Why do pilgrimages hold a place in religion?

04/06/2013 7:14 AM

04/06/2013 7:15 AM

The Hajj is even older than Muhammad

Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Council: In most religions, worship and prayers comprise two sets of rituals: those performed individually, and the ones offered collectively.

Individual acts of worship are essential because they enable the individual to get closer to the Creator, but these deeds are carried out in isolation with little or no opportunity for social interaction.

Pilgrimage, on the other hand, is offered along with a group of devotees and represents social manifestation of worship. Usually pilgrimage involves travel to a specific location, often involving many physical hardships that serve as a test of one’s unflinching commitment to God.

In Islam, Hajj is one of the five pillars that requires all Muslims who are physically and economically capable to visit Mecca. The Quran (3:97) says: “Performance of Hajj (pilgrimage) to this House is the duty to Allah for all who can afford the journey.” The Hajj includes a number of rituals and activities that are completed in five days during the second week of the 12th month of the Hijri (lunar) calendar.

Hajj is a great expression of solidarity that brings millions of people from each continent, drawn from all imaginable cultures, races, economic and social status, together for the sole purpose of seeking Allah’s pleasure and mercy.

Although Hajj became mandatory for all Muslims in the early seventh century during the time of Prophet Muhammad, the actual beginning dates back to about 2000 B.C., during the time of Prophet Abraham. Hajj was and remains the most cherished goal of all believing Muslims.

Religious devotion the motive of pilgrimage

A.M. Bhattacharyya, Hindu faith adviser of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council: Pilgrimage is a journey, especially a long one, to a sacred place or shrine as an act of religious devotion. The tradition of pilgrimage is ancient and universal. The people of faith go on pilgrimages out of pure devotion and inner spiritual urge.

In the Hindu faith tradition, the pilgrimage is not obligatory. Nevertheless, millions of Hindu faithful go on pilgrimages every year to numerous sacred sites.

Hinduism is an ancient religion founded in India about 5,000 years ago. It has a mythology that is as old as human history. Almost all sacred sites, many of them having mythological importance, are located throughout the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent, from the high Himalayan ranges on the north to the southernmost tip, where two seas, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, meet the Indian Ocean.

In Kumbh Mela this year, tens of millions of pilgrims congregated at the confluence of three sacred rivers, Ganges, Yamuna and now extinct Saraswati, and took a holy dip at certain auspicious moments to sanctify themselves.

Some of the pilgrimage sites are in gorgeous natural surroundings. Some are in remote, hard-to-reach terrains. Yet the inner urge is so powerful that pilgrims journey to those sacred sites ignoring physical hardships.

Pilgrimages hold a place in religion, as the pilgrim’s motive is religious, devoutness and spiritual quest.

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