/Arafa, Day of Pilgrimage

Arafa, Day of Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage is the final pillar of the Five Pillars of Islam. The other pillars are the confession of faith, prayer, giving of alms, and fasting. Dhu al-hijja is the twelfth and final month of the Islamic calendar. All Muslims who are able, can afford to and whose health allows it, are obliged to make the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca once in their lifetime. Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. In the centre of the Holy Mosque is a cube-shaped building, the Ka’aba, which is symbolic of one God. During hajj, pilgrims take part in tawaf (circumambulation) or walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’aba, which is the direction of prayer for all Muslims. During hajj the pilgrims also walk seven times between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah (sa’i). This is to remember the mother of the Prophet Ismail son on Ibrahim, Hajar, who sought water for her son between the two hills. She found the Zamzam Well, which to this day still gives water.
Every year, some 2.5 million Muslims make hajj. It is the world’s largest annual peace event. Muslims from around the world and different classes of society gather in Mecca in response to God’s call. All dress modestly, and men tend to wear ihram, two white sheets of cloth. Hajj strengthens the sense of cohesion and equality among Muslims, as well as a feeling of mutual brotherhood and sisterhood. When Muslims have made hajj in good faith, God forgives their sins.
The pilgrimage begins on the eighth day of Dhu al-hijja and culminates on the ninth day of the month, when all the pilgrims gather on the plains of Arafat outside Mecca, where they pray from afternoon until sunset. The pilgrimage ends on the twelfth or thirteenth day of Dhu al-hijja. Those who do not make the pilgrimage in a year usually fast on the Day of Arafa. After the month of Ramadan, it is the best day for fasting.