Islam's annual pilgrimage to Mecca changing with the times - New York News

Islam's annual pilgrimage to Mecca changing with the times

Updated:

By: Matthew Brown, Deseret News

An estimated 2 million faithful Muslims have converged on Saudi Arabia this week to observe the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca - an event that all Muslims who are financially and physically able should do once in their lifetime.

But reports on this year's pilgrimage point out that the usual financial and physical limitations aren't the only obstacles keeping some Muslims from around the world from observing one of the five pillars of Islam.

This year, an outbreak of a deadly respiratory virus and construction in Mecca reduced the numbers of adherents by 1 million from last year, the Associated Press reported.

"Saudi authorities sharply cut back on visas for groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses as a precaution against a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has killed more than 50 people in the kingdom this past year," the AP story stated. "The Saudi health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, said late Saturday that no cases of the coronavirus infection have been detected among pilgrims.

"Further visa restrictions were imposed because of massive construction projects underway in Mecca."

The Economist noted that modern transportation has made it easier for Muslims to make the trek to Mecca from anywhere in the world - but that has also introduced its own set of problems in observing hajj.

The Saudi government controls the number of hajj visas issued to a given country. Renovations to the main mosque so it can accommodate more people was one of the reasons the numbers were restricted this year.

"Next year the renovations should mean more visas once again," the Economist reported. "But the growing number of Muslims, and growing prosperity in many Muslim countries, means the backlog is likely to grow: South Africa recently announced that citizens on the waiting list may face another six years before they get a slot."

The story mentioned a few other modern innovations that make the pilgrimage tolerable with the crushing crowds and oppressive heat, when the observance happens during summer months.

But those modern amenities such as five-star hotels, spas and mobile apps that explain the daily rituals one must fulfill while in Mecca have their drawbacks, lamented Doha Shata in the Arab News.

"As with any annual event that grows over time, hajj has become a complex, carefully choreographed ritual that leaves little wriggle room to include some of the simple traditions of the past," Shata wrote.

He quotes several old-timers who recalled the pilgrimage during simpler times when only tens of thousands made the trip.

One tradition, called Gais, involved women and children who stayed behind in Mecca to bake pastries, wear costumes and celebrate while the men trekked to the holy sites.

"The modern world has affected the custom of Gais, especially since older neighborhoods have been replaced by hotels near the Grand Mosque," one (Mecca) resident told Shata. "However, some surviving older neighborhoods continue with Gais."


Original Post

Copyright 2013 Deseret Digital Media, Inc.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Notes with swastikas and 'Uber' found in Brooklyn

    Notes with swastikas and 'Uber' found in Brooklyn

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 10:05 PM EDT2014-09-17 02:05:20 GMT
    The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is working to track down whoever posted dozens of stickers and fliers with swastikas and the word "Uber" in Brooklyn. The stickers and flyers filled with images of hate were placed outside a Jewish boys' school on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. A Shomrim safety patrol spotted the stickers on the sidewalk and in the gutters, police said.
    The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is working to track down whoever posted dozens of stickers and fliers with swastikas and the word "Uber" in Brooklyn. The stickers and flyers filled with images of hate were placed outside a Jewish boys' school on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. A Shomrim safety patrol spotted the stickers on the sidewalk and in the gutters, police said.
  • Bratton: Islamic State group threat expanding

    Bratton: Islamic State group threat expanding

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 8:43 PM EDT2014-09-17 00:43:17 GMT
    New York City has entered a "new era" of potential terror threats as hostilities between the United States and extremists from the Islamic State group intensify, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday. Bratton told reporters that there is no current information pointing to a specific threat against the city.
    New York City has entered a "new era" of potential terror threats as hostilities between the United States and extremists from the Islamic State group intensify, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Tuesday. Bratton told reporters that there is no current information pointing to a specific threat against the city.
  • High-fiving strangers in NYC

    High-fiving strangers in NYC

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 6:01 PM EDT2014-09-16 22:01:29 GMT
    Looking for a taxi cab is a common sight in the city. For some people, an outstretched arm is usually the sign for hailing a cab. A few other folks see it as something else.Meet Meir Kalmanson. He sees a hand in the air as an opportunity to lighten up a person's serious or frantic state. Meir decided to high-five his way down Fifth Avenue. The video of his rebellion of social norms has gone viral.
    Looking for a taxi cab is a common sight in the city. For some people, an outstretched arm is usually the sign for hailing a cab. A few other folks see it as something else.Meet Meir Kalmanson. He sees a hand in the air as an opportunity to lighten up a person's serious or frantic state. Meir decided to high-five his way down Fifth Avenue. The video of his rebellion of social norms has gone viral.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices