In case you don't know, the annual pilgrimate, or hajj, to Mecca is currently underway. And according to this article from Al Jazeera, it looks like Saudi Arabia is going to experience a record turnout.
"More than 100,000 security guards have been deployed to cope with the three million people expected in the city of Mecca, when the Islamic pilgrimage gets under way on Saturday."
The article notes that "It is a religious duty for every able-bodied Muslim with the necessary financial resources to make the pilgrimage at least once during their lifetime to cleanse their sins."
Reading this article reminded me of a thought I have had a number of times before. The annual hajj is a logistical nightmare as it is already. Millions attend annually, and it is not uncommon for people to die in stampedes, in some cases in the hundreds, and once well over a thousand.
As with any other proselytizing religion, it is no secret that the followers of Islam want the entire world to convert to their religion. As it currently stands, there are somewhere between one to one and a half billion Muslims in a world with an estimated global population of 6.7 billion people.
Even more sobering, world population in 2050 is expected to reach a peak of approximately 9.2 billion.
If by some bizarre miracle (or rather, nightmare) every person on the planet became a convert to Islam within the next 50 years, it would literally be impossible for every able-bodied Muslim to make the pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of the faith. To reiterate, expand the number of Muslims beyond a certain point and there will be no way of accommodating all of them in order to fulfill one of the most important requirements of their faith. It would be interesting to hear what the Muslim faithful have to say in response to this potential conundrum.
Then again, as I pointed out in this post two years ago, Mecca during the hajj could become a disease incubator that sets off a pandemic in the Muslim world. The Economist article I linked to noted that "one in three pilgrims suffers respiratory symptoms during the pilgrimage, and overcrowding (in tents accomodating up to 100 people) provides ideal conditions for illness to spread. The risk to families of pilgrims was highlighted by a study in Malaysia, published in 2002: among people sharing a house with a returning pilgrim, about 8% were carrying traces of the bacteria associated with meningitis."
And therein lies the ultimate absurdity of Islam: carrying out one of its most important requirements is quite literally dangerous to Muslims.