Muslim Americans to Leave for Hajj

Washington, 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: http://www.ap.org/pages/contact/contact.html
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.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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