As I mentioned in my last post, the wife and I headed this year to Makkah for Hajj, an annual pilgrimage performed by around 03 million people. Being the last pillar of the Islamic faith, it is a duty upon every Muslim who has the means to afford the trip and who has the physical ability to perform the strenuous trip.
The Masjid Al-Haraam (translated as the Sacred Mosque) in Makkah is the physical focal point of Islam, being the location of the Ka’aba, a simple cube structure which was built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Prophet Ismail (Ishmaeel) (May Peace be upon them). This structure marks the spot which Adam and Eve used as the first place of worship on Earth.
Since the time of Prophet Ibrahim, the Arabs would perform pilgrimage to this House of Worship once a year, in the Arabic lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah. Even when they had left the monotheistic faith of Ibrahim and taken close to 360 idols as their means of access to God, this pilgrimage continued.
The advent and the eventual spread of Islam all over the Arabian peninsula (and most of Europe and Central Asia), removed these idols and restored the Arabs to the monotheistic faith of their forefather Ibrahim. Since Islam was a continuation of the message brought by Ibrahim and his progeny, among whom were Prophet Moosa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus) (May Peace be upon them all), it incorporated this annual pilgrimage as one of it’s pillars, modifying it to a purer form, removing all aspects of idolatry from it. thus, to this day, every year, Muslims embark on this journey in the memory of prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (PBUT).
As a pilgrim, one of the biggest challenges one faces is during the days right before the Hajj day and just immediately after, is being able to move around easily at the Masjid. This is due to the fact that almost all pilgrims are located in Makkah during these days and a majority of these gather at the Masjid Al-Haraam for their prayers. The capacity of the mosque itself is just under a million, but the overflow on the adjoining area outside and the streets etc reaches around 1.30 million or so. Indeed control of such a crowd, gathered in one place, is a task that is indeed daunting and requires planning and discipline. The crowds are such that they extend from the Masjid all the way in the surrounding areas, such that the rows made for prayers actually form inside the lobby of the hotels in the perimeter of the Masjid and on the streets.
With the population of the Muslims rapidly increasing, both due to a high birth rate as well as countless people reverting to the true faith, the need to make room for more is felt. Indeed to accommodate another 01 million people there would be incredulous. The video below shows the plans that the Saudi government is making for making more space for the pilgrims. The idea, if implemented as shown, is an architectural feat and would greatly improve the space available for the pilgrims during Hajj and the month of Ramadan.