Monday, 11 November, 2019

The hajj pilgrimage and its significance in Islam

Muslim worshipers pray around the Kaaba Islam's holiest shrine at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca Hajj: Images show Saudi Arabia preparing for arrival of over two million Muslim pilgrims in Mecca
Deanna Wagner | 19 August, 2018, 20:31

A group of Qatari pilgrims have arrived in Mecca, according to an official at Saudi Arabia's hajj ministry, although he didn't say how many had arrived or if they traveled directly from Qatar.

Men attending the hajj dress in only terrycloth, seamless white garments meant to represent unity among Muslims and equality before God.

After spending the night in the massive valley of Mina, the pilgrims head to Mount Arafat, some 20km east of Mecca, for the pinnacle of the pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under a drive to diversify the kingdom's economy away from oil.

The climax of the Hajj includes the Eid al-Adha festival, which is one of Islam's two major festivals and involves the sacrifice of an animal, usually a sheep, goat, or cow.

Around 1.6 million Muslims from around the world are beginning the five-day hajj pilgrimage on Sunday.

Since their arrival, many people have been seen circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, Islam's holiest site.

Pilgrims who stayed in Mina repeat the stoning ritual before heading back to Mecca and carrying out the tawaf ritual.

When the pilgrim wakes for prayer time - five times daily in Islam - workers will sterilise the pod before handing it over to the next pilgrim.

The Hajj brings together Muslims from all over the world, regardless of culture, ethnicity, sect or class.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are involved in proxy wars, including in Yemen and Syria, and tensions between the two have spilled over into the Hajj in the past.

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Authorities are able to locate those in need through the app.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at Saudi Arabia's Hajj ministry accused Qatar of of trying to "politicize the Hajj".

Saudi Arabia sets the quotas, based on the population of Muslims in each country, which in turn - through governments or private travel companies - allocate places for their citizens.

Saudi Arabia, and the three other Arab countries, closed land, air and sea links with Qatar in June previous year, accusing it of funding terrorism, which Doha denies.

They have cut all ties with Qatar - which denies the charges - and banned all flights to and from Doha. Qatar denies the charges.

The last batch flew in to the country through a Fly Nass airline from Abuja, which conveyed five pilgrims from Kaduna State, 14 members of medical team and 171 others.

Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst-ever disaster three years ago when hundreds of worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.

Although the kingdom's young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has spearheaded the changes, religion remains a key force in Saudi Arabia.

But the reforms have been accompanied by a widening crackdown on dissent, with more than a dozen women´s rights campaigners detained in recent weeks.

Some have since been released.