Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah). It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. It is the fifth pillar of Islam. Like other pillars, it was instituted by the all-Wise and all-Knowing to help humans realize their full potential.
Hajj is an obligation that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. It is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to Allah. And they are primarily intended to instill true consciousness of Almighty Allah in us and to make us aware of our real purpose in life.
The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.
Benefits of Hajj
The following are some of the most important benefits of Hajj:
1. It deepens our awareness of the Oneness of Allah and helps us to be God-centered;
2. It teaches us the oneness of the human family under the Lordship of One God;
3. It helps us to develop a feeling of universal human brotherhood;
4. Finally, it enables us to renew our faith by making us aware of the transient nature of this life and our final standing before the Lord on the Day of Judgment.
Pillars of Hajj (according to the Shafi`i School) :
1. Intention and ihram
2. Standing in the plains of Arafat
3. Performing Tawaf Al-Ifadah
4. Performing ritual of Sa`i (running) between the hills of Safa and Marwah
5. Shaving or trimming the hair.
Essentials of Hajj
The essentials (wajibat) of Hajj are the following :
1. Ihram at the prescribed station (miqat) or prior to reaching there. It must be done during the months of Hajj.
2. Pelting the stone pillars.
3. Sacrifice for those who perform tamattu` or qiran forms of Hajj. If they cannot afford it, they can expiate through fasting.
4. Shunning all the sinful activities and all actions and behavior that may invalidate the Hajj.
5. Tawaf of arrival is essential according to Malikis, although no one denies its importance.
6. Salah of Tawaf is essential according to Hanafis, but others consider it a Sunnah.
7. Sa`i between the two hills is an essential according to Hanafis, which can be compensated for by sacrifice if a person misses it; but others consider it as rukn.
8. Shaving or trimming of hair is wajib according to three schools; it is rukn according to Shafi`i.
9. Farewell Tawaf is essential (wajib)according to imams Abu Hanifah, Shafi`i, and Ahmad; but it is sunnah according to Imam Malik (may Allah be pleased with them all).
10. Spending at least some time during the night in Muzdalifah while returning from Arafat before proceeding to Mina.
References: Islamonline.net and other site