This weekend the eyes of many, especially Muslims, will be focussed on Mecca.
This Saudi Arabian city is the location of what is arguably Islam’s holiest site – the Kaaba. Once a year, on a specific date in their faith calendar, Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather together in Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah together. This pilgrimage is called the Hajj. This year it begins in evening of Friday 9th August and lasts until Wednesday 14th August.
Travelling to the Hajj is a journey that every sane adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they are physically able, can afford the travel, and can make sure that their families are cared for and safe whilst they are away. More than 2 million people made the trip last year, with a similar number expected this year. It is often said that during Hajj Mecca becomes one of the most densely-populated locations on earth.
It’s a ritual that is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah.
The Hajj helps Muslims realise afresh the real importance of life by stripping away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride. One sign of this is that all the pilgrims wear simple white clothes, so that there is no distinction. During the Hajj, the pilgrims renew their sense of purpose in the world through the acts of worship they perform.
The literal translation of the word Hajj is “to intend a journey”, and it is clearly a journey of purpose for Muslims.