Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Take the sum total of the populations of Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff ....clothe them in white, and pack them into a valley in the Saudi Arabian desert, and you get something of an idea of the scene of the Hajj. At the call to prayer, the whole lot went silent and all faced in the same direction. The moment when a massive wave swept across the whole valley, as they all bowed in prayer, was the moment many people said WAS the Hajj for them.
Every year, some two million people from across Saudi Arabia and throughout the world headed, as if pulled by a magnet, to one single spot on Earth. As has happened every year for 14 centuries, Muslim pilgrims gather in Makkah to perform rituals based on those conducted by the Prophet Muhammad during his last visit to the city.
(Copyright © 2009 Information Office of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC)
And every year, more than two million pilgrims gathered at the site of Prophet Muhammad's last sermon 14 centuries ago in a ritual that marks the climax of the annual Muslim pilgrimage.
(Kristina Herrndobler at

La Grande Mosquée al Masjid al Haram
Image from
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The sight of the largest congregation in humanity
all in white robes
preparing for the end of their journey on earth
Image from

Image from

'King Fahad' gate
one of the several gates of the Grand Mosque
(Masjid Al-Haram) in Makkah
Author Habeeb Shaikh (India)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Masjid al-Haram at night
Image from

"Hajj" means literally "to set out for a place". For a Muslim, that place is the Holy City of Makkah. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world.
All fit and financially able Muslims are expected to perform the hajj at least once in their life.
According to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, the following number of foreign pilgrims arrived in Saudia Arabia each year, to perform the Hajj:
1996 - 1,080,465
1997 - 1,168,591
1998 - 1,132,344
2001 - 1,363,992
2005 - 1,534,759
2006 - 1,654,407
2007 - 1,707,814
2008 - 1,729,841

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba,
the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque,
during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia,
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008
(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) at

Kaaba, also known as, Ka'bah, Kabah and Caaba is the center of the holiest place of worship in Islam (Submission in English), i.e. the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, Al Masjid Al-Haram. Its name is an Arabic word that means a home or a room that looks like a cube.. It is a cube shaped stone structure built in the middle of the Sacred Mosque. The Kaaba was built by prophet Abraham as a landmark for the House of God, for the sole purpose of worshipping of God alone.

Pilgrims at the Kaaba
Pilgrims performing Tawaf (circumambulating) the Kaaba
Author Muhammad Mahdi Karim at
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kaaba is the center of the circumambulations performed during the pilgrimage (hajj), and it is toward the Kaaba that Muslims face in their prayers (salat). Before prophet Muhammed's advent, Meccans who lost the religion of Abraham, Monotheism, worshipped many idols, most notable of which were al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat. The Black Stone, possibly of meteoric origin, is located at one of its outside corners. It has been used by the pilgrims as a landmark to count the number of cicumambulations. Some traditional Muslims in defiance of their religion, consider the stone holy and put emphasis on touching it and kissing it. The actual structure of the Kaaba has been demolished and rebuilt several times in the course of its history. Around the Kaaba is a restricted area, haram, extending in some directions as far as 12 miles, into which only Muslims may enter.

Muslim pilgrims perform the "Tawaf" ritual
around the Kaaba at Mecca's Grand Mosque
(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images) at

The small, cubed building known as the Kaba may not rival skyscrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on history and human beings is unmatched.
The Kaba is the building towards which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over 1400 years ago.
The Size of the Kaba:
The current height of the Kaba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet.
The inside room of the Kaba is 13X9 meters. The Kaba's walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where people perform Tawaf.
The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel.
The walls are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished.
This small building has been constructed and reconstructed by Prophets Adam, Ibrahim, Ismail and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). No other building has had this honor.

Pilgrims at the Kaaba
Author Muhammad Mahdi Karim at
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Some pilgrims walked, carrying their bags, while others took buses moving slowly through the crowds as they headed to the Mina area east of Makkah.
Men were dressed in simple white robes, marking a state of ihram, or ritual purity. The pilgrims will all have arrived before Eid al-Adha at Mount Arafat, about 15 km east of Makkah.
(Copyright (c) 2009, Al Hilal Publishing & Marketing Group)

Pilgrimage Hajj 2008

Thousands of tents housing Muslim pilgrims
crowded together in Mina near Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008
(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) at

The majority of pilgrims started arriving after sunrise in Arafat, a small plain some 250 metres (800 feet) above sea level encircled by mountains.
They had spent the night in the valley of Mina to the north in tents or camped out with blankets and mats on the streets.

Mina from on high
Image from

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar, symbolising stoning Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat" the last and most dangerous rite of the annual hajj, near the Saudi holy city of Mina on December 8, 2008. To complete the ritual, a pilgrim must throw 21 pebbles at each of three 25-meter (82-foot) pillars and this year the faithful are being given pebbles in pre-packed bags to spare them the effort of searching for the stones.

(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images) at

Pilgrims streamed on foot into Arafat through several wide pedestrian lanes or were carried by bus as thousands of Saudi policemen and security force members directed traffic.
"Go, go, go," shouted policemen over loudspeakers as the sounds of sirens and the din of the massed worshippers filled the morning air.
Tracing a journey made by Prophet Mohammed more than 1,400 years ago and following a tradition they believe was laid down by Abraham before him, pilgrims will gather in the afternoon for an emotional assembly in Arafat.
They will pray for mercy and forgiveness at the scene of the Prophet's last sermon and in a place where some believe Adam and Eve reunited after being banished from paradise.
The rite of wukuf, or standing, before sunset on Arafat is the high point of the hajj and without which it would be considered incomplete.
"Here I am God at Your command," chanted the pilgrims as they marched under the blazing sun.
Carrying their belongings, holding umbrellas over their heads or wheeling their weak relatives many pressed ahead shoulder-to-shoulder towards the 70-metre-high Jabal al-Rahma, or the Mount of Mercy, where many believe their prayers will be better heard.

A Muslim pilgrim prays at the top of Mount Noor in Mecca, Saudi Arabia,
Friday, Dec. 5, 2008
The pilgrims will visit the Hira cave in Mount Noor,
where the Prophet Mohammad worshipped before his first revelation
(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) at

An aerial view of Muslim pilgrims atop Mount Mercy
outside Mecca, Saudi Arabia, December 7, 2008
Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon nearly 1,400 years ago
(REUTERS/Susan Baaghil) at

A Muslim pilgrim reads the koran at Mount Arafat,
southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca on December 7, 2008
A human tide washed over Mount Arafat
Thousands of devoted Muslims gathered for
the key moment of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia
(KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images) at

A general view of the tents of Muslim pilgrims in Mina, Saudi Arabia
December 9, 2008
They will camp for three days and cast stones at pillars symbolising Satan
(REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah) at

The main benefit of Hajj for many people is the sense of purification, repentance and spiritual renewal it instills. After his Hajj, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) wrote in his autobiography: "...I have eaten from the same plate, drank from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) - while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims whose eyes were bluest of the blue, whose hair was blondest of the blonde and whose skin was whitest of the white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana...In the past I permitted myself to be used to make sweeping indictments of...the entire white race...Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to the sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Muslim."
(From Council on American Islamic Relations' Hajj Publicity Kit of 1998 at
A sophisticated broadcasting network has been installed to cope with the requirements of the Hajj. The safety and comfort of the Hajjis has become a major concern for the authorities, necessitated by their sheer volume in recent years. The newly laid floor tiles were made of specially developed heat-resistant marble, and to further ensure the comfort of worshippers the whole structure is cooled by one of the world's largest air-conditioning units. To facilitate the movement of worshippers to the newly developed roof area of the Holy Mosque during the busiest seasons, additional escalators have been incorporated alongside a number of fixed stairways in the northern and southern sides of the building. Moreover, in order to reduce the build-up of traffic around the Holy Mosque, the development project has involved the construction of a new tunnel for vehicles in the vicinity of Alsouk Alsagir. Pedestrian routes and tunnels have also been carefully planned and laid out to ensure the safety of the worshippers.

A Saudi policeman monitors screens connected to cameras set up at all holy places
Mina near Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, during the annual Hajj
(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) at

A pictorial brief of performing the pilgrimage
(Image from

One fifth of humankind shares a single aspiration: to complete, at least once in a lifetime, the spiritual journey called the Hajj.
The hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, a central duty of Islam whose origins date back to the Prophet Abraham, brings together Muslims of all races and tongues for one of life's most moving spiritual experiences.
For 14 centuries, countless millions of Muslims, men and women from the four corners of the earth, have made the pilgrimage to Makkah, the birthplace of Islam. In carrying out this obligation, they fulfill one of the five "pillars" of Islam, or central religious duties of the believer.
Muslims trace the recorded origins of the divinely prescribed pilgrimage to the Prophet Abraham, or Ibrahim, as he is called in Arabic. According to the Qur'an, it was Abraham who, together with Ishmael (Isma'il), built the Ka'bah, "the House of God," the focal point toward which Muslims turn in their worship five times each day. It was Abraham, too - known as Khalil Allah, "the friend of God" - who established the rituals of the hajj, which recall events or practices in his life and that of Hagar (Hajar) and their son Ishmael.
As pilgrims of diverse races and tongues return to their homes, they carry with them cherished memories of Abraham, Ishmael, Hagar, and Muhammad. They will always remember that universal concourse, where poor and rich, black and white, young and old, met on equal footing.
They return with a sense of awe and serenity: awe for their experience at 'Arafat, when they felt closest to God as they stood on the site where the Prophet delivered his sermon during his first and last pilgrimage; serenity for having shed their sins on that plain, and being thus relieved of such a heavy burden. They also return with a better understanding of the conditions of their brothers in Islam. Thus is born a spirit of caring for others and an understanding of their own rich heritage that will last throughout their lives.
The pilgrims go back radiant with hope and joy, for they have fulfilled God's ancient injunction to humankind to undertake the pilgrimage. Above all, they return with a prayer on their lips: May it please God, they pray, to find their hajj acceptable, and may what the Prophet said be true of their own individual journey: "There is no reward for a pious pilgrimage but Paradise."
(© Jannah.Org Islam: The Eternal Path to Peace at

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