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Patrick W. Ryan | SUSRIS
Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the fifth pillar of Islam will start on Tuesday, the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the year 1436 in the Islamic (Hijri) calendar. The Hajj is marked by the celebration of the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, a holiday period set to start on Thursday, September 24th.
The Hajj is obligatory for every Muslim in their lifetime if they are fit and financially able to participate. That tenet results in about three million pilgrims performing the Hajj each year. As of Saturday over 1.3 million pilgrims had arrived from abroad, about one percent less than the same date in 2014, according to SPA. Arrivals by air were 1,324,175 pilgrims, by land 35,050 pilgrims, and by sea 12,923 pilgrims.
The Web site PerformHajj.com describes the annual pilgrimage To Mecca:
Prerequisites for performing the Hajj are to be a Muslim, to be free, to be an adult or mature enough, to be of sound mind, and to have the ability to afford the journey and maintain one’s dependents back home for the duration. The reward for the Hajj is nothing less than Paradise.
The Hajj is the ultimate form of worship, as it involves the spirit of all the other rituals and demands of the believer great sacrifice. On this unique occasion, nearly two million Muslims from all over the globe meet one another in a given year. Regardless of the season, pilgrims wear special clothes (Ihram) – two, very simple, unsown white garments – which strips away all distinctions of wealth, status, class and culture; all stand together and equal before Allah (God).
The rites of Hajj, which go back to the time of Prophet Abraham who built the Ka’bah, are observed over five or six days, beginning on the eighth day of the last month of the year, named Dhul-Hijjah (pilgrimage). These rites include circumambulating the Ka’bah (Tawaf), and going between the mountains of Safa and Marwah, as Hajar (Abraham’s wife) did during her search for water for her son Isma’il. Then the pilgrims stand together on the wide plain of Arafah and join in prayers for God’s forgiveness, in what is often thought of as a preview of the Last Judgment. The pilgrims also cast stones at a stone pillar which represents Satan. The pilgrimage ends with a festival, called Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated with prayers, the sacrifice of an animal, and the exchange of greetings and gifts in Muslim communities everywhere.
Hosting the Hajj and the custodianship of the two holy mosques in Saudi Arabia are considered to be among the most important responsibilities of King Salman and the leadership in the Kingdom, as recently discussed by Fahad Nazer in Al Monitor. He wrote, “The Saudi government has not only expended billions of dollars in expanding the Grand Mosque to accommodate the ever-increasing number of pilgrims, it has also implemented many measures to ensure that the risk of past tragedies like stampedes and fires, which have resulted in significant loss of life, is greatly reduced. Just as important, the Saudis have drastically increased the presence of security personnel to guard against a serious potential security risk: the so-called Islamic State (IS), which has made it clear that it has no compunction about targeting Muslims in their homes, hospitals, schools and even mosques.”
Nazer added, “Keeping hundreds of thousands of pilgrims safe and securing the Grand Mosque and its surrounding environs are daunting challenges, but the Saudi government should be given high marks for its continuing efforts to make the hajj as safe and as secure as possible.”
Today SUSRIS has launched the “Hajj 2015″ Special Section as a resource where you can find articles, reports, videos and reference materials about the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. [Here]