Finding My Religion: A Silicon Valley Imam is on His Way to the Hajj, the Annual Pilgrimage to Mecca

December 4, 2006

Author: David Ian Miller

Source: San Francisco Gate

Imagine standing in a crowd of 2 million people whose most cherished dream has just come true. For many Muslims, participating in the hajj -- the annual journey to the physical and spiritual heart of Islam -- is the most central spiritual experience of their lives.

All Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life if they are financially and physically able. Attending the world's largest annual spiritual gathering -- which begins on the eighth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic year -- is no vacation. However, pilgrims say that despite the crowds and associated inconveniences, the hajj is primarily a time of great joy.

Imam Tahir Anwar, spiritual leader of Silicon Valley's South Bay Islamic Association, is leaving for the hajj on Dec. 19 with 150 members of his congregation. Anwar, 28, who teaches part-time at Granada Islamic School in Santa Clara, spoke with me by phone last week about the joys and frustrations of the hajj and his life as an imam in America.