October 14th, 2013
01:58 AM ET

Inside the hajj: The world's largest annual pilgrimage

By Sarah Brown, CNN

(CNN) - Millions of Muslims began the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, which represents one of the largest annual human gatherings on the planet.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a journey every Muslim is expected to take in his or her lifetime if the person is physically and financially able.

This year, the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca is hosting more than 2 million Muslims, about 1 million fewer than last year, according to the Associated Press.

Our iReport team has asked pilgrims who have performed the Hajj about how the experience changed them - and for their advice to those undertaking the pilgrimage for the first time.

The result is a mix of spiritual and practical life lessons that transcend Islam.

1. Patience

iReporter Amir Abdul Latip from Brunei said the Hajj taught him a patience that’s carried over to his life after the pilgrimage.

“I'm still not perfect, but the Hajj has changed my perspective on the temporal nature life, the universe, and everything else,” he says.

“Just be patient and always try to help others,” Latip says, adding that the Hajj helped “widen my views to see a bigger picture of our existence.”

Read more about Latip’s Hajj experience

Patience is an order during the Tawaf, a Hajj ritual in which throngs of pilgrims circle seven times around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building considered the most sacred site in Islam.

The whole five-day event, which attracts around 3 million people, is slow going and sometimes chaotic.

CNN Explains: What's the Hajj?

“Several times things are not in control of the organizers – they try their best for pilgrims but they cannot do all due to some unforeseen circumstances,” said iReporter Muhammad Zafar from Simi Valley, California, who performed Hajj in 2011 with his family.

2. Down to earth

Ameer Hassoun, an Iraqi-born doctor who lives in New Jersey, said a key part of the Hajj is learning from other pilgrims.

“It taught me how to be very down to earth, to treat everything with humility, that there is no difference between us - no matter where we are," he said.

See images of Hassoun’s visit to Mecca in 2011

“People around the world share their own experiences from their home countries and so it’s a very fertile land for learning.”

For Hira Hasnain, a student in North Carolina who spent three weeks undertaking the Hajj, one of the most rewarding experiences was uncovering new aspects of her faith by meeting new people.

“It brings you closer, it provides a sense of unity.,” she says. “You realize that everyone around the world is striving to … achieve closeness to God and everyone has different ways of doing it.”

“Try to understand where everyone is coming from and your enjoyment of Hajj will be that much more meaningful,” Hasnain says.

Listen to more of Hasnain’s advice and see images of her hajj journey

3. Everywhere was white

iReporter Rafiu Olasunkanmi Yusuf, a Nigerian who works in Malaysia, said his 2003 pilgrimage revealed a “need to move closer to God.”

“Everywhere was white, that symbol of purity,” he said. “There was no distinction on the basis of race, country or color of the skin. One can feel the presence of the Almighty God as we perform the religious rites.”

Since then Yusuf, has tried to “devote more time to spiritual uplift and less time to worldly pursuits."

Haq, meanwhile, says his pilgrimage taught him to acknowledge God in “everything I do.”

“I pay close attention to my obligations as a Muslim,” he says. “My prayers, obedience to parents, fasting, zakat [gifts to charity - another of the five pillars of Islam] - I repent more often, and make more dhikr [prayers reciting the names of God].

“I also try to educate my Muslim and non-Muslim friends, co-workers and peers on Islam,” he says.

4. The hajj is hard

iReporter Amaan Haq from Woodbridge, Virginia, undertook his first Hajj in 2011 with his wife and said preparation was essential.

Read about Haq’s preparations for his Hajj

“Read and understand before embarking what acts are required from you,” he said. “The Hajj is hard even if you're young.”

The Hajj can be a physical and mental endurance test, with pilgrims sometimes walking miles each day. Haq advises pilgrims to take drinks or electrolyte salts to stay hydrated in the 90-degree Arabian sun.

Other iReporters recommended that first time pilgrims obtain a guide if possible, saying the complex sequence of rituals to be performed and the sheer size of the gathering can be overwhelming.

5. Just do it

Latip from Brunei said his final advice for those wishing to undertake the journey was to get going.

“Just do it,” he said.

“Don’t wait until you’re too old and frail,” he says. “And with costs rising year after year, it’s better to do it sooner if you can.”

That advice can apply to journeys other than Hajj, too.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Saudi Arabia

soundoff (779 Responses)
  1. Meki60

    First lesson: muslims are like fire ants, don't get close to them

    October 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  2. traviscollins




    October 24, 2012 at 9:01 pm |


    October 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

      Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then,,,,,,

      October 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  4. santiago

    well muslim brothers and sisters ignore these dumb people have. Have a happy holiday friday inchallah .

    October 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • guest

      I pray God guides and blesses you. Peace.

      October 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  5. geraldo


    October 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      hinduism, absurdity of a hindu, atheist, self centered, secular.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • GATORpride

      I'm scared about what you might believe in.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  6. Tim

    Lennon had it right...Imagine No Religion.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Innerspace is God's place while outerspace is for the human race

      Many do
      Many don't
      Others might,
      Some just won't

      October 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm |


      October 24, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  7. MCR

    6. Vaccination requirements may reduce plagues, but large congregations of the world’s population are a disaster waiting to happen.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  8. Jolly Timmy Dolan

    Muhammad never existed.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • traviscollins

      Neither will you one day my friend. Cnn is a place for hate mongers no matter how great an article there is; people have to take their hate out here. Keep up the good work and show the world how tolerant you are!

      October 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  9. geraldo


    October 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  10. snowboarder

    people do the kookiest things in the name of religion.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  11. Mennoknight

    Hajj is the single biggest Idol festival each year.
    Every year tens of millions of Muslims during the Tawaf ritual worship a black stone.
    And yet Muslims are the ones that are destroying the idols of the other "Pagan" religions.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • guest

      We don't worship a stone. If men kiss it, they do so following the sunnah of God's messenger. The Kabaa is not an idol. It is a place marker, just like the holy of holies.(look it up) I actually find it really amazing that they both have the same shape. In fact Muslims originally prayed facing Jersalem. God then changed the direction of our prayer.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • mike Z

      What's so important about rock? Where did it come from?

      October 24, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Elvis

      Rock came from soul greased with lightning –

      October 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      Friend, I assume that you are a Muslim or a follower of Islam. (By the way which do you prefer?)
      Let me give you a little bit of insight into my view.
      I am a born again Christian. I have many Roman Catholic friends. They have statues of Mary that they pray towards. To me this appears to be praying to a statue.
      When Muslims kiss and touch a holy rock on a holy pilgrimage, that appears incredibly similar to what Hindu's do in India during their holy pilgrimages.
      Do you not see this as a problem?

      October 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • guest


      I appreciate your aversion to idolatry. There is a word in Islam: Shirk. It is to associate another with God. Idolatry is a form of shirk. It is the gravest of sins and the sin most disliked by God.

      To the best of my knowledge, shirk is of two types. One is to say something or have a belief that lowers God from His majesty to the level of His creations. The second type is to glorify God's creation to the point where you raise creation to the level of God. Either way, it is shirk and not okay.

      As an example, Muslims are only allowed to swear by God. When we ask for forgiveness for our sins, we ask forgiveness of God. When we pray for something, we pray to God. We do not associate anything with Him. There is a reason that you will not find in any mosque the picture or statue of any living things. There is a reason that we are not allowed to draw/have pictures of Mohammed (pbuh). The reason is to keep us from shirk.

      If you want to know who we worship, you need to look to the Qur'an. The simplest is surah ikhlas (chapter 112). This ayat from surah Baqara is more specific (2:255). The last part of surah Hashr also describes the attributes of God. (59:22-24) Just look through the Quran. www dot quran dot com.

      As for the black stone, the following hadith gives a good point of view:
      Hadhrat Umar (Allah be pleased with him) after kissing Hajr-e-Aswad (the Black Stone) said: "I know you are a stone. You can neither benefit me nor harm anyone. If I did not see Muhammad (peace be upon him) kissing you, I would not have kissed you." (Abu Dawud).

      As for me, I believe in God, that none is worthy of worship other than Him, and that Mohammed is His servant and messenger, just like his brothers Jesus and Moses before him (Peace be upon them all).

      As for what I believe about the black stone, I believe what God's messenger Mohammed (PBUH) speaks is the truth. If he (PBUH) kissed the stone, or commanded us to kiss it, than it should be kissed and for no reason other than that.

      October 24, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  12. RF

    @Robert, Islam never said sacrificing an animal will suppress the sins made by the person. you got wrong info.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  13. santiago

    Hello i am a christian and if you want me to telll you whats sad i will tell you whats sad. Whats sad is the way we speak of other religions. Islam is a beautiful religion its not mine but its one i respect. At the end of the day we have the same father we are humans brothers and sisters let respect eachother and there choice of faith.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      we should respect each other - we don't have to respect each other's ideas. that's the beautiful thing with freedom of speech - we can give an opposing opinion. if your ideas are crazy, don't ask me to respect them. islam makes women into 4th class citizens - don't ask me to respect that.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • guest

      Thank you Santiago. I find your words and speech noble. You have my respect. God guide and bless you.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • eahmed1@student.gsu.edu

      Well dude read before you speak. Islam does not say women should be treated as third class or as slaves of a men. There are many countries where women in Islam not living as slaves. People must read Quran before they speak about Islam. Women were very much respected in Quran it says childrens heaven are under their mothers feet. Just by reading that you can see how much women are respected but what you see in this extremist countries are not true Islam. They are childrens of devil causing all these chaos in the name of Allah. But in Quran it did say women must cover themselves from strangers meaning they should wear decent cloth to hide their bossoms, bottom, and their hair so men will not think wrong things by looking at women.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  14. 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

    Hopefully the end of islam in particular, and religion in general, is nearer as a result of the crazies shooting a little girl who only wanted to be educated...

    October 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Concerned4TheWorld

      No different from white Christians bombing a church and killing for little girls. This finger pointing needs to end. There is someone from every faith, race, cultural that behaves and acts contrary to the masses.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Actually, he finger pointing should increase. The hypocrisy of all cults should be exposed at every opportunity.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  15. Bootyfunk

    such a sweet story, whether from judaic, christianic or islamic tradition...

    god tells a man to stab his son to death. dutifully, the father takes his son to a mountaintop and pulls out the knife to murder his child at god's command. but then god says, "stop. i was just testing you to see if you would murder your own children in my name. since you would have stabbed your son to death in my name, you are a good and faithful person. amen." then god gives him a lamb to kill in his son's place.

    makes my heart warm every time i read it. Abraham certainly wasn't a crazy person that heard voices in his head telling him to commit murder on his own child, no.... not at all.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • truth be told

      Once again you are totally wrong on your version of events and continue to show outstanding ignorance of the Bible.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'll bet Bootyfunk knows the difference between "Gaul" and "gall." I'll bet he even knows that "gall" appears in the Bible in the story of the crucifixion.

      Why don't you know that, Turdy?

      October 24, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • nope

      @tin tin...

      October 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      *nope madly looks through the online dictionary to see what the ell "gall" and "Gaul" mean*

      October 24, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • truth be told

      Must have really left a mark on poor tom to have it carry on so over an old pun that it can't figure out. Poor stupid tom awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

      October 24, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You STILL don't know what a pun is? Wow, I knew you were dumb, but this takes the cake.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • truth be told

      Poor sad lonely stupid tom awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

      October 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's sad when a turd whines.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I do feel just awful about embarrassing you in front of God and everyone, Turdy. Just terrible.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Fudge Sickles

      Hey nope-dope, yesterday you said that you were leaving this blog forever. I guess you lied again.

      Why do Christians lie so much?

      October 24, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope is false

      October 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  16. Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

    Human visit my link and learn lessons of life

    October 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • guest

      I am a Muslim and I am offended by your "Name". Change it. Speak decently. I will stop hitting "Report Abuse" on you.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • lovUSA

      Guest..wish more people can be like you from your community...thank you

      October 24, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  17. Bibi

    How to be a Jew:

    Steal other peoples' land and say god gave it to you.
    Attack the USS Liberty and say it was an accident.
    Bernie Madoff.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.
    Kill Christ.

    Then blame the goys.

    October 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Edward

      Very offensive and competely off topic.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      jesus was a jew. jews killed a jew. get over it.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

      There was a standing order in the Pax Romana to execute trouble makers without trials. The Romans executed Jesus. There was no trial. He was left for the birds to pe'ck off the cross, just like all the other crooks. Get over it.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  18. lovUSA

    Here are the 5 lessons from hajj :
    lesson1 : Blow up people. Murder them and Call them Zi0nists and Kafirs.
    lesson2 : Blow up people. Murder them and Call them Zi0nists and Kafirs.
    lesson3 : Blow up people. Murder them and Call them Zi0nists and Kafirs.
    lesson4 : Blow up people .Murder them and Call them Zi0nists and Kafirs.
    lesson5 : Blow up people. Murder them and Call them Zi0nists and Kafirs.

    October 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Cheeseburger

      Exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for saving me the time.

      October 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • lovUSA

      lol...anytime buddy

      October 24, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Bibi

      Lesson 1 for Jews:

      1. Kill goys.
      2. Steal US nuclear secrets and sell them to the USSR.
      3. Drink the blood of Christian children at Passover.
      4. Steal goys' money.
      5. Cheat goys.
      6. Kill Christ.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Hammer

      How's the midwest, redneck?

      October 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  19. !

    Few 100% true Reasons why Islam is a terrible and evil religion to stay far away from...

    1. "Prophet" Muhammed was an evil & disgusting pédophile who had several wives like a maniac!
    2. Islam = submission. Allah tell Muslims to submit to his will; otherwise he will torture and torment you in life for eternity. Allah also permits war and violence against non-Muslims!
    3. Islam treats non-adherents worse than animals. If they are people of the books (Christians or Jews), classify them as "dhimmis" and make them pay a special tax (Jizya) to the Islamic government, or they should be enslave, rob, rápe, and lynch them as you please unless they convert to Islam.
    4. Death Penalty for any Muslims leaving Islam, being gay, atheist or insulting Muhammed.
    5. Quran: "Men are better than women", "Men could have many wives", "Men could hit their wives" etc.
    6. Unlike Christians – Muslims pray and serve Allah, rather than praying for themselves or someone else.
    7. Islam is the most violent Religion by far –>> http://www.thereligionofpeace.com <<–
    8. Muslims frequently persecute and kill Christians unless they convert to their cult. Churches have either been converting into Mosque. (Hagia Sophia an example) or being burned down in Islamic countries.
    9. Non-Muslims are forbidden visiting Mecca, and no freedom of/from religion in Saudi Arabia & many other Islamic nations.
    10. Islam is spreading like rats in western countries (Europe & North America), and seek to spread their "Sharia Laws", as well as trying to convert as many people to their "peaceful" religion and ev. taking over the nation.
    They start by opening mosques and marry Christian or Jewish women so they will convert to Islam and raise Muslim kids.
    11. It is the DUTY of every Muslim to expand Islam and strive for world domination.
    12. Quran is nothing but hate and violence. Muslim children are brainwashed and brought up with violence and hatred towards non-Muslims. God forbid you are Christian minority in any Muslim country!
    13. Islam says they believe in Jesus (Isa), yet they deny his words and the Bible.
    14. Muslims in western nations tries to act 'nice and tolerant' to make non-Muslims believe & think their evil religion is peaceful so people fall into their cult and convert! Blacks, prisoners, and poor women are the main targeted!

    May our Lord save us from Islam and its violence & disgusting people!

    Muslims could openly practice their religion freely in western (Christian) nations, but Christians or any Non-Muslims would risk getting their head cut off doing so in any Islamic nation, both secular and extremist !! 🙁

    !!!! The more freedom we give those Muslims by letting them wearing their scary Islamic clothes, opening mosques (paying no tax), shoveling their evil religion in our throats, wanting Sharia Laws, etc. – the more problems will be caused !!!!
    !!!! Most Muslims are extremists, and even "moderate" Muslims still support them, so we should NOT tolerate them and we should BAN Islam unless they allow other religious minority in their countries to live in peace !!!!!



    October 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Bibi

      100% true reasons Jews are inherently evil:

      1. Genocide other peoples and steal their land.
      2. Pray to god "thank you for not making me a woman."
      3. Drop white phosphorous bombs on hospitals.
      4. Fire missiles at ambulances.
      6. Invade other countries and kill tens of thousands of civilians.
      7. Spy on your allies and steal their secrets.
      8. Deny all genocides except your own.
      9. Bulldoze houses on top of families living there.
      10. Steal their land.
      11. Blame the goys for all your problems.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Rza

      wow, secular jew turned muslim talking about wiping israel off the map and making fun of athiests hahaha, I think I have seen it all. Dumas your laws and rulls are man made too and yes i want to see the girls jumping up and down for my amusment (as long as it's free and the girl is not fat) does that make me a bad person? may be (i call it horney) but no matter how hard they jump or how excited I get from it NO BODY DIES. tell this crap to the muslim girl who got shot or i means there are so many stories pick one but i haven't heard of an athiest killing others because they belive.
      Why does religion have this much influence of peoples mind. this is not just stupidity or ignorance, as i have met many smart kids (few in medical school) that truly belive earth is few thousend years old.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Edward

      @Bibi- With all due respect, your list does not match up. Just as the list of Muslim nobel prize winners does not add up. Through all the bombast there is little truth to what you have written. Did you watch the video, to which you replied, by any chance?

      October 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Eliminate hinduism, denial of truth absolute by hindu's laires, for peace, Islam among humanity.

      Only by hinduism, ignorance of a hindu Jew, filthy self centered, secular, believer of hindu pig ism, filthy athesim, self center ism.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  20. Robert

    What's so sad is that Muslims fail to see that the lamb that God gave ibraham to sacrifice in the stead of his son was pointing toward Jesus Christ. No animal could take away the sin of the world, but only the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God.

    October 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • dan

      great you believe this but it just makes NO sense.... you might want to start USING your brain instead of spiting out stupidities...good luck...

      October 24, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • guest

      We don't sacrifice animals to punish the animals for our sins. We sacrifice because God commanded us to. God is most merciful. God is all Hearing and all Knowing. God knows what you reveal and what you conceal, even in your heart. God is Lord of all the worlds. He is sufficient to forgive the sins of men, when men repent to Him with sincerity. The only sins he does not forgive are disbelieve and to associate another with him. What doesn't make sense is that one man would be punished for the sins of another.

      October 24, 2012 at 8:23 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.