Sunday, November 14, 2010


MECCA (AFP) - Muslim pilgrims dressed in white robes descended in their hundreds of thousands on Mecca for weekly prayers for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Some 2.5 million people are expected in Mecca by the start on Sunday of the hajj, which is being held amid tight security and with new facilities, including a railway, to ease the sometimes fatal congestion. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has said he cannot rule out an Al-Qaeda attempt to disrupt the five-day ritual, although the group has not attacked pilgrims in the past. Were it to do so, it would embarrass Saudi Arabia, which many Muslims consider the guardian of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, and which showcased its security forces in a military parade on Wednesday. The journey of Hajj, or the annual pilgrimage, is the most spiritual journey a Muslim can take. All Muslims who are fit and financially able are expected to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime. While pilgrims from all corners of the earth go to Mecca for the Hajj, many also travel for the business prospects the season brings.

The hajj is one of the five pillars, or requirements, of Islam, which must be performed at least once in their life by all believers who have the health and the means to do so. While most of those who crowded the streets of Mecca had donned white ihram garments for the pilgrimage, some were still dressed in their countries’ traditional clothes, reflecting the number of nationalities and ethnicities represented in the annual season. And in stark contrast to the strict rule of segregation between sexes usually imposed by Saudi Arabia’s religious police, men and women prayed shoulder to shoulder - a behaviour accepted only in the holy mosque during pilgrimage.

The “Kaaba”, a square building where Muslims place the center of the world, for Islam is the first building on earth and inside it is stored the “black stone” which the Muslims considered a broken off piece of paradise. According to Islamic tradition, its foundations were built by Adam and the building by Abraham, with the help of his son Ishmael, the son of the slave Hagar, whom Muslims consider themselves descendants. After completing the seven laps around the “Kaaba”, pilgrims cut their hair and slaughtered sheep to start the Feast of Sacrifice, one of the major Islamic holidays. Each religion has its traditions. The mystic realizations of the spiritual masters of each religion were expressed in words and these words became the scriptures of the spiritual paths they founded.

All human beings come into contact with a particular set of beliefs, codes of ethics and practices through the company they keep. As such, they identify with Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Vaishnavism or some other creed. They love their religion and live according to its precepts. If anyone asks them, they say, “I am Christian,” “I am Muslim,” or “I am Buddhist.” Just as a student gradually progresses through the various levels of school until completing his education with a university degree, so do the followers of different religions make gradual spiritual progress until attaining the highest achievement, which is the attainment of the Supreme Lord’s abode. Each of these religions can be considered a different degree course leading to this final goal. The spiritual masters of each religion were, each in their own way, seers of the Divine Truth.

Śrīla Bhakti Bibudha Bodhayan Mahārāja :
“Sanatan Hindu Dharma - The Way to Harmony”

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