Hajj: What you should know about Muslim pilgrimage
The Islamic tenets spelt out that all Muslims are expected to go to Mecca at least once in lifetime to perform Hajj which is regarded as one of the pillars of Islam.
In fulfilling this, the Holy Land of Saudi Arabia is currently filled with the pilgrims who are there to observe this 2033 Hajj exercise.
The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 had compelled the host country to reduce the number of the pilgrims until it ban on public gathering was relaxed.
Based on this fact, in 2022, about 926,000 pilgrims reportedly participated which almost doubled the 59,000 pilgrims in 2021 but it was said about 2.5 million pilgrims took part in 2019.
But about two million pilgrims across the world will participate in the 2023 Hajj which starts on Sunday. It is believed to be the largest pilgrimage since the Saudi Arabia, the host country, completely lifted COVID-19 and age limits restrictions.
This annual event draws the presence of Muslims who are intending to take part in Hajj exercise in the holy land for several days, performing rites in which they retrace the ‘father of Islam’ Prophet Mohammed’s last pilgrimage.
The event which some described as the largest religious gathering in the world will feature the following:
Muslims are expected to first enter a state of purity which is called ihram and demands special dress and behaviour.
At this juncture, while men wear simple wrap-like white garment which exhibits unity among the faithful irrespective of their status and nationality, women are required to wear white loose dresses exposing only their faces and hands.
Argument is banned among the pilgrims just as wearing perfume, cutting their nails, or trimming their hair or beards are also not allowed.
According Islamic tenets, the first ritual demands walking seven times around Kaaba which is the black cubicle structure at the centre of Mecca’s Grand Mosque. The Kabba which stands about 15 meters tall, was said to be made from granite enwrapped in an embroidered cloth revealing verses of Quran.
It was revealed that the structure was first built by Adam and then rebuilt by Abraham about 4000 years ago in where the Muslims turn towards to pray. The next activity is for the Muslims to walk seven times between the two stones spots in mosque to pray,
After that, they move to Mina, which is about five kilometer away ahead of the main rite of the pilgrimage at Mount Arafat.
The highest point of the pilgrimage is the Hajj gathering on Mount Arafat, about 10 kilometers from Mina, the place regarded as the last place Prophet Mohammed gave his final sermon. It was learnt that Muslims gather on the high hill which is about 70-meter tall and its surrounding plain for hours of prayers and reciting Quran while they stay there until evening.
The next on the line is going to Muzdalifah after sunset, which is halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they converge and gather dozen of pebbles in the symbolic ritual of stoning the devil.
The final ritual of the Hajj is to return to Mina to throw stones at each of the three huge concrete walls which stand for Satan. It was said that the ritual is to imitate Abraham’s stoning of the devil at the three spots where it was said Satan tried to discourage him from obeying God instruction to sacrifice his son , Ishmael.
This is followed by the Eid-al-Adha feast of sacrifice, marking the end of the Hajj where sheep are slaughtered as a reference to the lamb that God provided for sacrifice in place of Ishmael, in a ceremony that is held at same time around the world.
Meanwhile, the men are expected to shave their heads or trim their hair while women cut a fingertip-length off their locks.
The pilgrims then go back to their regular clothing, returning to traverse the Kabba and finalize their stone-throwing ritual before proceeding to their respective home. The Hajj is the last pillar of Islam.
The other four pillars include profession of the faith, daily prayers, alms-giving and fasting from dawn to dusk during the Holy Month of Ramadan.