Hajj: How the true face of Islam in unity is reflected in this once-in-a-lifetime journey

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Young Asian Muslim man in ihram clothes with prayer beads. (Shutterstock)
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A father and his little son pray with the rosary at home. (Social media/Shutterstock)
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Two brothers among thousands of pilgrims perform the Tawaf. (Social media/Shutterstock)
Updated 13 August 2018
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Hajj: How the true face of Islam in unity is reflected in this once-in-a-lifetime journey

  • ‘Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him’
  • The rites of Hajj are performed from the 8th to the 12th of Dul Hijjah

RIYADH: Hajj is an epic experience that can truly change a person through a spiritual cleansing that is profound. Islam came to eliminate racism and tribalism, and in due process slavery. Hajj reflects the true face of Islam in unity, as all Muslims, regardless of their nationality or status, wear the same cloth before Allah.
This is reflected in the extremely simple clothing: Men wear two white cloths that cover their bodies, while women wear a long robe with and headscarf. (The face should be bare when performing Hajj.)
One of the aspects of Hajj is to cleanse our souls from all earthly possessions and luxuries that cling to one’s heart, reminding us that we shall return to the ground from which we were created.
A vast sea of people can be witnessed walking in unison to perform the rituals. It is a place free of discrimination and filled with appreciation.
In a small spot in Makkah, close to 3 million stand in prayer before Allah, to repent from sins and gather blessings from the Almighty. At that moment when they stand together atop Arafat Mountain, it really does feel like it’s a small world after all.

Togetherness, humility
Many have described their Hajj experience as life-changing. It is not easy to perform, but after completing it, it leaves you spiritually charged and more actively aware.
Hussam bin Ahmed, an organizer for one of the Hajj campaigns, speaks about how there’s a sense of togetherness and humility that unites pilgrims. “The company I work with serves 150 pilgrims yearly, and this is an honor and responsibility I take seriously,” he told Arab News.
“Every year we receive a large number of Hajj pilgrims, some quite famous, and every year, they surprise us with their humbleness and servitude. Many people perform Hajj (to get) spiritually close to Allah, but also to serve the pilgrims. Hajj is a time that shows the true face of Islam, where people come together and help one another. Pilgrims stand hand in hand and help one another in brotherly affection.”
“It’s beautiful when you see pilgrims from all over the world, who don’t even speak the same language, communicate through kindness. All during Hajj we see the true face of Islam, the higher purpose of us in life in its humanitarian aspect,” said Bin Ahmed.
In Hajj, the societal image of Islam is reflected in the inherited traditions since the time of Prophet Ibrahim. All forms of racism dissolved in those rituals.
The claims and the rituals were limited to words, deeds and even intentions. The chiefs did not wear clothing that distinguished them from their soldiers. Performing Hajj is a religious and moral message to the world.
Taking time to reflect on Hajj, Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani told Arab News: “The millions of pilgrims send a message to the whole world in their discipline and in the ethics of their gathering throughout the days and nights.
A small spot that attracts millions of all the nationalities of the world. Not only that, but greetings of peace are said to one another, and if one is need, then others are hastily at their aid.”
He continued, saying: “These huge masses that have good intentions and are determined to repent: It is the greater good of communities, when millions travel each year for the greatest intent, which is ‘self-forgiveness.’ The forgiveness of the past and reconciliation in the future.”
“Hajj season is the greatest channel Muslims have to raise awareness and show the tolerance of Islam and show a different picture than that which is shown of extremism. After Hajj, Muslims from all countries in the world return to their homes and are determined to resume a new life of coexistence with others.”
Moreover, Al-Kalbani says: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit sin, nor disputes unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him’.”

In the service of Islam
The Hajj security officers are quite exceptional, going above and beyond to make sure that pilgrims from all over the world are safe and comfortable, putting them and their needs before their own. During the 11th Hajj Is Worship and Civilized Behavior campaign, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal said: “I’ve been watching the security’s performance during Hajj season since I was appointed the governor of Makkah, and I grow prouder each year of what they do to serve Islam, Saudi Arabia and humanity.”
Performing Hajj reminds us of our humanitarian duties toward one another: That we are all one. After completing this spiritual cleansing, pilgrims continue this belief throughout their lives, as it has been engrained in them for the better.


Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. (SPA)
Updated 58 min 45 sec ago

Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

  • Debris major cause of death for marine life
  • Disintegration of plastic waste threaten human food resources

JEDDAH: A beach cleanup program targeting marine waste has been launched by the Red Sea Development Co. (TRSDC), the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The firm, which is behind the development of a luxury seafront tourism destination in Saudi Arabia, is already developing a range of environment-friendly policies such as zero-waste-to-landfill, zero-discharge-to-the-sea, zero-single-use plastics, and achieving 100 percent carbon neutrality. On Saturday it launched the Marine Debris Beach Clean Up Program as part of the Red Sea Project. “Eliminating marine debris is receiving increasing attention from the media that it has become a global cause, urging us to participate in protecting our virgin environment for which our seafront is known,” said TRSDC CEO John Pagano.
“The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. It will also shed light on the importance of reducing the use of nonrecyclable plastics, in addition to encouraging the disposing of these substances in a safe and sustainable manner.”
The TRSDC will continue to explore ways for recycled materials to be a source of employment opportunities for the area’s residents, he added. 
TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land. It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

HIGHLIGHTS

• TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land.

• It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

• Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach cleanup program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject

Dr. Rusty Brainard, chief environment officer at TRSDC, said: “Marine debris causes significant damage to the environment and is a major cause of death for many marine organism species, which may ingest these substances. Moreover, the disintegration of plastic waste into small pieces that penetrate into the food web base may also threaten human food resources. Our program for eliminating marine litter is a long-term project that includes ongoing monitoring of environmental health, as well as periodic intervention to clean up any waste in the Red Sea Project.”
TRSDC has teamed up with leading academic institutions in the Kingdom, such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the University of Tabuk, on a number of educational initiatives, added Brainard.
The partnership between TRSDC and KAUST has led to an international competition — “Brains for Brine” — that encourages academics, scientists, engineers and the water industry to find solutions for managing the disposal of brine, which is a waste product of water desalination, in a sustainable and commercially viable way.
KAUST has also helped TRSDC with marine spatial planning for the Red Sea Project.
As part of the planning process, major environmental studies were carried out to ensure that the area’s sensitive ecology was protected both during and after completion of the development.
The final master plan, which preserves around 75 percent of the destination’s islands for conservation and designates nine islands as sites of significant ecological value, required several redesigns to avoid potential disruption to endangered species native to the area.
Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach clean-up program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject