MNA Exclusive Desk: More than 2 million Muslims began the annual hajj pilgrimage Sunday in Saudi Arabia, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba from first light in Mecca that Islam’s faithful face five times each day during their prayers.
The five-day hajj pilgrimage represents one of the world’s biggest gathering every year, a trip required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life, reported news agency.
Muslims circle the Kaaba counter-clockwise seven times while reciting supplications to God, then walk between the two hills traveled by Hagar. Mecca’s Grand Mosque, the world’s largest, encompasses the Kaaba and the two hills.
Before heading to Mecca, many pilgrims visit the city of Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad is buried and where he built his first mosque.
Muslims believe the hajj retraces the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as those of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail — Abraham and Ishmael in the Bible.
After prayers in Mecca, pilgrims will head to an area called Mount Arafat on Monday, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. From there, pilgrims will head to an area called Muzdalifa, picking up pebbles along the way for a symbolic stoning of the devil and a casting away of sins that takes place in the Mina valley for three days.
At the hajj’s end, male pilgrims will shave their hair and women will cut a lock of hair in a sign of renewal for completing the pilgrimage. Around the world, Muslims will mark the end of hajj with a celebration called Eid al-Adha. The holiday, remembering Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, sees Muslims slaughter sheep and cattle, distributing the meat to the poor.