At least 112 Muslims on Monday departed for the Muslim holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia, to participate in the holy pilgrimage.
In an interview with The New Times yesterday, Sheikh Salim Hitimana, the mufti of Rwanda, said the number of pilgrims has slightly increased as compared to 100 people who participated last year.
“It is a duty to perform Hajj as Allah’s commandment to all able Muslims to visit that Holly Land of Mecca. It’s done to also find blessing and grace of Lord,” said Mufti Hitimana.
Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islamic faith, is observed once a year.
Muslims who make the journey are required to spend five days in the desert surrounding the city of Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Mohammed and Islam.
They travel between specified points to perform rites laid down in Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
Mufti Hitimana hailed the Government for facilitating the faithful as, for the first time, they all went together by the same plane availed by the Government, and at a discount of 30 per cent of the flight charges.
“We used to go separately but this time they all went together,” he said, adding that this time round, the number of women pilgrims is higher than men.
Seventy women are participating in the pilgrimage this year while last year they were only 30, according to the mufti.
“The pilgrimage is an obligation for all Muslims once in their lifetime. However, there are two conditions; being able both physically and financially,” he explained.
Hitimana said those who are old or not physically able to attend the pilgrimage can send someone in their place who have been there before.
The 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, which is the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is the most important date to the pilgrimage participants. They walk from Mecca to the mountain of Arafat in Amanu.
It’s where they do the common prayer where they get whatever they ask, the mufti said.
“This step is important, it teaches a person patience. It also gives a person a chance to be absolved of his sins, to restart life and also get there anything they ask,” said Hitimana.
The pilgrimage gives Muslims deep understanding about Islam as they fulfill all five pillars of Islam, he added.
Saudi Arabia requires the Hajj participant to be having all travel documents, yellow fever and avoid any unlawful acts.
The mufti explained that going to Mecca is not enough, but that one has to prove they have been cleansed when they return.
“What matters is what happens after the pilgrimage. Do you go home and go straight back to your bad ways? It is an opportunity to go back into the world refreshed and continue strengthening your faith,” he said.
This year’s pilgrimage will end on September 14.