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The Hajj or haj is one of the largest annually occurring pilgrimages in the world, and one of the five pillars of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so at least once in his or her lifetime. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita'ah and a Muslim who fulfils this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God. The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year. Ihram is the name given to the special spiritual state in which Muslims live while on the pilgrimage. The Hajj is associated with the life of Prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. Pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: Each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka'aba, the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer, runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, and throws stones in a ritual. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the four day global festival of Eid al-Adha. (via Freebase)