As a Muslim by birth, the image of a cubic structure covered with a black cloth has accompanied me since my childhood. I did not know its name or its meaning, but I often saw it on the covers of books, on prayer mats, on the walls of mosques and, above all, the sequence on television where thousands and thousands of people, all dressed in the same white clothes, surrounded him. Over time, I advanced in my religious knowledge and discovered that this place is called “Kaaba” and it is located in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).
In Islam, the pilgrimage to the Kaaba, called “Hajj”, is a unique event in its importance and international relevance. The pilgrimage takes place every year during the last month of the Islamic calendar, which is defined by the lunar calculation. For this reason, the dates according to the Gregorian calendar have an annual rotation of about 10 days and in 2022 the pilgrimage will take place from July 7 to 13. During this period, in pre-pandemic times, more than two million people used to visit the Kaaba. This year, the Saudi government allowed one million Muslims from around the world for the pilgrimage, which is a huge number compared to the previous year when only 60,000 people, exclusively residents of the country, were allowed to perform the pilgrimages. Hajj rituals.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a mandatory commandment that every Muslim, male or female, must perform at least once in their lifetime. However, this is a conditional command and only applies to those with sufficient financial resources, health to undertake the journey, and those who are safe to travel. Therefore, in times of pandemic, it was not obligatory for all believers. Even some branches of Muslims are still unable to perform Hajj for their own safety and are persecuted in Saudi Arabia, such as Muslims from the Ahmadiyya community.
However, unanimously for all Muslims, the Kaaba is the holiest place and was the first house dedicated to the worship of the One God. Mecca plays a vital role in the daily life of a Muslim and with every prayer one turns to it, which converts it into a constant orientation and a place of unity for the entire Islamic world. Nevertheless, the rituals of the pilgrimage are dedicated to the sacrifices of the prophet Abraham, his wife Agar and their son Ishmael, in order to preserve the Kaaba as a symbol of the unity of God. Devotees who cannot make it to Mecca symbolically join in the celebration of the pilgrimage, called “Eidul Adha” (the celebration of sacrifice), and remember spiritually with their local community the sacrifices of the Prophet Abraham and his family.
In conclusion, for Muslims, the pilgrimage is a symbolic expression of their devotion to the Supreme Being. In turn, Mecca fulfills the function of being a place of union for all humanity, just as the prophet Abraham is considered the trunk and father of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. . Therefore, this year we will celebrate with Jewish and Christian representatives the pilgrimage to Mecca through an interreligious prayer for peace and performing an act of charity for the needy in our society.
* Imam Marwan Gill is an Islamic theologian and president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Argentina.
by Imam Marwan Gill*
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