US Muslims embrace Hajj ‘heart and soul’

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Majd Kattan, from Dearborn, Michigan, poses for a photo in the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (AN photo by Laila Alhusini)
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Dr. Zaza. (AN photo by Laila Alhusini)
Updated 10 August 2019

US Muslims embrace Hajj ‘heart and soul’

  • ‘Our hearts and souls will live the Abrahamic journey of sacrifice, struggle, worship and surrender to God’s commands’

DETROIT: Thousands of Muslim Americans have paid at least $6,000 each to make the journey to Makkah in Saudi Arabia as part of the Islamic ritual of Hajj.

The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah, is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims are required to complete the journey during their lifetime.
Muslims in the US, including Arab Americans, are among millions worldwide who have arrived in the Kingdom for the pilgrimage, which ends on Aug. 14.
“We are welcoming the Hajj season,” said Sufian Nabhan, director of the Detroit Islamic Center. “Our hearts and souls will live the Abrahamic journey of sacrifice, struggle, worship and surrender to God’s commands.”
Many from Detroit’s Muslim community have traveled to Makkah.
At one time, exhaustion, robbery and disease were the main hazards facing Hajj pilgrims. Now financial cost is the major obstacle, with US worshippers paying at least $6,000 per person to make the journey.
Some countries, such as Malaysia, offer pilgrims grants or subsidize part of the cost. Meanwhile, those unable to meet the financial or physical challenges of Hajj can perform the smaller Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah called Umrah, which can be carried out year-round.
“Hajj is an invitation from God to visit His House and engage in one of the most illustrious acts of worship. But at the same time, it is a struggle where you have to be prepared financially, physically, mentally and spiritually,” said Zahra Idrees, a teacher at Al-Ikhlas training academy in Detroit.
Hajj is more than just a physical journey, said pilgrim Omar Rashid.
“You will give up everyday comforts for a few short days as you purify the soul. Hajj is not something a person does many times — so make sure you receive the full reward for completing it.  Do not risk an unaccepted Hajj,” he said.
Many celebrities have taken the Hajj journey.  
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who converted to Islam in 1992, took to Twitter to declare his faith, saying: “I just left the Holy City of Makkah where I was blessed to have been able to make Umrah. Inshallah (God willing), Allah will continue to bless me to stay on the straight path.”

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350k+ tents in Mina and Arafat, which are fully furnished and air-conditioned.

Brothers Hussain and Hamza Abdullah, both NFL players, took a career hiatus to complete the pilgrimage, sitting out the 2012–2013 football season and missing out on lucrative pay checks. Hussain has played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings, while his brother has played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals.
The brothers said that they “wanted to show that Islam is a religion of peace and has nothing to do with the extremist terrorists seen on the news.”
“You know, we’re playing football, America’s No. 1 game. We went on a road trip. What’s more American than a road trip?” said Hussain.
Imam Dr. Shadi Zaza, founder and CEO of Rahma Worldwide Relief and president of the Islamic University of Minnesota’s Detroit chamber, said he gains personal satisfaction from helping other Muslims to complete Hajj.
“It is an interesting job to be an imam taking groups from the US to perform Hajj. People from different ethnicities come together to worship one God, with everyone praying in his own language.
“The most beautiful part is when we come close to Kaaba for the first time. Everybody sheds tears thanking Allah for witnessing this moment. The other moving scene is that of the estimated 3 to 4 million people coming together to stand on Mount Arafat. It’s a similar picture to Judgment Day.”


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.