Pathways of Faith

'Faith' from Oxford Islamic Studies Online

About This Resource

The rituals of the hajj, or pilgrimage are discussed in the article excerpt on faith. The article by John L. Esposito is reprinted from What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam in the Oxford Islamic Studies Online.



What do Muslims do on the pilgrimage to Mecca?

Those who participate in the pilgrimage wear simple garments. Men wear two seamless white cloths, and women wear an outfit that entirely covers the body, except the face and hands. These coverings symbolize purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers. Men and women worship together; there is no separation of the sexes. As the pilgrims approach Mecca they shout, “I am here, O Lord, I am here!” When they enter Mecca their first obligation is to go to the Kaaba, which is located inside the compound of the Grand Mosque. The crowds of pilgrims move counterclockwise around the Kaaba seven times. This circumambulation, like prayer, symbolizes the believer's entry into the divine presence. In the days that follow, pilgrims participate in a variety of ritual actions and ceremonies symbolizing key religious events. They walk and sometimes run along a quarter-mile corridor of the Grand Mosque seven times to commemorate Hagar 's frantic search in the desert for water for her son Ismail. This rite, in great contrast to the circumambulation of the Kaaba, which centers on spiritual contact with God, symbolizes humankind's ongoing effort, movement, and struggle through life, expressing a believer's persistence in life's struggle for survival. The pilgrims drink water from the well, called Zamzam (meaning “bubbling”), which is located within the Grand Mosque, where Muslims believe God provided water for Hagar and Ismail. They assemble for a day at Arafat, a vast, empty plain, in commemoration of the final pilgrimage of Muhammad, who delivered his farewell sermon to his people from the Mount of Mercy, a hill in the middle of the plain. They symbolically reject the devil, the source of all evil, by throwing stones at three pillars that stand at the site where Satan met Abraham and Ismail and tempted them to disobey God when Abraham was preparing to sacrifice his son in obedience to God's command.


Esposito, John L. "Faith." In What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford Islamic Studies Online,

How to Cite This Page

"Muslim Journeys | Item #227: 'Faith' from Oxford Islamic Studies Online", April 16, 2024


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