RELIGION

Hajj GIFs Take You Inside Mecca

An aerial view shows the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, on October  27, 2012.  Muslims worldwide celebr
An aerial view shows the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, on October 27, 2012. Muslims worldwide celebrate the Eid al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice, marking the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are flocking to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this year from October 13th to 18th.
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Dressed in white clothing and in a state of ritual purity, they have come from all over the world to participate in one of Islam's five pillars, an obligation for every Muslim who is physically and financially able to do so.
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The faithful begin by circling the Kaaba seven times in a ritual called tawaf. Muslims believe that the Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.

They walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, to commemorate the struggles of Abraham's second wife, Hagar, who frantically ran from one to the other searching for food and water for her child. Her prayers were answered when baby Ishmael's heel hit the ground and a spring, Zam Zam, miraculously sprang from the desert.
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They travel to the valley of Arafat to pray in the heat.
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A symbolic stoning of the Devil takes place at Mina, as pilgrims throw small pebbles at a pillar.
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After the stoning, Eid al Adha is celebrated by sacrificing goats or lambs, to recall Abraham's loyalty when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son. A portion of the meat is given to the poor, and male pilgrims often shave their heads after this step.
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Next, they return to Mecca to circle the Kaaba again.
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