Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is a holy city to Muslims. By law, non-Muslims may not enter the city. Highway signs direct non-Muslims to exit before reaching it.
Once a year, Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca for a pilgrimage called “the Hajj,” which happens during the Muslim calendar’s month of Zulhijjah. Muslims can go to Mecca for “the lesser pilgrimage,” known as “Umrah,” at other times during the year.
In 2012, the Hajj will occur in late October. The Hajj ritual lasts several days. As part of the ritual, visitors enter a large mosque and walk several times around the Kaaba, a cube about the size of a house. A special black stone is inside the Kaaba. The pilgrims kiss the stone or point to it.
Later the Hajj visitors gather pebbles to throw at walls. The walls are the symbol of Satan.
Muslims believe that Allah asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael. (The Bible tells us in Genesis 22 that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.) Abraham, Ishmael, and Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, are remembered in the Hajj rituals.
For many Muslims, the Hajj is the high point of their lives.
Six-year-old Hamza, an American Muslim, said, “You go to the black stone and kiss it to take away all your bad deeds, and that gives you new life.” Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, and ask a mature Christian to explain the verses to you if you don’t understand them. How does the Bible say we receive “new life?”
Photo credit: Al Jazeera English / Wikipedia (CC BY SA 2.0)