The pilgrimage begins as soon as one leaves one's home to journey to Mecca. Just outside the sacred city of Mecca, Muslims will trade their regular clothes for two pieces of unadorned white cloth, symbolic of burial clothes. These plain clothes symbolize the equality of all people regardless of class, wealth, race, or ethnicity. Pilgrims proceed to the grand mosque in Mecca where they ritually circle the ka'bah seven times. Pilgrims then travel to a long enclosed hall in the southern part of the great mosque where they walk briskly back and forth seven times, ritually reenacting the story of Hagar and Ishmael in which they had been turned out of their home by Abraham. In the story, Hagar ran back and forth between the two hills al-Safa and al-Marwa in search of water for her son Ishmael who was dying. After her seventh run, water began to gush up from the earth from what is regarded by Muslims as the sacred well of Zamzam. After pilgrims perform the running ritual they travel to the actual well of Zamzam for a drink from the sacred waters.
The main part of the pilgrimage begins on the eighth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the month of pilgrimage. On this day Muslims venture out into the desert about 20 kilometers (13 miles) east of Mecca to the plain of Arafat. The Mount of Mercy is located on the plain of Arafat where pilgrims spend the afternoon standing together in solemn prayer. This ritual is analogous for Muslims to judgment day when they will stand before Allah to give an accounting of their lives. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad gave his farewell sermon here, and the last revelation of the Qur'an was revealed on this mount.
At sunset the pilgrims move on to Muzdalifa, a short distance from Arafat on the way back to Mecca. Here pilgrims celebrate and share their experiences together, as well as collect pebbles for the ritual stoning of stone columns to take place the following day. On the 10th day of the month of pilgrimage, the Muslim travelers move on to Mina where a single brick column represents Satan, and three other columns represent Satan's temptations. Pilgrims stone these columns, ritually reenacting the story of Abraham, who threw stones at Satan to drive him away when Satan was tempting Abraham to abandon Allah's command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. The entire pilgrimage ends with the other of the most important Muslim festivals: Eid al-Ahda, the festival of sacrifice, which echoes the sacrifice of the animal that Allah provided in place of Ishmael. These 4 days of celebration are often enjoyed in and around Mecca at the conclusion of the hajj. One who has performed to full hajj is ritually named a hajji, and is authorized to include an initial before one's name to signify this high honor.
Children are taught to proclaim the Shahadah at a very young age, and Muslims continue to develop their understanding and practice of all the implications of that concise yet profound statement throughout their adolescence and adulthood. For children of Muslims who encourage observance of the daily prayers, salat marks out the sacred moments of every day when the Shahadah is proclaimed, and one's body is prostrated in supreme humility and worship to Allah. Children are not required to fast during Ramadan, but many consider it a great honor when they reach the age that they may participate in sawm during this sacred month. Children are also not required to pay zakat, and hajj too is something most Muslims participate in as adults. However, Muslim children of economically disadvantaged families and orphans are to benefit from zakat according to Islam, and all Muslim children likely look forward to participating in the hajj when they are old enough and able.