What’s a ‘hajj’?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: hajj….

Some writers are clearly well educated and deeply literate and when I picked up Patricia Hampl’s book The Art of the Wasted Day, I knew immediately that the phrase ‘deeply literate’ described her to a T.

Even though I have a reasonably large vocabulary, I underscored about a half dozen words in her book — words I wanted to examine further. One of them was the word hajj. Here is how she used it:

I hardly realized all these trips were pilgrimages sometimes spiritual, more often secular, hajjes to the homes or haunts of figure I knew — or felt I knew, people who flared alive in my mind from reading.

The Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims. The pilgrimage is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey.

The word Hajj means “to attend a journey,” which represents both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions. The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Abraham, are performed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth and ending on the thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and the Islamic year is about eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date of Hajj changes from year to year.

The Hajj is the second largest annual gathering of Muslims in the world, after the Arba’een Pilgrimage in Karbala, Iraq. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita’ah, and a Muslim who fulfils this condition is called a mustati

The photo above shows The Kaaba at al-Haram Mosque during the start of Hajj.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on June 26/19.

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