Haj activities - open all year, 24/7?
December 21, 2007 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Haj activities - open all year, 24/7?

Going around the Kaaba, throwing the stones at the pillar, camping out in the desert - are these things ONLY done during the Haj, or can / do people do this anytime, as the mood strikes them? Would you seem like a heretical freak doing these activities at the wrong time of the year?

If you went and did these things out of season, could you still say you completed the Haj?
posted by Meatbomb to Religion & Philosophy (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Going when it's not Hajj time is "Umrah" - a lesser pilgrimage. So yes, you can do it, and it would not be heretical or weird, and it would count for something in Islam, but you could not trluy say you completed the Hajj.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:32 PM on December 21, 2007

would you still be able to take the honorific?
posted by shothotbot at 4:06 PM on December 21, 2007

How much can a non-Muslim see at Mecca?
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:14 PM on December 21, 2007

How much can a non-Muslim see at Mecca?

My understanding is that non-Muslims are not allowed in Mecca under Saudi law. If you did go, you'll probably see what the afterlife look like.
posted by Falconetti at 4:21 PM on December 21, 2007

Best answer: would you still be able to take the honorific?

To the best of my knowledge, no. Completing an umrah is respectable, but it is not a hajj. Only those than have completed the hajj (proper season being the only real distinction between a hajj and an umrah) can be called Hajji.
posted by Nelsormensch at 4:31 PM on December 21, 2007

Also, just to be clear, people are bandying about the generic "you" pronoun here, but unless you are a Muslim, you are not going to Mecca ever--Hajj or not. The cities of Mecca and Medina are closed to non-Muslims.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:35 PM on December 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

non-Muslims are not allowed in Mecca under Saudi law

Yes. And those on the pilgrimage get into Saudi with a Haj visa, and its application requirements don't say how an applicant's religion is verified. I've always been curious; I suppose any marginal characters are directed to a secondary with mutaween stationed at the frontier and the airports.

A Syrian friend of mine, knowing of my interest in such things, always assured me, "you could go." (However, although devout, he's never been.) The things is, isn't it easy to become a Muslim? Just utter the Shahadah, and you're in.
posted by Rash at 4:57 PM on December 21, 2007

Previously on AskMe: could I pretend to be Muslim to go on the Hajj
posted by Nelson at 5:17 PM on December 21, 2007

About the title "Hajji," no, you'd have to do the actual Hajj to be able to truly call yourself that. There are a few things you don't have to do during the Umrah (or which aren't always done, as they are on the Hajj.) So Nelsormensch is correct about them being the same except for season, with that slight correction. The Umrah is lesser in stature and duty than the Hajj.

Many Muslims make the Hajj once in their lives, but may do the Umrah repeatedly. Some of these people feel it's wrong to make the Hajj repeatedly if instead you can help others (such as the poor) to do it when they wouldn't be able to do it otherwise - every Muslim is supposed to make Hajj once in their life if they can. Other Muslims make it more than once, many (of course) not at all.

You could go on Hajj without being Muslim - but you'd be taking your chances, and it's rude and disrespectful anyway. People who've tried have regretted it (some of them at least.) If you don't have a Muslim name and try to get in, that's clue number one. Converts are supposed to take a Koranic name. Even Bosnians (I'm one) have had trouble because their names are not "obviously" Muslim in the sense that those names of people from Arabic or Turkish (etc) countries generally are.

I've never been. Women under 45 aren't allowed in unescorted anyway.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:26 PM on December 21, 2007

Best answer: How much can a non-Muslim see at Mecca? shortly followed by... non-Muslims are not allowed in Mecca under Saudi law.

My family (I was a young'un) lived in Saudi Arabia for up to 15 years, depending on family member. When I was around 9 or 10, we did a road trip with a bunch of like-minded folk from Jubail to Yanbu for some scuba diving.

On the way to Yanbu, we approached Medina (holy city number two). There were lots of billboards and other signage making it clear that non-muslims were aggressively unwelcome in the city, and that they should take the bypass around it.

Unfortunately, there were no signs indicating where the bypass actually was.

And so it was that we, rather lost, wound up in the middle of Medina, a convoy of westerners of varying nationalities, just before dhuhr (noon) prayers got under way. On a Friday. For the Christians in the crowd, this would be like having an army of heretics show up outside your church just before the big Sunday morning service.

Eventually a traffic cop showed up, a one-stripe lackey. Incredulous, he approaches, demands our iqamas (internal ID documents), sees that they're brown (i.e. you're a expatriate resident), and is completely lost on what to do.

So he calls his superior, who eventually shows up. Two stripes.

The superior takes a glance at everyone, attempts to get an iqama from the wife of one of the couples we're traveling with (they're only issued to the men, and apparently he wasn't convinced that the person he was speaking to was female), has some discussion with one-stripe, and can't figure out what to do.

Two-stripes calls in his superior. Three stripes.

To save some repetition, let it simply be said that three-stripes calls in his superior. Four stripes.

Finally, someone is willing to make a decision. Four-stripes figures that jailing everyone is just too much hassle (it's the weekend after all), so he confiscates all the iqamas and we get a police escort, four cars, to the city limits. Once we were far enough from Medina that the lead cop felt secure, our iqamas were returned and we were on our way again.

Hopefully your trip to Medina will be as smooth as ours!
posted by lowlife at 6:38 PM on December 21, 2007 [8 favorites]

A non-Muslim can get special permission from the (Saudi) government under extenuating circumstances to enter Mekka and/or Medina, openly, as a non-Muslim. The number of people who have actually done this throughout history with the express permission of the Arabian authorities has got to be fairly small: the only two I know of are Lawrence of Arabia (whose presence in the sacred areas was sanctioned by the then-Sherrif of Mecca before the Al-Sauds ruled the country), and my father, a technical instructor who was there with some other engineers in the 1980s as a result of the Saudi government's purchase of a new phone system. He wore a big silver cross and brought in a carefully monitored supply of pure alcohol (ethanol) for splicing copper wires...
posted by bunky at 10:43 PM on December 21, 2007

Wow, some great stories. I have also read that when buses break down inside Mecca, sometimes Western mechanics have to go in to fix them, but they are taken in at night and under the cover of guards. I can't find a link to back that up, but I feel as if I read that in a reputable source.
posted by Falconetti at 11:10 PM on December 21, 2007

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