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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 26th June, 2001

Hajj- The Increasing Pilgrims

By S. Abidin

Plate 1: Total Number of Pilgrims travelling to Mecca to observe Hajj© All rights reserved. Victory News Magazine 2008

And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the [sacred] House [of God] for whoever is able to find thereto a way.’ 
Al-Quran, Al-Imran 3:97

"But as a commandment of Allah, Hajj should be observed only once, and whoever observes it more than once it is a voluntary and extra worship for him”  
(Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny – Ahmad, Nasa’i and Darimi.) (Hussain)

Islam is growing rapidly and therefore is "the second largest religion in the world" (Giddens, 93, p461). Community (2000) stated that 26% of the 1996 world population of 5,771,939,007 was Muslim, totalling nearly 1.5 billion people. With the number of Muslims having increased by over 235% in the last 50 yrs, (Community, 2000) this puts enormous pressure on the Holy City of Mecca. Nearly 2 million of these people travel to Mecca for at least the duration of about 10 days, every year.

The Growth of Islam

The growth of Islam in various countries include:

  • Africa – 2.15%

  • Latin America – 4.73%

  • Asia – 12.57%

  • North America – 25%

  • Europe – 142.35%

  • Australia – 257.01% (Community, 2000)

Plate 1: Total Number of Pilgrims travelling to Mecca to observe Hajj (see above)

The growth of Hajj since 1949 has shown an increase of pilgrims by 100% for every decade (Daham, '81). These figures have been affected mainly by political and economic changes, including internal and external conflicts. In Plate 1 a fluctuating decline is visible from the year 1983 until 1991, followed by a dramatic increase of almost 300,000 pilgrims in 1992 (Angawi, '75; Daham, '81). These changes may be attributed to the ending of the Gulf War, which greatly affected the Pilgrimage.

The Islamic pilgrimage Hajj, is the fifth Pillar of Islam. It is held in the [Islamic] month of Dhul-Hijja centred on the Holy Ka’ba in Mecca (Makka), (Saudi) Arabia. Every adult Muslim should perform the Pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime (Hinnells, 1997).

The Holy Kaba, in Mekka. By S. Abidin ©The five Pillars of Islam are:

  1. Shahada –Declaration of Faith

  2. Salat- Prayer, five daily prayers

  3. Zakat- Alms due to the poor

  4. Ramadhan- Fasting the month of Ramadhan

  5. Hajj- Islamic Pilgrimage to Macca  (Siddiqui’, 1999)

The conditions (shurut) which make the Hajj obligatory (wajib) for a Muslim are: maturity (bulugh), sanity (‘aql), and capability (istita’ah). There are three forms of Hajj:

  1. Tamattu’

  2. Qiran and

  3. Ifrad ( Maghniyyah, 1995)

Factors that effect the number of pilgrims travelling to Hajj include:

  • World politics- the degree of political stability or instability within a country

  • World economy- the combination of low growth and high inflation often influencing government policies to limit the number of pilgrims travelling from their country because of foreign exchange problems

  • Peace or war- the end of conflict often reflecting a significant increase in the number of pilgrims, as in Somalia in 1979, increasing by 138%

  • Transportation- with three means: air, land and sea depending on distance, time and cost factors

  • Religious encouragement- governments expressly either support or discourage religious practice and the Pilgrimage

  • Restrictions placed on Hajj applicants- limiting the number of pilgrims able to travel

  • Demographic features- including age, levels of literacy, and socio-economic position

  • Weather- Hajj falls in the 12th Islamic month of Dhul-Hijja, which occurs during different seasons, returning to the same season every 33 years. For this reason, Hajj during the summer months is unfavourable] (Daham, '81).

The statistics stated by Daham ('81) and Angawi ('75) on the growth of Hajj describe the numerical values that affect all Pilgrims and Muslims worldwide, however to enable an explanation for this growth, an understanding of Islam needs to be the first priority.

The moral system of Islam seeks to incorporate an entire society into “oneness” in the belief expressed by Muslims as: 

“La Illahah Illallah, Muhammed ur Rasool’ullah”. 

This translated into English means something like: 

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his final servant and Messenger.” And for Shiah Muslims, it is added after this:

“Ali un Waliullah, Khalifa to hoo bila fasl”. 

This translated into English means something like: 

“Ali is a friend of Allah and was the intended true Caliph of the Muslim state (without any doubt).”

“A major goal of Islam is to provide mankind with a practical and realistic system of life based on good by which he/she can conduct his/her life. It calls upon humankind not only to practice virtue but also to establish it and to eradicate all that is harmful. It seeks the supremacy of one’s conscience in all matters so that what is harmful cannot gain the upper hand in either an individual or a society. Those who respond to this call are known as Muslims, which literally means those who have submitted to God (Allah)” (Islamic Affairs Department, 2000). Alternatively, as is commonly understood by Muslims, the Qur’an was revealed by Allah (swt) to his Prophet Muhammad ('s) as a “Guidance to Mankind”.

Classical sociological theorists, Marx, Durkheim and Weber, all thought “the significance of religion would decrease in modern times” (Giddens, '93, p463). “Within the development of modern societies, Durkheim believed the influence of religion would wane, with scientific thinking increasingly replacing religious explanation” (Giddens, '93, p466). However, “science and rationalist thought remain silent on such fundamental questions as the meaning and purpose of life – matters that have always been at the core of religion” (Giddens, '93, p487).

Science, however, has played an important role in proving correct, vast amounts of the scientific facts found within the Holy Qur’an. The Qur’an has been a study for Scientists and truth seekers world-wide. Scientific data found in the Qur’an includes conception, the embryo and many geological facts, and knowledge taken for granted in modern times. Most of this information was not understood by the Muslims 1400 years ago and was accepted in faith. These scientific facts have contributed to many reversions to Islam in modern times, which consequently increase the numbers at Hajj. Therefore, the great thinkers quoted above (Marx, Durkheim and Weber) were not entirely correct as the Qur’an is still proving itself scientifically.

The growing need, evidenced by statistical numbers, for the return to religion into the lives of the general population has stemmed a renewed emphasis on truth and has inspired some enthusiasts to search for the true religion of God.

Reverting to Islam often finds the new Muslim choosing between many opinions provided from the five legal “Schools of Thought” within Islam. One of those schools includes the Juffrite School of thought, who believe that the descendants of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, (peace and blessings be upon him and his progeny), are the rightful leaders of the Islamic faith, directly guided by Allah (swt) and governing in accordance with the Qur’an. As is quoted by the “Hadith of the Cloak” the Aylul Bayt, or Household of the Prophet, consists of Imam Ali ('a), (cousin and brother to the Holy Prophet), Lady Fatimah ('a) and their two sons Imam Hassan ('a) and Imam Hussayn ('a). (Qur’an 33:33, Verse of Purification; Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, Hadith spoken by Prophet Muhammad ('s) narrated by Umm Salamma).

The number of people reverting to Islam is increasing, therefore the population of pilgrims at Hajj increases every year. With the density of the population staying within the one relatively small region of Mecca and Medina for 10 days, many “medical problems can arise.” (Daham, '81, p131) Other problems concern culture, language, tensions between different Schools of Thought and a general sense of growing impatience due to the over crowding.

There is no God but Allah. He will certainly gather you all together on the Day of Resurrection which is sure to come.” 
(Qur’an 4:87)

(References are available upon request.)

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