Learn About the Practices, History and Dates of Hajj

Because Dates Vary Every Year, Muslims Need to Plan Their Pilgrimage Carefully

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The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the pilgrimage is required to do so at least once in their lives. Adherents' faith often deepens during Hajj, which Muslims view as a time for cleansing themselves of past sins and beginning anew. Drawing roughly two million pilgrims annually, the Hajj is the world's largest annual gathering of people.

Hajj Dates, 2017-2022

The exact dates of Islamic holidays cannot be determined far in advance, due to the nature of the Islamic lunar calendar. Estimates are based on expected visibility of the hilal (waxing crescent moon following a new moon) and may vary according to location. Since the Hajj takes place in Saudi Arabia, however, the world Muslim community follows Saudi Arabia's determination of the Hajj dates, which generally are announced a few years in advance. The pilgrimage takes place in the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhu al-Hijjah, from the 8th to the 12th or 13th of the month.

The dates for Hajj are as follows and are subject to change, especially as the year is further away.

2017: Aug. 30-Sept. 4

2018: Aug. 19-Aug. 24

2019: Aug. 9-Aug. 14

2020: July 28-Aug. 2

2021: July 19-July 24

2022: July 8-July 13

Hajj Practices and History

After arriving in Mecca, Muslims perform a series of rituals in the area, from walking counterclockwise seven times around the Ka'aba (in the direction of which Muslims pray each day) and drinking from a particular well to performing a symbolic stoning of the devil.

Hajj goes back to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's founder, and beyond. According to the Quran, the history of Hajj stretches back to around 2000 BCE and events involving Abraham. The story of Abraham is commemorated with animal sacrifices, although many pilgrims don't perform the sacrifices themselves.

Participants can buy vouchers that allow animals to be slaughtered in God's name on the appropriate day of the Hajj.

Umrah and Hajj

Sometimes known as the "lesser pilgrimage," Umrah allows people to go to Mecca to perform the same rituals as at Hajj at other times of the year. However, Muslims who participate in the Umrah is still required to perform the Hajj at another point in their lives, presuming they still are physically and financially able to do so.