By Mohamed al-Rayes and Moataz Mohamed
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AA) – Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud, the emir of Mecca, announced the “successful” completion of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage season on Friday.
One day earlier, some 1.6 million pilgrims concluded the Hajj while another 750,000 remained in the tent city of Mina near Mecca to perform the “Great Jamra” ritual, in which Muslims hurl stones at a symbolic representation of the devil.
According to the Saudi authorities, more than 2.37 million pilgrims took part in this year’s Hajj, some 1.75 million of whom came from overseas.
The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia is a religious obligation for Muslims, who must make the journey — if financially feasible — at least once in their lives.
Considered the fifth “pillar” of Islam, the Hajj is intended to demonstrate the solidarity of the Muslim people and their submission to Allah.
While the Hajj is generally associated with Islam’s final prophet, Muhammad, who lived in the seventh century, Muslims believe that the pilgrimage to Mecca dates back thousands of years to pre-Islamic times.
The pilgrimage takes place every year from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar.
On these five days, pilgrims converge on Mecca, where they circumambulate the Kaaba seven times; run between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah; drink water from the sacred Well of Zamzam; stand vigil on the plains of Mount Arafat; and, lastly, pelt the “devil” with stones.
Pilgrims then cut their hair and sacrifice an animal — meat from which is traditionally distributed to the poor — before celebrating the Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice”.
Because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the date of the Hajj changes each year on western calendars.