The five-day journey is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for all Muslims who are physically and financially able to undertake it. It is considered the fifth pillar of Islamic practice, along with professing faith, saying five prayers daily, giving to charity and fasting during Ramadan.
In calling Muslims to perform the hajj, the Quran says: “Proclaim to men the pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path.”
The millions of Muslims from around the world who meet each year in Saudi Arabia dress simply to mask any differences in wealth and status. Women wear plain, white dresses and headscarves. Men drape themselves in seamless, unhemmed clothing.
As a scholar of global Islam, I’ve interviewed many Muslims who have gone on the hajj. They have described to me having profound experiences on the pilgrimage, both political and spiritual.