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Hajj the world’s largest religious gathering Mecca



Hajj is the largest annual religious gathering of Muslims. It takes place in the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijja in and around the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

This year, Hajj will start on Monday, June 26, following the sighting of the moon in Saudi Arabia and Eid al-Adha will be celebrated three days later, on June 28.

During Hajj, millions of Muslims from around the world gather in Mecca to fulfill religious rituals that commemorate the actions of the Prophet Muhammad and the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). The pilgrimage holds deep spiritual significance and serves as a time of reflection, repentance and unity among Muslims.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all able-bodied Muslims to perform if they can afford it. It is meant to cleanse followers of sin and bring them closer to God.

Muslim pilgrims from all over the world arrive in Mecca on the seventh day of Dhul-Hijja – falling on June 25 this year – and set their intention to perform Hajj.

They are required to enter Mecca in the purified state of ihram. The state of ihram is a symbol of humility and spiritual focus and serves to unify pilgrims from different backgrounds.



Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah says the cost of the pilgrimage this year has dropped 39 percent for 1.4 million pilgrims arriving from outside the Kingdom.

Speaking at a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday, Al-Rabiah added that there has been a considerable upgrade in services this year as the numbers of pilgrims return to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The cost of Hajj has decreased, and Hajj packages have decreased by 39 percent for pilgrims outside the Kingdom, benefiting more than 1.4 million … and we will see better services because of the nature of competition that helps enhance quality and reduce prices,” he said.

For this year’s Hajj, the number of firms now providing services has been increased from six to 16.


History

A visit to the holy shrine of Kaaba in Mecca has a remarkable history. Muslims believe that Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham, the dearest friend of God and father of prophets, was instructed by God to leave his wife Hajar and son Ismail in the desert of Mecca.

Ibrahim left the family well-flourished but in due course of time, it all diminished and his wife Hajar and son Ismail faced lots of trouble. On one occasion, Hajar travelled seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah but was unable to find any source of water.

However, when her little son Ismail rubbed the ground with his foot, a water fountain sprang up at the spot. This spot was then marked sacred and God ordered Ibrahim to build Kaaba at that place and to invite people to perform pilgrimage there.

Prophet Ibrahim AS (also known as Prophet Abraham AS) and his family when Ibrahim AS and his son Ismail (Ishmael) AS were commanded by God to build the Kaaba, a sacred house of worship in Mecca. Hence, the Kaaba is considered the holiest site in Islam and serves as the focal point for the Hajj pilgrimage. The origins of Hajj are closely tied to the story of Ibrahim's unwavering faith and his willingness to submit to God's commands. It is believed that Ibrahim, along with Ismail, constructed the foundations of the Kaaba as a place for people to worship the one true God, Allah.

Ibrahim and Ismail did as instructed and the Quran even narrates how the archangel, Gabriel, brought the Black Stone (which was originally white but has become black by absorbing the sins of the thousands of pilgrims who have kissed and touched it) from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba.

Over time, the pilgrimage to the Kaaba became a significant annual gathering for the Arab tribes of the Arabian Peninsula however, the rituals associated with Hajj were reformed and revitalised by Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE as during Muhammad's time, the pagan practices and idol worship that had become associated with the pre-Islamic Hajj were eliminated and the pilgrimage was restored to its original monotheistic purpose. In pre-Islamic Arabia time of “jahiliyyah”, some pagan idols were placed around the Kaaba but in 630 CE, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) led the believers from Medina to Mecca and cleansed the Kaaba by destroying all the pagan idols. He was another messiah and the last prophet considered in Islam and after cleansing the Kaaba, he reconsecrated the building to Allah.

Muhammad performed the Hajj pilgrimage in the year 632 CE, delivering his famous farewell sermon to thousands of Muslims gathered in the plain of Arafah and that is how Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam. Following Muhammad's example, the rites and rituals of Hajj were standardised and it became an obligatory act of worship for all Muslims.


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