Further, there are elements of Islam, like the usages of the hajj (or pilgrimage to the sacred places at Mecca), the dryness of its official doctrine and the limitations of its real character as indicated in the Wahhabi revival, which so impair its apparent universalism that Kuenen found himself obliged to withdraw it from the highest rank of religions.
The pilgrimage was so intimately connected with the wellbeing of Mecca, and had already such a hold on the Arabs round about, that Mahomet could not afford to sacrifice it to an abstract purity of religion, and thus the old usages were transplanted into Islam in the double form of the omra or vow of pilgrimage to Mecca, which can be discharged at any time, and the hajj or pilgrimage at the great annual feast.
On the right bank is all the older part of the city, and a long suburb called El-Meidan extending about a mile along the Hajj Road.
To the ordinary pilgrim the omra has become so much an episode of the hajj that it is described by some European pilgrims as a mere visit to the mosque of Ayesha; a better conception of its original significance is got from the Meccan feast of the seventh month (Rajab), graphically described by Ibn Jubair from his observations in A.D.
The quarantine office keeps a record of arrivals by sea at Jidda (66,000 for 1904); but to these must be added those travelling by land from Cairo, Damascus The sacrifice is not indispensable except for those who can afford it and are combining the hajj with the omra.
The pilgrimage retained its importance for the commercial well-being of Mecca; to this day the Meccans live by the Hajj - letting rooms, acting as guides and directors in the sacred ceremonies, as contractors and touts for land and sea transport, as well as exploiting the many benefactions that flow to the holy city; while the surrounding Bedouins derive support from the camel-transport it demands and from the subsidies by which they are engaged to protect or abstain from molesting the pilgrim caravans.
Damascus occupies an important commercial position, being the market for the whole of the desert; it also is of great importance religiously, as being the startingpoint for the Hajj pilgrimage from Syria to Mecca, which leaves on the 15th of the lunar month of Shawwal each year.