Monday (8/20) is Waqf al Arafa / Hajj Day – it begins at sundown on Sunday 8/19. The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.  It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  This religious pilgrimage is required of  all adult Muslims once during their lifetime if possible.  The Hajj begins on the 8th day of the Dhu al-Hijjah lunar month. The word Hajj means “to intend a journey” which speaks not only to the pilgrim’s journey but also to the Pilgrim’s intention and will. The Hajj re-enacts the farewell pilgrimage of the Prophet Muhammad but it is believed to stretch back to the time of Abraham. Pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy.

Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) is one of the holiest celebrations in the Islamic calendar and concludes the Hajj. This feast commemorates Abraham’s faith in God when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham’s faith was so strong that he was willing to offer his son’s life to God. God intervened and a ram was sacrificed instead. Muslims celebrate this feast world-wide with prayers and social gatherings. They wear new clothes or their native dress and visit with family and friends. On this Feast Muslims seek God’s mercy  and care for the less fortunate.

The Hajj is central to the Islamic faith and it is the largest annual gathering of people in the world. In this time when Muslims are often persecuted, misunderstood, and profiled, we pray that the celebrations will be marked with joy and peace. And we say to our Islamic brothers and sisters – we celebrate with you.

Photo: Hajj by Bilal Randeree / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0