October 11, 2013

5 facts about the hajj

The annual Muslim hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca is underway, and more than a million pilgrims already have entered Saudi Arabia from abroad. Some of the key rituals involved in the pilgrimage are performed on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah, which this year falls on Oct. 14. All Muslim adults are expected to participate in the hajj, which is among the Five Pillars (core practices) of Islam, at least once in their lifetime unless they are physically or financially incapable of making the trip to Mecca.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers associated with the hajj:

More than 3 million people performed the hajj in 2012, according to the government of Saudi Arabia. More than six-in-ten (64%) were men, and more than half (55%) came from outside Saudi Arabia. The overall annual number has been rising in recent decades, and is up by more than a million from a decade ago. This year’s number, however, is expected to be lower than last year’s total because the Saudi government issued significantly fewer visas due to concerns about a deadly respiratory virus.

FT_HajjA recent Pew Research Center survey of Muslims around the world found that, across the 39 countries and territories surveyed, a median of 9% say they have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Those living closer to Mecca are more likely to have performed the hajj. For example, 20% of Egyptian Muslims say they have done so, while just 3% of Indonesian Muslims say they have.

The Saudi government issues a set number of hajj visas annually. Although those are free, the trip carries considerable costs, especially for transportation and lodging, and pilgrims must use an approved travel agent. Hajj packages from the United States may exceed $5,000. More than 14,500 American Muslims are expected to perform the hajj this year, according to the Religion News Service.

Several of the primary rituals of the hajj involve the number seven. One of them, known as performing tawaf, involves circling the Kaaba (the holiest site in Islam) seven times. Pilgrims also typically travel back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times.

The hajj coincides with Eid al-Adha, a major holiday for Muslims – including those not performing the pilgrimage – which begins on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah. Muslims around the world with the financial means to do so traditionally slaughter a large animal, such as a cow, goat or sheep, on Eid al-Adha and distribute portions of the meat to the poor. (Many American Muslims donate to organizations that slaughter animals and give meat to the poor overseas.) The ritual sacrifice evokes the Quranic story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for God.


Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Muslims and Islam

  1. is a Research Assistant at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

  2. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    V good

  2. pamohamedameen2 years ago


    Hajj season may be used as an opening towards interaction between various segments of the great Islamic society and discussion of various political issues.
     It is a fact that the grand gathering of Hajj is in reality, a true and natural representation of all the segments of the Muslims of the world (since the Pilgrims are individuals that come from all segments, races and languages associated with the Muslims all over the world, who have gathered under one roof). 

     The gathering of people from the East and the West (for the Hajj rituals).  This, in order that the Muslims become acquainted with one another, become aware of the states of each other, and (so that) every group transfers its business investments from one city to another

    Hajj also gives an opportunity to interact with eminent religious scholars for solving their problems,

    Also Hajj has the ability to be transformed into a gigantic cultural assembly in which scholars and intellectuals of the Islamic world, coming together for a few days in Mecca, give their thoughts and show their creativity before the others.
    Essentially, one of the great catastrophes is that the boundaries between the Islamic nations become reason for them to become separate from each other, culturally. 

    As a result , Muslims of each nation only reflect upon their own selves and their own state of affairs, and this is something that effectively works towards dismembering and dissecting the single Islamic society;

    Indeed, Hajj has the ability to bring unity and compromise
    If all the people were to be concerned only about their respective countries and the problems existing therein, all of them would suffer destruction, their countries would face loss, the countries benefits and welfare would be lost, and realities would become concealed.

  3. Poppy2 years ago

    I used this for my r.e homework this will help me olds thanks

    1. elizabeth2 years ago

      this website is useful but i wouldn’t be able to use any of the facts but I might be able to summaries them into short parts. I am going to use some in my homework.

  4. jake3 years ago

    thanks pew reaserch you helped me

  5. katie3 years ago

    i used this for my R.E homework!!!!!!!! yayaayyayaaya

    1. finlay3 years ago


  6. davionta3 years ago

    shookran for the facts

  7. ezzy4 years ago

    tell me 10 facts about dhul hijjah now please

  8. P.A.Mohamed Ameen4 years ago

    Islam means complete, total, absolute submission to One true Almighty Creator of the worlds, believing that man is not to submit to any other deity in the form of idol, person, wealth, position, materialism, political power etc. When that happens man is really, absolutely free, independent and courageous..

    But submission involves sacrifices,

    Religious rites involve sacrificing time, foods, sex, conveniences, wealth, pride, position, look etc.

    In paying an obligatory wealth tax called Zakah( a certain% of excess net wealth) a Muslim sacrifices a portion of his wealth

    In fasting for a month during the month of Ramadan he sacrifices his food, drinks and sex for about 14-16 hours(day time)

    People both Muslims and non-Muslims understand the rational behind such rites like Zakah and fasting

    It is true people who perform haj do sacrifice their time, wealth, conveniences, sex life for a period of time .

    But by doing some of the unexplainable rites such walking around the Kaaba, throwing stones, staying at the desert camps, shaving off the hair etc the worshippers sacrifice the rationality and submit completely feeling that Oh God If I adore You out of fear of Hell, Burn me in Hell! If I adore you out of desire for Paradise, Lock me out of Paradise. But if I adore you for Yourself alone, Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.

    I ask no questions, I submit completely. That is the main purpose of haj

    1. Ronald Mcnut4 years ago

      Seems pretty robot like to me. One should never do anything without being able to submit it to rational skepticism.

    2. Edison4 years ago

      I wonder why someone should chose a non-secure way to the salvation. A secure way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. if someone receives Jesus Christ as his saviour he will be definitely cleansed from all sins and saved from the wrath of God to come. Moreover, those who have received Jesus Christ as their saviour they need not do the the complicated rituals demanded by many religions (including Islam as narrated by M. Ameen above) as ways to cleanse their sins.