The Hajj (/hæ/;[1] Arabic: حَجّ Ḥajj "pilgrimage"; sometimes also spelled Hadj, Hadji or Haj in English) is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia,[2] the holiest city for Muslims. Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and of supporting their family during their absence from home.[3][4][5]

Pilgrims at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca on Hajj in 2010
Coordinates21°25′22.3″N 39°49′32.6″E
CountrySaudi Arabia
Attendance2,489,406 (2019)

(10,000 limit in 2020 due to COVID-19)

(expected 60,000 limit in 2021 due to COVID-19)
Air-conditioned tents in Mina city (Saudi Arabia), 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away from Mecca.

In Islamic terminology, Hajj is a pilgrimage made to the Kaaba, the "House of God", in the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat and Sawm or fasting of Ramadan. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah).[6][7] The word Hajj means "to attend a journey", which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.[8]

The rites of pilgrimage are performed over five to six days, extending from the 8th to the 12th or 13th[9] of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.[10] Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year. In 2021 AD (1442 AH), Dhu al-Hijjah extends from 11 July to 8 August.

The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century AD, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of millions of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba (a cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for Muslims), trots (walks briskly) back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah seven times, then drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. After the sacrifice of an animal (can be accomplished by using a voucher (see below)), the Pilgrims then are required to either shave or trim their heads (male) or trim the ends of their hair (female). A celebration of the three-day global festival of Eid al-Adha proceeds thereafter.[11][12][13][14]

Muslims may also undertake an Umrah (Arabic: عُمرَة), or "lesser pilgrimage" to Mecca at other times of the year. However the Umrah is not a substitute for the Hajj and Muslims are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime if they have the means to do so.[15]

According to the official published statistics between 2000 and 2019,[16][17][18] the average number of attendees is 2,269,145 per year, in which 1,564,710 come from outside Saudi Arabia and 671,983 are local. The year 2012 marks the highest number of participants with 3,161,573.[19]

In June 2020, while not cancelling the Hajj outright, the Saudi Government announced that they would only welcome "very limited numbers" of pilgrims who are residents of Saudi Arabia due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.[20] Similar restrictions applied in 2021, but women were permitted to attend without a male guardian (mehrem) provided they went in a trustworthy group.[21]