The hajj is one of the largest annual religious gatherings in the world today. Known also as the fifth “pillar” (rukn) of Islam, it is a pilgrimage that all Muslims are required to undertake—to travel to the holy city of Mecca (Makkah) in western Saudi Arabia (a region known as the Hijaz) at least once in their lifetime if they are able to do so. The journey can be accomplished only between the 8th and 13th days of Dhu al-Hijja, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar. During this time, all the pilgrims, known as hajjis (or ḥujaj), must purify themselves, abstain from certain ordinary bodily practices, and don special pilgrimage garments (iḥrām). Then they perform a sequence of ritual actions at several stations ...

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