The largest collective celebration and singing of 'the Oneness of God' - Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage is here. It begins early Thursday (28 Dec, 2006), with a day of prayer and contemplation. Friday at dawn, pilgrims arrive at Mount Arafat for prayer and to seek forgiveness at the site where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon. Saturday, the pilgrims move en masse to the arid valley of Mina, these places are connected with the Biblical history of Prophet Abraham and his family.
The Hajj is one of Islam's five essential pillars. It has been taking place in current form, annually without a break for over 1,400 years. This pilgrimage is the ultimate act of worship to God. Today as before, every adult Muslim who is physically and financially able to 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, where the Ka'bah (kaba) or symbolic House of God is located- marks the direction in which all Muslims pray. It is also the birthplace of The Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), who defined Islam, and is strongly associated with the lives of Hagar, Abraham, and Ishmael, figures known to every Jews, Christian and Muslim, alike. For all these reasons, when the yearly time comes to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims yearn to go. Where the Hajj is concerned, duty and desire beautifully converge.
More than 3 million people are expected to gather in Mecca for the sacred pilgrimage this year. People from all corner of the globe is coming to converge. It is the single most and largest gathering in one place on the face of earth. The coming together of all colors, all race, all language and all culture of human race in one place to sing and celebrate the Oneness of God is the most beautiful symbol of the Hajj.
More readings on Hajj:
:: Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime [from Beliefnet]
Follow one Muslim on his Hajj pilgrimage as he visits many of Islam's holy sites and reflects upon what they mean to him. By Hesham Hassaballa
:: Muslim Pilgrims gather for Hajj [from BBC News]
:: Rituals of Hajj [Ministry of Hajj, Saudi Arabia]
:: The Hajj - Your Emails [from CNN] :: History of Hajj
:: You may watch the Hajj live from Saudi Television. Click here (real player required) [via Saudi Embassy]
:: Hajj Primer : The Beliefnet guide to Hajj