Mecca: the heart of the Muslim world

As a cradle Muslim, since my childhood I have had in mind the image of a cubic stone structure covered with a black cloth. I did not know her name or her importance, but I often saw her on the covers of books, on prayer rugs, on the walls of mosques, and above all, the sequence on television in which thousands and thousands of people , all dressed the same, surrounded her. Over time I advanced in my religious knowledge and discovered that such a place is called “Kaaba” and is located in Mecca (Saudi Arabia).

Photo: Reuters

In Islam, the pilgrimage to the Kaaba, which is called “Hajj”, is a unique event in its importance and has international relevance. The pilgrimage occurs every year during the last month of the Islamic calendar, which is characterized as a lunar calendar. For this reason, the dates according to the Gregorian calendar have an annual fluctuation of approximately 10 days and this year it will take place from June 14 to June 19. During this period, more than two million people from all over the world usually visit the Kaaba.

“Hajj” is one of the five pillars of Islam and its performance is a mandatory commandment that every Muslim, whether man or woman, has to fulfill at least once in their life. However, it is a conditional commandment and applies only to those who have sufficient financial resources, the health necessary to undertake the journey, and those who are in a safe situation to travel.

Photo: Reuters

Therefore, in times of pandemic, it was not obligatory for all believers. There are even Muslim currents that even today cannot carry out the pilgrimage because they are persecuted in Saudi Arabia, such as, for example, the Muslims of the Ahmadiyya Community.

However, unanimously for all Muslims, the Kaaba is the most sacred place and was the first house dedicated to the worship of the One God. Mecca plays a primary role in the daily lives of the faithful and during each prayer one turns towards it, being the constant orientation and place of unity for the Islamic world.

In particular, the rituals during the pilgrimage are dedicated to the sacrifices of the prophet Abraham, his wife Hagar and his son Ishmael, in order to preserve the Kaaba as a symbol of the unity of God. Those religious who cannot travel to Mecca symbolically join from their place the celebration of the pilgrimage, called “Eidul Adha” (the celebration of sacrifice) that will take place this year in Argentina on June 17.

In short, pilgrimage is for Muslims a symbolic expression of their dedication to the Supreme Being. In turn, Mecca fulfills the function of being a place of union for all humanity, just as the prophet Abraham is considered the trunk and father of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

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Therefore, this 2024 we celebrate the pilgrimage to Mecca with a special prayer for peace in the Middle East: for the war to end and for all the hostages to return home to their families. The slaughter and blood of innocent people, especially children, is the main contamination of our relationship, both with the Creator and with our neighbors. Likewise, as Argentine people, I hope we can overcome our differences and “pilgrimage” together in peace and harmony towards a better future and a better society. Amen

Imam Marwan Gill is an Islamic theologian and President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Argentina.

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