The Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is a holy pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must perform at least once in his or her life. The Hajj is a ten-day journey that begins on the eighth day of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar, and ends with Eid Al-Adha, the "Feast of the Sacrifice."
Muslims can trace the beginnings of the spiritual pilgrimage to the prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismael and their building of the Kaaba, the most sacred building in all of Islam. The Hajj was originally performed by the Prophet Muhammad and has been modified a bit through the years but survives mostly intact.
Every year, as many as 2 million Muslims from more than 70 countries embark on the Hajj. Practices include many prayers at the Kaaba, with men and women praying side by side (something not seen in other parts of Muslim society). Another common practice is traveling from Mecca to the Plain of Arafat and back, a oneway distance of nine miles. Muslims stop at the sacred sites of Mina and Muzdalifa for prayer and rituals.
The great pilgrimage ends with the Eid Al-Adha, and then pilgrims return to their home, often stopping in nearby Medina to view Muhammad's tomb.
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