by Arsalan Iftikhar | July 28, 2020
There are very few gatherings on the face of the Earth which capture more of the world’s imagination than the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Every year, over two million Muslims (out of a staggering 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide) from every country on the planet embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey to fulfill the fifth foundational pillar of Islam.
Just the aesthetic beauty and power of seeing so many people from every race congregate together in Mecca can be overwhelming. Imagine yourself in a sold-out football stadium with 80,000 people and then multiply that 25 times. In terms of economic impact, the Hajj (and lesser Umrah) pilgrimage generates about $12 billion in revenue for Saudi Arabia.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of people taking part this week to 1,000 total. The spiritual lessons of the Hajj, however, feel more relevant than ever.
The two million Muslims who participate in a typical year are called to reflect on the story of the prophet Abraham’s wife Hagar, an African woman and the first person to perform many of the Hajj rituals which pilgrims follow today. The perseverance celebrated in those acts is also personified in the stories of Abraham and their son, Ishmael, both of whom sacrificed their own personal feelings to perform selfless acts of sacrifice and obedience.