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According to the immediate sense of the Quranic text, every Muslim with sufficient physical stamina and financial wherewithal is obligated to perform the hajj pilgrimage once in his or her lifetime, i.e. hajjat al-Islam. In the course of performance of hajj, all Muslims, regardless of their background, don the same garb and gather together in the same place to carry out a set of rites which, with minor differences, have been performed since before the advent of Islam. In verse 28 of the Surah of Hajj (22), “That they would witness things profitable (manafi`) to them and mention God’s name on days well known,” by manafi` (benefits) is clearly meant the interests of the Islamic community (ummah) and not short term material gains. An added benefit for Muslims is to remember God on special occasions, free from jahili (pagan) superstitions; something which is occasioned during the hajj pilgrimage.
Hajj entails the performance of relatively complex rites, about whose details there are divergences among Islamic sects. The rites of hajj begin by ihram (donning of special garments) at one of the miqats (places for the wearing of special garments, located outside of the Sanctuary). From the moment of ihram (act of declaring or making scared or forbidden) to the end of hajj the pilgrim must refrain from a number of activities including sexual intercourse, carrying weapons, hunting, shedding blood, and cutting trees. Being clad in the same garments, which should be free of any stitches, and shedding all racial and material distinctions, and heeding the divine call by shouts of “labbayk” (“Here I am!”) underscore the solidarity of the Islamic ummah. Hajj takes place in a month of the same name, i.e. Dhi ’l-Hajjah. However, `umrah (the lesser hajj) can be performed throughout the year.
* source: Gorji , Abolghasem "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.411
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