Hajj is the oldest and most sacred ritual of Islam. The pilgrimage focuses on the holy city of Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. It is the largest pilgrimage in the world and is to be performed at least once by every able bodied Muslim who can afford it. Saudi officials say more than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims are taking part in the annual Hajj rites, which peak on Saturday. The white robes symbolize purity and equality under God. Some other interesting facts about the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage below.
1. Prophet Muhammad’s final sermon was at Mt. Arafat. The Prophet had given explicit directions on how men and women should treat each other and spoken about the status of usury (interest). Dictating that Islam is a religion of brotherhood, no race or nationality has superiority over another. This year the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz said a record 1.8 million foreign pilgrims had arrived the kingdom as of Friday and that they represented 183 nationalities.
2. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four include Shahada (belief in the oneness of Allah and his Prophet), Salat (offering prayers 5 times during the day), Sawm (fasting in the month of Ramadan), Zakat (giving in the way of charity in accordance with your wealth).
3. While entering Masjid Al Haram Muslims recite the Talbiyah: I stand up for Your service, O God! I stand up! I stand up! There is no partner with You! I stand up for Your service! Verily Yours is the praise, the beneficence, and the dominion! There is no partner with You.
4. For the first time ever YouTube, in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information will broadcast the live coverage of the annual Islamic pilgrimage of Hajj from November 5th. Earlier in the year, Google had collaborated with the ministry to broadcast Islamic prayers live during Ramadan from the Holy Mosque in Mecca. The live stream can be seen at youtube.com/hajjlive.
5. The ministry of religious affairs sends out 3.25 million text messages each day to the cell phones of pilgrims to inform them of correct procedures for the Hajj rites so as to "prevent that which is harmful", according to ministry official Sheikh Talal al-Uqail, cited by the official SPA news agency.
6. In 2011 Hajj is all about the melding of faith and technology as the Saudi government will use the latest in crowd-control techniques to manage the movement of swarms of pilgrims to prevent such things as trampling and architectural collapses that have caused hundreds of deaths during past pilgrimages.
7. This year’s pilgrims can avail a new BlackBerry app to help them better understand and perform the rituals of the pilgrimage. Developed by Asgatech, the application is available as a free download on BlackBerry App World and supports six different languages, including, Arabic, English, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu and Bahasa and has videos and detailed text describing the different ways to perform Hajj.
8. Hajj ends with Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. Muslims worldwide will celebrate by slaughtering a camel, sheep or cow to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead. Muslims believe that performing the Hajj absolves them of past sins and is a Journey of Forgiveness. Before going on the pilgrimage Muslims ask their relatives, friends and acquaintances to pardon their mistakes.
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