Hajj a Test of U.S. Muslims' Faith

January 3, 2007

Author: Lee Keath

Source: The Washington Times

Wire Service: AP


More than 20,000 Americans took part in the most recent hajj, a higher number than usual because the pilgrimage, which began Thursday and ended Monday, coincided with Christmas and New Year's holidays.

At the hajj, Muslims seek forgiveness of their sins and meditate on their faith.

For American Muslim parents, it is also a chance to connect their children with a religious heritage they have only heard about while growing up in the United States. Some young pilgrims -- children of immigrants from the Islamic world -- may have visited their parents' homelands occasionally. Mr. Muschelewicz and others whose parents are converts to Islam lack direct connections to the Middle East.

"This is really a learning experience for the young," said Tabassam Qureshi, of Westchester, N.Y. He and other Americans were resting in their tent at Mina, a desert valley outside Mecca where rites took place on Sunday and Monday.

His son Amir slept nearby, recovering from burst blisters on his feet. The elder Qureshis recalled their own adventures over the past few days: spending 16 hours on a bus caught in traffic between the holy cities of Medina and Mecca and sleeping on blankets in the dirt outside another holy site, Muzdalifah.

"Today, I put my hand on Amir's shoulder and asked him what he's learned, and he said, 'sabr' " -- Arabic for patience, said Mr. Qureshi. "They learn that you have to help each other to overcome difficulty, and he'll go back and tell his friends all about it."