Muslims observe festival, pilgrimage
December 4, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - This month, 1.3 billion Muslims from around the world - over 7 million of them in the U.S., including 10,000 armed servicemembers - will begin observing activities associated with the annual religious pilgrimage, or Hajj, to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Hajj is the fifth of the five main "pillars" of the Islamic faith (the other "pillars" include the declaration of faith, five daily prayers, charity and fasting during the month of Ramadan).
Hajj activities take place during six days, from the eighth to the 13th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the lunar year.
Hajj is a once-in a-lifetime obligation for those Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to undertake the journey. It is also a form of worship that involves the entire being - body, mind and soul. In following the Sunnah, or lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims not participating in the actual pilgrimage fast the day before Eid-ul-Adha,which is known as the Day of Arafat.
The Prophet Muhammad said, "Fasting the day of Arafat is an expiation for two years, the year preceding it and the year following it."
When the major portion of the Hajj is completed, Muslims worldwide gather for communal prayers on the first day of Eid-ul-Adha, the 10th day of Dhul-Hijjah. This is the second of the two most important observances in Islam.
The approximate beginning date for the Eid is Dec. 9, or the third day of the pilgrimage.
The exact beginning date will be known the evening before the lunar month begins because it is determined by the viewing of the crescent moon.
While Eid is actually an observance and a part of Hajj, it is also celebrated throughout the Muslim world in commemoration of the Prophet Abraham, who, according to Islamic belief, sacrificed a ram when God spared him the sacrifice of his son, Ishmael.
During the morning of the Eid, at sometime after sunrise and before midday, a special congregational prayer is offered, followed by a Khutbah, or sermon, from the imam of the community. A period of marked joy and happiness follows the prayers with animal sacrifice, a large feast given sometime during the day and continues with related activities for the next two days.
During this period, the entire community of friends, Families and neighbors, visit each other and exchange gifts. It is especially important to show respect and love by spending time with the elderly, sick and disabled during this period.
Financially-able Muslims are obligated to sacrifice a lamb or goat for each Family member.
Several Families may join in to sacrifice one cow and the act is not considered a blood offering as parts of the meat are obligated to feed others.
In the Qur'an, Allah states: "Neither their meat nor their blood ever reaches Allah, but heedfulness on your part does reach Him."(Chapter 22, Verse 37).
The sacrifice is an expression of thankfulness to Allah, the affirmation of faith and the remembrance of the supreme sacrifice that Prophet Abraham was ready to offer in order to carry out the command of God. When God ordered Prophet Abraham to offer his son, Ishmael, in sacrifice, both father and son were ready to carry out the command without question.
The offering of the sacrifice is an annual reminder that humankind must be ready to sacrifice what is most dear to them to fulfill the Command of God.
The Qur'an states: "Say, truly my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for God, the Cherisher of the worlds."
The meat of the animal must be divided into three equal portions; one part is kept for the
immediate Family, one part for friends and neighbors, and the third portion is distributed among the needy. The pilgrimage, or Hajj, to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is the international gathering place of over two million Muslims from all over the world - people of all races, nationalities, economic or worldly statuses, repenting and praying to God for His forgiveness, purification, mercy and blessings.
The main benefit of Hajj for many people is the sense of purification, repentance and spiritual renewal that it instills.
After his Hajj in 1964, Abdul-Malik Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X, wrote in his autobiography: "I have eaten from the same plate, drank from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug)-while praying to the same God-with fellow Muslims whose eyes were bluest of the blue, whose hair was blondest of the blonde and whose skin was whitest of the white. And in the words and in the actions and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. In the past I permitted myself to be used to make sweeping indictments of the entire white race. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to the sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Muslim."
The military needs Muslim Soldiers for their language skills and cultural knowledge, so military outreach towards Muslims has expanded in recent years.
The first Muslim chaplain in the military, Army Lt. Col. Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, was appointed in 1994. The military opened its first permanent mosque, the Masjid al Da'Wah facility at Virginia's Norfolk Navy Base in late 1998.
For further information, contact Chaplain Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org.