Muslim Americans to
Leave for Hajj
DC: Thousands of American Muslims will soon travel to take
part in religious observances associated with the annual
Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj will take place in
the second week of January.
Hajj is one of the "five pillars" of the Islamic
faith. (The other pillars include a declaration of faith,
daily prayers, offering regular charity, and fasting during
the month of Ramadan.) Pilgrimage is a once-in-a-lifetime
obligation for those who have the physical and financial
ability to undertake the journey.
When the main portion of the pilgrimage is completed, Muslims
worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day (January
10*) of Eid ul-Adha (EED-al-ODD-ha), the second of the two
major Muslim holidays.
The obligatory and optional activities of Hajj include:
* Entrance into a state of self-control called "ihram,"
during which pilgrims are forbidden to harm living creatures,
even insects or plants, or raise the voice in anger. The
state of ihram is signified (for men) by the wearing of
two pieces of unsewn white cloth. This clothing signifies
the equality of all before God. No specific clothing is
prescribed for female pilgrims.
* Circling ("Tawaf") of the "Ka'aba,"
the stone building Muslims believe was originally built
by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The Ka'aba is viewed as
the first sanctuary on earth dedicated to the worship of
the One God. It is a symbol of unity for Muslims because
all prayers, wherever they are performed, are oriented in
the direction of the Ka'aba.
* The "Sa'i," or "hastening" between
two small hills near the Ka'aba, to commemorate Hagar's
search for water to offer her son Ishmael.
* The "Day of Arafah" on January 9.* Arafah is
a mountain and its surrounding empty plain near Mecca. On
this day, the climax of the Hajj season, pilgrims assemble
for supplication to God.
* The stoning of three pillars representing Satan's temptation
of Abraham. The stoning indicates the pilgrim's rejection
of evil deeds.
* Cutting the hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.
* Sacrifice of an animal to help the poor, and in remembrance
of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at
God's command. The meat is distributed to relatives and
to the needy.
(* Because the beginning of Islamic lunar months depends
on the actual sighting of the new crescent moon, the start
date for Hajj and Eid ul-Adha may vary.)
CAIR HAJJ PUBLICITY RESOURCE KIT
The following publicity materials may be modified and used
by local communities to publicize Hajj. When modifying the
news releases, include references to local Hajj activities
and contact information for local spokespeople. Send to
the newspaper "city editor," television station
"assignment editors" and radio station "news
directors." Just call each media outlet to get the
contact information. IMPORTANT: Also send to the "daybook
editor" at the nearest Associated Press bureau. See:
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has
31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission
is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue,
protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build
coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.