is a symbol of purity and equality, and signifies that the pilgrim is in a state of devotion.

While wearing ihram, there are other requirements that Muslims follow in order to focus their energy on spiritual devotion. Harming any living thing is forbidden -- no hunting, fighting, or vulgar language is permitted. Vanity is discouraged, and Muslims approach pilgrimage in as natural a state as possible: excessive perfumes and colognes are not used; hair and fingernails are left in their natural state without trimming or cutting.

Marital relations are also suspended during this time, and marriage proposals or weddings are delayed until after the pilgrimage experience is completed.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:38 PM
Q. What is the significance of the first 10 days of Dhul-Hijjah?

A.

Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj) is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar year. It is during this month that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, known as Hajj, takes place. The actual pilgrimage rites take place on the 8th to 12th days of the month.

According to the Prophet Muhamamad, peace be upon him, the first ten days of this month are a special time for devotion. During these days, preparations are underway for those who are undertaking the pilgrimage, and most of the actual pilgrimage rites occur. In particular, the 9th day of the month marks the Day of Arafat, and the 10th day of the month marks the Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice). Even for those who are not traveling for the pilgrimage, this is a special time to remember Allah and spend extra time in devotion and good deeds.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:39 PM
Q. What is the meaning and significance of the Day of Arafat?

A.

The 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj) is called the Day of Arafat. This day is the culminating event of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The Day of Arafat falls on the 2nd day of pilgrimage rituals. At dawn of this day, nearly 2 million Muslim pilgrims will make their way from Mecca to a nearby hillside and plain called Mount Arafat and the Plain of Arafat. It was from this site that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, gave his famous Farewell Sermon in his final year of life.

During the entire day, from dawn until sunset, Muslim pilgrims stand in earnest supplication and devotion, praying for God's abundant forgiveness.

Tears are shed readily as those who gather make repentance and seek God's mercy, recite words of prayer and remembrance, and gather together as equals before their Lord. Muslims around the world who are not participating in the pilgrimage often spend this day in fasting and devotion.
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sonz
12-25-2005, 04:40 PM
Q. What happens after one performs Hajj?

A.

When the pilgrims return to their home countries after the journey of Hajj, they return spiritually refreshed, forgiven of their sins, and ready to start life anew, with a clean slate. Family and community members often prepare a celebration to welcome pilgrims home and congratulate them on completing the journey. Those who have performed the Hajj are often called by an honorific title, “Hajji,” (one who has performed the Hajj).
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