20 November, 2009

To Makkah and The Hajj: The Greatest Journey

Young. Old. Some still unborn. Rich and poor. Humanity. Of all races. Of both genders. Over two million people. From almost all of the World's nations and countries. Arrive in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. Annually during the twelfth month of the Lunar, Islamic calendar: Dhul'Hijjah - ذو الحجة. At a rate of hundreds every minute. By land. By sea. By Air and ....on every kind of camel. That is the Hajj. Going for the Hajj is the greatest journey a Muslim can perform in one's lifetime. A journey that every able bodied Muslim who can afford, must perform.

The largest pilgrimage and human congregation on Earth, goes back to thousands of years to Prophet Abraham and Ishmael. Through time, Muslims from all places, of all races, have journeyed to Makkah for the rituals. One of the most impressive and most spectacular journeys of all for the Hajj, was that done by the King of Mali: Mansa Musa. Tens of thousands of his people, dressed in fine silk - accompanied him on his huge caravan. It is said that during the journey, he carried two tons of gold which he went about giving out along the way so much that he had to borrow money from a trader in Egypt while returning home from the Pilgrimage.That extravagant and lavish display of his kingdom's wealth, inadvertently advertised Mali's enormous wealth to the outside world; the European colonialists in particular.

In April 1964, one of the greatest African-American activist, Malcolm X, traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj. He was delayed at the airport because the Saudis did not know who he was and were not sure if he was a Muslim; but the next day after the Saudis had known who Malcolm was, he was visited at his hotel by a Saudi prince and became a Saudi state guest. That trip; that performing of the Hajj - transformed Malcolm completely. He came to realize that in real Islam, all Muslims, of all races - are equal. Returning back home to the US, his rift with the then racist Nation of Islam, became much wider. It is that rift that most probably got him assassinated.

Mansa Musa's caravan from Mali to Makkah, in the 14th Century, on camels, took months. While Malcolm X's journey to Saudi Arabia, took only a few days. For the millions of Muslims now converging on Makkah, many would have saved for years to afford the trip. For most, it is a great dream come true. Muslims are supposed to achieve the greatest spiritual uplifment during the Hajj and after it. Many achieve that elevation; but many too, very unfortunately, do not.

For more on the Hajj, go to these useful sites: Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Perform Hajj

Or go to these interesting posts on the: National Geographic, Huffington Post and BBC.

Or watch Hajj videos from Channel 4
For more photos of the Hajj see these or these or these photos.

For map of Makkah go to Maps