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The Pilgrimage (Hajj- Arabic)
Introduction to Hajj
The high point of the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, takes place on the eighth day of the month of Hijjah on the Islamic lunar calendar. On that day, falling this year around March 15 (depending on the sighting of the new moon), 2 million people gather on a desert plain outside the city to stand together in prayer before their Creator. Days of feasting follow this. Other rites are performed in the days leading up to it.
The Hajj is one of Islam's five essential pillars. It has been taking place annually without a break for 1,400 years. Today as before, every adult Muslim who can do so is obligated to make this journey once in his or her lifetime.
But performing the Hajj is more than answering a call to duty. Mecca marks the direction in which all Muslims pray. It is also the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad, who defined Islam, and is strongly associated with the lives of Hagar, Abraham, and Ishmael, figures known to every Muslim child. For all these reasons, when the time comes to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, every Muslim wants to go. Where the Hajj is concerned, duty and desire converge.
The Hajj is not a single event. It is a process that changes shape over many days. It is by turns:
· a rite of arrival to a sacred territory;
· a circular, then a linear ceremony of mobile prayer;
· an exodus from an urban to a desert existence;
· a spiritual camping trip among the dunes;
· a daylong collective gathering;
· an all-night vigil;
· a casting out of temptation;
· and a three-day feast.
In addition, with such large numbers of people representing over 100 nations, it is a kind of unofficial United Nations general assembly, a chance for each pilgrim to represent his homeland and take the pulse of Islam throughout the world.
Pilgrims travel toward Mecca from every corner of the earth. Their routes converge a few miles short of Mecca, at the checkpoints marking the borders of the Sacred Territory. It is here at these special rendezvous points that the actual Hajj begins. Over the course of a handful of days, the pilgrims will perform (and re-perform) several rites, each with its own special meaning and significance.
For your help we have divided the Hajj into some parts, please read them in order for maximum effectiveness.