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.”


China accuses US of harassing Chinese students, researchers

Updated 03 August 2020

China accuses US of harassing Chinese students, researchers

BEIJING: China on Monday accused the United States of “monitoring, harassing and willfully detaining” Chinese students and researchers in the US
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s comments follow the denial of a bail request in California for a university researcher accused of lying about her ties to China’s military and governing Communist Party to gain access to the United States.
Wang also criticized the Trump administration for imposing sanctions on a major paramilitary organization in the country’s western Xinjiang region and on two officials for alleged human rights abuses against ethnic and religious minorities.
Wang said China had no intention of helping Juan Tang escape from the United States, but did not otherwise comment directly on the accusations against her.
However, he said China urges the US to “handle the case fairly in accordance with the law and ensure the safety and legitimate rights and interests” due to Tang.
“For some time, the US, with ideological prejudice, keeps monitoring, harassing and willfully detaining Chinese students and researchers, and making presumptions of guilt against Chinese researchers,” Wang said.
“The US actions have seriously violated the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and severely disrupted the normal cultural and personnel exchanges between China and the US, which amounts to outright political persecution,” he said.
In denying bail, US Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes said Tang, 37, would have reason to leave the country if released. Tang has been held without bail since July 23 when she was arrested after she left the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to seek medical care for her asthma.
Tang, who has a doctorate in cellular biology, entered the United States on Dec. 27, 2019, to work at the University of California, Davis, as a visiting researcher in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Alexandra Negin, an assistant federal public defender, said in her filing asking the court for her release on bail. The lab closed because of the coronavirus pandemic and Tang had been preparing to return to China, Negin said.
Tang and three other scientists living in the US face charges of lying about their status as members of China’s People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. All were charged with visa fraud, the Justice Department said.
Tang was the last of the four to be arrested after the Justice Department accused the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco of harboring a known fugitive.
Negin said Tang went to the consulate to seek help and remained there after FBI agents questioned her at her Davis apartment on June 20 and executed a search warrant, seizing her passport and visa.
Agents found photographs of Tang in a uniform of the civilian cadre of the PLA and also reviewed articles from China that identified her military affiliation. Negin argued that the evidence against Tang is based on old photographs from when she was a student at a medical school run by the military and documents that were translated on apps.
Wang said the US State and Treasury Department penalties targeting the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps “seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs and violated the basic norms of international relations.”
The sanctions hit the corps, its commander and former political commissar for alleged abuses against Uighur Muslims, including mass arbitrary detentions, forced labor and torture. They freeze any assets the targets may have in US jurisdictions, and perhaps more significantly, bar Americans from doing business with them,
Wang repeated China’s assertion that it has been acting against violence, terrorism and separatism and that “Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnic groups, or religions at all.”
China has used that in an attempt to deflect international condemnation of its internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in prison-like camps that it calls re-education and job training centers, along with other abuses.
The corps acts like a parallel government in the vast, resource-rich region, operating its own schools, courts and a large network of businesses.