The pilgrimage is one of the ”five pillars” of Islam and takes place every year between the 8th and 12th of the Zul-Hicce month, the last month of the Islamic calendar, at Mecca and its surroundings. In Romania, in line with Article 4 in the Statute of the Muslim Cult, the Organization of the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina is made by the Mufti of the Muslim Cult in Romania and individuals and businesses that wish to organize the hagi-umre pilgrimages must also have the approval of the Mufti.
THE MAIN STAGES OF THE PILGRIMAGE ARE:
• Entering the state of sacredness, which is done by total ablution (wash), adopting a pilgrimage outfit consisting, for men, in two pieces of cloth (white) without seams or knots, one put around the waist and the other over the shoulder covering part of the bust, and the shoes – sandals. For women there is not specific outfit besides the Islamic traditional one. Any social class distinction is thus canceled. Entering the state of sacredness is done before arriving to Mecca, usually at the Jeddah;
• Surrounding the Ka‘ba seven times – the central point of the pilgrimage, and saying a short prayer to maqām Ibrāhīm – ”the place of Abraham”, the one who, in the Islamic tradition, has restored the initial purity of the Ka‘ba sanctuary. Both are located inside the Grand Mosque of Mecca;
• Drinking water from the Zamzam river, the one that saved the life of Ismail and his mother, Hager (or Agar) driven in the desert;
• Seven times walking (ar.: sa’y) the distance (of 394 m) between the Safā and Marwah hills, in the memory of the desperate wandering of Hager and his son, Ismail, left in the desert;
• Stopping (ar.: wuqūf) during the 9th Zul-Hicce day, on the Arafat mountain (plateau), at 19 km from Mecca, from noon until midnight, in a state of meditation;
• On the 10th Zul-Hicce day, the Festival of Sacrifice begins, celebrated by sacrificing a ram or a camel in the memory of Abraham’s gesture (ar.: Ibrāhīm) to sacrifice his son, Ismail, to prove his faith in Allah; his gesture was stopped by Allah by sending a ram that was sacrificed instead of the son. The last days of the pilgrimage were spent at Mina, a locality between Arafat and Mecca, where the ”throwing stones at Satan” takes place, i.e. throwing seven pebbles in the direction of the three rocks symbolizing the devil;
• Leaving the state of sacredness on the 12th Zul-Hicce day, when the pilgrimage ends.
Besides the community ritual pilgrimage, there is also an individual pilgrimage (ar.: ‘umra), simpler (without stopping on Arafat mountain), which takes place any time of the year.
At the end of the pilgrimage to the holy places of Islam, at Mecca, the Festival of Sacrifice (Kurban Bayram) is celebrated, commemorating the gesture of sacrifice of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham for Judeo-Christians), the one who had to choose between his love for his son and worship of the Creator Allah.
To express his unconditional faith and obedience to Allah, Ibrahim is ready to sacrifice his son, Ismail, but the Creator, seeing his determination and faith, sends Archangel Gabriel with a ram on the altar of sacrifice. Thus, the blade cuts the throat of the animal and not of his beloved son. This day is celebrated by the Muslim world as the Festival of Sacrifice, annual ceremony that reconfirms the faith in Allah.
The tradition of sacrificing an animal (ram, sheep, camel, cattle or goat) by each adult and wealthy Muslim appeared in the 2nd year of Islam and its meaning is a gesture of goodwill and worship of Allah, being thankful and grateful for fulfilling aspirations.
The Kurban Bayram Feast is celebrated at the end of a pilgrimage cycle to the holy places of Islam, at Mecca, Medina, on mount Arafat, in the Valley of Mina, and on the Muzdelifa hill, with the yearly participation of over 2 million pilgrims.