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When is Hajj 2017? Dates for the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca

What is Hajj?

Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca that Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime. 
The word, sometimes spelt ‘Haj’, translates into English as ‘to intend a journey’. 
Each year, millions of Muslims descend on Mecca for the Hajj to give thanks to Allah and stand before the Kaaba at Islam’s most sacred Mosque.
The ancient ritual is the largest annual religious gathering of people in the world. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, making it one of the most important traditions in the Muslim faith. 
All Muslims are required to take part in the Hajj at least once, provided they are physically and financially able to make the journey. 

When is Hajj?

Hajj takes place from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu al-Hijja, the final and most holy month in Islam. 
The Islamic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon, so the exact dates of the Hajj move 10 to 11 days earlier every year. 
The pilgrimage is expected to take place between Wednesday 30 August and Monday 4 September in 2017, depending on official moon sightings in Saudi Arabia. 

What happens at Hajj?

During the Hajj pilgrimage, Muslims perform a series of rituals and follow a number of strict rules.
Pilgrims are forbidden from having sexual intercourse, shaving, washing with scented soap and fighting or arguing during the Hajj.
Muslims are permitted to add the title ‘Hajji’ to their names once they have completed the pilgrimage. 
Here is a breakdown of what happens during the Hajj. 

Ihram
Upon arrival in Mecca, pilgrims enter a state of Ihram, or purity, to prepare themselves for the pilgrimage.
Men are required to wear special Ihram clothes, which consist of simple white sheets and sandals, while women should wear white with only the face and hands uncovered. 
Tawaf 
Tawaf is the famous ritual where Muslims walk anti-clockwise around the Kaaba - the cube shaped building that all Muslims kneel towards when praying. 
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah
Pilgrims either run or walk between the mountains of Safa and Marwah seven times, as Abraham’s wife Hagar is said to have done when searching for water. 
Mount Arafat
On the second day of Hajj, Muslims stand in vigil at Mount Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon. 
Stoning the Devil
Pilgrims perform a ritualistic stoning ceremony in which they throw pebbles at three walls, symbolising how the prophet threw stones to ward off the Devil. 
Eid al-Adha
The Eid al-Adha begins on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijja and marks the start a three-day festival in Islam.
Traditionally, Muslims were required to slaughter an animal at the start of Eid, but pilgrims can now buy vouchers to represent an animal sacrifice. 
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