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Five Pillars

Belief | Worship | Fasting | Almsgiving | Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage (Hajj)
The fifth Pillar of Islam is to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's lifetime, if one is able, during the first days of Dhu'l-Hijja, the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar.

People who have performed this pilgrimage, called in Arabic hajj, earn the epithet hajji, which is a title of great respect. Before entering Mecca, the pilgrim dons a special garment made of two seamless white cloths. The ceremonies of the pilgrimage are associated with the prophet Abraham and center on the Kaaba, which Muslims believe to be the house that Abraham erected for God.

The pilgrimage then moves to Arafat, a plain some 12 miles east of the city, where the ceremonies culminate on the tenth day of the month in the Feast of the Sacrifices. Livestock is sacrificed in commemoration of Abraham's readiness to offer his son Ismail, and the meat is distributed to the poor. This event is also known as the Great Feast, and it usually lasts three or four days.

In contrast to the spontaneous cheer with which people celebrate the end of Ramadan, the celebration of the Great Feast is a more solemn holiday. Although a visit to the Prophet's mosque and gravesite in Medina is not an official part of the pilgrimage, most pilgrims include it in their trip.