The hajj, which draws about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims to sacred sites in and around Mecca, is the largest religious gathering in the world.
Muslims who are physically able and can afford to make the trip gather from around the world to pray and practice their faith together.
The ritual goes back to Abraham, the common ancestor of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Abraham had a child with his servant, Hagar, a baby named Ishmael. Many of the rituals are based on a story in which Hagar, left alone in the desert with the baby, finds food and water to keep them both alive.
The hajj rituals are deeply important to Muslims. They are very well explained here and here. But the best way to learn about the hajj, and Islam, is by becoming friends with Muslims you may know and asking them questions about their faith.
In learning more about Islam, it’s interesting to note what an important role the number five plays in Islam. There are five pillars of Islam, which includes proclaiming that there is only one God, promising to donate generously to charitable works, fasting during Ramadan, daily prayer, and performing the hajj pilgrimage.
The hajj lasts five days and has a number of activities that must be performed or the hajj is invalid.
Finally, Muslims pray five times each day.
In other faiths, different numbers and rituals take on important meaning. Learning more about other religions helps us understand our beliefs even better.
Here are some great resources geared toward children to help them learn more about Islam.