The pilgrimage to Mecca during the Hajj is the defining moment in a Muslims life. Every Muslim is required to visit Mecca and participate in the rituals. The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith. This pilgrimage shows a Muslim’s devotion to Allah (God). In the Muslim religion, Mecca is considered the holiest city. It is regarded so highly that non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca. The celestial house of God, the Kaaba, is located in the center of Mecca. “Mecca, known to the Muslim faithful as ‘the mother of all cities,’ is the holiest place in the Islamic world” (Steiger). It is the destination of the Hajj, or pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is the fifth pillar of faith that all Muslims are required to do at least once in their lifetime. Mecca is also the sacred city were the Prophet Mohammed was born and grew up. The Great Mosque is located in the heart of the city of Mecca. Outside the mosque, there is a courtyard. Inside the courtyard is the most sacred place of Islam, the Kaaba. The Kaaba is “the house of god, believed by Muslims to have been built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael” (Religion Facts). The “the black stone” plays a very important part in the Koran. According to the Five Pillars of Faith, Muslims must pray five times a day facing the Kaaba.
On each day of the Hajj, pilgrims must take part in a different ritual in the city of Mecca. “To prepare for the Hajj, the Koran instructs pilgrims to enter a state of consecration called the Ihram: A pilgrim must avoid angry words, sexual intercourse, and the cutting of hair or nails” (Creighton). After the pilgrims have finished preparing, they perform the Tawaf. This is where the pilgrims walk seven times counter-clockwise around the Kaaba. According to Dr. Zakir Naik, “Muslims circle the Kaaba to indicate that there is one center meaning that they all worship the same God, Allah.” Next, is the Sa’l. This is when the pilgrims run seven times between two hills.
This symbolizes Hagar’s search for water for her son, Ishmael. The pilgrims then walk five times around the city of Mina. “The time of the journey is spent in prayer and meditation” (Steiger). The fourth aspect of the pilgrimage is Ramy al-Jamarat, which is the reenactment of when Abraham threw stones at the devil. “The final stage of the Hajj is achieved with a festival in which a sheep, goat, cow, or camel is sacrificed to commemorate the moment when God rescinded the command to Abraham to sacrifice his son and permitted him to slay a ram and offer its blood in Ishmael’s stead” (Steiger). To finalize the ritual of the Hajj, the pilgrims walk around the Kaaba one last time.
The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world. In 2012, the Hajj took place October 24–27. Hajj 2012 was one of the biggest ever with almost 4 million pilgrims in attendance. To help ensure the pilgrims safety, “Saudi authorities have spent billions of dollars in recent years improving Hajj infrastructure to avoid of stampedes and accidents” (Arabiya). They have made other changes as well to ensure the safety of the visitors. In 2012 the pillars, that pilgrims throw stones at, were replaced with long walls and a trough at the bottom of the wall to collect all the stones.
Steiger, Brad, and Sherry Hansen. Steiger. The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. Detroit: Thomson/Gale, 2003. Print. Creighton, Linda L. “The Pilgrimage to Mecca Is Dangerous but Exhilarating.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 07 Apr. 2008. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. . Religion Facts. “Mecca: The Holiest City in Islam.” Mecca: Holy City of Islam. N.p., 13 Feb. 2005. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. . Arabiya, Al. “Saudi Arabia Declares Hajj 2012 One of the Most Successful.” Saudi Arabia Declares Hajj 2012 One of the Most Successful. N.p., 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. . Do Muslims Bow down to Kaaba or to God. Dir. Zakir Naik, Dr. 2006. Youtube.