Secondary: Current Assemblies
The annual pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca (13–18 October 2013)
Suitable for Whole School
To reflect on the significance of this annual pilgrimage for Muslims.
Preparation and materials
- Every year, hundreds of thousands of people converge on Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Muslim rite of the Hajj. Every Muslim who is financially and physically able must make this pilgrimage to the holy city at least once in his or her life.
The Hajj takes place every year at a certain time, specifically the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. As this is different from the Gregorian calendar used in the West, the dates for the Hajj change every year. This year, the pilgrimage will take place from the 13 to the 18 of October.
- The pilgrimage begins at Mecca’s Ka’aba, believed by Muslims to be the first temple to God, built by Ibrahim (known to Christians as Abraham) and his son Ishmael and subsequently restored by the prophet Muhammed. Pilgrims circle the building seven times, sip from the well and try to kiss the Black Stone, an ancient part of the Ka’aba’s walls. Other parts of the Hajj pilgrimage include spending a day praying on the plains of Arafat, a night out in the open between Arafat and Mina and casting stones at a series of pillars that represent the temptations of the devil as symbols of their rejection of him and staying firm in their faith.
- These rituals are intended to bring about a purification of each pilgrim and allow Muslims to express their submission to God and unity with other Muslims from all over the world. It brings together people of different races and social classes in a spirit of fellowship. A study by Harvard University showed that Hajj participants returned with ‘an increased belief in peace, and in equality and harmony among adherents of different religions’.
- Shared experiences can bring people together and create lasting bonds. By bringing Muslims from all over the world together, the Hajj reminds them of what they share and of their commitments, strengthening them in their fait. In this way, it helps to encourage people to see difference as not a problem but a valuable thing. Indeed, the Hajj can profoundly change the pilgrims, but they always report that they change for the better.
Time for reflection
Have you ever been on a pilgrimage – a journey for a specific, usually religious, purpose to a significant place? Taking time as you travel to meditate, think and pray can change your perspectives on life and may help you become a better person as a result.
Where would your pilgrimage – religious or otherwise – take you?
Chosen Middle Eastern music.