sacrifice, where oaths were administered and hard cases submitted to divine sentence according to the immemorial custom of Semitic shrines. But, besides this, Mecca was already a place of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage with the ancient Arabs was the fulfilment of a vow, which appears to have generally terminated—at least on the part of the well-to-do—in a sacrificial feast. A vow of pilgrimage might be directed to other sanctuaries than Mecca—the technical word for it (ihlāl) is applied, for example, to the pilgrimage to Manāt (Bakri, p. 519). He who was under such a vow was bound by ceremonial observances of abstinence from certain acts (e.g. hunting) and sensual pleasures, and in particular was forbidden to shear or comb his hair till the fulfilment of the vow. This old Semitic usage has its close parallel in the vow of the Nazarite. It was not peculiarly connected with Mecca; at Tāif, for example, it was customary on return to the city after an absence to present oneself at the sanctuary, and there shear the hair (Muh. in Med., p. 381). Pilgrimages to Mecca were not tied to a single time, but they were naturally associated with festive occasions, and especially with the great annual feast and market. The pilgrimage was so intimately connected with the well-being of Mecca, and had already such a hold on the Arabs round about, that Mahomet could not afford to sacrifice it to an abstract purity of religion, and thus the old usages were transplanted into Islām in the double form of the omra or vow of pilgrimage to Mecca, which can be discharged at any time, and the ḥajj or pilgrimage at the great annual feast. The latter closes with a visit to the Ka‛ba, but its essential ceremonies lie outside Mecca, at the neighbouring shrines where the old Arabs gathered before the Meccan fair.
The omra begins at some point outside the Ḥaram (or holy territory), generally at Tanim, both for convenience sake and because Ayesha began the omra there in the year 10 of the Hegira. The pilgrim enters the Ḥaram in the antique and scanty pilgrimage dress (iḥrām), consisting of two cloths wound round his person in a way prescribed by ritual. His devotion is expressed in shouts of “Labbeyka” (a word of obscure origin and meaning); he enters the great mosque, performs the ṭawāf and the sa‛y and then has his head shaved and resumes his common dress. This ceremony is now generally combined with the ḥajj, or is performed by every stranger or traveller when he enters Mecca, and the iḥrām (which involves the acts of abstinence already referred to) is assumed at a considerable distance from the city. But it is also proper during one’s residence in the holy city to perform at least one omra from Tanim in connexion with a visit to the mosque of Ayesha there. The triviality of these rites is ill concealed by the legends of the sa‛y of Hagar and of the ṭawāf being first performed by Adam in imitation of the circuit of the angels about the throne of God; the meaning of their ceremonies seems to have been almost a blank to the Arabs before Islām, whose religion had become a mere formal tradition. We do not even know to what deity the worship expressed in the ṭawāf was properly addressed. There is a tradition that the Ka‛ba was a temple of Saturn (Shahrastānī, p. 431); perhaps the most distinctive feature of the shrine may be sought in the sacred doves which still enjoy the protection of the sanctuary. These recall the sacred doves of Ascalon (Philo vi. 200 of Richter’s ed.), and suggests Venus-worship as at least one element (cf. Herod i. 131, iii. 8; Ephr. Syr., Op. Syr. ii. 457).
To the ordinary pilgrim the omra has become so much an episode of the ḥajj that it is described by some European pilgrims as a mere visit to the mosque of Ayesha; a better conception of its original significance is got from the Meccan feast of the seventh month (Rajab), graphically described by Ibn Jubair from his observations in A.D. 1184. Rajab was one of the ancient sacred months, and the feast, which extended through the whole month and was a joyful season of hospitality and thanksgiving, no doubt represents the ancient feasts of Mecca more exactly than the ceremonies of the ḥajj, in which old usage has been overlaid by traditions and glosses of Islām. The omra was performed by crowds from day to day, especially at new and full moon. The new moon celebration was nocturnal; the road to Tanim, the Mas‛ā, and the mosque were brilliantly illuminated; and the appearing of the moon was greeted with noisy music. A genuine old Arab market was held, for the wild Bedouins of the Yemen mountains came in thousands to barter their cattle and fruits for clothing, and deemed that to absent themselves would bring drought and cattle plague in their homes. Though ignorant of the legal ritual and prayers, they performed the ṭawāf with enthusiasm, throwing themselves against the Ka‛ba and clinging to its curtains as a child clings to its mother. They also made a point of entering the Ka‛ba. The 29th of the month was the feast day of the Meccan women, when they and their little ones had the Ka‛ba to themselves without the presence even of the Sheybās.
The central and essential ceremonies of the ḥajj or greater pilgrimage are those of the day of Arafa, the 9th of the “pilgrimage month” (Dhu‛l Ḥijja), the last of the Arab year; and every Moslem who is his own master, and can command the necessary means, is bound to join in these once in his life, or to have them fulfilled by a substitute on his behalf and at his expense. By them the pilgrim becomes as pure from sin as when he was born, and gains for the rest of his life the honourable title of ḥajj. Neglect of many other parts of the pilgrim ceremonial may be compensated by offerings, but to miss the “stand” (woqūf) at Arafa is to miss the pilgrimage. Arafa or Arafat is a space, artificially limited, round a small isolated hill called the Hill of Mercy, a little way outside the holy territory, on the road from Mecca to Taif. One leaving Mecca after midday can easily reach the place on foot the same evening. The road is first northwards along the Mecca valley and then turns eastward. It leads through the straggling village of Mina, occupying a long narrow valley (Wādi Mina), two to three hours from Mecca, and thence by the mosque of Mozdalifa over a narrow pass opening out into the plain of Arafa, which is an expansion of the great Wādi Naman, through which the Taif road descends from Mount Kara. The lofty and rugged mountains of the Hodheyl tower over the plain on the north side and overshadow the little Hill of Mercy, which is one of those bosses of weathered granite so common in the Hejāz. Arafa lay quite near Dhul-Majaz, where, according to Arabian tradition, a great fair was held from the 1st to the 8th of the pilgrimage month; and the ceremonies from which the ḥajj was derived were originally an appendix to this fair. Now, on the contrary, the pilgrim is expected to follow as closely as may be the movements of the prophet at his “farewell pilgrimage” in the year 10 of the Hegira (A.D. 632). He therefore leaves Mecca in pilgrim garb on the 8th of Dhu‛l Ḥijja, called the day of tarwīya (an obscure and pre-Islamic name), and, strictly speaking, should spend the night at Mina. It is now, however, customary to go right on and encamp at once at Arafa. The night should be spent in devotion, but the coffee booths do a lively trade, and songs are as common as prayers. Next forenoon the pilgrim is free to move about, and towards midday he may if he please hear a sermon. In the afternoon the essential ceremony begins; it consists simply in “standing” on Arafa shouting “Labbeyka” and reciting prayers and texts till sunset. After the sun is down the vast assemblage breaks up, and a rush (technically ifāḍa, daf‛, nafr) is made in the utmost confusion to Mozdalifa, where the night prayer is said and the night spent. Before sunrise next morning (the 10th) a second “stand” like that on Arafa is made for a short time by torchlight round the mosque of Mozdalifa, but before the sun is fairly up all must be in motion in the second ifāḍa towards Mina. The day thus begun is the “day of sacrifice,” and has four ceremonies—(1) to pelt with seven stones a cairn (jamrat al ‛aqaba) at the eastern end of W. Mina, (2) to slay a victim at Mina and hold a sacrificial meal, part of the flesh being also dried and so preserved, or given to the poor, (3) to be shaved and so terminate the iḥrām, (4) to make the third ifāḍa, i.e. go to Mecca and perform the ṭawāf and sa‛y (‛omrat al-ifāḍa), returning thereafter to Mina. The sacrifice and visit to Mecca may, however, be delayed till the 11th, 12th or 13th. These are the days of Mina, a fair and joyous feast, with no special ceremony except that each day the pilgrim is expected to throw seven stones at the jamrat al ‛aqaba, and also at each of two similar cairns in the valley. The stones are thrown in the name of Allah, and are generally thought to be directed at the devil. This is, however, a custom older than Islām, and a tradition in Azraqī, p. 412, represents it as an act of worship to idols at Mina. As the stones are thrown on the days of the fair, it is not unlikely that they have something to do with the old Arab mode of closing a sale by the purchaser throwing a stone (Bīrūnī, p. 328). The pilgrims leave Mina on the 12th or 13th, and the ḥajj is then over. (See further Mahommedan Religion.)
The colourless character of these ceremonies is plainly due to the fact that they are nothing more than expurgated heathen rites. In Islām proper they have no raison d’être; the legends about Adam and Eve on Arafa, about Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram at Thabii by Mina, imitated in the sacrifices of the pilgrimage, are clumsy afterthoughts, as appears from their variations and only partial acceptance. It is not so easy to get at the nature of the original rites, which Islām was careful to suppress. But we find mention of practices condemned by the orthodox, or forming no part of the Moslem ritual, which may be regarded as traces of an older ceremonial. Such are nocturnal illuminations at Mina (Ibn Baṭūta i. 396), Arafa and Mozdalifa (Ibn Jubair, 179), and ṭawāfs performed by the ignorant at holy spots at Arafa not recognized by law (Snouck-Hurgronje p. 149 sqq.). We know that the rites at Mozdalifa were originally connected with a holy hill bearing the name of the god Quzah (the Edomite Kozē) whose bow is the rainbow, and there is reason to think that the ifāḍas from Arafa and Quzah, which were not made as now after sunset and before sunrise, but when the sun rested on the tops of the mountains, were ceremonies of farewell and salutation to the sun-god.The statistics of the pilgrimage cannot be given with certainty and vary much from year to year. The quarantine office keeps a record of arrivals by sea at Jidda (66,000 for 1904); but to these must be added those travelling by land from Cairo, Damascus
- The latter perhaps was no part of the ancient omra; see Snouck-Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche Feest (1880) p. 115 sqq.
- The 27th was also a great day, but this day was in commemoration of the rebuilding of the Ka‛ba by Ibn Jubair.
- The sacrifice is not indispensable except for those who can afford it and are combining the hajj with the omra.
- On the similar pelting of the supposed graves of Abū Lahab and his wife (Ibn Jubair, p. 110) and of Abū Righāl at Mughammas, see Nöldeke’s translation of Tabarī, 208.