Amir al-Hajj:
the official leader of the Hajj caravan.
Amir al-Mu’minin:
Commander of the Faithful, one of the tiles of the Caliphs.
the desert plain 15 miles east of Mecca. At its centre is the Mount of Mercy (Jabal al-Rahma). It is here that the vigil known as wuquf (standing) takes place from noon to sunset on the 9th Dhu al-Hijja. This is the high point of the Hajj. ‘Arafat is where the Prophet Muhammad gave his Farewell Sermon in 632, the year of his death.
the phrase bismillah al-rahman al-rahim, the invocation ‘in the name of God the Merciful the Compassionate’.
The Black Stone:
the large stone set into the south-eastern corner of the Ka‘ba about four feet from the ground.
veil; a term used along with sitara for the covering of the Ka‘ba.
from Arabic khalifa, successor or follower. Title given to the leaders of the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632.
Dhu al-Hijja:
the last lunar month of the Islamic calendar, during which the Hajj takes place.
Eid al-Adha:
the feast of sacrifice. The festival which marks the formal end of the Hajj and continues for a further three days. It takes place on the 10th of the month of Dhu al-Hijja. For Hajj pilgrims the Eid occurs while they are at Mina.
The Five pillars of Islam:
five principles that are central to Muslim belief: shahada, the Profession of Faith:‘there is no god but God, Muhammad is the prophet of God’; salat, the five prayers that are performed daily; zakat, the giving of alms; ramadan, fasting during the 9th Islamic month; the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.
the traditions which relate to the life, sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad. It refers to the complete body of traditions (The Hadith) or to single texts (a hadith).
sanctuary; refers to the entire sanctuary area at Mecca. At the centre is the Ka‘ba which stands in an open space enclosed by porticoes. It also contains various other structures including the Maqam Ibrahim, the Hijr and the Zamzam well (see separate entries). The area immediately surrounding the Ka‘ba is known as al-Masjid al-Haram as it was once regarded as a mosque.
the two sanctuaries. Refers to the Haram at Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque (al-Masjid al-Nabawi) at Medina.
a former kingdom in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia which contains the cities of Mecca and Medina.
an area of particular sanctity within the Haram on the north-western side of the Ka‘ba. It is defined by a low semi-circular wall known as hatim and is identified in Muslim tradition as the burial place of Isma‘il and Hagar.
flight or emigration. Refers to the Prophet Muhammad’s departure from Mecca in 622 and gives its name to the Muslim lunar calendar. 622 is year 1 of the Islamic (Hijra) calendar.
the belt embroidered with verses from the Qur’an which is attached to the kiswa and goes all around the Ka‘ba.
The state of purification that is entered into in order to be able to perform Hajj or ‘Umra. The term also applies to the clothes that are worn during these rituals. For men this is two pieces of seamless white cloth, one fixed round the waist and the other covering the top of the body. Women’s ihram consists of a modest dress which can be any colour, although many choose white. The ihram is donned at the miqat which mark the boundaries of the sacred area around Mecca (see below).
religious leader and one who leads the prayers.
(sing. jamra meaning pile of stones). These are the three pillars in the valley of Mina close to Mecca which represent the three times that Satan attempted to tempt Ibrahim. On each occasion the angel Gabriel urged him to throw stones at Satan to demonstrate his refusal. Pilgrims throw 49 stones at the jamarat over several days which they will have collected at Muzdalifa. They are known as jamrat al-‘Aqaba (at the narrow pass of al-‘Aqaba, and the largest), al-jamra al-wusta (the middle one) and al-jamra al-sughra (the small one).
Khadim al-Haramayn:
Servant or Custodian of the Two Holy Sanctuaries. A title first adopted by the Ottoman sultans and used by the rulers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
garment or robe; the outer black cloth placed over the Ka‘ba which is replaced every year during Hajj. Also used to describe the covering of the mahmal (see below).
mahmal (or mihmal):
the fabric-covered palanquin carried on a camel which was sent every year with the official Hajj caravan to Mecca.
Maqam Ibrahim:
the station or standing place of Ibrahim, close to the Ka‘ba within the Haram at Mecca. According to Muslim tradition it is where Abraham stood in prayer or, where he stood when building the Ka‘ba. In the Ottoman era a kiswa was made for it. Now it is covered with a brass structure.
see Safa.
see Safa.
the niche within a mosque or shrine which indicates the direction (qibla) of Mecca.
Masjid al-Haram:
see Haram.
a valley about 5km miles east of Mecca where pilgrims go to on 8th Dhu al-Hijja where they camp overnight before going to ‘Arafat.
five stations in a radius bordering the sacred territory of Mecca where pilgrims purify themselves and put on the ihram before going on Hajj or ‘Umra. Also known as miqat makani (fixed place). These are Dhu al-Hulayfa, close to Medina about 300km from Mecca; Juhfa, 190km to the north-west; Qarn al-Manazil, 90km to the east; Dhat Irq, 85km to the north-east and Yalamlan, 50km to the southeast.
a plain about 5.5km from ‘Arafat where pilgrims will pick up the stones needed to stone the jamarat.
the direction of prayer towards the Ka‘ba at Mecca.
journey; refers to a genre of travel literature which includes Hajj narratives.
one of two hills, the other being Marwa, within the Haram at Mecca about 1,350m long between which Isma‘il’s mother, Hagar, is said to have run in search of water. The running is known as Sa‘i and the area in which the activity takes place is mas‘a (the place of hurrying).
see Safa.
see Five pillars of Islam.
see Five pillars of Islam.
Shi ‘a:
party or faction. Refers to the ‘party of ‘Ali’, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. Shi‘is believe that the leadership of the Muslim community passed from Muhammad through ‘Ali to his descendants. The major schism between Sunnis and Shi‘a took place in 680 at the battle of Kerbela during which Hussein the third imam was martyred.
curtain; also known as burqu‘, used to denote the curtains made for the interior and exterior doors of the Ka‘ba.
mystic or dervish who may belong to one of a number of orders known as tariqa.
the largest branch of Islam. Refers to orthodox Muslims, known as Sunnis, who adhere to one of four schools of Islamic law, and who follow the tradition or practice (sunna) established by the Prophet Muhammad.
chapter of the Qur’an.
from the Arabic surra, meaning purse. The Hajj caravan to Mecca during the Ottoman era.
acclamation; prayer that is chanted when pilgrims begin the Hajj or ‘Umra. ‘Labbayk allahumma labbayk… ’ ‘Here I am, Lord, responding to Your call [to perform the Hajj]. Praise belongs to You, all good things come from You and sovereignty is yours alone.
circumambulation; a key element of the Hajj rituals. Performed seven times around the Ka‘ba anti-clockwise, starting from the eastern corner in which the Black Stone is embedded. The tawaf al-wada‘, the farewell tawaf, is the last rite of Hajj.
embroidery; inscribed fabrics made in state workshops, also the inscriptions used on such fabrics.
the elaborate monogram that represents the signature of the Ottoman sultan.
the community of Muslims.
the ‘minor’ or ‘lesser’ pilgrimage which can be performed at any time of year and only involves the rituals of tawaf and sa’i.
see ‘Arafat.
the spring that emerged when Hagar was searching for water in the desert. It is believed to have appeared when Isma‘il kicked his heel in the sand. The well is situated within the Haram at Mecca. Pilgrims will often take Zamzam water home with them as a souvenir of Hajj.
visit; often refers to visiting the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina, or to the ritual of visiting the graves of other revered figures such as those of the Shi‘i imams.

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council