The annual Hajj pilgrimage is currently ongoing as Muslims travel to Mecca to mark the occasion of Eid Al Adha
22 August 2018| Last updated on 13 November 2018
This week, over 2 million Muslims are completing a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca on the occasion of Eid Al Adha.
Every year impressive images capture the thousands upon thousands of Muslims who complete the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca; it is a common sight to see masses of people together as they pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque.
Yet, few capture the enormity of the Grand Mosque and its sheer size quite like this recent image shared by the European Space Agency this week.
Whilst wishing followers Eid Mubarak, the agency captioned the above image with, "many Muslims are in the city of Mecca these days to finalise the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the city captured by @thom_astro from the @iss in this picture.
At the centre of the image in white, you can see the Grand Mosque, where to [Kaaba] is located."
Thomas Pesquet is a French astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and it's fair to say he captured an impressive shot of the Grand Mosque in Mecca during one of the most holiest times in the Islamic religion.
What is Hajj in Islam?
For the Islamic religion, there is no holier city than Mecca (or Makkah). It is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and was central to the development of Muslim faith and practice. The city is located in the west of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and is close to the other holy city of Islam, Medina.
For Muslims, Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca - which all able-bodied Muslims must take at least once in their lifetime - and it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The city of Mecca is also the geographical focus of Islamic prayer, and Muslims will face Mecca when they pray.
What happens during the Hajj pilgrimage?
Literally speaking, 'Hajj' means heading to a place for the sake of visiting. The rites of Hajj, which date back to the time of Prophet Abraham who built the Kaaba, are performed over five or six days. They begin on the eight and end on the thirteenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar.
During this period, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people who visit Mecca for the week and perform a series of rituals:
- each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba
- runs back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah
- drinks from the Zamzam Well
- goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil
- spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa
- performs a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars
Pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice and then celebrate the three-day religious holiday of Eid Al Adha.
What is the Kaaba?
The Kaaba is a building at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and is the most sacred site in Islam. In the Quran, the Kaaba is also referred to as 'al-Bayt' (the house), 'al-Bayt al-Haram' (the sacred house), 'al-Bayt al-'Atiq' (the old house) and 'al-Bayt al-Muharram' (respected house).
The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has six tablets inlaid with inscriptions, and there are several more tablets along other walls inside. An embroidered green cloth adorns the upper corners of the walls, with gold Qur'anic verses on them. There are three pillars, with a small altar between and lanterns hang from the ceiling.
The golden door (also referred to as the Door of Repentance) opens to an enclosed staircase that leads to a hatch, which itself opens to the roof.
In fact, you can explore the inside of the Kaaba on Google Streetview.