Why do Hajj? 5 questions answered
October 17th, 2011
02:10 PM ET

Why do Hajj? 5 questions answered

About 3 million Muslims from more than 100 countries will pack the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, next month for Hajj, the biggest pilgrimage on the planet.

What's it all about? We turned to Brown University Muslim chaplain and CNN iReporter Robert David Coolidge and Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for a primer:

1. Why do Hajj?

According to Islam, every Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once if they are healthy and can afford to. Some people spend their whole lives saving for the trip, while others return many times for spiritual enlightenment and forgiveness, says Coolidge, who will make his second pilgrimage this year with his wife.

“There’s the belief that one’s prayers in the mosque in Mecca are multiplied many, many times,” Coolidge said.

Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, and the Saudi government sets quotas for each country to control the crowds. Because Coolidge’s name isn’t "recognizably Muslim,” he had to get written proof of his faith from a local imam.

2. What do you do on Hajj?

Think of it as a “spiritual boot camp,” Coolidge said. Participants perform a series of religious rituals, visit holy sites, engage in intense prayer and attend lectures.

It’s also a chance to network with Muslims from all over the world, Awad said.

“If you’re coming from the U.S., your tent might be someone from Ghana. The next tent next to you may be from Southeast Asia,” Awad said. “That is a huge opportunity for people to mingle and know about each other.”

3. Where do people stay?

The Saudi government puts up thousands of large white tents that each house about 100 people. Other tents are designated for toilets and showers. Most people travel with a group that takes care of all the details, including meals, Awad says. Participants typically stay in hotels before and after the Hajj to visit sites in Mecca and the city of Medina.

4. What happens after Muslims perform Hajj?

Those who make the pilgrimage often return “a different person,” Awad said. “You come back born again, washed of your sins. You come back as a new person, a more humble person, a person who wants to help other people and be compassionate and do the right thing.”

Besides coming back more religiously observant, Muslims who undertake the Hajj return to their home countries with more positive views toward other cultures and greater tolerance of non-Muslims, a 2008 study of Pakistani pilgrims suggested.

5. This will be the first Hajj since the Arab Spring revolutions. Could the event build solidarity among Muslims fighting governments in their home countries?

Possibly, but it's not likely, Coolidge and Awad say. The revolutions will no doubt be a topic of conversation, and people may return from their spiritual journeys ready to “stand up for justice,” Awad said. But the Hajj tends to be an apolitical event.

“It has always been conveyed that this is a time and a place when the various Muslim communities should set aside their political differences or political concerns and focus on the spiritual unity of the Muslim community and the fact that everybody is there in the same place to do the Hajj together,” Coolidge said. “It’s possible that something could be different this time around, but I don’t think so.”

Are you planning to make the holy pilgrimage? CNN iReport is looking for travelers interested in documenting their journey for CNN. In a video of two minutes or less, tell us who you are, where you live and why you’re embarking on this journey of a lifetime.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: iReport • Islam • Muslim

soundoff (363 Responses)
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  4. Rocky

    "Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca, and the Saudi government sets quotas for each country to control the crowds. Because Coolidge’s name isn’t "recognizably Muslim,” he had to get written proof of his faith from a local imam." Oh Yes, such a warm, open minded and welcoming faith it is. It is a totally false religion that follows a false prophet. It is also a breeding ground for terrorists.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • k

      Every time word Islam is mentioned we see hate messages next to it. I am a Muslim and I do understand why. There are some misguided folks who misinterpreted the message of Islam and caused violence in its name. There are billion of us but only these people make the news.
      Human nature is to be afraid of something different. As a Muslim, I feel, it is my duty to clear some misconception. What is Islam in few lines is something everyone deserves to know, it is to believe and obey only one God. Every time humanity deviated from this path, God sent down His of prophets (Noah, Ibrahim, Mosses Jesus and Mohammed were among thousands) who carried this single message to the whole humanity (And they all had the highest moral standards). That is the message of Islam.

      God speaks to the whole humanity through His book Quran..

      “Proclaim, He is the One and only GOD. The Absolute GOD. Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten. None equals Him." [112:1]

      “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

      “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

      “…anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people....." Qur'an [5:32]

      Most exalted is the One in whose hands is all kingship, and He is Omnipotent.The One who created death and life for the purpose of distinguishing those among you who would do better. Quran [67.2]

      Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous. Quran [5:46]

      Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

      December 25, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  5. Capricorn

    CNN keeps re-inventing Islam just to try and sell it as a peaceful religion to Americans

    November 2, 2011 at 6:34 am |
    • Rocky

      EXACTLY..thank you. Liberal lefty CNN is constantly trying to re-package Islam as a peaceful religion instead of a world wide terrorist organization that it is.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  6. Iqbal Khan


    October 21, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  7. Iqbal Khan

    And Khalid Yaseen one of his best!


    October 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  8. Iqbal Khan

    Watch all parts...


    October 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.