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28 January 2004
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The Hajj

.The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, is one of the central religious duties of Muslims and is enshrined in the Qur'an.

The pilgrimage is also inspired by the earlier example of obedience to God set by the Prophet Abraham.

The Hajj to Mecca is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation upon male and female adults whose health and means permit it, or, in the words of the Qur'an, upon "those who can make their way there."

The rites accompanying the Hajj are elaborate and varied, partly because the Prophet Muhammad himself introduced a beneficial element of flexibility.

Before setting out, a pilgrim is expected to redress all wrongs, pay all debts, plan to have enough funds for his own journey and for the maintenance of his family while he is away, and prepare himself for good conduct throughout the Hajj.

In recent times the number of pilgrims making the journey to Mecca has risen dramatically and upwards of two million pilgrims are expected this year from as many as 70 nations. For the Saudi Arabian government this creates enormous logistical difficulties. To help cope many governments now play an active role in ensuring the welfare of their citizens who make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Hajj takes place each year between the 8th and the 13th days of Dhul al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar. The corresponding Gregorian dates this year are January 30 to February 4.

The BBC Asian Network will be following a group of British pilgrims as they fulfill this 5th pillar of Islam. There will be live reports from Saudi Arabia each evening on the Drive show, Hajj items on our Breakfast programme and regular news-updates. Eid-ul Adha will be celebrated across our weekend programmes and there will be a special evening programme reflecting Hajj on Monday 2nd February.

On this page you will be able to listen again to Hajj interviews and reports. If you have already made the pilgrimage to Mecca you can share your memories with other people on the Message Board.

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If you have already made the pilgrimage to Mecca why not share your memories with others on the Message Board.
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