what an Islamic scholar saw in Mecca

At least 1,300 people died resulting from the scorching heat in the course of the Hajj pilgrimage in June 2024. This shouldn’t be the primary time that a pilgrimage has been hit by such a tragic incident. More than a thousand were killed in a Heatwave 1985and deaths resulting from mass panics and other disasters brought on by crowds of individuals have been reported lately.

But despite the risks, hundreds of thousands of Muslims make the pilgrimage; this 12 months alone, around 1.8 million took part.

I too performed Hajj this 12 months, traveling from the United States to Saudi Arabia. This not only enabled me to satisfy my religious duty as a Muslim, but in addition gave me the chance to watch the variety of Muslim societies. a social scientist who studies Islam and politics.

While the tragic deaths was the main focus of media coverageThere were many other elements of Hajj 2024. Hajj is a private spiritual journey that also brings together Muslims from different backgrounds. However, the Saudi government's organization of this gathering has recently been criticized, especially with regard to the destruction of the historic landscape of Mecca.

Religious meaning

Hajj is one in all the five pillars of Islam, together with the declaration of religion, day by day prayers, fasting and almsgiving. Muslims who’re financially and physically in a position to make the pilgrimage are obligated to perform it at the very least once of their lifetime.

During most Hajj rituals, men wear two unhemmed white garments, symbolizing humility and equality, while women can wear any garment they like. Together, men and girls walk seven times across the Kaaba – the cube-shaped constructing considered the “House of God” in Mecca. Muslims around the globe face the Kaaba after they pray five times a day.

The Hajj has many spiritual elements, comparable to contemplation, asking for forgiveness and supplication, nevertheless it also brings with it physical challenges. For example, an important requirement of the Hajj is the journey to Arafat, This is about 24 kilometers from the Kaabafor a full day of prayer.

The physical challenges include sleeping in tents for 3 to 4 days in Mina, about 8 kilometers from the Kaaba, and spending one night under the celebs in Muzdalifah, a spot about 13 kilometers from the Kaaba.

Travelling to all these places and performing the rituals in Mecca requires a substantial distance on foot. I calculated that I covered about 129 kilometres during my pilgrimage. And the acute heat this 12 months has only added to the challenge.

Multiracial Global Islam

A woman with her head and neck covered holds her hands up and looks up to the sky.
Muslim pilgrims pray in the course of the annual Hajj pilgrimage on the summit of the rocky hill often called the Mount of Mercy near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on June 15, 2024.
AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

The Hajj reflects the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of some 2 billion Muslims around the globe. The importance of the Hajj for race relations was famously expressed by Malcolm Xa number one African-American activist and mental.

Malcolm X’s Hajj in 1964 played a crucial role in his transformation to be a black nationalist to adopt the mainstream Islamic concept of acceptance of all races. In a letter to his followers Malcolm X explains how his interaction with white pilgrims was very positive: “Here there are Muslims of all colors and from all parts of the world. … I could look into their blue eyes and see that they saw me the same way (as brothers) because their belief in the one God (Allah) had actually banished the word 'white' from their minds.”

This 12 months pilgrims got here to the Hajj from 180 countrieswhere various Islamic theological and legal schools were practiced.

It is difficult to differentiate between pilgrims who follow Sunni, Shia or other interpretations of Islam, as there aren’t any significant differences between their Hajj rituals. I actually have had conversations with pilgrims from the United States, Norway, Finland, Albania, Turkey, Mali, India, Malaysia and Indonesia without knowing their religious schools.

Nevertheless, some differences might be observed. For example, while circumambulating the Kaaba, I saw a dozen Iranians reciting loudly:Jawshan“- a prayer book of the Shiites that isn’t accepted by the Sunnis.

Critical perspectives

Islamic scholars generally encourage pilgrims to deal with personal devotion and rituals. However, this will not stop some pilgrims from criticizing the Saudi government's administration of the Hajj, including its attempts to commercialize this devotional event.

In his 2014 book The British Muslim mental Ziauddin Sardar Reviews how the Saudi government destroyed historical gravesShrines and other buildings in Mecca have been replaced by towering hotels and shopping malls, including the Clock Tower, the fourth tallest constructing on the earth. The Clock Tower is situated right next to the Kaaba and dwarfs the holy structure.

The Saudis’ destruction of the historical buildings in Mecca was based on their fear that these historical sites and never God Objects of WorshipFor this reason, no historical buildings remain in Mecca except the Kaaba.

Interestingly, the House of Saud seems to have finally realized its mistake. In each Mecca And MadinahI actually have seen recently opened museums that indicate a brand new attitude towards monument preservation.

However, many pilgrims ignore these problems and deal with the spiritual dimension of their journey. The Hajj is a novel experience that enables one to fulfill and even live alongside people from completely different backgrounds. It reflects the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the worldwide Muslim community. And this 12 months, not even the exceptional heat could prevent this.

image credit : theconversation.com