Millions of Muslim pilgrims have converged on the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
All able-bodied Muslims who can afford to must perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
Many save money for years so they can afford to perform the pilgrimage and some travel thousands of miles.
Saudi authorities also face problems ensuring the safety and security of the many pilgrims travelling in the country.
Will you or someone you know be performing the Hajj this year? Have you done it in the past? How did it affirm your faith? Do you hope to perform the Hajj in the future? Send us your comments and experiences.
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The following comments reflect the balance received.
I wanted to go to Mecca, but unfortunately I couldn't. Inshallah Allah will let me go there someday. All of you please pray for Iraq and pray for Islam. Allah will make us stronger.
Yunus, Ankara, Turkey
My father went there in 2002. He says that in order to feel that greatness one must go there and experience it. He also said that the birds were flying over the Mecca in a circular fashion - they were turning too! Isn't it unbelievable? Inshallah I will do my Hajj too, one day.
Tulin, Turkey, Ankara
I performed Hajj in 2001 (when I was 70 years of age) along with my wife. Before my Hajj I was lucky to perform Umrah a few times when I was younger and fit. When I went I was very unwell and it was difficult for me to properly walk. Before boarding the plane I fell very sick with high fever and vomiting. At a point I was even thinking whether I should cancel the flight. I became very, very depressed and prayed to Allah that He in His mercy would allow me to perform the greatest of the pillars of my faith. By the grace of Allah from somewhere I got the confidence that Allah would answer my inner prayer. My son, daughter-in-law and daughter all encouraged me to under take the journey and by the grace of Allah We boarded the plane late in the evening. Throughout the flight I was in a sort of stupor. Early in the morning we arrived at Jeddah, drove to Mecca. I was amazed that after arrival at Mecca I started getting my strength back and I could perform Hajj without help.
M G Pir, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Truly an awe-inspiring experience and a vital antidote to the rampaging materialism taking over our lives.
Dr Adnan Siddiqui, London, UK
Every Muslim yearns to visit Makkah one day. But only someone who has been there can truly understand the feeling of brotherhood and awe inspired by the sight of so many Muslims of every colour and nationality who gather there and somehow manage to communicate across the barriers of language and culture. After all we are united by the greatest bond of all - the love and worship of Allah. To Yazid may I add a piece of advice - please do not wait for the Hajj to worship Allah as He should be worshiped. What if death comes to you before that? Don't forget the recent disaster that took the lives over of people - many of them Muslim.
Raihana Sawaad, Colombo, Sri Lanka
I performed the Hajj in 1992 and I hope to do it again next year. I have performed the Umrah several times since then, but the Hajj is an experience one will never experience anywhere, anytime or on any other occasion. It is here that you realise that you are just a tiny being. It enhances the feeling and knowledge of the greatness of Allah. The first time I saw the Kaabah, I was reduced to tears - happy to be there as Allah's guest in Allah's house. The feeling is the same and yet different each time. I am looking forward to being there again, God willing!!
I performed my Hajj along with my husband and daughter in 1996. My husband was employed in Tabuk in those days. We drove from Tabuk to Mecca. My parents and sister also joined me from India. It was a wonderful experience performing Hajj with whole family. I only hope that some day all religions would be separated from the politics around the world and world would live in peace.
Sara And Fiza, US
I have just returned from completing my Hajj. I am grateful to Allah that I have been living in Makkah for the past 15 years and of Pakistani origin. First of all I must applaud the Saudi authorities for organizing such a safe and wonderful Hajj. The way they handled the Rami (Stoning of devil) was truly great. They had increased security throughout the places, in the valley of Mina, the plains of Muzdallifah and the mountains of Arafat. It was incredible to see some great job done by the Saudi government. To me this Hajj was perhaps the greatest experience I have ever had. All races, colours and culture were in the same place, at the same point, standing shoulder to shoulder. Hajj is an experience of a lifetime. May Allah grant this wish to all Muslims.
Tanveer Siddiqui, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
I performed the Hajj in 2002 and it is the most memorable event of my life. I am so happy that all the people here have had a wonderful experience. The Saudi government and the people work very hard to make the Hajj convenient for all the people.
Amina, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
I've done Hajj two years ago and each year I watch Muslim pilgrims on TV I remember my own experience and I can't stop tears running from my eyes. I hope God will bless me once again to afford performing Hajj again but next time with my wife inshallah.
Ahmed El Derini, Montreal, Canada
I came to Canada in 1987 as a landed immigrant. Since then I never went back to my homeland. I was always thinking to go back one day to visit my family. As the time passes, in the process, my Dad who went to Mecca several times passed away. Now, when I hear or see any thing related to the Hajj, I am in emotional crisis. I cry a lot. It reminds me something related my Dad and what he went through in making the Hajj. I always picture my Dad in that crowd. Allah/God bless his soul.
Jeylani Haji Ebrahim, Canada
I performed Hajj last year, 2004. It was the most humbling experience of my life. I was fortunate enough to be called only after a year of being married and also accompanying my mother and father-in-law. I've spent most of today reminiscing my experience; I pray Allah calls me back there again and again.
Amna Mahmood, London, United Kingdom
My mum and my grandmother are performing Hajj this year. They have told me that it is a physically demanding duty but the whole experience leaves you overwhelmed with emotion.
I did my Hajj in 2002. Doing it once has not satisfied me, I think what I learnt in my first Hajj was how to do it. The next time I go (and that would be soon inshallah) I will plan it exactly as the practicalities are. My advice to the pilgrims who are planning to go must ask those people who have already been there to get some on hand advice. Entire dependence on agents or books is not advisable because practicalities of Hajj are very different. It can be very demanding to very light depending on your eagerness and practical knowledge of the places of rituals, and the way systems work.
Ali Mustafa Khan, London, UK
Having performed the Hajj about five years ago at the tender age of 17, the experience has had a lasting impact on my perception of Islam. It increased my understanding of the Greatness of Allah. Standing on the mountain of Arafat, I said to myself: "Why have so many people left their homes, countries and travelled all this way to join in this experience? Why are people so emotional in asking Allah for forgiveness?" In short, my Hajj experience thought me that the Kingdom of Allah will forever be great with or without my acts of worship and the only one who gains from being close to Allah is myself.
Hajj is truly a miracle of Allah. Sitting here I am overcome with emotion remembering the Hajj I performed in 2001. It was a wonderful sight to see. The Kaaba, although just a four walled room, watching it is such a magical sight that one can not resist but to fall in prostration. Magnificent!
Usama Mirza, Islamabad, Pakistan
It is not easy to be a Muslim in my native country Finland and also in China where I'm currently working. I was lucky to perform Hajj in 2001 and ever since I have had a better understanding of the world.
Reijo Virk, Beijing, China
I am British and embraced Islam in 1995. My Hajj in 1999 was very special. The Kuwaiti brothers patiently explained everything to me in English so I understood all the rituals and could perform them correctly. I felt very close to God in that holy place and want to return with my four daughters so they too can have this unique experience.
I am sure the experience of Hajj is great, having heard from many people I know. It is definitely an experience of a lifetime. I would, however, wish that those who attend Hajj more than once could spend some of their money to help those who are financially disadvantaged and could not afford to attend. I think it would be more rewarding.
Farid, London, UK
May Allah Almighty accept the Hajj of all those striving to do it and may He accept the prayers of those who are still praying and dreaming to perform it. For many it is a once in a lifetime experience and the main point is the coming together of so many different people who, actually are not different but equal. They come to seek the favour of Allah, they all wear the same clothes, they all perform the same rituals. No matter if your black or white, rich or poor, strong or weak, at this stage all are equal.
Fahad Bin Tariq, Aachen, Germany
I performed Hajj in 1999 with a Shia group from North America. While the experience at Hajj was spiritually uplifting, the treatment we experienced was anything but. The Saudi police verbally and even physically abuse those who they deem "different" and I found myself on the receiving end of many of their insults because I am Shia. I am grateful that I experienced that because it opened my eyes to the widespread human rights abuses that go almost entirely unchallenged within that country.
Zahir Janmohamed, Washington, DC
I accompanied my parents on the Hajj in 1984. I was only seven. Ever since I have this desire to return for Hajj. Even at that tender age I was impressed by the long lasting longing people all over the world have for the sacred holy places.
Raza Khalid, Connecticut, USA
I performed Hajj in 2003. Besides being a religious obligation, Hajj teaches Muslims a broad spectrum of lessons ranging from racial equality and piety to patience.
Abdifatah Shafat, Columbus, USA
I have a friend with his mum and another friend's parents there right now. I just hope and pray they all get home safe! One friend's mum died there last year so am here missing my friend and their families. Inshallah they enjoy their Hajj and once I marry I will get to go one year too.
Pinja, Helsinki, Finland
My wife and I performed our Hajj at an early age in 1982, with the first savings we had after marriage. It was the most tiring but the most awe-inspiring episode which has fruitfully guided our life in this world for the next 32 years. I recommend all Muslims should perform Hajj when they are young. After Hajj nothing in life was insurmountable. This is the place one sees the true nature of real "globalisation" at work.
Mansur, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
My great-grand parents went to Hajj about 60 years ago and they returned home after almost eight months - things during that time weren't as comfortable as of today. The real beauty of Hajj is to endure hardship and strive to submit your will and soul to Allah. I was lucky I performed the Hajj in 1996 and I imagined the hardship of those pilgrims who performed the Hajj and their only means of transportation was camels.
Sameer Syed, London, England
By Allah I have been able to complete the pilgrimage of Hajj at a young age. The experience was unbelievable and therefore cannot be explained in words. I was taken aback by seeing Muslims from all over the world from rich to poor, old to young - they all came for one thing. The thing that I miss and will miss a lot in the future is the voice of the Imam who leads the five daily prayers. His voice brings peace to your mind.
Afsana Patel, Bolton, England
I performed the Hajj in 2000,and it was the best thing that ever happened in my life. Every year I feel like being there. May Allah make it possible for me to perform the hajj again. (Inshallah)
Sukai Secka Sagnia, Banjul, Gambia
First thanks to BBC media for letting Muslims share what they feel during this high point in a Muslim's life. I have not yet gone on this pilgrimage, but reading all the comments here reminded me of what Malcolm X considered the turning point in his life. When he saw Muslims from all races and walks of life praying together, he realised that the anti-white rhetoric he had been attracted up to at that point was against the spirit of Islam. In his autobiography he mentions this as a turning point in his life when he felt he must strive for the good of all people, not just one race.
Mariam, Jersey City, USA
I have been blessed by Allah to perform Hajj once in 2004. The experience is inexplicable. Since then I have longed every day to go back. Millions of devout Muslims, performing rituals in harmony.
Naumann Yousef, Islamabad, Pakistan
My parents are performing Hajj this year. They have told me that it is a physically demanding duty but the whole experience leaves you overwhelmed with emotion.
T Shafiq, London, UK
Hajj brings to light what Islam is about. We are not fundamentalists but actually lovers of peace.
Mohammed Asif, Yorkshire, UK
My parents have been lucky to perform hajj this year and, God willing, I too would like to make this beautiful trip some day.
Hisham, Liverpool, UK
I've been blessed to have gone for the Hajj twice. It is amazing - millions of people from all over the world uniting in the worship and adoration of God. First time round my mother couldn't go as she had just had chemotherapy for cancer. Thank God I went again two years later with her.
Aziz, London, England
I was presented with the opportunity to perform the Hajj in 2003. As a recent Muslim convert, I was unsure if I was ready for this journey. All doubts were erased once I reached Makkah. It was the most uplifting, faith-affirming experience in my life. There were no distinctions as to class, language, race, nationality. We were all united for the sake of Allah.
Katharine Kennedy, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I remember it perfectly...it was only today I was saying to my friends this time last year I would have been flying off tomorrow to Saudi Arabia...a start of the most beautiful, spiritual, mind-blowing journey. I would describe it as a test of my patience and kindness towards others (and at my age this can be difficult!). But along with my two younger sisters, we feel we are really missing out this year as we know what the hajj consists of, and the thought of being left behind...only brings tears to my eyes. But God willing we are praying to go again sometime soon inshallah.
Faeeza, United Kingdom
As a new Muslim and as an American the Hajj was the greatest thing I have ever experienced. I know Islam is getting all this bad coverage in the media but I saw the true peaceful Islam in Hajj. There was over three million people there and I did not see one fight. I did not see one person being rude to the other even though they were from so many different countries and cultural backgrounds. It was truly beautiful, a life-changing experience.
Giovanni, California USA
I went four years ago and was amazed to see the amount of people from every corner of the world, millions stood together, side by side. Everyone seen as equals, no one greater than another, all united in prayer. Wrapped in a simple cloth, doing away with any materialistic values. You have to be there to experience it...wow!
S Aziz, Bradford, UK
I performed my Hajj last year and I must say it was the most memorable thing I have ever done. I first went to Medina and when I went to visit the Prophet's Grave you get overwhelmed with a special feeling that goes deep into your soul that makes you break down in tears sometimes. I then went to Mecca the Holy of the holiest city and the first sight of the Kaaba just overwhelms you as well. The sheer number of people of all races is just amazing. You need to be there to feel this great feeling.
Mohamed Abdi, Dublin, Ireland
Yes, I have performed Hajj and it truly gave me the sense of belonging in the wider Islamic nation. This is what God wants. Muslims should feel one and united. In Islam, all human beings are equal. There is no difference between them whether they are rich or poor, whether black, brown or white, or whether male or female.
M A Sheriff, Portsmouth, UK
I went to Hajj 16 years ago, I was 17 at that time. Besides performing the obligations of the Hajj, it's an opportunity for all Muslims to remember the Day of Judgment. All in one place, dressing the same, doing the same things, neglecting the material life, you realise that this life is only temporary and you must be at your best everyday.
Abu Ammar, Cincinnati, Ohio
Truly the most amazing experience. A place where race, colour or cast play no role. Where everyone is as one, all there for the same reason- to praise their God. Approaching the mosque raises every hair, brings tears to your eyes and warmth to your heart. The beautiful voice of the Iman reciting the Holy Quran is sure to move you. The atmosphere is incredible, and there is always a feeling of safety and belonging. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. May we all be granted the opportunity to experience this spiritual journey.
Najmah, Southampton, UK
I have always wanted to perform my Hajj since when I was young. I am 23 and I just got married and am heading to Hajj with my wife. With the cooler weather I know that the experience will not only be blessed but one that I will cherish forever.
Ahmad, Kuwait City, Kuwait
By the Grace of God Almighty I have been fortunate to perform Hajj not once but three times. It has been the most beautiful journey of my lifetime. I have no words to describe it. However, in my humble way I would say that my life has been transformed. I am more conscious of God. Once we are on Hajj we come to realise that we all are of one humanity. This experience of spiritual upliftment can never be compared to any pleasure or happiness. I pray for the success of the acceptance of all the pilgrims who will perform the Hajj in the next coming days.
Rafath , Chicago, USA
I performed Hajj in 2001 along with my wife and one-year-old daughter. It was an experience which cannot be ever related in words. It affirmed not only mine and my wife's faith but is also proving to be a rejoinder and catalyst to my daughter who was only one at that time and now she is five and recalls in some form what she saw there and indeed "felt".
Abid Latif, Lahore, Pakistan
Went to Hajj last year and could not believe that so many people existed on Earth. What a sight! This is the only gathering of mankind that does away with materials and worldly borders. I will go again!
T. Hussain, Bradford, England
The hajj is the experience of a lifetime that words do not adequately describe. A truly enlightening experience where people all over the world wear the same two pieces of cloth, go to the same place, and pray at the same time, regardless of race, creed or colour.
If you want to see all the races and genders of the world united under one banner this is the place to be. It was the most emotional journey I have ever made, I wish that I could go again.
Mohammed Badat, Leicester, UK
I will not hesitate to perform the Hajj when I can afford to and I felt like I was the one going when I sent my friend off to Hajj. I'm going to call my friend there in Saudi Arabia to make prayers (du'a) for me. But this does not mean that I have to save my money and put all my effort for the Hajj. This is because you must go to Hajj if you're able-bodied and can afford to.
Abdul-Salam Abdul-Hameed, Kumasi, Ghana/ Syria
Yes I hope to go on the Hajj in the future because I an Muslim. I am just starting to earn money in order to go next year.
Abdirashid Dahir Ali Jumale, Mogadishu, Somalia
I went for Hajj in 1995. Its been 10 years. I would like to go their every year, but due to job, finances and other factors which restrict my movement I am unable to go their again. Inshallah I will go there whenever I get a chance. Although some of the experiences were not very good it was a lifetime experience.
Farrukh, Melbourne, Australia
This is a very big religious act in the life of a Muslim and he who performs this once in a life time act will be blessed with all good things and his bad deeds in the past would be erased from his spiritual book.
Nayeem, Hyderabad, India
Yes, my boss at work performed the Hajj this year. My grandparents, numerous uncles and aunts have also performed the Hajj. They say that the experience is so amazing. when you are there you feel overwhelmed by the sight of millions of Muslims from all over the world. You will see Muslims from all different countries. It also shows that racism has no place in Islam and gets rid of the racism problems present today. Whether you are black, white or Asian it doesn't matter whatsoever. I will be performing hajj in the future, God willing.
Faraz, London ,UK
This year my mother is performing the Hajj - this is her first - and I plan to go myself next year. Our faith never changes even though politicians try to politicise religion for their own favours.
Ainul Habib, Athlone, Ireland
For second generation Muslims growing up in the West, I feel most of us use Hajj as a turning point - from Westernised youths to finally affirming our faith and our parents' Eastern traditions. Like many my age, I hope to perform Hajj one day and from then onwards pray five times daily, perform all my religious duties and never drink again!