After last year’s stampede that killed hundreds, Riyadh introduces new safety measures to monitor pilgrims’ movements.
Every year, millions of Muslims make their way to Mecca to perform Hajj. The pilgrimage is made up of actions performed by Prophet Muhammed. The rites also symbolize the trials of Prophet Abraham.
The first day of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca will be on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, as announced by Saudi Arabia’s High Judicial Court.
In the Islamic calendar, Hajj begins every year on the 8th day of the Dhu al-Hijjah lunar month, and traditionally the length of lunar months is only confirmed after moon sighting on the 29th day of the previous lunar month.
Since the moon was not seen on August 21, the first day of the Dhu al-Hijjah lunar month lunar will be August 23, and so Hajj should begin on August 30.
The High Judicial court in Saudi Arabia announces the dates for Hajj, and Eid al-Adha after reviewing moon sighting reports.
Saudi Arabia gives each country 1000 spots per one million people for Hajj. This year the country with the most number of pilgrims is Indonesia with 221,000 pilgrims. Below is a breakdown of this year’s quotas per country.
For Muslims, Hajj re-enacts the actions of Prophet Muhammad’s “farewell pilgrimage” in 632 AD. Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam, but is only a requirement for those who are able to afford the trip and are physically strong enough to complete the pilgrimage.
Muslims perform Hajj with the aim to cleanse their souls and revive their relationship with God. It is also meant to strengthen the bonds among Muslims, since pilgrims come from the four corners of the earth for the pilgrimage.
A significant aspect of Hajj is that itremoves all markers of class, wealth and materialism, which is why the pilgrims dress in simple cloth for the duration of the pilgrimage. Men wrap themselves in two pieces of white cloth called the ihram, which also means the sacred state.
Hajj also hearkens back to the time of Prophet Abraham. Muslims believe that he built the kaaba, along with his son Ishmael. The cubic structure was intended as a gathering point for worshipers.
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1. Pilgrims enter ihram: a sacred state that includes controlling one’s baser instincts, such as anger, and maintaining a state of purity.
2. Head to Mina: an area outside of Mecca, where they stay in tents and spend the days leading up to Arafah in prayer and worship.
3. Spend the day at Arafah: The pilgrims head there and spend their time in prayer andworship until sunset.
4. Spend the night at Muzdalifah: on their way back to Mina, pilgrims stop at a place called Muzdalifah they pray the evening prayers and collect pebbles for another ritual.
5. Celebrate Eid al-Adha: During hajj, the pilgrims can pay to have a lamb sacrificed or go to a specific area outside of Mecca where they could partake in the symbolic ritual.
6. Throw pebbles at the three pillars: This action signifies another trial that prophet Abraham endured. Muslims believe that on his way to the sacrifice, Satan tried to deter Abraham from the act, so Abraham threw stones at the devil to fend him off.
7. Make tawaf at Mecca: circle around the kaaba, which includes supplication and remembering Allah.
Today, most Muslims tend to sign up with a company that takes care of the different aspects of their Hajj, such as accommodations in Mina, transportation to Arafat and food during the pilgrimage.
The cost of these Hajj packages can range from around $2600 to $4300. For most developing nations, it takes years to save up for Hajj. For instance, in Bangladesh the pilgrimage can cost over three years of one’s average salary, and in Nigeria, Hajj packages cost 20 percent more than the average yearly salary.
Starting from the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the pilgrimage can be performed between five to six days.
The ninth of Dhu al-Hijjah is known as the Day of Arafah, whereas Eid al-Adha, Islam’s holiest festival, is on the third day of Hajj.
In 2016, Hajj began on September 10.