BBC: 2006 Hajj approaches spiritual climax

A Fatwa on Purdah:Unveiling Niqab, Burqa, Chador and Hijab

More than two million Muslims have taken part in a prayer ceremony on Mount Arafat - one of the main events in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

The pilgrims will also hear a sermon modelled on the one the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have given at the site about 1,400 years ago. The ritual forms the spiritual climax of the Hajj.
New safety measures have been added to the Hajj, aimed at preventing stampedes that have killed hundreds previously.

In January, almost 400 people were killed and some 300 injured in a stampede during one of the rituals. The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is due to end on Monday. It is an obligation for all Muslims to undertake the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime, if they are physically and financially able.

White robes

The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have given his last sermon at the site of Mount Arafat. One of the major themes of that sermon was equality between men and women and rich and poor. The pilgrims are clad in identical white robes in scenes that are meant to symbolise the day of judgement. At the end of the day, thought to be one of the most important in any Muslim's life, pilgrims believe their sins will be absolved.

Security measures

On Thursday morning, pilgrims from more than 70 countries made the short journey from Mecca to the tented city of Mina five km (three miles) away, which will be their home for the next four days, and from where they perform the rituals of Hajj, marking the re-enactment of the trials of Abraham.


  1. 2006: 345 die in a crush during a stone-throwing ritual
  2. 2004: 251 trampled to death in stampede
  3. 2003: 14 are crushed to death
  4. 2001: 35 die in stampede
  5. 1998: At least 118 trampled to death
  6. 1997: 343 pilgrims die and 1,500 injured in fire
  7. 1994: 270 killed in stampede
  8. 1990: 1,426 pilgrims killed in tunnel leading to holy sites
  9. 1987: 400 die as Saudi authorities confront pro-Iranian demonstration

What is the Hajj?

Route taken by the pilgrims (Map)

1. Pilgrims perform cleansing rituals at designated stations outside Mecca. Men and women exchange their street clothes for hajj garments - stripping themselves of social distinctions and embracing their dedication to God.

2. Among other rites, pilgrims circle the Kaaba, a shrine at the center of the Grand Mosque - built by Abraham and his son - seven times counterclockwise in a procession called the Tawaf. It symbolizes placing God's House at the center of their lives. (Map)

3. On the first official day of the hajj, pigrims take a three-mile journey into Mina, where they spend the night in a massive tent city.

4. In the morning, pilgrims continue east to the Plain of Arafat, where Muslims believe Adam and Eve were reunited after leaving Eden. A daylong group vigil, in which pilgrims stand in the presence of God, marks the zenith of the hajj.

5. At sundown, the hajj loops back toward Mecca, halting at a patch of hills called the Muzdalifah, where pilgrims stop for the night, participate in a nightlong vigil, and collect stones for the next day.

6. At dawn, pilgrims cast pebbles at the Jamraat, three stone pillars that symbolize temptation - places where Satan tried to tempt Abraham from the path of God. They first throw seven stones at the largest pillar, and then stone the other two over the course of two or three days.

7. Back in Mecca, pilgrims can perform the seven turns around the Kaaba one last time before heading home. The end of the hajj is celebrated with a three-day feast.

Before the pilgrims complete the Hajj they must walk seven times round the Kaaba (a cube-like building in the centre of the city's Great Mosque) in an anti-clockwise direction. The Saudi authorities are imposing a strict quota system to try to keep the number of foreign visitors to a manageable level. At the last Hajj, earlier this year, at least 345 pilgrims died in a crush during the stone-throwing ritual of the pilgrimage. The stampede took place at the foot of the bridge of Jamarat, in Mina, where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil is said to have appeared to Abraham, and which creates a dangerous bottleneck. Since then a major rebuilding project has been undertaken and 50,000 security personnel have been mobilised. The ritual has seen many lethal stampedes, but the number of dead in January was the highest in 16 years. Pilgrims at the current Hajj are expected to take part in the ritual on Saturday. The Plain of Arafat is where it is believed Adam and Eve were reunited after leaving Eden. This is meant to be the apogee of the hajj. During the ritual, which reenacts the pilgrimage made by Muhammad in 632, sexual abstinence is imposed, and killing or even harming anyone or anything, including insects and plants, is forbidden.

In pictures: The Hajj pilgrimage Saturday, 30 December 2006, 16:20 GMT BBC

Muslims from across the world have been taking part in annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Millions massed on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca for the ritual.

The event is an obligation for all Muslims to undertake at least once in a lifetime, if they are physically and financially able.

The pilgrims went to Mina, east of Mecca, for the ritual stoning of three pillars representing Satan.

On the first day of Eid al-Adha, here they queued to have their heads shaved.

The pilgrims are marking the re-enactment of the trials of Abraham.

New safety measures were added to the Hajj, aimed at preventing stampedes that have killed hundreds in previous years.

2007 Hajj BBC Religion in Pictures

Aerial view of Mecca lit up at night

Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It is the pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Hajj takes place in the twelth month of the Islamic calendar and every Muslim who is physically and financially able must perform this pilgimage at least once in their lifetime. It is a rigorous journey - a reminder of the purpose of life and man's ultimate end.

Before going on pilgrimage, Muslims are recommended to discharge all debts, seek the forgiveness of anyone they have upset and re-establish good relations with all. Muslims believe that if their pilgrimage is accepted, all of their sins are washed away.

Three men sitting down dressed in Ihram

Meeqat and Ihram
The Meeqat is an imaginary boundary outside Mecca. It is a place where intentions regarding pilgrimage are purified and pilgrims enter into a state of Ihram. Ihram is the changing of the mental state to that which is most sacred. Pilgrims prepare to communicate with God in what is believed to be the world's most sacred ground.

All men wear the same clothing: two sheets of plain white, unhemmed cotton. This dress is a mark of equality between all humans. It is also a reminder of the shroud Muslims wear in death. For the sake of modesty, women do not have to conform to this dress and may wear any modest clothing and may not cover their face.

People walking around the Kaaba

Pilgrims first travel to the Kaaba and perform what is called 'the lesser pilgrimage'. They walk around the Kaaba seven times, praising God. Pilgrims then drink from the Zam Zam well. This well is believed to be the one Ishmael and Hagar, son and wife of Prophet Abraham, drank from when they were left in the area.

Pilgrims then walk between two mountains called Safa and Marwa, which are a distance of around 500 yards apart, seven times. This is again in remembrance of Hagar, who searched between these mountains looking for water for Ishmael, before the Zam Zam water was found.

Large area of land covered with white topped marquee tents for miles

Before and after the main Hajj, pilgrims stay in hotels. After the lesser pilgrimage, pilgrims return to their hotels. On the 8th day of the month, they remake their intentions and repeat their Ihram for the main pilgrimage.

Pilgrims travel to Mina. This a large area of land a few kilometres away from the Kaaba and is completely tented. Mina is a preparation for the following day. Pilgrims stay in tents, each of which is big enough for about 100 people. The day of Mina is a feast day. Pilgrims meet Muslims from all around the world and spend their time making friends, as well as reciting the Qur'an and remembering God.

Mountain on the plain of Arafat where dozens of people dressed in white sit in contemplation and prayer

At dawn, pilgrims then make their way to the plain of Arafat. Arafat is the most important part of the Hajj. It is a reminder of the Day of Judgement, where Muslims believe mankind will stand on a similar plain, in scorching heat, waiting for judgement. It is also a reminder of another scene on the Day of Judgement. All humans will be grouped together with those of similar belief, just as those in Hajj often group together according to country, city and language.

Muslims spend the entire day in Arafat, praying to God and thinking over the purpose of their lives. It is an extremely emotional time.

Plain of Muzdalifah at night

After the evening prayers, pilgrims make their way to Muzdalifah, another massive plain. Three million pilgrims spend the night here, under the stars, with no tents or other covering. People stay close to their groups and their guides so they do not become lost in the multitudes of people. Hajj is one of the best examples of how humans regardless of race, sex, language or status, can live without discrimination.

The process of the pilgrimage was carried out by the Prophet Muhammad in remembrance of Prophet Abraham. Muhammad performed Hajj only once in his lifetime, despite living in the city.

Pilgrims crowding around the Jamaraat throwing pebbles

The day after Arafat is Eid for the rest of the Muslim world. Pilgrims do not celebrate Eid in the normal way, however, as they have yet to complete the rites of Hajj.

After leaving Muzdalifah, pilgrims make their way over to the Jamaraat. The Jamaraat are three tall, stone pillars which represent Satan. The pillars remind pilgrims of the three temptations that were presented to Abraham as he was getting ready to sacrifice his son. Just as Abraham resisted the temptations, pilgrims symbolically reject Satan and all of life's temptations, by throwing pebbles at the pillars.


Crowd of people waiting for the Qurbani meat

On the day of Eid, Muslims must distribute what is known as Qurbani. This is the slaughter of an animal, which is then given to the poor of the community on Eid day. This is done all over the world.

Pilgrims traditionally oversaw the sacrifice of their animals themselves, but there are now too many people to do this efficiently. Therefore, Muslims buy vouchers which guarantee that an animal will be sacrificed for them. After the pilgrims have left the Jamaraat, the animal will already have been sacrificed on their behalf and the meat given to the poor.

A man with a shaved head shaving another man's head

Once the pilgrim has completed the Jamaraat rite, they cut or shave their hair and in doing so leave the state of Ihram physically. It is recommended that men shave their heads completely, but women need only cut a lock of hair. This is symbolic of being reborn and cleansing the body as well as soul. Pilgrims may now wear normal clothes and wear scent, which they were not allowed to do in the natural state of Ihram.

The next two or three nights will be spent at Mina, on each day of which pilgrims will return to the Jamaraat and throw pebbles at the pillars. The time is also spent in praying, reading the Qur'an and contemplating.

Farewell Tawaaf
The final act of Hajj is the farewell Tawaaf. Tawaaf is the Arabic word for the circling of the Kaaba seven times. After this, the Hajj is complete. Many people then visit the city of Medina, which became Muhammad's home city.

The Hajj is an act of remembrance of the footsteps of the Prophet Abraham who is revered in Islam. Abraham is regarded as the Father of the Prophets, from whose lineage came Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Both Mecca and Medina are extremely sacred lands for Muslims, because of their association with Abraham and Muhammad. It is also a reminder of death, and therefore the purpose of life.

Photos ? Peter Sanders, Faraz Mir

The Well of Zam Zam

Haj and Freedom? Not for women it seems?

Salma Said

Women are often the sacrificial lambs when Muslims have to deal with "problems" in our community. Men are unable to control their libidos so women are punished – confined to the homes, relegated to galleries (in mosques) and their voices suppressed. That women fall victim to chauvinistic laws is not surprising, considering that the community, men and women, are often fed with selective information.

Regulations around gender and haj starkly illustrate one type of chauvinism. Not too long ago the Saudi Government introduced a law that forbade women under the age of 45 from undertaking the haj without a mahram (either a husband or a man she cannot marry, like a close relative). This meant that women under 45 could go for haj only if there was a mahram willing to "take her" for haj.

Previously, women were allowed for haj in groups without a mahram. Among most schools of thought it is accepted that a woman may travel with a group of trustworthy women or even with a trusted woman companion. There is also a view that a woman may travel by herself, provided the way to haj or ‘umrah is safe. The Prophet (s) is reported to have replied to a man who complained about highway robbery, "If you lived long enough you will see that a woman will travel from Hira (in Iraq) and will perform tawaf around Ka’bah, and she will have no fear except that of Allah."

The Qur’an speaks of the peace, security and freedom from fear at Makkah. "Behold, the First Temple ever set up for humankind was indeed the one at Bakkah (Makkah): rich in blessing, and a (source of) guidance unto all the worlds. (It is) the place whereupon Abraham once stood; and whoever enters it finds inner peace and freedom from fear. Hence Pilgrimage unto the Temple is a duty owed to Allah by all people who are able to undertake it. And as for those who deny the truth, verily Allah does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds" (Qur’an 3:96-97).

We need to recall only the story of Hajar (s), to have a proper perspective of the issue. She stayed in the desert with her infant son Isma’il because of her faith in God, and her fear for God alone. She did not have a mahram, she survived with the infant by striving to take care of herself and her son with the help of God. Ibn ‘Abbas relates the incident thus: "Prophet Ibrahim (s) brought Hajar (s), his wife, and their son Isma’il (s), whom she was still nursing, and left them at the House of Allah under a tree above the Zamzam. Makkah at that time was a place where there was neither water nor any dweller. He left a bag of dates and a container of water for them. Then Ibrahim (s) turned to go away. Isma’il’s mother said to him, ‘O Ibrahim! Where are you going? And who are you leaving us to in this valley without a companion or a thing?’ She repeated this several times but he did not respond. At last she asked him, ‘Has Allah commanded you to do so?’ He answered, ‘Yes.’ Thereupon she said, ‘Then He will not let us perish!’ (Bukhari).

One cannot help but be inspired by this black slave woman who actively strove to please Allah and survive in the harsh desert. One must remember that a central person whom Muslims follow during the haj is Imama Hajar, a woman.

Women had been performing haj and ‘umrah, travelling in groups, enjoying the haram’s security and access to the Houses of Allah – which is denied to them in some parts of the world. This freedom was then snatched away from an already suppressed group within the community. If the Saudis wanted to control the numbers entering Arabia they could surely have used other methods. But it is easier and one is less likely to face resistance if one deprives a sector that already does not have a voice.

The mahram law effectively bars some Muslims from fulfilling a religious obligation (fard). There are many reverts particularly, on whom haj has become obligatory but who don’t have Muslim mahrams. This is especially true in a Muslim minority country like South Africa. The recently-formed South African Haj and ‘Umrah Council, whose task it is top ease the way for South African hujjaj, should challenge this regulation and request an exemption to this kind of discrimination.

Once a Muslim has the means to perform haj it becomes obligatory on him or her. One never knows what the future holds; deferring the haj could mean that one would lose the opportunity and means to perform it. Ibn ‘Abbas related that the Prophet (s) said: "He who intends to perform haj let him do so expeditiously, for he may well fall sick, may lose his mount (ability to bear expenses of the journey) or may be prevented by some other exigency."

The strange exemption for women over 45 indicates the mind set behind the law. It seems to be more about sex than safety. Besides the mahram law, many other (official and unofficial) regulations on haj are riddled with many prohibitions for women which cannot be attributed to the Prophet (s): they must not make ramal (brisk walk) while making tawaf; they must not jog the short distance between Safa and Marwa – the Milain Akhdarain – (even though the act is to commemorate a woman Hajar, who ran from Safa to Marwa); they must not make their way to the Hajarul Aswad or pray near the Maqam Ibrahim; and books distributed in South Africa claim they must perform all their salah in their apartments/hotels and not in the Haram; they must perform the tawaf on the outskirts and not try to get close to the Ka’bah; in a crowd of hundreds of thouands they must keep a clear distance from men; they must not say the talbiyyah aloud...

Yes, the Prophet and Allah stress that there is no need to overburden oneself. But only the individual knows the burden he or she can carry and should have the right to choose the most convenient. Gender cannot be the criterion for deciding one’s ability for these rituals.

Islamabad to impose burqa on women going on Hajj 20th June 2007

Pakistani Religious Affairs Secretary says decision follows Saudi objections about the way Pakistani women dress during Hajj.

Karachi (AsiaNews) – The Pakistani government has made abayas or burqas mandatory for women who wish to perform Hajj, Religious Affairs Secretary Wakeel Ahmed Khan said. The obligation will apply to private Hajj operators, he added

Khan made the announcement at a seminar last Sunday. He explained that for the last three years, the Saudi government has objected about the way Pakistani women dress during Hajj.

“Moreover, people designated to take care of the Hujjaj there (Khuddam) will be asked to ensure that Pakistani women there do not get out of their houses and hotels sans abayas.” he said.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is required to make the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in his or her lifetime. Many who undertake the journey are elderly people who have saved money over a lifetime to visit Makkah.

A Summary of Some Rules for Women on the Hajj:

Women's Hajj

A female pilgrim should be accompanied by her husband or a person unmarriageable to her, for Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with the son and his father) said: I heard Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) saying, "A female pilgrim should not travel except in the company of her husband or a person unmarriageable to her." A man stood and said, "O Messenger of Allah! My wife is going to perform Hajj while I have listed myself among those who will participate in a battle." He replied, "Go and perform Hajj with your wife."

The Hanafis and Hanbalis have held that a female pilgrim should be accompanied by her husband or a person unmarriageable to her. The Shafi`is have held that she may be accompanied by her husband, a person unmarriageable to her or by pious and upright women; and some said that only one pious and upright woman is enough.

The Malikis maintained that she can go in the company of a trustworthy group if she could reach Mecca in no more than full day. If a woman does not fulfill this condition and goes to perform Hajj alone without her husband or a relative unmarriageable to her, her Hajj is valid but she shall bear the sin of not abiding by the commands of Hajj. These conditions are only required in the obligatory Hajj or `Umrah.

Seeking the husband's permission to perform Hajj:

A husband has no right to forbid his wife from performing the obligatory Hajj or a votive Hajj, but he can forbid her from going on a voluntary Hajj. In this case, she is to bear the costs of the necessary companion, but neither her husband nor the relative unmarriageable to her is obliged to travel with her.

Pregnancy or menstruation:

As for the women giving birth to a child or having monthly period, they should complete the Hajj rituals except circumambulating the Sacred House. This is based on the hadith of `A'shah (Allah may be pleased with her) said: I came to Mecca while having my monthly period and performed neither circumambulation around the Sacred House nor Sa`i between Safa and Marwah. I narrated this to the Prophet (peace be upon him) who said: "Act as a pilgrim should act but avoid circumambulation until you get pure."

In case she gets impure due to menstruation or childbirth before performing the Arrival Circumambulation, she is not obliged to perform it and nothing is required from her. In case she gets impure due to menstruation or childbirth before performing the Ifadah Circumambulation, she should maintain her state of Ihram until she gets pure and then circumambulate.

Malikis, Shafi`is and Hanbalis held that her Circumambulation would not be accepted so long as she is in the state of menstruation. Hanafis maintained that her Circumambulation is valid, yet undesirable and sinful. In case she gets impure due to menstruation or childbirth after performing the Ifadah Circumambulation, she is not obliged to perform the Farewell Circumambulation.

Covering the face:

A woman in Hajj should not cover her face or wear gloves, just as a male should not cover his head. There is no difference of opinion on this issue, based on the clear statement of Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, “The Muhrimah (a female in Ihraam) should not cover her face, nor should she wear gloves.”

Having said that, it is permissible for her to cover her face if she fears the gaze of non-Mahram men upon her.

Should a woman raise her voice when saying the Talbiyah?

The talbiyah is a chant that someone performing Hajj recites throughout his or her Hajj rites. It includes the words: [I am here, O Allah, I am here. I am here, there is no god but you, I am here. Verily, all praise and all blessings and all sovereignty belong to you. There is no god but you.]

It is a Sunnah to not only say this, but to chant it loudly.

As for women, they should not raise their voice above what is needed for them to hear themselves. Ibn Al-Mundhir - rahimahullaah - said, “There is a consensus amongst scholars that the Sunnah regarding women is that they do not have to raise their voice when chanting the Talbiyah. All she is required to do is to raise her voice enough so that she can hear herself. This is the opinion of Ataa', Malik, Al-Awzaa'ee, Ash-Shaafi'ee, and it is also the opinion of the Hannabilah and the Hanafees. They feared that with her raising her voice, a fitnah make occur. For the same reason, it is not Sunnah for her to give the Adhaan for Salaah, nor the Iqaamah.”

Crowding to kiss the black stone

It is desirable that a woman should not crowd with the men to kiss the black stone. Instead, she should wave to it with her hand just like the person who cannot reach it.

Imam An-Nawawee said, “Our Ulumaa' have said that it is not desirable for a woman to kiss the black stone, nor to touch it, except at those times when the Tawaf area is light or empty, like during the night or at other times. This is because in her crowding the men it would bring hardship upon herself and hardship upon the men.”