What is Hajj 2022? Islamic Meaning and History Explained

For the first time since 2019, Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is going ahead without any restrictions on attendance numbers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both 2020 and 2021 had caps on the number of participants: for 2020 only 10,000 could attend, rising to 60,000 for the following year.

Hajj is an Arabic term that roughly translates to "intend to make a journey." Making this journey is one of the central pillars of Islam, and every Muslim is expected to make this expedition at least once in their life, as long as they are physically and mentally well and their absence doesn't negatively impact their families.

There are five pillars in Islam, with Hajj being the fifth pillar. The others are salat (daily prayer), shahadah (statement of faith), sawm (fasting throughout Ramadan), zakat (giving of alms).

What is Hajj 2022?

Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Islamic Help states that "it is mandatory for Muslim adults to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime. They must be of sound mind and physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. Those who complete the pilgrimage can add the title Hajji to their names."

Millions of Muslims converge in this religious event, and they will perform a series of religious customs:

  • Running seven times between the mountains of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa
  • Going to Mount Arafat
  • Walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka'aba
  • Going to Muzdalifah and then to Mina, where a symbolic stoning ritual is performed by throwing pebbles at three walls
  • Qurbani, otherwise known as sacrificing an animal
Pilgrims going to participate in Hajj
Muslim pilgrims walking with umbrellas close to Mecca on July 7, 2022 during Hajj Delil Souleiman

What is the meaning and history behind Hajj?

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and according to Islamic Relief, Hajj "is a spiritual, emotional and physical challenge".

Hajj originates back to 2,000 BCE when the prophet Ibrahim's wife, Hager, and his son were stranded in a desert with little food and water. One of the traditions of Hajj is that people must walk counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka'aba, and the Ka'aba is meant to be a shrine dedicated to Allah. It's believed that it was constructed by Ibrahim and his son. Ibrahim actually led the first Hajj, doing so in the same year that he died.

As Ahmed Versi, editor at Muslim News said, throughout Hajj "no anger is allowed, no killing, not even of a fly, nor may Hajjis scratch, just in case they kill an insect. They are not allowed to have sex; the marriage vows are temporarily broken. Human physical desires are given up for desire for God, for getting closer to Him. Hajjis may not look into a mirror, nor use perfume."