Modernization of Hajj
With globalization of religions and beliefs, interest in Islamic religions are growing tremendously. Especially, Sunni Islam, as the largest sector of Islam, is gaining members at a rapid rate. What fascinates me most about Sunni Islam is their unique five pillars to guide their members through their spiritual journey. There are five pillars in Sunni Islam.
The first one is Shahada: Faith. Members must declare faithful to one true God-Allah and the messenger of God-Muhammad. The second pillar is Salah: Prayer. Members must pray five set times a day, no matter where they are. The prayers have their own name and meaning, and must be facing the mecca. The third pillar is Zakāt: Charity. By knowing that all things belong to God, one grows as they share and provide for others. The fourth pillar is Sawm: Fasting. There are three types of fasting, and ritual fasting is required during the month of Ramadan. During this month, members must eat and drink only from dawn to dusk. However, members with medical conditions, are underage, and travelling, etc can make up in other ways. The fifth pillar is Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca is the holiest city for Muslims because it was the birthplace of Muhammad and the place of his first revelation of the Quran. Hajj happens during five days of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah. Throughout the journey members wear “ihram” two white cloth unstitched, and walk through the city. Members who have completed the fifth pillar have shown submission to Allah through the journey.
Before the mobilization of modern transportation, the pilgrimage to Mecca was only available to people who were financially wealthy, physically strong, and had a stable family who could support themselves, in his/her absence. However, with the present technological systems, Mecca attracts two to three million people every year. Therefore, due to the privatization and commercialization of the Hajj industry, the price of Hajj is rising. Overall, the price of Hajj has risen around 25% in recent years. However, with the popularization of Mecca, and easier access of the trip, the meaning of this holy trip is at risk. Recently the demolition of Saudi Arabia, associated with vandalism has become more frequent. The destruction has focused on mosques, burial sites and historical locations. It is significant that we protect historical and religious sites. Not only Mecca, but other sites must be valued to preserve their meaning and provide a psychological nest for all people.
La Semana Santa
In Seville, all spirits come alive during the holy week-La Semana Santa. The week before Easter(late March to early April), people in white cloaks and face-covering cones walk down the narrow roads of Seville towards the main cathedral, while crowds laugh and chatter. Starting on Psalm Sunday, Nazarenos carry giant candles, and biblical figures, walking in funeral-like strides. This Christ related tradition has come to represent the religious and secular spirits of Spain. In its origin in the 15th century, the festival has served as a visual compilation to different parts of the Bible. In the present days, people gather to reconnect and bond with neighbors whether you are religious or not.
The festival has its root in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, large floats called Pasos carry figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Pasos can also contain the scenery of the last supper, or the twelve disciples. Usually, men called Costaleros carry the float in sync on their shoulders for the aesthetic of the biblical figures walking. Costaleros consider carrying Pasos as an incredible honor. The floats are accompanied by drums and music, with Nazarenos dressed in white cloaks and cone like hats. The crowds are dressed respectfully, often in their Sunday best.
Although the event celebrates the resurrection, the festival started in 1521, when Marques de Tarifa returned to Spain from the Holy Land and insisted on the stations of the cross being celebrated. It advanced in the 17th century when Spanish brotherhoods organized themselves into groups. In modern days, the festival identifies the city. Furthermore, the celebration boosts its economy. Hotel rooms are fully booked, and the economical impact is up to $351 million. The city officials claim that this 450 years old tradition is not waning, instead it connects multiple generations to their homes.
If you’re from Seville, La Semana Santa will reconnect you with the beautiful city. If not, as a tourist no matter how religious, a week in Seville during Semana Santa can be a great opportunity to learn Spanish, and their culture- while having fun!