The city, Mecca in Saudi Arabia has always been the holy center of the Islamic faith: 1.3 billion Muslims from all over the world bow in its direction during offering prayers. However in the last Islamic month of Islamic year the holiest city of Islam becomes even more spirited, approximately 2.5 million hajjis make their once-in-a-lifetime journey to this holy site.
This journey, known as the Hajj, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam through which every active Muslim must accept. This year, the Hajj starts September 23rd; normally it takes place between the 8th and 12th days of Zill-Hajj, the last month of the lunar Islamic calendar, a time when the spirit of ALLAH is believed to be closest to earth.
The Hajj comprises of a five-day excursion venture, required by all physically as well as financially able Muslims, to Mecca and also to the closest holy sites of Arafat, Mina, and Muzdalifah. Once there, hajjis perform a series of ceremonials to unite themselves along with the other believers, liberate themselves of their sins and also pay tributes to ALLAH (SWT). Even though, the Hajj usually attracts the Hajjis from all sections of Islam as well as all walks of life.
The beginnings of the Hajj date back to 2,000 B.C. when Hazrat Ishmael (A.S), the child son of the prophet Ibrahim (A.S) as well as wife of Hazrat Ibrahim (A.S) Hajera was marooned in the desert. With Ishmael (A.S) close to death from thirst, Hajera ran backward and forward between the hills of Safa and Marwa searching for the water until the angel Jibrael (A.S) touched down to earth and made a spring of fresh water for the baby, which is known as the Well of Zemzem.
Following the orders of ALLAH (SWT), Ibrahim (A.S) is said to have constructed a cenotaph at the site of the spring which is known as Kaaba. The believers from all beliefs traveled to get down at the site; in 630 A.D., the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led a group of Muslims there for the first official Hajj, demolishing the statues positioned there by polytheistic believers as well as re-dedicating that spot in the name of Allah. The route that Muhammad (SAW) as well as his followers traveled is repeated as the part of the Hajj ceremonials which comprises of making the walk of Hajera between Safa and Marwa, deseeding the wall of Shaitan that tempted Ibrahim to disobey ALLAH (SWT), Sacrificing of an animal in honor of the sacrifice that Ibrahim (A.S) made to save his son as well as climbing the Mountain of Arafat from which Muhammad (SAW) made his last address.
The last ritual of passage during the Hajj is circling around Kaaba, a huge black cube, morally deliberated by Muslims to be the center of the world, as well as it actually located in the center of the Masjid al-Haram, a mosque in Mecca. During Hajj massive undulations of believers looking for the forgiveness circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise 7 times. The completion of all of the delegated ceremonials is believed the guarantee the hajji a place in heaven and also the title of hajji, desired and venerated in Muslim countries and regions in the entire world.
However, just a part of Muslims have the capability of doing hajj, the massive hordes of believers that arrive Mecca annually repeatedly test the ability of the site to accommodate their number. No doubt that Saudi Arabian government has spent billions to enlarge as well as to enhance the structure of the site, creating shelters to provide accommodations to hajjis and constructing multi-level paths to eradicate the crowding. Overpopulation as well as the lopsided hurries have led to the deaths through walk over of thousands of worshippers over the years; the most remarkable incident is of 1990 where 1,426 people were creased inside a underpass joining the Holy places.