Mecca, the sacred city in Saudi Arabia, houses the holiest site in Islam. The Kaba, the ancient house of God, is the geographical and historical center of the Muslim worldview. Five times a day, Muslims around the world face this holy site, called the qibla, in prayer. Once a year, pilgrims from all over the world, travel to the Kaba to perform the hajj. The focus of this post, the first in a series on important sites, is the Kaba.
The Kaba is a cubical structure about 60 feet high and 60 feet wide. It is surrounded now by Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque, the largest mosque in the world. Near the Kaba is the Well of Zamzam and the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa. Both the well and the hills are significant because they are part of the story of Hagar’s search for water for her son Ishmael. Continue reading
This past Saturday, November 26th, was the Islamic New Year 1433. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle so it is shorter and moves every year. The hijra, the migration of the small Muslim community from Mecca to Medina in 622 of the western calendar, marked the beginning of this calendar. This migration is one of the most significant events in the history of Islam.
Prior to the hijra, Muslims in Mecca constituted a small group of followers of the Prophet Muhammad. They practiced Islam privately out of fear of persecution, which many of the early followers endured. With the hijra, the situation of this small group of believers changed, as well as the course of the Muslim community as a whole. Continue reading
With the completion of hajj and celebrations of Eid al-Adha that occurred from November 25-30, I thought it would be a good time to do a follow up on the Inside Islam radio show that aired November 19th, during which Jean talked with Michael Wolfe and Qanta Ahmed about hajj and their personal experiences as pilgrims. The show highlighted the history of hajj and its links to the Abrahamic lineage as well as the modern logistical difficulties of 2 million plus pilgrims performing the same rituals in 5 days.
This year’s pilgrimage passed without significant casualties. Despite fears around swine flu, it was reported that only 4 pilgrims died as a result of swine flu. There was heavy rain this year that hampered the beginning of the pilgrimage. However, while a reported 100 died from the flooding, none were pilgrims.
What Wolfe and Ahmed both emphasized is that despite the difficulties and the casualties, hajj does not stop and that alone makes this annual pilgrimage significant and unique.
Were you at the pilgrimage this year? What was the experience like? Have you been to hajj before? We want to hear from you. Help us continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.