Hajj: journey of a lifetime
Each year thousands of Muslims make the pilgrimage to the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. Abdul Rashid Gatrad and Aziz Sheikh outline some of the health implications of undertaking this sacred journey
Ever since childhood, five times a day, many a Muslim will have turned his whole being in prayer towards the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Journeying to Mecca for Hajj (pilgrimage) is therefore no ordinary undertaking. For many Muslims, Hajj represents the culmination of years of spiritual preparation and planning. Once they have completed the pilgrimage, pilgrims are given the honorific title Hajji (pilgrim).
Hajj commemorates the patriarch Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in biblical times. Performing Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is therefore obligatory for all adult Muslims who can afford to undertake the journey and are in good health. Hajj lasts for five days, and, as the Islamic calendar is lunar, the precise Gregorian calendar dates of the Hajj season will vary each year. Muslims travel to Mecca at other times to perform a lesser pilgrimage called Umrah.