Haji is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is considered to be the holiest city for Muslims. Haji is practiced by Muslims and seen as a religious duty to be performed at least once in their lives by those who have the physical and financial means to undertake the pilgrimage. It takes place during Dhu al-Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic calendar) and over five to six days from the 8th to the 12th or 13th, during which time Muslims will practice a series of rituals.
Haji is one of the five pillars of Islam, (which also include profession of faith that there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet, prayer five times a day, donation of money towards those in need, and fasting during the period of Ramadan.) The pilgrimage reflects the Islamic story of prophet Abraham and his wife Hager’s journey when they were stranded in a desert.
More than two million Muslims participate in Haji each year. Undertaking the journey is seen as a submission to God.
When traveling to Mecca, Muslims visit the Ka’ba, a cubical building at the center of Masjid al-Haram, which is considered to be the most important Islamic mosque and place of worship. Muslims believe that Abraham built the Ka’ba for God, and it is commonly referred to as the House of Allah (God). The rituals that are practiced here include walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’ba and then back and forth sevent times between two hills (Safa and Marwah) before drinking water from the Zamzam well and standing in vigil at the front of the Arafat mountain.
Muslims will also throw seven stones at three pillars in a practice known as stoning the devil. Afterwards, animals (usually sheep or goats) are sacrificed to commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice of his son to obey God’s command. The final ritual is known as Farewell Tawaf, which is a farewell to the House of God (Ka’ba) and marks the completion of Haji. Those who complete the journey may add the phrase al-Hajj or hajji (which means pilgrim) to their names.
Haji coincides with the celebration of Eid al-Adha, which honors Abraham’s sacrifice. The holiday takes place on the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days. Traditions include slaughtering an animal, sharing the meat among family, friends, and people in poverty, and performing prayers, often in congregation. Muslims will also gather together with loved ones and exchange gifts.
Although Eid al-Adha is not a federal holiday, allowing Muslim employees to take the day off is important for having an inclusive workplace that respects people of diverse religious identities and accommodates religious practices. It’s also important to allow time off for Haji for those who choose to take the pilgrimage and should be considered separate from vacation, since this is considered as a religious obligation by Muslims.
Make sure to include Dhu al-Hijjah in your workplace calendar and educate your staff about the period to develop awareness of global cultures and religious diversity.