Once in a lifetime a Muslim who can afford it, must complete the dangerous pilgrimage to Mecca. In 1999, an estimated 2 million Islamic pilgrims made this journey (1) to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is where Muhammad was born (2).
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today (3).
This journey is known as the hajj, which is the fifth and final pillar of Islam (4).
This pillar is the most important of all and assures salvation to all who complete it (“Hajj”).
The hajj is a ten day ceremony that can only be started between the eighth and the thirteenth day of the twelfth month on the Muslim calendar (“The Five Pillars of Islam”).
There are many steps that must be done correctly in order to complete the hajj. The first step upon arriving in Mecca is to don the ihram (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
The men’s version of the ihram is two wrapped sheets of white fabric, whereas women wear a simple white dress. The ihram is not just an outfit though; it is a spiritual state (“How many Muslims are there?”).
While in the ihram a Muslim must not harm anything from the smallest of insects to the biggest of whales. After the ihram is donned the Muslim must then visit the sacred mosque and kiss the black stone within (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
Then the Muslim must circle the Ka’bah seven times, three at a running pace and four jogging (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
Islam has a number of rituals that are obligatory on Muslims. The five basic pillars of Islam are Faith (Iman), Prayer (Salat), payment of Alms (a tax called Zakat), Fasting in them month of Ramadan and Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). A Muslim who does not follow any of the five pillars is a non-believer and a sinner. Fasting is compulsory in Ramadan on all adult Muslims of sane mind. The idea of ...
Pilgrims must then visit the Naqam Ibrahim. This is the sacred stone that Abraham climbed, whilst laying the upper courses of the Ka’bah (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
After this the believers run back and forth from Mt. Saffa to Mt. Marwa; thus reenacting the search of water for baby Isma’il (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
On the ninth day of the hajj the Muslim travels to Mt. Arafat where s/he recites the pious formula under the leadership of an iman (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
Then at sunset they continue on to a valley called Mudalifah where they spend the night in tents (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
In the morning the final ceremony is had at Mina (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
The pilgrims cast seven pebbles into a basin while chanting, “In the name of God, God is great”; thus signifying Abrahams’ escape from Satan (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
The hajj ends with an animal sacrifice, feeding of the poor and the disposing of the ihram (“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step”).
The hajj in modern times has changed greatly from what it was when Islam was first created around 650 AD (Farah 1).
Over the centuries Islam has spread far further then the Arabian Peninsula, thus creating a greater distance for pilgrims to travel (Farah 142).
In fact, today it is estimated that there are more than 7 million Muslims residing in the U.S. alone (“How many Muslims are there?”).
The hajj tradition has not changed, while the population of Earth has grown from 300 million (“Too many people on Earth”) at Islam’s creation, to over 6 billion people on the planet today (“Too many people on Earth”).
To demonstrate this change, in one day of the hajj in 2006, the BBC reported more than 345 pilgrims were trampled to death during the stone throwing ritual in Mina (“BBC NEWS | Middle East | Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede”).
This event and many others like it over the years have triggered many new security measures taken by the Saudi government, including over 100,000 security personnel as well as helicopters, armored vehicles, ambulances and fire trucks being deployed. (9)
Modern means of travel and new technology have aided Muslims in their journey to Mecca. Recently the Saudi Government started a 1 billion dollar project to expand the bridge at Jamarat to reduce the risk of future deadly stampedes (“BBC NEWS | Middle East | Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede”).
The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca One of a Muslim’s responsibilities as described in the Five Pillars of Islam is to go on a Hajji Pilgrimage. "The Hajj consists of several ceremonies, meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of prophet Abraham and his family...Prophet Muhammad had said that a person who performs Hajj properly 'will return as a ...
Another modern update is new heat resistant tiles, which have been laid in the sacred mosque to add to the comfort of worshipers. Plus, new tunnels have been added for pedestrians and vehicles as well as air conditioning at crowded locations (“VOA News – Muslims Gather in Mecca for Annual Hajj Pilgrimage”).
Even before leaving for their pilgrimage, the internet helps Muslims plan and learn more about the hajj. Special packages for the hajj are available online and usually cost between $4,500 and $7,500 per person; price depends upon benefits and length of stay (“Hajj Package USA – low cost Hajj Packages, travel, tours 2008”).
Only 0.16% of Muslims actually complete the hajj every year (“The Hajj: a Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca” )(“How many Muslims are there?” ).
One reason is that it is getting harder for Mecca to support the millions of pilgrims arriving every year. Another reason is that Muslim women may only complete the hajj with their husband’s permission and a male guardian (Farah 144).
The hajj is usually completed in a person’s later years of life, although it is easier to be completed in one’s prime. This is due to the fact that there is a great deal of running, walking, standing, sleeping rough, and coping with a general state of confusion. For those who are not financially capable of completing the hajj, some may partake in the ‘umra, a lesser version of the hajj which does not require the voyage to Mecca during the packed hajj season. (“’Umra”)
Although some may argue the hajj is too much to ask for believers, those who actually take part in the hajj are filled with such determination they don’t mind the cost, the stress, or the confusion; all they want is to complete the hajj. Those in a community who find themselves “invited by Allah” form together and make a group of soon to be Hajjis. They trust and care for each other much like a group of brothers coming together to accomplish a mission from God. Ahmet Ozbey was a part of such a group and his story describes the amount of trust Muslims have for one another. It is a blind faith where those in need are helped regardless of who they are or where they come from. While in Mecca Ahmet realized he didn’t have slippers for his ihram. He was talking to one of his group members about it when a pilgrim who had overheard coolly took the slippers off his own feet, handed them to Ahmet, and walked away barefoot (“Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime – my experiences and spiritual discovery.”).
Muhammad, whose full name was Abu al-Qasim Muhammad in 'Abd Allah in " Abd al-Muttalib in Hashim, was born in Mecca around 570 AD after the death of his father, 'Abd Allah. Muhammad was at first under the care of his paternal grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib. Because the climate of Mecca was considered to be unhealthful, he was given as an infant to a wet nurse from a nomadic tribe and spent some ...
Ahmet described what it was like to pray in Mecca. He said, “I was so relaxed and at total peace. It’s like when you put everything on the line, your whole life, your past, your future and it pays off!” (“Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime – my experiences and spiritual discovery.”) It is with this determination and passion that drives these pilgrims through their incredible journey.
Internet Works Cited
“HAJJ:THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME – my experiences and spiritual discovery.” Welcome to Musalla! – Central Scotland Muslims information and community news – Scottish local mosques news, events and info. 21 Dec. 2008 .
“BBC NEWS | Middle East | Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. 14 Dec. 2008 .
“The Five Pillars Of Islam.” Saudi Arabia – The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. 15 Dec. 2008 .
“Five Pillars of Islam.” 21 Dec. 2008 .
“Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step.” Hajj & Umrah – Step by Step. Ed. Submission.org. 1997-2008. Submission.org. 14 Dec. 2008
“The Hajj: a Muslim’s pilgrimage to Mecca.” ReligiousTolerance.org by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 15 Dec. 2008 .
“Hajj.” Islam.com – Home. 16 Dec. 2008 .
“How many Muslims are there?” ReligiousTolerance.org by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 14 Dec. 2008 .
“Mecca.” Sacred Sites: Places of Peace and Power. 13 Dec. 2008 .
“Too many people on Earth.” Optimum Population Trust. 20 Dec. 2008 .
“Umra.” 21 Dec. 2008 .
“VOA News – Muslims Gather in Mecca for Annual Hajj Pilgrimage.” VOA News – Voice of America Homepage – News in 45 Languages. 21 Dec. 2008 .
Hajj Package USA – low cost Hajj Packages, travel, tours 2008. 21 Dec. 2008 .
Islam began when Muhammad went away and saw the angel Gabriel. He told Muhammad that he was Allah's; it is how Muslims call god, Prophet. At first people didn't believe he was the Prophet of Allah. It was until after Muhammad died did Islam start to truly spread. Islam also teaches that there is only one God. Muhammad calls all people to worship Allah, because He is merciful and fair. On Judgment ...
Book Works Cited
Farah, Caesar E. Islam : Study Guides. Danbury: Barron’s Educational Series, Incorporated, 2002. 1, 142-46.
Renard, John. In the Footsteps of Muhammad : Understanding the Islamic Experience. New York: Paulist P, 2007. 83-93.
Sardar, Ziauddin. What do Muslims Believe? The Roots and Realities of Modern Islam. New York: Walker and Company, 2007. 71-74.