In reading Surah 22, I found my imagination trying to comprehend the Hajj, or pilgrimage. The photos I’ve seen, the accounts I’ve heard, I’m sure, do not paint the complete picture of the experience. The Hajj is the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, where the Ka’ba is located. The Ka’ba is the first sacred house of worship built by Abraham in response to God’s instruction. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Muslims (there were 1.8 million in 2010) worship in Mecca and Medina for the Hajj. It’s the fifth pillar of Islam, which must be carried out once in one’s life as a Muslim.
And honestly, I’m jealous that Christians do not have a parallel tradition or custom. Sure, we have holy sites like the church of the Holy Selpuchre (the pictures are Jesus’ ‘grave-cave’ and the place where he was taken down from the cross)
And we have the Hagia Sophia which was the patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople (the center of the Christian world) from 360-1453 when the Ottomon Turks conquered Turkey and converted it into a mosque.
Sure the Christian faith has smaller, denominationally-tied pilgrimages like Chimayo in New Mexico for American Roman Catholics, or maybe the Vatican. But we don’t have an organized, large scale, specified pilgrimage event like the Muslims do. I wish we did. How amazing would it be to gather together with millions of diverse people from around the world to share stories of faith and celebrate life and religion? I’m actually tempted to try to attend the Hajj, just to share in the experience, build bridges between the communities, and yes, selfishly satiate my wanderlust.
The only similar event, on a secular level, I have been a part of is the world cup where millions of people from all over the world come together around a common love of soccer, sharing stories and celebrating life. I’ve attended two: USA in 1994 and Germany in 2006. The coming together of a diversity of people proved exhilerating and unforgettable. Two of the greatest experiences of my life. The Ivory Coast ended its civil war in 2005 due to the influence of their national soccer team’s world cup performance and the outspokenness of star striker, Didier Drogba (check out this amazing story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/international/2318500/Didier-Drogba… If a secular event can be that powerful to promote peace, imagine how much more transformative a religious pilgrimage like the Hajj would be, pregnant with the love, meaning, and energy of religious faith.
I’d love to hear, from you all, my friends, some personal accounts of experiencing the Hajj or other pilgrimages. Please share, as the first hand accounts are much more poignant than an outsider trying to imagine what its like!