( Journeying to Mecca for Hajj (pilgrimage) is no ordinary undertaking for many Muslims . Hajj represents the culmination of years of spiritual preparation and planning. Have you ever wondered how Muslims living in the west traveled to Makkah during ancient times? The emergence of Hajj popularity in recent years and much more. Hence for all, you inquisitive minds here is an amazing blog written by Afshan Sheikh, Regional Head UK, The Islamic kidstore).
The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are expected to make at least once in their lifetime. The word Hajj is an Arabic word, meaning ‘to intend a journey’. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam . It is mandatory for Muslim adults to go on Hajj at least once in their lifetime. But until the introduction of modern transport systems, most Muslims beyond the Arab world had little expectation of completing this fifth and final pillar of Islam. So lets examine this different stages of Hajj evolving in western lands.
1) In ancient times, Muslims used various sea routes to reach Hejaz. Before the mid-1950s, the number of overseas pilgrims rarely exceeded 100,000 and modern Saudi institutions were still developing. Yet by the early 2000s, the total number of Hajj pilgrims had passed the 2m mark, reaching a recent peak of just over 3m in 2012
2) During the second half of the nineteenth century (after 1850s), steamships began to be used in the pilgrimage journey to Mecca, and the number of pilgrims traveling on sea route increased. With the opening of Suez Canal in 1869, the travel time for pilgrimage was shortened.
3) Europe today is a centre of the global hajj both as a source of pilgrims and as a transportation hub. Largescale Muslim immigration to Western Europe have caused Europe’s Muslim communities to grow. More than 40 million Muslims live in Europe today, representing 6% of the overall population. At least 100,000 European citizens make the pilgrimage to Mecca annually.
4) Unlike all Muslim-majority nations, Muslim minorities in the West are not restricted to a Hajj quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million of population. Relatively prosperous, literate and increasingly socially mobile, they are generally free to perform the pilgrimage at a time of their choosing. Pilgrims in the West are also often younger than those in the rest of the Muslim world.
5) In Britain, for instance, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2000 helped fund the British Hajj Delegation to provide consular support and medical services for its citizens on the ground in Saudi Arabia. Despite being officially secular, The French government posts a consul in Jeddah to help French nationals making the hajj. Russia which has 14 million Muslim citizens, the largest population of any European country—has perhaps done the most to support its citizen-hajj pilgrims. Since the early 2000s, under the Putin government, Russia’s Muslims have enjoyed discounted flights to Jeddah during hajj .
6) Major European airports are now hubs along global hajj routes. In the days leading up the scheduled hajj rituals in Arabia, at airport departure gates in London, Berlin, Paris, and Moscow, crowds of Muslim pilgrims gather and pray before boarding flights bound for Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport.
The west in majority has accepted Hajj as a respected pilgrimage and given its Muslim citizens the right and freedom to exercise its rituals without any discrimination. The above statistics and data is just to show the way it has eased the Muslims in the west to go for Hajj, Alhamdulilah. May Allah always keep the Muslims around the globe under his protection and accept the Hajj who have done and give opportunity to those who haven’t yet, Ameen