28 December, 2006


Over 2 million pilgrims from today, the 8th day of Islamic month of Dhul Hijja, started the 5 day spiritual experience known as Hajj. But what is Hajj? And why it is held every year? Why muslims from all over the world converge into the Holy city of Makkah every year, sacrificing their time, money & bearing patiently all the hardships of the journey, constantly chanting "Here I am Lord, at Your service, here I am. Here I am at Your service and You have no equal. Yours alone is All Praise and All Bounty, and Yours alone is The Sovereignty. You have no partners".

Since I am not a good writer, I will quote Islamonline website which very beautifully describes the experience.
Hajj literally means "to continuously strive to reach one's goal." It is the last of the five pillars of Islam. The other four are a declaration of faith in one God and in Prophet Muhammad, the five daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting the month of Ramadan. Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for those who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey.

Hajj is essentially a reenactment of the rituals of the great prophets and teachers of faith. Pilgrims symbolically relive the experience of exile and atonement undergone by Adam and Eve after they were expelled from Heaven. They also retrace the footsteps of Hajar as she ran between the hills of Safa and Marwah, searching for water for her thirsty baby. Lastly, the pilgrims also commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for the sake of God. God later substituted a ram in place of Abraham's son.

Yet, Hajj is more than these rituals. The faithful hope that it will bring about a deep spiritual transformation, one that will make him or her a better person. The fact that millions of Muslims transcending geographical, linguistic, level of practice, cultural, ethnic, color, economic, and social barriers converge in unison on Makkah, attests to the universality of the Hajj. It plants the seed to celebrate the diversity of our common humanity. Pilgrims return home enriched by this more pluralistic and holistic outlook and with a new appreciation of their own origins.
The result of a successful Hajj is rich inner peace, which is manifested outwardly in the values of justice, honesty, respect, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, mercy, and empathy. And it is these values, all attributes of God almighty, that are indispensable to us all if we really want to get along in this world.


nzm said...

Thanks DG!

Can you tell me, when pilgrims arrive at al-Masjid al-Haram, are there separate areas in which the men and women pray?

Also, during tawaf and sa'i, do men and women do this together or separately?

I'm interested to know, not only from the sense of the traditions and status quo, but also from the logistics of handling such huge crowds of people.

It's amazing that so many people can be funnelled through the Hajj and Umrah, let alone trying to separate the women from the men!

Anonymous said...

Disappearing world: Global warming claims the first inhabited tropical island, coming up next. You guessed it, "The World".

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

NIce post. Though yesterday's USA Today claimed 3 million. (2 million from outside of the KSA and 1 from within, Saudi citizens and residents of all nationalities)

They poured a billion US dollars into making the Hajj better this year and they still have strict quotas on the number of pilgrims. Although I know that no one in history has done as much for the 2 holy sites as the late and current kings, I cant help but feel bad for the other 5 million or so who would, but cant go.

DG said...

Nzm: Yes there are seperate areas for prayer but there is not such thing when it comes to tawaf & sa'i. And I think Saudi government deserves a big credit for the tremendous effort in managing such huge crowd. Thanks alot for your comment :-)

Anonymous: What that link has to do with this post? I am confused :-)

A Blessing in Tragedy: Thanks alot for correcting me & also for your comment. But I disagree with you, yes so many people want to visit, but they you must also acknowledge the fact that the current infrastructure is not capable of serving 3+5 = 8 million people.

But I think with the current growth rates, maybe in 10-20 years they will reach the 8 million mark. I remember that when I went for Hajj in 1990, approximately 1 million people performed Hajj that year. There was so much construction going around that time. But when I went again for Umrah in 2003, everything had changed. Indoor areas had become air-conditioned, there was underground car park for 5,000 cars in Madina, digital information screens, better & more organized wash rooms, more open areas outside the two holy mosques, etc.

And I am sure if I went again, which I hope I will inshallah, I will still see construction going on. May Allah reward the Saudi rulers for their great effort.

nzm said...

Thanks again for the info, DG.

I envy you having been there twice - it would be such a spiritual time to experience.

In a way I feel that it's a shame to limit the access to Mecca and al-Masjid to Muslim-only, as it would perhaps bring about better understanding from some non-Muslim to see what it's all about and to feel the emotion.

But I do understand the reasons for the limitations in Mecca - especially around Hajj and the sheer volume of people!

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