Muslim worshippers in the UK and abroad are expected to gather for Eid al Adha and Hajj soon, as the holiest Muslim festival approaches.
The two Islamic holidays of significant importance are Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha, the former of which was celebrated in May.
August sees the celebration of Eid al Adha, a much more significant event in which Muslims are also supposed to undergo pilgrimage.
Muslim pilgrimage takes them to the holy city of Mecca, where they will undergo a selection of rituals.
What is the Hajj?
Hajj is a pilgrimage expected of every able-bodied Muslim, where scores of worshippers take to the city of Mecca.
Each year, those who are financially and physically able to take part, will journey to Saudi Arabia, where the Kaaba is kept in Mecca.
The Kaaba is the most holy relic of the Muslim religion, and is a focal point of the annual pilgrimage.
Millions of Muslims will participate in rites and festivities including walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, and spending a night in the plain of Muzdalifah.
Muslims will also throw stones at the pillars of Islam in a symbolic banishing of the Devil.
What is the meaning behind Hajj?
Hajj tradition stretches back to over 4,000 years ago, when the prophet Ibrahim was instructed by Allah to bring his wife Hajira and son Is’mail to the dry valley of Mecca.
This was ordered so Ibrahim was able to escape the clutches of his former wife Sarah, and lead his family away from scrutiny.
Allah later instructed Ibrahim to leave his wife and child in the desert on their own, with supplies and water.
As Ibrahim was gone for long, Hajira and Is’mail were dehydrated and starving, and while Hajira ran up and down the hills of Safa and Mara seeking help, Is’mail triggered a spring which emerged from the valley.
On Ibrahim’s return to his wife and child, he was delighted to find the two running a profitable spring in the heart of Mecca.
The great miracle was recognised by Allah, who instructed the prophet Ibrahim to build a structure surrounding the spring.
the Kaaba – or cube – was constructed, and used as a gathering place for those who wished to strengthen their faith in Allah.
Ever since, Muslims have apparenty returned to the spot of the Kaaba each year, to strengthen their faith with prayer, and promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood.
Rituals and simple dress are used to promote equality among worshippers, and rituals are used to strengthen dedication to Allah.
When is Hajj this year?
Dhu al-Hijjah, the final month in the Islamic calendar, is when Hajj takes place.
From the eighth to the thirteenth day, Muslims will journey to Saudi Arabia, and settle in Mecca.
The Islamic and Gregorian calendars run on very different schedules, with the former being lunar and the latter being solar based.
This means that each year, the key dates of Hajj are moved back by 11 days.
In 2018, Hajj is expected to run from Sunday August 19 to Friday August 24.