Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pilgrimage to Mecca a Paradox?

Pilgrimage to Mecca a Paradox?

December 18, 2007

“Performing the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage more ancient than Islam itself, is complicated and confusing even for those well-versed in Islam — so it's particularly intimidating for someone who's hardly religious”, writes Associated Press’ writer Scheherezade Faramarzi from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in a piece published December 17, 2007. Faramarzi adds “As a secular journalist covering this central pillar of Islam, which began Monday, I am determined to go through the rites with an open mind.”

, the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. It is also the fifth pillar of Islam, an obligation that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. It is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to their God.

The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to the 12th day of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, the event cannot be pegged to the Gregorian calendar, which is approximately eleven days longer. In 2007, Hajj takes place from December 17 to December 21.

The Hajj is associated with the life of Muhammad, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca predates Islam, and was considered ancient even during his lifetime in the 7th century. Many Muslims believe that it goes back to the time of Abraham in 2000 BC.

Faramarzi's article provides a fascinating view of what transpires during Hajj: “The mass of humanity is awe-inspiring — and that is part of the point. The hajj is a deeply personal rite for the faithful, a chance to get closer to God, walk in the footsteps of Muhammad and Abraham and receive the forgiveness of sins. But it is also a communal experience, a symbol of the unity of the Islamic world”. Faramarzi then describes what seems to be a rare occurrence: “The close mingling of men and women here is remarkable, when in all other areas of life — particularly in Saudi Arabia — the genders are strictly segregated. In much of the Arab world, men and women are separated when they pray in mosques, and many conservative men consider it a sin to shake hands with women. But here in the most sacred place in the Muslim world, men and women pray side by side and touch without the slightest inhibition. A major theme of the hajj is the equality of all mankind before God — man and woman, rich and poor, young and old.”

An then there is the Girl of Qatif and the teddy bear once named Muhammad, or the widely distributed notion that more Muslims are killed by Muslims (center for Security Policy) in 1 week than the West combined, does in a year, as illustrated from a small one-day sampling of the press:

35 muslims blown up, by another muslim

Islamabad faces suicide bomb call

'Many killed' in Pakistan clash

Sudanese soldiers accused of rape

Saudis kill French murders suspect


Saudi king pardons the Girl of Qatif , a rape victimXX
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