Ḥajj (Arabic: الحجّ) is an act of worship and one of the most important sacraments in Islam, which consists of pilgrimage to Mecca to perform special rituals. In addition to worshiping aspect, hajj has social, economic, and political aspects and it is the largest gathering of Muslims that happens once a year from the eighth to the twelfth day of Dhu l-Hijja, the 12th month of the Hijri Calendar. Adherents to all Islamic sects gather in Mecca during hajj. Undertaking the hajj at least once is a duty for Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey.
Hajj starts with ihram which is by putting on a special cloth in special places called "miqat". After ihram, the pilgrim is not allowed to do certain actions; on the other hand the pilgrim has to carry out the other rites of hajj (manasik al-hajj) which consist of staying in 'Arafat, staying in al-Mash'ar al-Haram, going to Mina, ramy al-jamarat (stoning the pillars), sa'y between al-Safa and al-Marwa, tawaf al-nisa' and its prayer, tawaf al-ziyara and its prayer, and sacrifice.
Etymology and Terminology
Literally, the Arabic word "hajj" or "hijj" means a proof, demonstration or an intention of doing something important. In Islamic scripts and sources including jurisprudential books, hajj is embarking on a journey to Ka'ba to perform special rites during a specific time. According to faqihs (jurists) hajj is a set of actions performed in certain places in Mecca. The set of the acts of worship performed during hajj is called "manasik al-hajj" (the rites of hajj). The word "manasik" (plural form of mansak) means the place or time of an act of worship, worshiping, or the place of slaughtering (the sacrifices in hajj). However, it is used for all the rites that a pilgrim performs in Mecca.