On the Prophets Path: Traveling for Ramadan

On the Prophets Path: Traveling for Ramadan

Dec 9, 2021, 10:20:38 AM Religion

Not for tourism but for spiritual conviction. Not out of obligation but out of the hope of redemption.

The pilgrim - of any faith - is not just any traveler, nor should he recall the idea of ​​ancestral cultures forgotten in the era of interconnection. According to the International Institute of Tourism Sciences, Italians traveling to sacred places are advanced consumers, of which 60% use the internet, 35% read more than five books a year and over 27% have a degree. And many are young: 20% are between 40 and 50 years old, 18% between 30 and 40 and 13% between 20 and 30.

Ramadan and pilgrimages. On the other hand, those who are preparing these days to participate in Ramadan and to leave for Mecca are for the vast majority of foreigners. The holy month of fasting for Muslims is called Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Islamic year that commemorates the revelation of the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. This year it is the period from August 21 to September 19, but it varies according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

During the days of Ramadan (and not nights), it is forbidden to eat, drink and smoke in public, and many shops, banks, and offices open later and close earlier. This is because every Muslim must "cultivate piety" and according to the "Brief Guide for Pilgrimage and Umra" of the Muslim League in carrying out the tasks prescribed in the period "purity of intention is the most important thing". The prescription refers in particular to pilgrimages that characterize the Islamic world, Umrah (minor pilgrimage) and Hajj (major pilgrimage). "Think - says an Italian blogger - of the two sides of a coin: on the one hand the limitations lead to an increase in the nervousness of the average man, the prices of the very few open restaurants double, and drinking water in the souk can irritate passers-by. But from the on the other hand you will observe the joy, the cheerfulness, the inconsistencies, the religiosity and the passion of the Muslim world ".

Umrah and Hajj:

Ramadan comes as an opportunity "to receive Allah's forgiveness and emancipation from sins, a month dedicated to good deeds and charity". Being pilgrims during this period fulfills the duties of the Muslims even more. The Umrah, the minor pilgrimage, can be performed at any time of the year and starts from Mecca, the holy city of Muslims, in western Saudi Arabia. If the Umrah is performed in the month of Ramadan it has the same value as the Hajj: the latter is the major pilgrimage that takes place in a well-defined period of the year (in 2009, it falls between October 20 and November 21). Each pilgrimage includes well-defined rites and routes and, according to official sources, the Muslims who visited the sacred places in 2006 was over two million, an increase of 14% compared to 1996.

The numbers. Saudi Arabia has a dedicated Hajj ministry that portrays the figures of Muslims around the world. In Europe, the faithful to Islam is about 51 million, and in Italy 581 thousand, or less than 1% of the population. According to the estimates made by the Sole 24 Ore through the surveys of the agencies that manage Muslim pilgrimages in Italy, the number of travelers to Mecca in order to absolve the Umrah is around three thousand people a year, six thousand if we consider also the Hajj. "The market for sacred journeys for pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia cannot experience crises or downturns - says a specialized tour operator - if not linked to the demographic trend of the Muslim population. This is because all the faithful, regardless of their social status and purchasing power, have to do the Hajj and are willing to set aside the necessary money even if it takes years ".

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Mystical fever. The alarm for the pandemic of the new flu - which now counts 200 thousand infected in the world and 1,550 deaths - has not discouraged Muslim pilgrims. "We have not registered any declines in the flow of travelers, nor have there been cancellations in the last period," commented Tour Magazine, an operator specializing in sacred journeys of the Islamic world.

Yet, as a preventive function of the pandemic, the Iranian ministry of health has banned pilgrimages and the Saudi Arabian ministers of health and the Indian Hajj Committee have set a series of restrictions for pilgrims. In particular, people over the age of 65 and under the age of 12 are excluded, as well as those with diabetes, hypertension, and other heart, kidney, and liver problems. This is no small limitation given that Indians (followed by Pakistanis and Nigerians) are the most representative citizens for sacred pilgrimages.

Before departure.

The Hajj ministry has a comprehensive site that answers questions from would-be pilgrims. From there it is clear for example that there are few Saudi citizens who speak English, which the guides "should" do but this depends on the quality of the agency. The site reports 225 that on-site act as a link with foreign tour operators. In this regard, the site lists only three Italian agencies officially authorized to organize Umrah and Hajj, but in reality, they are about ten. It is also interesting that the traveler in Saudi Arabia is deprived of his passport until returning to the airport, meanwhile, he has a replacement document. And above all, that only Muslims can enter Mecca for Umrah (which lasts an average of a few hours) and can do the Hajj (which lasts an average of five days). In addition, the ministry gives indications on what to drink, eat, how to dress, on the necessary vaccines, and even on how to organize themselves in case you want to make an animal sacrifice.

Published by Marry Bell

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