Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. Hajj represents one of the peak experiences in the life of a Muslim. The Hajj or Pilgrimage is made to the sacred places of Islam in and around Mecca. Once in a lifetime every Muslim, man or woman, is expected, unless it is impossible, to make a pilgrimage (a hajj) to Mecca. The pilgrim should perform the duties of Hajj during the sacred month Dhul-Hijjah so as to enter with thousands of others into the annual mass observance of the circumambulation of the Kaa'ba. The Hajj formally begins on the eighth day of Zul-Hijjah - the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar.
Before performing the Hajj the pilgrims spend the Day of Arafah (ninth day of Zul-Hijjah) in Arafah. Pilgrims commit the entire day to supplication and devotion. In the evening, they move to Muzdalifa. They camp there overnight and offer various prayers. On the tenth day of Zul-Hijjah, they return to Mina and throw seven pebbles at a pillar that symbolizes Satan's temptation of Abraham. The Qur'an describes how Satan tried to persuade Abraham to not ritually murder his son Ishmael, as commanded by God.
After performing the duties of Hajj the pilgrims then sacrifice a sheep, and the meat is distributed to friends, relative and the poor. Afterwards, they return to Mecca and perform a final tawaf and sa'i. They symbolize the completion of the Hajj by cutting their hair. Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day of (Eid-ul-Adha) the Feast of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice. About 2 million Muslims complete the hajj each year. The government of Saudi Arabia has contributed significant resources to maintain the holy places and manage the crowd of pilgrims.
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