Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 76, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Ramzi has now joined us as we travel to Saudi Arabia. Ramadan Mubarak Ramzi.

We all know that Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter Mecca by Saudi law, and individuals who use fake certificates of Muslim identity to enter may be arrested and prosecuted by Saudi authorities!!

The Saudi government uses the following verse as a Qur'an confirmation for this law:

"O you who believe(in Allâh's Oneness and His Messenger Muhammad Veril
y, the Mushrikun(polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh, and in the Message of Muhammad are Najasun (impure).
So let them not come near Al-Masjiadal-Harâm (at Makkah) after this year; and if you fear poverty, Allâh will enrich you if He wills, out of His Bounty. Surely, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Wise." -- Qur'an, 9:28

But we are all curious, because it is forbidden....human nature is we will enjoy an aerial view of this holy city but Ramzi and Feroz, you guys will simply have to answer our questions:-)

Ok guys, please tell us a little about the city.

Mecca (officially spelled Makkah) is a city in western Saudi Arabia, located near the Red Sea in the narrow, sandy Valley of Abraham, 909 feet above sea level.

Mecca is the spiritual and geographical focal point for all Muslims. It was chosen by the Prophet Muhammad himself as the holy city of Islam and the direction (qibla) in which all Muslims should offer their prayers.

Each year, during the Islamic month of Dhu'l-Hijja, thousands of Muslims from around the world join in a pilgrimage to Me
cca (the Hajj), in fulfillment of one of the Five Pillars of Islam. For most Muslims, this is an event of a lifetime, full of meaning and spiritual renewal. Many also perform the minor Mecca pilgrimage, the Umrah, at various times throughout the year.

That is a beautiful mosque. Please tell about it .

Al-Masjid al-Haram ("The Holy Mosque"; also known as al-Haram Mosque, Haram al-Sharif, Masjid al-Sharif and the Haram) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the holiest mosque in the world and the primary destination of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The mosque complex covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can accommodate up to 820,000 worshippers during the Hajj. The Holy Mosque is the only mosque that has no qibla direction, since Muslims pray facing the Ka'ba in the central courtyard.

The Haram was built in the 7th century and has been modified, rebuilt, and expanded on a regular basis ever since. Major expansions took place in the 1980s and further work is going on today.
And what is the Ka'ba?

It is a small building located within the courtyard of al-Haram Mosque.
The Ka'ba is actually the holiest site in Islam; the Holy Mosque was built around it and because of it!!
The qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction facing the Ka'ba.

The Ka'ba houses the mysterious Black Stone,

which was revered in Mecca in pre-Islamic times as well. It became a Muslim relic in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and pilgrims to Mecca try to stop and kiss it while circumambulating the Ka'ba during the hajj.
Ramzi thinks that the stone may even be a meteorite....and that there is always a wonderful fragrance that permeates the air......could it be some incence that is burnt inside the Ka'ba?

Please tell us about the Hajj pilgrimage.
It is a holy journey each Muslim is expected to undertake to Mecca, at least once in their lifetime preferably during the month of Dhu al-Hijja (the last month of the Islamic year).

Obviously exceptions are made for those who are physically or financially unable to fulfill this obligation.

The hajj is commanded in the Qur'an - "And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who can find the way thither" (3:97).

Its rites were established by the Prophet Muhammad, but Muslim tradition dates it back to Adam and Abraham, who were instructed by angels in the performance of the rites.

The hajj was one of the last public acts of worship performed by the Prophet Muhammad before his death. In part, the hajj commemorates the stories of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael and it has been assigned various other meanings throughout the centuries.

What are the rituals and sites of the Hajj?
Upon arrival at the boundary of Mecca (about six miles from the Ka'ba), pilgrims enter the state of ihram (purity) in which they will remain throughout the hajj.
Males entering this pure state don the ihram garments - two white, seamless sheets wrapped around the body - and sandals.

This aspect of the rite not only signifies the state of holiness the pilgrims have entered, but contributes to a sense of equality and unity by removing visual indicators of class, wealth and culture.
Women usually dress in white with only faces and hands uncovered. While in the state of ihram, pilgrims must not cut their nails or hair, engage in sexual relations, argue, fight or hunt.

When he or she enters the city of Mecca, the pilgrim first walks around the Ka'ba seven times (this is called the tawaf, or circumambulation), while reciting the talbiya, then kisses or touches the Black Stone in the Ka'ba, prays twice towards the Station of Abraham and the Ka'ba and runs seven times between the small mountains of Safa and Marwa.

The second stage of the hajj takes place between the 8th and 12th days of Dhu al-Hijja, beginning with a sermon (khutba) at the mosque on the 7th day.

On the eighth day and night, the pilgrim stays at Mina or Arafat.

n the ninth day, the ritual of wuquf ("standing") takes place at the small hill of Jabal al-Rahma in Arafat.

he pilgrim then returns to Muzdalifa, a small town within the Meccan boundaries, to stay the night.

The tenth day is Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice), a major holiday observed by all Muslims.
For those participating in the hajj, the day is spent in Mina, where the pilgrim sacrifices an animal to commemorate Abraham's sacrifice and throws seven small stones at each of three pillars on three consecutive days (the pillars represent sins and devils).

The pilgrim then returns to Mecca, where he or she once again performs the tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka'ba).

The head is then shaved or the hair is trimmed, which marks the end of the state of ihram.
Hmmm, considering the number of pilgrims, the barbers must be very rich!

And you even have videos explaining all of this to us........oh you guys are too sweet.....

Thanks guys...

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