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The 5 pillars of Islam
Mecca during Hajj (2009)

The Hajj ( Arabic حج, DMG Ḥaǧǧ ), also spelled Hajj , is the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca . It is the fifth pillar of the five pillars of Islam and takes place annually during the month of Dhu l-Hijjah . The great pilgrimage , the Hajj, can only be carried out during certain days of the year (8th – 12th Dhu l-Hijjah); the little pilgrimage , called ʿumra , can take place at any time.


It is very likely that the masculine Arabic word “Hajj” is related to the Hebrew word חג ( Chag “feast”), which is used in the biblical context for the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals of Pesach , Shavuot and Sukkot . The root also exists with the same meaning in Aramaic and its later runners.


Every free , adult and healthy Muslim - man or woman - who can afford it is obliged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime. The pilgrimage is anchored in the Koran as a religious duty with a certain restriction:

"And people are obliged to God to make the pilgrimage to their home - as far as they can find a way."

- Sura 3 , verse 97 : Translation: Rudi Paret

The person who has completed the Hajj, bears the honorary title of " Hajj (حاج) ».

Organization and statistics

Arafat Plain during the 2003 Hajj

The following table lists the pilgrims to Mecca broken down by year and according to whether they are Saudi citizens.
For comparison: Mecca has about 1.5 million inhabitants, Saudi Arabia about 30 million, and there are about 1,600 million Muslims.

nH / n. Chr. Saudis Non-Saudis total Proportion of non-Saudis
in total
1416/1996 784.769 1,080,465 1,865,234 58%
1417/1997 774.260 1,168,591 1,942,851 60%
1418/1998 699.770 1,132,344 1,832,114 62%
1419/1999 775.268 1,056,730 1,831,998 58%
1420/2000 571,599 1,267,555 1,839,154 69%
1421/2001 549.271 1,363,992 1,913,263 71%
1422/2002 590.576 1,354,184 1,944,760 70%
1423/2003 610.117 1,431,012 2,041,129 70%
1424/2004 592,368 1.419.706 2,012,074 71%
1425/2005 629.710 1,534,769 2,164,469 71%
1426/2006 573.147 1,557,447 2,130,594 73%
1437/2017 600.108 1,752,014 2,352,122 74%

Due to the enormous number of participants, the pilgrimages make steadily increasing demands on the organizers of the major religious event. Above all, drinking water and accommodation must be provided. The infrastructure of the region is repeatedly overloaded during the Hajj. Access to Mecca is restricted to Muslims only.


Male pilgrims wrap themselves in two white, unframed cloths before the pilgrimage and are not allowed to shave, comb, or cut hair or nails during the pilgrimage. This state of consecration is called herām (إحرام) designated. According to the Sunnah , women are not allowed to fully veil themselves or wear gloves. They are also allowed to wear the usual Islamic clothing during the Hajj. Cutting their nails etc. is also forbidden for them.


Hajj route
Symbolic devil stoning under the Jamarat Bridge (Hajj 2006)
The Kaaba during the Hajj: Pilgrims walk around the Kaaba seven times in a counterclockwise direction.

The Hajj begins on the 8th Dhu l-Hiddscha in Mecca with the entry into the state of ordination Ihram and the first Tawaf around the Kaaba. This is followed by the Sa'i - the run between the Safa and Marwa hills. Only then does the actual Hajj begin with the run to Mina . The pilgrims stay there until the next morning and then set off towards the ʿArafāt plain, 20 km east of Mecca. One of the highlights of the pilgrimage is standing in this area on the 9th of Dhu l-Hiddscha. There God is asked for forgiveness, which is the most emotional part of the pilgrimage for pilgrims. You stay in this place until sunset and then go to Muzdalifa to stay overnight.

Shortly before sunrise on the 10th of Dhu l-Hiddscha, we set off for Mina. There the rite of the symbolic stoning of the devil is performed by throwing seven (or a multiple of it such as 49 or 70) small stones onto the Jamarat al-Aqaba, which symbolizes the devil. This Jamara was a pillar in the past, was redesigned several times and is now a high wall with concave walls that is integrated into the new Jamarat Bridge , which was completed in 2009 . Then the male pilgrims shave their hair ( halq ) or shorten it, the women cut off a strand of hair ( taqsir ), which symbolizes the beginning of a new phase of life, freed from previous sins. After that, on the 10th of Dhu l-Hiddscha, sacrificial animals are slaughtered, with the pilgrims only keeping a small part for themselves and leaving the rest to the poor. This day, the Festival of Sacrifice (Idu l-Adha) , is the highest Islamic holiday and is also celebrated by Muslims who have stayed at home all over the world. After that, the state of Ihram is lifted and the things previously forbidden while wearing the pilgrim's robe are allowed again (with the exception of sexual intercourse with the spouse).

As a result, the pilgrims return to Mecca and the Kaaba , a cube-like building with a black stone, and perform the so-called Tawaf . The Kaaba is walked around seven times in an anti-clockwise direction. This is followed by the so-called Sa'i, in which the seven-fold walk between the two hills Safa and Marwa is carried out not far from it, in which the search for water as Hagar experienced it is to be modeled (see also Zamzam well ). The pilgrims spend the next two or three days in Mina. There the rite of the symbolic stoning of the devil takes place again, but now three Jamarat, namely the Jamarat al-Ula, the Jamarat al-Wusta and the Jamarat al-Aqaba are pelted with seven stones each. The Hajj ends with the farewell tawaf and sa'i. The pilgrim can now return home.


Pre-Islamic origins and reorganization by Mohammed

Hajj began in pre-Islamic times. Originally it was a ritual that only included the stations in the ʿArafāt level, in Muzdalifa and in Mina , but had nothing to do with the Meccan sanctuary of the Kaaba. Due to the times when the run from the ʿArafat Plain to Muzdalifa (sunset) and the run from Muzdalifa to Minā (sunrise) took place in pre-Islamic times, it is assumed that it was originally a ritual of sun worship . The Hajj was not Islamized until the year 632, when the Prophet Mohammed performed the ritual himself on his farewell pilgrimage and reorganized it on the occasion. Among other things, he shifted the course from ʿArafa to Muzdalifa to the time after sunset and the course from Muzdalifa to Minā to the time before sunrise, in order to separate himself "from the polytheists and idol worshipers" ( ahl aš-širk wa-l-awṯān ) to discontinue. He also included the rites that applied to the Kaaba in Mecca and which were only performed during the ʿUmra in Mecca in pre-Islamic times . The name Hajj was now transferred to the combined pilgrimage ritual; the ʿUmra pilgrimage, which was especially valid for the Meccan sanctuary, continued to exist as a “small pilgrimage”. Mohammed's Hajj in the year 632, also known as the farewell pilgrimage ( ḥiǧǧat al-wadāʿ ) due to his death shortly afterwards , became the norm for this ritual for all time.

Hajj in premodern times

For a long time, the most important and largest pilgrimage routes began in Cairo and Damascus. The pilgrims from the Maghreb joined the Egyptian caravan, which then traveled through Sinai to Mecca in 30 to 40 days. At the end of the 15th century it numbered thirty to forty thousand pilgrims. The Muslims from Anatolia, Iran , Iraq and Syria made up the other large caravan, which also traveled for about thirty to forty days.

The Egyptian pilgrims also brought the kiswa with them, a precious gold interwoven cloth with which the Kaaba was wrapped anew every year and which was then sold in small pieces to the pilgrims as a souvenir.

Hajj was a dangerous undertaking in the old days. Caravans of pilgrims were often attacked on their way to Mecca, for example by the Ishmaelite sect of the Qaramita (Karmatians), who even stole the black stone from Mecca in 930 and massacred the pilgrims. Later the Qarmatians took over the protection of the pilgrim caravans for considerable sums. The Egyptian Fatimids paid them 300,000 dinars a year. Sometimes one of the large caravans of pilgrims failed completely due to the politically uncertain situation.

The Hajj in Saudi Arabia

Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud conquered the two holy sites of the Muslim faith, Mecca and Medina, from King Hussein ibn Ali in 1924 and established Saudi Arabia as an absolute monarchy in 1932 . Ibn Saud proclaimed himself the protector of the holy places and, among other things, combated crimes in his territory with the aim of protecting the pilgrims. Since then, large sums of money have been and are being invested in the infrastructure required for the Hajj, for example in the five-story Jamarat Bridge , even if this infrastructure is regularly overwhelmed by the ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims. Not only is the Hajj an important source of prestige for Saudi Arabia and the Saudi dynasty, the annual pilgrims are also an important economic factor.  

Special Hajj visas are issued for pilgrims, the issuing of which regularly leads to conflicts, especially with Iran, with which Saudi Arabia competes in foreign policy. For example, Iranian citizens were not issued Hajj visas in 2016, which led to violent protests.

In 2020, Saudi Arabia decided that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pilgrims living outside the kingdom would not be allowed to enter the country to participate in the Hajj scheduled for late July. Only about 1,000 believers residing in the Kingdom were admitted to the Hajj.

Incidents during Hajj

Several thousand people have died in several incidents during the Hajj in recent years.

Mass panic
  • Panic broke out in a pedestrian tunnel on July 2, 1990, in which 1427 pilgrims were trampled to death by fleeing crowds.
  • At least 362 Muslim pilgrims died in a mass panic on January 12, 2006 during the Hajj in Minā near Mecca and more than 250 were injured.
  • According to official reports, 769 pilgrims died in a mass panic on September 24, 2015 , the third day of Hajj, in Minā near Mecca and many hundreds more were injured. Other reports go from over 2,500 to 4,173 deaths.
  • In December 1975, a gas cylinder exploded in a tent camp. 200 pilgrims died in the fire.
  • On April 15, 1997, a fire also broke out in a tent, killing 343 pilgrims. 1500 were injured.
Protests and violence
  • On November 20, 1979, a group of up to 500 radical Islamists from various Arab countries occupied the Great Mosque in Mecca, see Occupation of the Great Mosque 1979 . Thousands of believers have been taken hostage. The occupation claimed 330 lives among the hostage takers, hostages and security forces. The liberation operation was carried out by a special commando, which received special permission to enter the city as a non-Muslim.
  • On July 31, 1987, there was a violent incident between Shia pilgrims and the Saudi Arabian security forces in Mecca , killing 402 people.
  • On July 9, 1989, two bombs exploded, killing one pilgrim and injuring 16 others. As a result, the Saudi Arabian authorities beheaded 16 Shia supporters from Kuwait after the authorities initially suspected Iranian terrorists to be responsible for the attack.
Other accidents
  • On July 11, 1991, on Nigeria Airways Flight 2120, a Douglas DC-8 that was chartered for Hajj pilgrims crashed about ten minutes after taking off from nearby Jeddah Airport . All 261 people were killed on board the machine.
  • On September 11, 2015, a large construction crane fell on the great mosque in a violent squall , killing at least 107 people and injuring another 238.

Hajj prohibitions

Saudi authorities do not issue visas to Ahmadi Muslims because the Islamic World League declared Ahmadiyya supporters to be non-Muslims in 1974. They were then forbidden to enter Mecca .

House of a haj in Sheikh Abd el-Qurna


In parts of Egypt there is a special custom: when a pilgrim is absent, his house is brightly painted by the villagers who have stayed behind, with the focus being on depictions of the pilgrimage events. From this it can be seen for everyone in the area that a hādj lives there. In many countries it is customary to hold a festival on the happy return of pilgrims, to which neighbors, relatives, friends and work colleagues are invited.

People who have already made a pilgrimage are sometimes given special honorary titles (hajji) and experience an increase in reputation.

Women are only allowed to perform Hajj with a male companion - mahram . This is derived from the following hadith: “No (strange) man is allowed to retire with a (strange) woman and a woman is only allowed to travel with a mahram.” A man stood up and said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have reported me to take part in the battles of so and so and so and so, and my wife has already set out as a pilgrim! ”The Prophet said to him:“ Go after (her) and make the pilgrimage with your wife! ”(Hadith saheeh near Bukhari, no . 3006).

See also


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Suraiya Faroqhi: Ruler of Mecca - The Story of Pilgrimage . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-7608-1227-9 .
  • David Edwin Long: The Hajj Today. A Survey of the Contemporary Makkah Pilgrimage. State University of New York Press, Albany, New York State, USA 1979, ISBN 0-87395-382-7 .
  • Venetia Porter (Ed.): Hajj. Journey to the heart of Islam. (With contributions from MAS Abdel Haleem, Karen Armstrong, Robert Irwin, Hugh Kennedy and Ziauddin Sardar ). The British Museum. London 2012, ISBN 978-0-674-06218-4 .
  • Ilija Trojanow : To the holy sources of Islam. As a pilgrim to Mecca and Medina . Malik, Munich 2004, ISBN 978-3-89029-287-8 .
  • Arent Jan Wensinck u. a .: Ha djdj . In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam . Volume 3, 2nd edition. Brill, Leiden 1986, pp. 31-38.

Web links

Commons : Hajj  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hajj  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam . Volume 3, New Edition. Brill, Leiden, p. 31; see also sura 3, verse 97.
  2. Saudi Hajj Ministry, Statistics
  3. ^ General Authority for Statistics, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  4. ^ Ingrid Thurner: Destination Mecca. The pilgrimage of the Muslims as a tourist event. In: Hans Hopfinger, Harald Pechlaner, Silvia Schön, Christian Antz (eds.): Cultural factor spirituality and tourism. Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-503-14116-6 , pp. 115-142.
  5. http://www.muslim-hadsch.de/arten/praktische-grundlagen/bestrebungs-pilgerfahrt-hadsch-ut-tamattu-taqsir/
  6. ^ Hajj - Lexicon of Religions. Retrieved March 9, 2018 .
  7. Cf. Julius Wellhausen: Remains of Arab paganism . Berlin 1897, pp. 79-84.
  8. Cf. Jacqueline Chabbi: Le Seigneur des tribus. L'Islam de Mahomet . Paris 1997, pp. 361-368.
  9. Cf. al-Azraqī: Kitāb Aḫbār Makka . Ed. F. Desert field. Leipzig 1857, pp. 130f.
  10. ^ Wellhausen: Remnants. P. 83.
  11. Only around 1,000 believers are allowed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca , Zeit Online, June 23, 2020.
  12. "Hundreds Died in Mass Panic" by BBC News
  13. Jamarat Bridge Accidents ( Memento from September 2, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) at crowddynamics.com (English)
  14. Saudi's review Hajj danger points from BBC News
  15. "Why Is the Hajj Dangerous?" At slate.com (English)
  16. Mecca: Bloody climax of Hajj politics. on: stern.de
  17. More than 700 dead in mass panic near Mecca . Tagesspiegel, September 24, 2015.
  18. Number of deaths in the Hajj accident at over 1,200 , orf.at, October 8, 2015, accessed on October 8, 2015.
  19. How many people died in the Hajj disaster in Saudi Arabia? , Telepolis, October 10, 2015, accessed October 11, 2015.
  20. ^ Crane accident: the pilgrimage to Mecca should take place as planned. In: morgenpost.de. September 14, 2015, accessed September 15, 2015 .