Mina is an area located approximately 5 kilometers east of the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It plays a significant role during the annual Islamic pilgrimage known as Hajj. Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world gather in Mina as part of the sacred rituals of Hajj. The question of whether Mina is considered part of the Haram, or sacred territory around Mecca, is an important one for Muslims planning to complete the pilgrimage.
What is Mina?
Mina is a valley located in the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia. It covers an area of approximately 20 square kilometers. Mina gains great importance and becomes very crowded during the days of Hajj, which occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar called Dhu al-Hijjah.
During Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mina on the 7th day of Dhu al-Hijjah. There, they spend the night and perform central Hajj rituals. The next day, known as the Day of Arafat, pilgrims travel to the nearby plains of Arafat. After sunset, they return to Mina to spend 3 to 4 days. They throw pebbles at stone pillars representing the devil, perform animal sacrifices, and conduct other rites.
When not occupied by Hajj pilgrims, Mina remains fairly empty. A few people live there to maintain facilities for pilgrims. But otherwise, it acts primarily as a temporary tent city during Hajj before pilgrims complete their journey.
What is the Haram?
The Haram refers to the sacred territory around Mecca. It contains the Masjid al-Haram, or the Sacred Mosque, surrounding the Kaaba in the center of the city. The borders of the Haram have changed over time as the city expanded.
Today, the Haram incorporates the area within the ring road around Mecca. This includes major points of Hajj including Mina, the plains of Arafat, and Muzdalifah. The Haram spans about 60 square miles.
The sacred territory has special rules and regulations to preserve its sanctity. Certain acts are prohibited within the Haram, such as hunting, uprooting trees, shedding blood, or cutting its plants and grass.
Is Mina considered part of the Haram?
Scholars have differing opinions on whether Mina falls within the sacred Haram territory or not. There are three main perspectives:
- Mina is completely outside the current Haram boundaries
- Mina lies partially outside the Haram
- Mina falls entirely within the sacred Haram territory
Those who argue Mina falls fully outside the Haram today base it on early definitions of the sacred territory. In the past, the Haram only covered the city of Mecca and closely surrounding areas. Since Mina lies further east, it existed outside the historic Haram boundaries.
However, proponents of Mina being fully within the Haram cite the fact that the borders have grown over time. Major points of Hajj like Mina are now connected to Mecca’s urban sprawl. And practically, it falls under the same sanctuary rules.
Others compromise by stating that while the original valley of Mina remains outside the Haram, its contemporary built-up area now within the ring road can be considered part of the sacred territory.
Evidence that Mina lies outside the Haram
Scholars who posit that Mina falls completely outside the domain of Haram make the following points:
- In the past, the Haram only covered Mecca and immediately adjacent areas. Mina lies around 5 kilometers east of Mecca’s borders.
- Historically, inhabitants of Mina had to enter ihram (pilgrim state) when approaching Mecca, suggesting it was outside the sacred area.
- The original valley of Mina has retained its name and distinct identity from Mecca.
- Early scholars like Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani clearly excluded Mina from their delineations of the Haram.
Based on this traditional definition, proponents argue Mina should still be considered fully outside the Haram even if modern urban growth has connected them.
Evidence that Mina lies inside the Haram
On the other hand, scholars stating Mina now falls within the Haram make the following arguments:
- Many early scholars actually differed on Mina’s status, with views like Imam Malik’s stating it was part of the Haram.
- Over time, the Haram territory expanded to envelope surrounding areas connected to Mecca.
- Today, Mina is connected to and practically managed as part of metropolitan Mecca.
- Points of Hajj like Mina now clearly fall under the sanctuary rules of Haram enforced by authorities.
For these reasons, many contemporary scholars view Mina as sharing the same sanctity and status as the Haram area containing Mecca and the Kaaba.
Significance for Hajj pilgrims
The debate around Mina’s status holds practical significance for pilgrims undertaking Hajj. Key implications include:
- Ihram requirements: Pilgrims must enter the sacred state of ihram before crossing into the Haram. If Mina lies outside, pilgrims traveling from Jeddah to Mecca must enter ihram before reaching Mina. But if Mina is included, ihram can begin later.
- Access restrictions: Only Muslims are allowed to enter the Haram territory of Mecca and surrounding areas. Considering Mina as part of Haram means applying the same entry restrictions.
- Prohibitions: Certain acts prohibited in Haram areas due to sanctity, like hunting, would also be forbidden in Mina if it is viewed as part of Haram.
Therefore, arriving at a definitive ruling on Mina’s status has implications on when and how pilgrims must prepare for entering the sacred Haram zone.
There are differing perspectives on whether the area of Mina should be considered part of the Haram around Mecca or not. Traditional early definitions excluded Mina from the sacred territory surrounding Mecca’s city borders. However, over time, the Haram significantly expanded and now practically incorporates major Hajj sites like Mina.
Contemporary scholarly opinion remains divided, with reasonable cases made for both views. The debate centers on whether to consider the original historic boundaries or the current integrated metropolitan reality in defining the Haram. Nevertheless, Saudi authorities today clearly treat Mina as part of the sanctified area subject to restrictions and regulations for preserving its purity during Hajj.
In summary, while questions remain on its theoretical status, in practical terms for pilgrims, Mina is widely regarded as part of the greater Haram region around Mecca during the present era.
Data on Mina Area and Population
|Total land area||Around 20 sq km|
|Permanent population||Approximately 100,000|
|Population during Hajj||Around 2.5 million|
|Location from Mecca||Around 5 km east|
|Main infrastructure||Tents, buildings, roads, mosque|
Key Events of Hajj in Mina
The following are the major rituals and events taking place in Mina during the 5-day Hajj period:
- Arrival in Mina: Pilgrims arrive on the 7th of Dhu al-Hijjah and spend the night in tents.
- Departure to Arafat: After sunrise, pilgrims travel west to the plains of Arafat on the 8th day.
- Return to Mina: Pilgrims come back to Mina on the 9th evening after Arafat where they spend 3-4 days.
- Stoning of Jamarat: Between the 10th-13th days, pilgrims symbolically stone pillars representing Satan.
- Sacrifices: Pilgrims slaughter permissible animals after the stoning ritual as acts of devotion.
- Farewell Tawaf: On the 12th/13th day, pilgrims return to Mecca for final circling of the Kaaba before departing.
Mina thus hosts critical Hajj rituals culminating the spiritual journey after starting in Mecca and traveling to Arafat.
Facilities in Mina
As a temporary home to millions of pilgrims each Hajj, Mina contains extensive infrastructure to support their accommodation, transportation, safety and religious activities. Key facilities include:
- Tent complexes: Thousands of air-conditioned tents capable of housing over 2.5 million pilgrims.
- Jamaraat bridge: Multi-level bridge complex for safely performing the stoning ritual.
- Roads and tunnels: Network of roads and tunnels linking key sites in Mina, Mecca and surrounding areas.
- Medical services: Hospitals, clinics and first-aid centers to treat and assist pilgrims.
- Mosques and prayer areas: Capacity for hundreds of thousands of worshippers to pray together.
- Amenities: Lavatories, restaurants, shops, barber services, lost-and-found centers, and phone charging stations.
These facilities supported by thousands of workers transform the desert valley of Mina into a functioning city during Hajj’s peak period each year.
Key Islamic Scholars on Mina’s Status
Below are positions on Mina by noted Islamic jurists and theologians over the centuries:
|Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani||Excluded Mina from Haram boundaries|
|Imam Malik||Included Mina within the sacred Haram|
|Abu Hanifa||Excluded Mina from the Haram area|
|Ibn Qudamah||Deemed Mina entirely outside Haram limits|
|Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani||Stated Mina was attached to the Haram|
|Taqi al-Din al-Subki||Included Mina within expanded Haram territory|
There was no consensus among either early or later Islamic scholars on Mina’s exact status and relationship to the inviolable Haram domain around Mecca.
Hajj Rituals Taking Place in Mina
The key rituals of Hajj carried out in Mina in chronological order are:
Ihram and Arrival in Mina
Pilgrims enter the sacred state of ihram before arriving in Mina on the 7th of Dhu al-Hijjah. Removing ihram before completing all rituals invalidates Hajj.
Overnight Stay in Mina
Pilgrims spend the night under the open sky or in tents and pray together on their first day in Mina.
Travel to Arafat
After sunrise, pilgrims proceed the next day towards the plains of Arafat outside Mecca for a key ritual.
Return to Mina
Pilgrims come back to Mina on the evening of the 9th day to stay for three or four nights.
Stoning of the Devil
Over the next three days, pilgrims symbolically throw pebbles at stone pillars (Jamarat) representing Satan’s temptations.
Pilgrims slaughter permissible livestock and distribute meat to the poor after the stoning ritual.
Mina is thus the site of essential rites completing the Hajj after starting the journey in Mecca itself and spending a day in Arafat.
Important Sites within Mina
Major landmarks and sites frequented by pilgrims during Hajj rituals in Mina include:
- Tent City: A vast complex of thousands of tents providing temporary accommodation.
- Jamarat Bridge: The multi-level bridge for safely performing the stoning ritual.
- Mosque of Khaif: A grand mosque where pilgrims pray together.
- Jabal al-Rahmah: The Mount of Mercy where pilgrims pray on Arafat day.
- Muzdalifah: An open site where pilgrims stay overnight after Arafat.
- Jamrat al-Aqabah: The largest pillar for stoning representing Satan.
In addition are supporting infrastructure like roads facilitating movement of crowds between ritual sites in Mina and surrounding areas.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Mina
Some common mistakes Hajj pilgrims should avoid during rituals in Mina include:
- Forgetting to enter state of ihram before reaching Mina’s boundaries
- Neglecting sunnah prayers while staying overnight in Mina
- Not spending required nights stipulated in Mina after return from Arafat
- Trying to leave early from Mina before completing all stoning rituals
- Forgetting to sacrifice an animal if one took on the obligation
- Inappropriate mixing or intimacy between non-mahram men and women
- Littering or disrespecting facilities provided in Mina
Adhering to proper rituals and etiquette in Mina is vital for completing an acceptable Hajj.
Fun Facts About Mina
- During Hajj, Mina becomes one of the most populated places on Earth.
- Over 100,000 air conditioned tents are set up to accommodate pilgrims.
- Around 3 million meals are served daily to pilgrims in Mina.
- Cleaning crews in Mina collect over 13,000 tons of waste during Hajj.
- The Jamarat Bridge allows over 500,000 pilgrims per hour to perform stoning.
- Mina has dedicated telecommunications infrastructure to support millions of pilgrims.
- Barbers in Mina provide about 200,000 haircuts for pilgrims during Hajj.
The massive temporary city built to host pilgrims makes Mina a fascinating logistical feat and the destination of key Hajj rites each year.