The Hajj begins today. Millions of pilgrims gathered in Mecca are donning ehram and leaving for the journey to the Plain of Arafat today. Tomorrow, the pilgrims gathered upon Arafat will pray all day, while standing and facing towards Kaaba. Actually, given how many millions of pilgrims are en route, and that the final stretch of 2 miles must be on foot, the bulk of the pilgrims won’t even arrive until late tomorrow afternoon.
The journey to Arafat is in many ways the most literal part of the pilgrimage that is Hajj. Pilgrimages are possibly the most sacred form of piety, right up there with fasting, common to all religions and faiths
. Muslims do the Hajj, Jews go to the Wailing Wall, Hindus to the Ganges, Christians to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, even the Baha’i and Buddhists have mandatory pilgrimages of faith. All share the common theme of purification and cleansing and forgiveness, of transcending the human condition and attempting to join with the divine.
As the pilgrims on Hajj make their way to Arafat today, it’s incumbent on all of us who are left behind to seek to make that journey in our own heart and try to attain as much of that cleansing and resolve for piety as we can.