Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and Eid ul-Fitr: Muslims mark ending of Ramadan

Mosque Eid al-Fitr

Photo by suhailsuri, courtesy of Pixabay

SUNSET SATURDAY, MAY 8 and SUNSET WEDNESDAY, MAY 12: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide, with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr); though Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date (May 8, this year). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel.

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.”

Did you know? The first Eid was observed by the Prophet Muhammad in 624 CE. 

RAMADAN & EID UL-FITR IN A CONTINUING PANDEMIC

Tunisia sweets Eid

Tunisian sweets for Eid. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Following Ramadan, Muslims celebrate with a joyous festival known as Eid ul-Fitr. For Eid, worship is performed in congregation; visits are paid to family and friends; sweets are partaken in and shared; and carnivals, vacations and gatherings are common. Although more Eid events will take place this year than did last year, pandemic restrictions are still being enforced at most public events worldwide.

Did you know? In Egypt, Eid ul-Fitr is typically an occasion for neighborhood carnivals; in Asia, a celebratory dish contains toasted sweet vermicelli noodles and dried fruit; in Saudi Arabia, wealthy families buy large quantities of rice and other staples and leave them anonymously on the doorsteps of those less fortunate.

Looking for Eid recipes? Sweet and savory selections are available courtesy of the BBC. For sweet recipes, check out NPR.org. For even more, try the New York Times.

‘EID SA’ID!’
(HAPPY EID!)

The grand holiday of Eid al-Fitr is referred to in many ways: the Sugar Feast, Sweet Festival, Feast of the Breaking of the Fast and Bajram, to name just a few. While adherents typically would spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends and attending carnivals and fireworks displays, social distancing measures may restrict some of these types of activities in 2021.

EID: A UNIVERSAL CELEBRATION

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, it is significant to note that, unlike most Muslim holidays—which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year—the two Eid holidays (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr) are always commemorated universally.

Ramadan: Muslims prepare for the second fasting month of the pandemic

Mosque at night with people, lit up

REMEMBERING THE VAST CROWDS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC. Muslims around the world recall the inspiring community-wide gatherings each night of a typical Ramadan. Here’s a pre-pandemic example from a mosque in Tunisia. Instead, for a second year, social distancing will mean smaller public programs and more of a focus on individual and family gatherings. (Photo by Zied Nsir, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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SUNSET MONDAY, APRIL 12: The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims—nearly a quarter of Earth’s population—begin the month of Ramadan as a crescent moon appears and is spotted around the globe. (Note: Starting dates in communities around the world may vary by location and by method of calculation.)

Because the Islamic calendar is lunar, the fasting month “moves earlier” each year in relation to standard calendars. Last year, in 2020, Ramadan began at sunset on April 23, not long after social distancing rules were circling the planet. Even though millions have been vaccinated, now, they still represent only a small portion of the world’s population.

By tradition, Ramadan begins with a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations.

RAMADAN AND THE PANDEMIC

Empty mosque Ramadan

Many mosques are expected to remain empty (or near-empty) of worshipers through Ramadan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

All three Abrahamic faiths—Islam, Christianity and Judaism—are learning to adapt to pandemic distancing. Already in 2021, Jews now have marked their second annual Passover and Western Christians (Catholics and Protestants) have celebrated their second Easter under the threat of COVID-19. Eastern Orthodox Christians will mark their second pandemic-era Easter later in April.

Now, Muslims are approaching their second Ramadan under restrictions. So far, Muslim communities are encouraged that the 2020 limitations on Ramadan allowed families to pass through a reasonably safe observance of the holy month.

A report in Al Jazeera summarizes research from the UK in the Journal of Global Health that suggests observant families adapted successfully last year. The Al Jazeera report says, in part: “The British study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Global Health, said there was no evidence to suggest that British Muslims who observed the holy month were more likely to die from a coronavirus infection. ‘Our findings suggest that the practices associated with Ramadan did not have detrimental effects on COVID-19 deaths,’ the report said.”

Most importantly for Muslim families in 2021 is news from Islamic authorities in many parts of the world that receiving a vaccination does not violate the strict fasting rules. A story in The New York Times focused especially on Muslim groups in the U.S. The Times report said, in part: “The executive director of the Islamic Society of North America, Basharat Saleem, said that numerous scholars of Islamic law had been consulted on the matter. ‘The answer is no,’ he said. ‘It does not break the fast.’ ”

To connect with Muslims in their homes, many mosques and organizations have set up online webinars, video conferences, live streaming and more. In some parts of the Middle East, the athaan—call to prayer—that is amplified from mosques will, this year, be altered to include the phrase “pray in your homes” instead of “come to pray.”

FASTING & DATES

Dates in hand, Ramadan

It is tradition to break the Ramadan fast with dates. Photo by Marco Verch, courtesy of Flickr

Muslims observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. All food and drink (including water) is prohibited. Meanwhile, prayer is increased, as is reading from the Quran.

According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset—with the iftar. Three dates customarily break the fast each day of Ramadan, prior to the iftar.

 

 

BEYOND FASTING …

 

Najah Bazzy, author of The Beauty of Ramadanreminds readers in her opening pages that Ramadan is about far more than denial of food and water during daylight hours. Bazzy, a nationally known expert on cross-cultural healthcare, covers many of the health-related issues in her book. But she calls on a traditional text credited to the Prophet Muhammad for the deeper meaning of this special month. In addition to fasting, prayer and Quran study:

Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders. Have pity on those younger than you and be kind toward your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are forbidden and your ears from such sounds as should not be heard. Be kind to orphans.

 

ZAKAT GIVING & ‘NIGHT OF POWER’

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, sometimes translated as “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory practice. This year, experts are anticipating that a majority of zakat will take place online.

Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Around the Islamic world, traditions vary for identifying the date of Laylat al-Qadr—though it is generally believed to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Eid al-Adha: Muslims worldwide prepare with caution for a quieter festival

A Muslim man learns and prays in a mosque in India. Photo by Riccardo Maria Mantero, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET THURSDAY, JULY 30: Muslims worldwide express joyful appreciation for Ibrahim (Abraham) and his complete willingness to make a sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. (Note: Dates and spellings vary.) On the morning of Eid, crowds typically spill out of mosques, into open fields and in parks, as Muslims celebrate both Ibrahim’s devotion and the miracle that took place on the sacrificial altar; this year, coronavirus measures will change how Muslims are gathering. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca.

NEWS 2020: Saudi Arabia recently announced that for Eid al-Adha, prayers will only take place at certain mosques and the government’s preventative measures will be carried out (read more in this article, from Arab News). In Morocco, government officials are warning citizens to limit travel and avoid crowds for Eid al-Adha; in Indonesia, fewer animals will be sacrificed this year due to a lower demand. In Iraq, the nationwide nighttime curfew will be lifted after Eid al-Adha, and malls, airports and restaurants reopened; in multiple countries worldwide, online purchases will be the most popular (and only, in some regions) route for animal sacrifice for Eid al-Adha in 2020.

IBRAHIM, ISHMAEL AND THE MIRACLE

Two joyous religious holidays are observed by all Muslims each year: Eid al-Fitr, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha.

According to Muslim tradition, when Ibrahim lowered his arm to slaughter his son, the Archangel Gabriel placed a ram on the altar in place of Ishmael. In commemoration, Muslims sacrifice an animal on Eid al-Adha, keeping one-third of the share; giving one-third to relatives and neighbors; and donating the remaining one-third to the poor.

As often happens near this Eid, or holiday, special programs adapted to these Muslim customs help to provide a holiday meal to all observant families. One example: Here’s a news story this week from the Toledo, Ohio, area.

On the morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims dress in their finest clothing and offer prayers (in most years, in congregation). Following prayers, adherents exchange festive greetings and give gifts (Eidi) to children. Even non-Muslims are invited to take part in the joyous feasts and festivities.

THE ‘GREATER EID’                

Sometimes called the Greater Eid (the Lesser Eid, Eid ul-Fitr, occurs at the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha calls able Muslims to sacrifice a halal animal. By sharing, it is ensured that even the most impoverished person may celebrate Eid. The animal sacrifice—which must meet specific age and quality requirements—may be performed anytime before sunset on the final day of Eid. Families that do not own an animal to slaughter contribute to a charity that will provide meat for the needy.

The events of Eid al-Adha often last between one and four days, although in some regions, various festivities carry on much longer.

Laylat al-Qadr and Eid al-Fitr: Muslims mark holiest night, end of Ramadan

Muslim man prayer

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

SUNSET TUESDAY, MAY 19 and SUNSET SATURDAY, MAY 23: The holiest night of the Islamic year arrives for Muslims worldwide with the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr). Known by many names—Night of Value, Night of Destiny, Night of Measure—Muslims note the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. (Note: Muhammad did not reveal precisely when the Night of Power occurred, though the 27th day of Ramadan is a traditionally held date; however, as many of the odd-numbered nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan as possible are still observed.)

It is believed that on this sacred night, verses of the Quran were relayed to Muhammad in the year 610 CE, and angels descended to earth for the event. If a devoted Muslim prays in earnest for forgiveness of sins on Laylat al-Qadr and reads the Quran, it’s believed that the night is “better than 1,000 months.” Sins are forgiven and blessings are manifold.

An Eid Unlike Any Other

Cupcakes decorated fancy for Eid

Cupcakes for Eid. Photo by The Baking Tray, courtesy of Flickr

“Even the oldest people living today cannot recall a Ramadan like this,” Algerian journalist Larbi Megari told us this week via Skype from his home. He followed up by email with this account of the startling reality of an Eid without crowds.

“Officially, we are hearing there will be no public Eid prayers in Algeria this week—and in most of the Arab countries. Authorities are asking people to hold Eid prayers at home, which is difficult. Eid prayers are supposed to include a Khutbah, and not everyone is capable of delivering such a message at home.”

Though rare, some countries—such as Iran and Pakistan—have allowed the resumption of communal prayers; however, strict social distancing measures will be enforced.

A RAMADAN IN QUARANTINE: SOCIAL ASPECTS

In The New York Times, Amelia Nierenberg reported on Breaking the Ramadan Fast in Quarantine. She explained: “For many Muslim families, Ramadan is one of the most social months of the year. … It is a month of meals eating with intention, ending in a joyous celebration: Eid al-Fitr, which begins the evening of May 23.”

Interested in 16 tips for celebrating at home? This article suggests ways to make Eid in quarantine special.

Participate in a 13-day virtual celebration of Eid: Check out this site, hosted by Asia Society’s Texas location, for craft how-to videos, cooking videos, read-alongs and more, part of the free online programming.

Still, in spite of virtual celebrations and “gatherings,” Muslims the world over are experiencing often painful interruptions in lifelong traditions. As Eid is a very social holiday—and a major component of the observance is time in a mosque—Muslims are gearing up for a very different Eid this year.

Empty mosque Eid white pillars

Empty mosques will be common this Eid al-Fitr. Photo courtesy of Pxfuel

From Jerusalem, Adam Rasgon reported: A Ramadan Unlike Any Since the Middle Ages. In The Times, he wrote: “The last time Muslim worshipers were kept out of the Aqsa Mosque compound throughout the entire month of Ramadan was when crusaders controlled Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.”

Reporting from Algeria, Larbi explains, “Authorities have announced that there will be no visits to hospitals during Eid day. We have the habit in Algeria of visiting hospitals where there are sick people who are far away from their families, especially here in the capital where the biggest hospitals are receiving sick people from other towns and cities.

“This year, there will be a total curfew during the two-day Eid. Authorities have forbidden family visits that usually take place during these two days. The religious-affairs ministry even issued a fatwa forbidding family visits during Eid.

“One of our favorite traditions is sharing sweets and cakes for Eid—but we won’t be making them this year for the simple reason that no one will visit us at home to give them these sweets. So many things are different this year. Usually, people wear new clothes for the Eid—so important that new clothes are a symbol of Eid. But, this year, shops are closed. The message widely shared on social media this year is: Instead of wearing new clothes, put on your best clothes.

“Finally, we cannot remember our loved ones with cemetery visits, which is an important habit in Algeria during Eid. Authorities do not want public gatherings—even in our cemeteries.”

Dates Muslims bowl

Photo courtesy of PxHere

‘EID SA’ID!’
(HAPPY EID!)

That’s the way to greet Muslim friends, if you care to follow the traditional custom of wishing friends, neighbors and co-workers the best in this festive time.

Note: Spellings vary, and you may see the holiday spelled Eid ul-Fitr as well. 

Before sunrise on Eid al-Fitr, Muslims pray, bathe and put on their best clothing. A small breakfast—usually including dates—is consumed, and Zakat (charitable giving) has been completed.

While adherents typically would spend ample time enjoying the company of family and friends and attending carnivals and fireworks displays, social distancing measures will prevent most of these types of activities in 2020.

THE END OF RAMADAN AROUND THE WORLD

With nearly one-quarter of the world’s population observing the Islamic faith, it is significant to note that, unlike most Muslim holidays—which may or may not be observed by all Muslims each year—the two Eid holidays (Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr) are always commemorated universally.

Ramadan: Muslims fast, observe traditions amid social distancing

Woman in hijab on prayer rug, head down

Photo by Staff Sgt. Enjoli Saunders, courtesy of U.S. Air Force

SUNSET THURSDAY, APRIL 23: The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims—nearly a quarter of Earth’s population—begin the month of Ramadan, as a crescent moon appears and is spotted around the globe. (Note: Starting dates in communities around the world may vary by location and by method of calculation.)

As the Islamic calendar is lunar, the beginning and end of Ramadan is based on a crescent moon sighting that is typically visible 1-2 days after the astronomical new moon. The end of Ramadan—the ninth month of the Islamic calendar—is met with Eid al-Fitr, a festival of the breaking of the fast. Eid al-Fitr marks the beginning of the next lunar month, Shawwal, and is a time of great feasting and family celebrations.

RAMADAN AND THE 2020 PANDEMIC

Empty mosque Ramadan

Many mosques are expected to remain empty (or near-empty) of worshipers through Ramadan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

As the three Abrahamic faiths—Islam, Christianity and Judaism—observe major holiday periods during April in 2020, the global coronavirus pandemic is forcing billions to reconsider how they celebrate. With social distancing mandatory across most of the world, the feasts and large gatherings typically associated with these holiday periods are taking place virtually, instead: videoconferencing tools are helping to connect many faith adherents.

This year, many of the traditions typically associated with Ramadan are being cancelled: Iran’s supreme leader recently suggested that mass gatherings be barred during Ramadan (read more from AP News), and Saudi Arabia suspended travel to its holiest sites in late February. While many Muslims complete umrah, an optional pilgrimage to Mecca, in the months prior to and during Ramadan, that will not be possible this year—and the sites at Mecca and Medina are nearly empty for the first time in centuries. In many communities across the Middle East, a pre-dawn awakening via drumming harkens Muslims to the suhoor, or pre-dawn meal. This year, the tradition will be halted in most communities. (Read more here.)

As fasting is mandatory during Ramadan (with exceptions for children, some women and those ill or traveling), this primary observation can still be conducted, at home. The iftar, or meal breaking the fast each evening, will this year be held in individual households and not shared among many.

To connect with Muslim adherents, many mosques and organizations have set up online webinars, video conferences, live streaming and more. In some parts of the Middle East, the athaan—call to prayer—that is amplified from mosques will, this year, be altered to include the phrase “pray in your homes” instead of “come to pray.”

FASTING & DATES

Dates in hand, Ramadan

It is tradition to break the Ramadan fast with dates. Photo by Marco Verch, courtesy of Flickr

Muslims observe the month of Ramadan with a strict sunrise-to-sunset fast, which means that nothing passes the lips during those hours. All food and drink (including water) is prohibited. Meanwhile, prayer is increased, as is reading from the Quran. According to Muslim belief, the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad occurred during Ramadan, and as such, observance of the month is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims partake in a pre-dawn meal known as the Suhoor, and do not return to eating until after sunset—with the iftar. Three dates customarily break the fast each day of Ramadan, prior to the iftar.

 

 

BEYOND FASTING …

 

Najah Bazzy, author of The Beauty of Ramadanreminds readers in her opening pages that Ramadan is about far more than denial of food and water during daylight hours. Bazzy, a nationally known expert on cross-cultural healthcare, covers many of the health-related issues in her book. But she calls on a traditional text credited to the Prophet Muhammad for the deeper meaning of this special month. In addition to fasting, prayer and Quran study:

Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to your elders. Have pity on those younger than you and be kind toward your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are forbidden and your ears from such sounds as should not be heard. Be kind to orphans.

 

ZAKAT GIVING & ‘NIGHT OF POWER’

In addition to fasting, Muslims donate to charity during Ramadan. Charity, known as zakat, sometimes translated as “the poor-rate,” is an obligatory practice. This year, experts are anticipating that a majority of zakat will take place online.

Laylat al-Qadr, or the “night of power,” is considered the holiest night of the year and commemorates the night the first revelation of the Quran was sent to Muhammad. Around the Islamic world, traditions vary for identifying the date of Laylat al-Qadr—though it is generally believed to fall on one of the odd-numbered nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Eid al-Adha: Worldwide celebrations begin for ‘Greater Eid’

Muslims Eid al-Adha, Korea

Eid al-Adha in Korea, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea, courtesy of Flickr

SUNSET SATURDAY, AUGUST 10: Muslims worldwide express joyful appreciation for Ibrahim (Abraham) and his complete willingness to make a sacrifice during Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice.

Note: Dates and spellings vary. The Saudi Supreme Court recently announced that Eid al-Adha 2019 will fall on Sunday, August 11, with moon sightings varying by country. It’s estimated that, this year, Eid al-Adha will fall on August 10 in the United States; in the United Arab Emirates, Eid al-Adha will be August 11; in the United Kingdom, it will be celebrated August 12. Around the world, Eid celebrations last several days. 

On the morning of Eid, crowds spill out of mosques, into open fields and in parks around the world, as Muslims celebrate both Ibrahim’s devotion and the miracle that took place on the sacrificial altar. Officially, Eid al-Adha begins after the descent of Mount Arafat by the pilgrims on Hajj in Mecca; Muslims across the globe gather with family and friends and offer prayers in congregation.

Cupcakes decorated fancy for Eid

Cupcakes for Eid. Photo by The Baking Tray, courtesy of Flickr

IBRAHIM, ISHMAEL AND THE MIRACLE AT THE ALTAR

Two joyous religious holidays are observed by all Muslims each year: Eid al-Fitr, ending the fasting month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha.

On the morning of Eid al-Adha, Muslims dress in their finest clothing and offer prayers in congregation. Following prayers, adherents exchange joyous greetings and give gifts (Eidi) to children. Visits are made, and even non-Muslims are invited to take part in the feasts and festivities.

According to Muslim tradition, when Ibrahim lowered his arm to slaughter his son, the Archangel Gabriel placed a ram on the altar in place of Ishmael. In commemoration, Muslims sacrifice an animal on Eid al-Adha, keeping one-third of the share; giving one-third to relatives and neighbors; and donating the remaining one-third to the poor.

THE ‘GREATER EID’                

Sometimes called the Greater Eid (the Lesser Eid, Eid ul-Fitr, occurs at the end of Ramadan), Eid al-Adha calls able Muslims to sacrifice a halal animal. By sharing, it is ensured that even the most impoverished person may celebrate Eid. The animal sacrifice—which must meet specific age and quality requirements—may be performed anytime before sunset on the final day of Eid. Families that do not own an animal to slaughter contribute to a charity that will provide meat for the needy.

It is Islamic custom to exchange joyful greetings, present gifts to children and visit with family and friends during this joyous time. The events of Eid al-Adha last between one and four days, although in some regions, festivities carry on much longer.

 

Hajj 2019: Millions of Muslims descend upon Mecca for annual pilgrimage

Hajj Kaaba Muslims pilgrims

Hajj pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba. Photo by Hassan Morowa, courtesy of Pexels

FRIDAY, AUGUST 9: Millions of Muslim pilgrims—including 20,000 Americans—have been pouring into Mecca from across the globe, preparing for a journey most have anticipated their entire lives: Today begins the annual pilgrimage that is Hajj.

To complete one of the five pillars of Islam, Muslims must visit Mecca and fulfill the Hajj rituals that reenact the actions of the Prophet Muhammad in his “farewell pilgrimage,” in 632 AD.

Arriving via every mode of transportation available and from countries that span the globe, this annual Islamic pilgrimage is widely considered the largest annual gathering in the world.

NEWS UPDATES: Soaring temperatures are expected during this year’s Hajj, as experts estimate mid-August temperatures to reach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), with humidity getting up to 85% (Arab News reported).

As more than 2 million Muslims from upward of 160 countries visit Mecca for Hajj—and with numbers expected to continue to rise each year—the Saudi Arabian government is continually looking for new ways to better maintain safety and comfort for its annual flood of pilgrims. Its goal? The ability to host 30 million pilgrims annually by the year 2030. (Currently, numbers are restricted; read more at Fortune.com.)

In efforts to increase safety, security and comfort through technology, Saudi Arabia hosted its first “Hajj Hackathon” last year, as coders and entrepreneurs competed over a period of 36 hours in building applicable apps and services (Fortune has the story). The winning team designed a smartphone app to help non-Arabic speakers translate signage without an Internet connection, but the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is also piloting, this year, a smart-card initiative that is expected to assist in predicting crowd movements and heading off stampedes and crushes.

PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA: AN ANCIENT JOURNEY

The Hajj pilgrimage is regarded as a religious duty that must be undertaken by every adult Muslim at least once in his or her lifetime—if that person has the mental, physical and financial ability to make the long journey. Despite the word “duty,” Muslims regard Hajj as an experience to be treasured. The ritual of a pilgrimage to Mecca actually stretches back centuries before the advent of Islam—to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham)—yet it was the Islamic prophet Muhammad who cemented the rituals of Hajj in the seventh century. The uniform method of performing the rituals of Hajj is meant to demonstrate both the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to Allah (God).

Did you know? Before the construction of the abundance of hotels in today’s Mecca, citizens of the city often opened their homes to pilgrims. In this article from The National, a Muslim woman recalls her childhood spent as a resident of Mecca—and the importance of seeing a variety of pilgrims staying in her grandparents’ home.

AMERICANS AND THE HAJJ

The U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has published a helpful brochure for American pilgrims, including these facts:

  • In 2018, approximately 20,000 Americans performed Hajj, of approximately 2.3 million pilgrims total.
  • The Hajj terminal in Jeddah, completed in 1982, was designed by an American Muslim, Fazlur Rahman Khan, whose designs include Chicago landmarks the Hancock and Willis (Sears) Towers.
  • Approximately 50 Hajj tour providers have offices in the United States and facilitate the participation of Americans in Hajj every year.

THE ORIGINS OF HAJJ: ABRAHAM, HAGAR & ISHMAEL

Muslim travelers Hajj

Travelers during the season of Hajj. Photo by Muritala Yusuf Olanrewaju, courtesy of Needpix.com

Islamic tradition tells that in approximately 2000 BCE, Abraham was ordered by God to leave his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ishmael, in the desert of Mecca while he traveled to Canaan. After Abraham left, food and water quickly ran out; Hagar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Exhausted, Hagar laid Ishmael on the sand and begged God for help. Miraculously, a well sprang up at the baby’s feet, and that well—the Zamzam Well—continues to provide ample water to Hajj pilgrims today. Later, according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was commanded to build the Kaaba, so that people could perform pilgrimage there. It is believed that the Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone from heaven to be attached to the Kaaba, and today, the Black Stone marks the beginning and ending point of each circle a pilgrim makes as he circulates the Kaaba during Hajj.

Should politics play a role in the decision to travel to Mecca for Hajj? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports both sides of the story.

Jahiliyyah: During a time known as jahiliyyah in pre-Islamic Arabia, the Kaaba had become surrounded by pagan idols. To cleanse the Kaaba, the Prophet Muhammad led his followers from Medina to Mecca in what is now regarded as the first Hajj. The pagan idols were destroyed, and Muhammad rededicated the Kaaba to God. At this point, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam, and adherents have been making the journey ever since.

PILGRIMAGE RITUALS:
THE GRAND MOSQUE, MOUNT ARAFAT AND THE ZAMZAM WELL

Before the start of Hajj, pilgrims bathe, don special clothing and make a statement of intent at the entry station. The first ritual of Hajj is performed inside the Grand Mosque complex: pilgrims circle the Kaaba structure seven times, counterclockwise, reciting prayers (tawaf). Following tawaf, many drink from the Zamzam well. Next, Muslim pilgrims walk rapidly between the hills of Sara and Marwa seven times, as Hagar did (al-Sai). Another statement of intent is made, after which the faithful travel through Mina, and on to the plains of Mount Arafat.

Intense prayer for forgiveness is offered at Arafat, as Muhammad said, “Far more people are freed from the Hellfire on the Day of Arafat than on any other day.” This portion of the Hajj journey is one of the most important. Small stones are gathered, and the following day, pilgrims perform a symbolic “stoning of the devil” at Mina (rami).

Enjoy Video Clips Courtesy of The National

The National, the daily English-language newspaper based in Abu Dhabi, is providing a number of helpful videos for pilgrims this year. These videos will play full screen, if you wish. Use the “Esc” key when you’re done.

Here is the National’s basic video explaining the Hajj.

Here are a series of practical tips for what to wear—and how to pack—for the Hajj. (Note: This video’s default settings may require you to turn on the audio by clicking in the lower left corner of the video screen.)