The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of
Islam. Every Muslim who is physically or financially able must
make the Hajj once in a lifetime.
The four days recall events in the life of the prophet
Abraham. Muslims trace their lineage to his first son,
Ishmael. Abraham left the infant Ishmael and the boy's mother,
Hagar, in the valley where Mecca is now located, believing
that God would care for them.
Muslims believe that God asked Abraham to sacrifice
Ishmael, then spared the boy after Abraham showed his
willingness to obey the command.
The Prophet Muhammad spelled out the practice of the Hajj.
Here are some of the major activities or rituals:
• Circling of the Ka'aba, the stone building Muslims
believe was originally built by Abraham and Ishmael. All
Muslims pray facing the direction of the Ka'aba.
• Running between two small hills near the Ka'aba to
re-enact Hagar's search for water to offer to Ishmael.
• Standing to pray at Mount Arafat is the climax, when
pilgrims gather in the presence of God.
• Stoning three pillars representing Satan's temptation of
Abraham and the pilgrim's rejection of evil deeds.
• Cutting the hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.
• Sacrificing an animal and remembering Abraham's
willingness to sacrifice his son. To observe the holiday, U.S.
Muslims may donate money to charities that slaughter animals
in other countries and give the meat to the poor.
Sources: Council on American-Islamic Relations,