THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25: Millions of Muslims began Hajj—the world’s largest annual gathering—in Mecca yesterday, and today, many anticipate the most critical day of the pilgrimage: the Day of Arafa. In Saheeh Muslim, it’s said that, “there is no day on which Allaah frees more people from the Fire than the Day of Arafaah.” Even more, Muhammad gave the Farewell Sermon on Mount Arafa on this day during the final year of his life; it’s also said that his religion was perfected. (Wikipedia has details.) For devotees who fast, the Hadith promises that the sins of the preceding year and the coming year will be amended on the Day of Arafa.
Specifically, “Arafat” names the desert where Muhammad gave a famous speech. In the centuries since, Muslims from all classes, cultures and backgrounds have united at this place on this day, blending together in simple white clothing. During this time, Muslims regard one another not by status, but simply by title of “fellow intender of successfully completing Hajj.” Pilgrims on Hajj trek en masse from Mina to Mount Arafa (and the Plain of Arafa), symbolizing unity in faith.
HAJJ 2012: CRICKET SUPERSTARS AND A 314-DAY JOURNEY
As the fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj attracts millions of pilgrims each year. Among other major rituals, attendees circumambulate a black, cubed structure (Kaaba) in the Grand Mosque: it’s believed that Abraham was the first to build the Kaaba. (Read more about this year’s event in the New Zealand Hearald. Or, view news coverage at the CNN belief blog.) This year, Cricket celebrity and team captain Shahid Afridi left his home in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj with other former Cricket players. (News sources report that traveling to Hajj in VIP style is gaining popularity. Read more in the albawaba Business.) Also arriving was a 47-year-old man from Bosnia who walked 314 days—through seven countries and through temperatures ranging from -31 degrees Farenheit to 111 degrees Farenheit—to reach Mecca in time for Hajj 2012. (The Express Tribune has the story.) When interviewed, the walking Muslim reported that he was told by God in a dream to walk through Syria instead of Iraq, and although he waited two months at the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia for an entry visa, his request was finally granted.
TURMOIL AND UNITY
Many Hajj pilgrims hail from Asia, with largest number being from Indonesia—the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Though it was declared in September that Saudi authorities would prohibit Syrian Muslims from performing Hajj before their countries could “reach consensus,” it was clarified last week that Syrian pilgrims would not be barred.