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Fasting New Muslims

The Four Sacred Months: What Do You Know about Them?

From the twelve lunar months of the Islamic calendar there are four sacred, concerning them Allah says:

Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so it was ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them, four are sacred. That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein. (At-Tawbah 9:36)

Four Months Are Sacred

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said about them:

“The division of time has turned to its original form which was current when Allah created the Heavens and the Earth. The year is of twelve months, out of which four months are sacred. Three are in succession: Dhul-Qi`dah, Dhul-Hijjah, and Muharram, and (the fourth is) Rajab of (the tribe of) Mudar which comes between Jumada Thani and Sha`ban.” (Al-Bukhari)

So what characterizes these four months, and what should we do in them?

Sheikh Muhammad Salah answers in this video…

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

My Lifetime Journey

Ka`bah-Makkah

Not even the hardest of hearts could be left unmoved by the grace, simplicity, and majesty of the Ka`bah, which has been on this spot since the beginning of time itself.

 

When Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), the intimate friend of Allah, was commanded all those years ago to proclaim the pilgrimage to Makkah, he did so in faith. Standing in what was little more than a barren, inhospitable desert, he called out for men and women to come on pilgrimage to the holy Ka`bah at Allah’s command.

He was astonished at the response. From the north, south, east, and west, he heard voices calling out, “I respond to Your call, O Allah! I respond to Your call,” and people began to come from all the corners of the earth in praise of Almighty Allah.

Thousands of years later, people are still coming from every corner of the globe to worship at Allah’s command. I have just returned from performing `Umrah, the lesser pilgrimage for the first time, and I share these thoughts with my Muslim brothers and sisters to encourage their faith and that Allah’s name be glorified even more.

But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that Almighty Allah touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before?

Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my Muslim faith, as I walked around the holy Ka`bah with thousands of others, begging Allah’s blessings for myself and for those I love? Perhaps the best way is just to start at the beginning, and to allow Almighty Allah to use my poor words as He wants.

Preparing for any journey is, in many ways, almost as important as the journey itself. As I prepared for my journey to Makkah, my heart already began to stir at the enormity of what I was about to do.

I had read all the books and consulted all the manuals so that my `Umrah, in sha’ Allah, would be accepted. I learned the prayers in Arabic that I would need to say at different parts of the pilgrimage.

Good Muslim brothers had told me not to worry too much about all this, because it would be my heart that would speak when I reached the holy Ka`bah. I know that Almighty Allah has placed within the heart of every Muslim a deep longing to visit Makkah, to return home to where we belong, to that first house built on Earth in worship of Allah.

Some say that it was Prophet Adam (peace and blessings be upon him) who first built the Ka`bah. Others suggest it was first built by angels beneath the throne of Allah in heaven. Others still attribute the first building of the Ka`bah to Prophet Idris (peace be upon him). Whatever its origins, we know that over time this first building fell into disrepair and ruin and that by the time of Prophet Ibrahim, there was nothing left of it except a small mound of earth. Allah commanded Prophet Ibrahim and his first-born son Ismail (peace be upon them both) to rebuild the Ka`bah.

I had written all these things before and had a good knowledge of the history of the Sacred House, but now it was real to me. This time I was leaving my home in Cairo, wearing the simple white garments of Ihram.

Upon leaving, I was showered with good wishes and prayers by family and friends who so happy for me as I prepared for the journey of a lifetime. Even during the drive to the airport and the arrival at the airport itself, many Muslims showed on their faces the delight they felt at seeing a brother setting off to perform `Umrah.

What a blessed religion is ours, that brothers and sisters we don’t even know should care for us so much! Throughout the journey, I was repeating in Arabic those sweet words which Prophet Ibrahim, first heard all those years ago as follows:

“I respond to Your call, O Allah!

I respond to Your call and I am obedient to Your orders.

You have no partner.

I respond to Your call.

All the praises and the blessings are for You.

All the sovereignty is for You.

And You have no partners with You.”

As the plane took off, I said these words. As we flew across the Red Sea and landed in Jeddah, I continued to say them. As I said them, my heart filled with excitement as I traveled by car through the Makkan hills and approached the city. More tears came as I arrived in Makkah and saw the sanctuary for the first time from a distance.

But nothing can describe the feeling of entering the sacred mosque and seeing the holy Ka`bah. I was choking with tears, the mosque left me breathless and filled me with an immense joy. Not even the hardest of hearts could be left unmoved by the grace, simplicity, and majesty of the Ka`bah, which has been on this spot since the beginning of time itself.

I kept telling myself that in this very place our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) walked and prayed, as well as countless millions of other good Muslims through the centuries.

And so I performed the rituals of `Umrah, my heart beating with joy and tears running down my cheeks. For something so profound, the rituals were really very simple. They basically involved walking around the Ka`bah seven times and then running or walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, in imitation of that desperate search for water made by Hagar, which culminated in the spring of Zamzam gushing from the ground. Our beloved Prophet taught us to say just one prayer as we encircle the Ka`bah as follows:

“May Our Lord grant us blessings in this life,

Blessings in the life to come,

And save us from the torment of the hell-fire.”

All of this seemed like a dream. While my lips were saying what I had learned to say, my mind was racing with thoughts and my heart was pouring out everything within it. I had come to the very center of the world in response to the call of Allah. What love He shows to us, and yet how ungrateful we are. What blessings He showers upon us each day, and yet how slow we are to respond to the call of the adhan and to utter His praises.

We can gladly spend hours sitting in front of a television set or talking idly on a mobile phone, and yet we hardly find the time to spend a few minutes in prayer, even though our life in the hereafter depends on it.

The experience of `Umrah or Hajj is like a piercing sword. It cuts through all the rubbish we surround ourselves with and it shows us our lives in their real perspective – we come from Allah and it is to Allah that we will return. The experience of `Umrah is also like being soaked in love. Our heartfelt response is one of thanks.

In Madinah

As if all this were not enough, most pilgrims usually finish their pilgrimage to Makkah by spending a few days in Madinah, the city of our beloved Prophet and the first Muslim state ever. In Madinah, the mosque was at the center of the city and Allah was at the center of every Muslim’s life.

I finished my own pilgrimage in the same way, walking the very paths trod by Allah’s Messenger and falling in prostration on the ground in the same places where he prayed. I met Muslims from almost every nation on earth and was welcomed to the city by Muslims for whom Islam is everything.

If Makkah, then, is the place of powerful emotions that shake a person to the core, Madinah is truly the city of peace. The Prophet’s Mosque is a place of calm and quiet. With its salmon-colored walls, grey and cream Moorish arches, and its floors and pillars of white, polished marble, the mosque is breathtakingly beautiful.

Although it is immense and holds thousands at a time for prayer, the Prophet’s Mosque is a place of peace. The gentle personality and the presence of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is everywhere. Madinah is such a privileged place to end one’s journey of a lifetime.

Now that I am home, the real challenge of living out my `Umrah begins. It is not difficult to pray for long periods of time and to focus all your thoughts on Islam when you are looking at the Ka`bah or are near the final resting place of Allah’s final messenger to mankind. The routine of daily life, though, with all its distractions, is less easy.

I cherish the memories of those days in Saudi Arabia in my heart, and I say al-hamdu lillah (praise be to God). I pray that Almighty Allah will give me the strength to be a good Muslim. I pray that I will always be prompt and faithful to prayer. I pray that I will now learn and recite more of the Qur’an every day.

And, after the experience of a lifetime, I pray that I will always give good examples to my Muslim brothers and sisters, and that I can show to non-Muslims how sweet and beautiful the message of Islam is. Ameen.

_________________________

Source: idristawfiq.

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

Hajj: Its Meaning and Position from the Qur’an

ka`bah_Makkah

The House, itself, is not to be taken as an object of worship: it is simply a place for worshipping the One.

Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): “Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; that they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House”. (Al-Hajj 22:26-29)

Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Makkah) for Allah. And if you are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the gifts have reached their destination. And whoever among you is sick or has an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or offering. And if you are in safety, then whosoever contents himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts), then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when you have returned; that is, ten in all. That is for him whoso folk are not present at the inviolable place of worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.

The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage. And whatsoever good you do Allah knows it. So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding.

It is no sin for you that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading). But, when you press on in the multitude from `Arafat, remember Allah by the sacred monument. Remember Him as He hath guided you, although before you were of those astray.

Then hasten onward from the place whence the multitude hastens onward, and ask forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

And when you have completed your devotions, then remember Allah as you remember your fathers or with a more lively remembrance. But of mankind is he who says: “Our Lord! Give unto us in the world,” and he has no portion in the Hereafter.

Remember Allah through the appointed days. Then whoso hastens (his departure) by two days, it is no sin for him, and whoso delays, it is no sin for him; that is for him who wards off (evil). Be careful of your duty to Allah, and know that unto Him ye will be gathered. (Al-Baqarah 2:203)

Pilgrimage, an important religious duty in Islam, is described at length in the Qur’an, as is evident from the two passages quoted above. Some of the points addressed include: the House of Allah (the Ka`bah) and its credentials, how the Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) proclaimed Pilgrimage and the response to it down the ages, the benefits of pilgrimage, and how it represents the essence of all other acts of devotional worship in Islam, especially the spirit of piety and surrender to Allah pervading every aspect of pilgrimage.

The Qur’anic passage opens with placing pilgrimage in its historical context. At Allah’s directive and at the site identified by Him, the Prophet Abraham constructed the Ka`bah, the House of Allah, and hence its special, hallowed status.

Nonetheless, this account is immediately followed by a condemnation of polytheism in any form. It appears that the above note is intended to clarify beyond any shadow of doubt that the Ka`bah owes its exalted position only in view of its close association with Allah.

The structure of the Ka‘bah itself has no sanctity of its own. It is Allah the One True God, not the Ka`bah, which is to be worshipped. As for keeping it clean and pure, the directive has both a literal and a figurative sense, clear of all material and spiritual filth – for all true worshippers of the One Universal God.

Furthermore, the House, itself, is not to be taken as an object of worship: it is simply a place for worshipping the One.

After the Prophet Abraham had constructed the Ka`bah and ensured that only the One True God would be worshipped there, Allah directed him to issue a general proclamation, asking people to visit the Ka`bah.

In his “The Glorious Qur’anDaryabadi, a famous Indian Muslim writer and exegete of the Qur’an, pertinently draws attention to the fact that this proclamation was made thousands of years ago, before the era of the press, the post, the telegraph, the wireless, the radio, television and other such paraphernalia of modern publicity and propaganda that mankind has been responding to during all these centuries, by performing the pilgrimage in their tens and hundreds of thousands every year!

Amid the various acts of worship prescribed in Islam, Hajj stands out above others in many respects. That the performance of Hajj provides an opportunity to pilgrims “to witness the benefits to them” is a special feature of Hajj. The above point is made in Allah’s directive, asking mankind to perform Hajj:

And proclaim unto mankind the pilgrimage. They will come unto you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine, that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate. (Al-Hajj 22:27, 28)

_________________________

The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

Murad Hofmann’s Journey to Makkah

 

Ka`bah_Makkah

The Ka`bah appears like the motionless center of a giant disc in a slow and silent counter clockwise revolution.

We stopped briefly in Makkah in order to circumambulate the Ka`bah one more time (Tawaf Al-Qudum), this time under the scorching sun.

Just like many other pilgrims, I tried to protect myself with an umbrella, but this proved utterly impossible lest you risk gouging out someone’s eye, or losing your own.

In the yard of the huge mosque, on the level of the Ka`bah, everything became completely grid-locked, so I escaped up to the first storey of the shaded gallery. In return I had to put up with a wider radius.

Circling the Ka`bah seven times up there meant covering a distance of 3.5 miles, and that in 110ºF heat. If his focus is right, to a pilgrim everything comes easy. Someone who was walking by my side even covered the entire distance with his little son on his shoulders!

The view from the first storey was absolutely mesmerizing and of striking aesthetic power. The Ka`bah appears like the motionless center of a giant disc in a slow and silent counter clockwise revolution.

The scene changes only at prayer times: At this point, the Ka`bah becomes the center of concentric circles made up of 40,000 or more shining white bodies who want the same, seek the same, do the same – and thus comes to symbolize total submission on a global scale. Multi-storeyed structures circumscribe the inner court of the mosque, with the Ka`bah at dead center.

Everything is dominated by sumptuous, sometimes green marble. Seven gigantic minarets in Indo-Islamic style are the connecting elements that hold the Ka`bah in its setting like a precious gem. I had to tear myself away – or miss the bus altogether.

After 45 minutes on the bus we finally arrived in the valley of Mina, which is only a little more than 3 miles from Makkah. Mina was going to be our jumping-off point for the Day of `Arafah. And what lets us know what the Day of `Arafah is all about?

“Hajj is `Arafah”, so says the Prophet, and `Arafah is Hajj. There are only a few parallel roadways connecting Mina or Makkah to `Arafah, and more than two million pilgrims are transported over a distance of about 6 to 10 miles on as many as 50,000 buses. They both cause and suffer a truly awesome, unprecedented traffic chaos that could easily qualify for the Guinness Book of Records.

When we finally arrived in the tent city erected around the Mount of `Arafah, the air was glimmering with heat – 120ºF in the shade, which makes it considerably more than 130ºF in the sun! And not a whiff of a breeze in the air.

The neighboring tent belonged to none other than Sheikh Mahfoud Nahnah from Algiers. It became a long and wonderful day of contemplation, reflection, of prayers, and invaluable conversations. Never since my boyhood days, during Jesuit retreat exercises had I possessed this inner certainty of a clear spiritual focus on God.

The Best Day of the Year

The Day of `Arafah is nothing but dialogue with Him. Such is the embodiment of our constant cry: “Here I stand before you, our God!” – Labbayka, Allahuma, labbayk! This, therefore, is the meaning of “tarrying” (wuquf) before God on the plane of `Arafah.

Millions of people, wrapped in burial shrouds, leave everything behind on this day, exist only for God, embrace their mortality, and go on pleading and praying with a degree of fervor and confidence never achieved before – and hardly ever after.

It is the custom to stay in `Arafah until just after sunset, only to hurry off down the 4.5 mile stretch toward Muzdalifah. There was such a rush and confusion that the professor and I had lost our bus. Wandering around among hundreds of buses, we were looking for seats.

Suddenly, I noticed somebody waving me to approach him. It was a friend of mine, Muhammad Azmani, Morocco’s Minister of Industry and Trade. To run into him, in a crowd of two million people! That is how, at a time of crisis, I became a temporary, unofficial member of the official Moroccan Hajj delegation. First this tremendous rush, and now we found ourselves sitting on the stranded bus for a total of three hours, drenched in sweat, before it was able to crawl forward for all but three yards.

As usual, all the pilgrims must try to get to the same place at the same time. The traffic police attempted to intervene, but only succeeded in worsening the chaos. A few pilgrims were trying to take the direct route on foot, across the dark volcanic mountains, their forms contrasting off of the black rocks like lost and lonely white ghosts. Caught in stop and go traffic, we did not reach Muzdalifah – close but yet so far – until 11pm.

Led by an imam from Rabat, we were holding our evening and night prayers together, our sore knees resting on just those tiny but sharp pieces of gravel, the size of chick peas, from which we were to pick up 49 pebbles in order to be appropriately supplied for the rites of stoning (rajm), that were to take place on the following days. At about two o’clock in the morning our bus returned to Mina and stopped near one of the three pillars that were to be stoned.

The intention was to symbolize the final rejection of evil in oneself and also in the world around us. I pushed my way in close enough to hit the pillar with my pebbles, yet also maintained a safe distance to avoid getting caught in a hail of stones from behind. A group of little boys armed with scissors waited in front of our bus. Didn’t I say so?

Since we did not opt for shaving our heads, they at least wanted to cut off a lock for the sum of three riyals, as finally happened. After that, having fulfilled all our Hajj obligations, we could have left the status of ihram and with it stopped wearing our pilgrim’s attire. Instead, we found ourselves so elated that we were swept along in a kind of pious rapture. So before dawn we decided to hurry on to Makkah.

Now we had to walk around the Ka`bah another time, this time in the cover of night (Tawaf Al-Ifadah). At least 200,000 other pilgrims seemed, however, to have had the same brilliant idea and unaccountable energy reserves. Thus the pushing and shoving was even worse than last time.

As a result, the seven-fold circumambulation of “The House”, followed by the jogging and walking back and forth between al Safa and al Marwah, also for seven times, altogether took me a total of two exhausting hours.

It was 4:30 in the morning on the Day of Sacrifice, the 10th day of the month of pilgrimage, and we had to muster our last ounce of strength and composure in order to join 800,000 other believers for the Morning Prayer in the Great Mosque of Makkah, almost in a trance.

The quality of their voices, together with the perfection of their recitation distinguish the muezzins and the imams in the Haram of Makkah as the “crème de la crème”. Their chanting builds into a magnificent incantation of sublime artistic quality. In fact, their recitation of the Qur’an reaches the level of acoustic meditation. Shortly after six am, we had finally made it back to our guest house in Mina.

Homesick for Makkah

After being up and about for 26 hours, we felt emotionally and physically drained. My fellow pilgrims and I embraced each other, exclaiming “Hajj Mubarak! Hajj Maqbul!” (May your hajj be blessed and accepted).

Sheikh Nahnah was sobbing, delighted with my new status. On the third (and last) day, I went right after the Morning Prayer and all by myself, to discharge my duty of ritual stoning, for myself as well as my neighbor. In the streets, the first pilgrims were just beginning to rise from their makeshift beds. Even some street vendors were already up and about.

Combining Hajj with commerce has always been permissible. Many pilgrims are earning their trip back home by selling off whatever they brought from their native countries: ivory trinkets, silver jewelry, or fabrics. An Anatolian farmer crossed my path and asked rather casually: “Seytan nerede?” (Where is the devil?), as if he expected everybody to know this and speak Turkish to boot.

With a deadpan face I gave the correct directions – in Turkish – for him to find the pillar scheduled for stoning that day. Never before had I been able to locate the devil with such a degree of precision.

The next day we returned to Jeddah by way of Makkah where we performed the farewell Tawaf (Tawaf Al-Wada`). Since we arrived in time for the Afternoon Prayer, the mosque was bursting at the seams.

I decided to sit on the gallery for quite some time, eagerly soaking up the view of this incredibly beautiful mosque so that it would stay with me for a long time. I felt homesick for Makkah even before having left.

_________________________

Source: onislam.net.

The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Journey to Makkah”.

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Son of Former Anti-Islam Advocate Accepts Islam

By Muaz Shabandri

Son of Arnoud van Doorn

Iskander with his father Arnoud. (KT photo Muaz Shabandri)

Arnoud van Doorn’s son, Iskander Amien De Vrie, was one of the 37 people who converted to Islam during the Dubai International Peace Convention.

The son of Arnoud van Doorn, the famous Dutch policy maker and distributor of an anti-Islam film Fitna (Sedition), that caused unrest in 2008, surprised the audiences at the three-day Dubai International Peace Convention by 
embracing Islam.

“I bear witness that there is no God to be worshipped but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His worshipper and last messenger,” said Iskander in his Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) to become a Muslim.

In the Father’s Footsteps

Arnoud van Doorn shot to fame in 2008 as one of the names associated with the anti-Muslim film Fitna, which was released in 2008. The film promoted misconceptions about Islam and Arnoud was one of the film’s distributors.

Five years later, Arnoud was a changed man having learned more about Islam, which he today calls as ‘a religion of peace’. He converted to Islam after learning more about the religion and his decision shocked the world.

“I saw my father become more peaceful after converting to Islam. That’s when I realized there is something good in this religion and it made me change my perception of Muslims. I started studying the Qur’an and going through lectures of important scholars,” said Iskander in an interview with Khaleej Times.

Iskander, 22, credited his college friend Younis for setting a good example of what Muslims really are and how they live their life.

“My friend Younis is a good practicing Muslim who taught me something new every day. He was patient with me and there was no way I could be rude to him,” said Iskander.

Iskander also drew inspiration from his father’s life and how he underwent a transformation to become a more peaceful person.

Correct the Mistake

Talking about the anti-Islamic movie Fitna, Arnoud called it a “mistake”, which he deeply regretted.

“There is a misconception among people that I produced the movie Fitna, but I wasn’t involved in it. I was only responsible for distributing the movie. Today, it is something that I deeply regret.”

Arnoud hopes to produce a movie about the righteousness preached in Islam and correct his earlier “mistakes”.

“I feel an urge and a responsibility to correct the mistakes I have done in the past. I want to use my talents and skills in a positive way by spreading the truth about Islam. I am trying to make a new movie about Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It would show people what examples the Prophet set in his life and the 
movie would invite younger 
people to Islam.”

With both the father and son now leading life as Muslims, the astonishing story was talked about by speakers and scholars even after the convention was over.

Arnoud is now calling on people to support his Islamic Foundation, which is fighting Islamophobia in Europe. Having started the European Da`wah Foundation, Arnoud has come a full circle from his earlier days as a member of the right-wing anti-Islam Freedom Party.

His team of volunteers works towards bridging the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims and helping people clear their misconceptions about Islam.

Iskander now plans to take a trip to Saudi Arabia to perform `Umrah and hopes his mother would also embrace Islam soon.

Watch such an overwhelming, incredibly touching moment here…

_________________________

Source: khaleejtimes.com

Read Also:

Former Anti-Islam Advocate, Arnoud van Doorn, in Hajj

Geert Wilders Party Member, Arnoud van Doorn, Accepts Islam

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

Former Anti-Islam Advocate, Arnoud van Doorn, in Hajj

Arnoud van Doorn

“I found myself among these faithful hearts”.

A new Muslim now, the once strident Islamophobe, who produced an offensive film about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was among the great Muslim gathering of Hajj this year.

Since his spectacle conversion to Islam a year ago, Arnoud van Doorn, former leader of the far-right Dutch Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) and a former anti-Islam activist, has become a dedicated follower of the very religion and the Prophet he harshly antagonized before, even becoming an inspiring example of a devoted Muslim.

Van Doorn bitterly regrets having taken part in the production and creation of the derogatory film Fitna (Sedition), declaring that his visit to the holy sites is just a little atonement for his sins.

“I hope that my tears of regret will wash out all my sins after my repentance”, Van Doorn told Saudi Gazette.

About the peace and tranquility he found during the soul-searching journey he articulated: “I found myself among these faithful hearts”.

A Thing of the Past

Van Doorn was among party leaders who helped produce the offensive film that linked Islam and the Qur’an to terrorism and violence.

But after worldwide Muslim outrage the movie provoked, and with the intention of producing another anti-Islam film, Doorn took to read and learn more about the Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him), before becoming spiritually inspired by divine religion and later embracing it.

As a token of atonement, Von said he will produce a new film that will unfold the truth about essence of Islam and the correct noble personality of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Now he described Fitna as a blind hostility and totally wrong image which contained a lot of misleading and incorrect information that had nothing to do with the great divine and peaceful religion or its great Prophet.

“I felt ashamed standing in front of the Prophet’s grave. I thought of the grave mistake which I had made by producing that sacrilegious film”, he said.

“I hope that Allah will forgive me and accept my repentance.”

Unmatchable Joy in a Whole New Life

Doorn said that since his arrival in this holy land, he has been living the best days of his life, planning to spend more time in Madinah.

Doorn’s visit to the holy lands in Makkah and Madinah is not the first as, after his conversion, he had come to Saudi Arabia in February to perform `Umrah, where he met the two imams of the Prophet’s Mosque, Sheikh `Ali Al-Hudhaifi and Sheikh Salah Al-Badar, and where he acquainted himself more closely with the basics and rites of Islam.

“I find tranquillity inside my heart when I am near the Prophet Mohamed’s tomb,” he then said.

He was given sermons by the two imams on how to lead the life of a good Muslim and confront challenges facing Islam in the West.

“I will spare no efforts to protect the rights of Muslims in all European countries as well as to serve Islam and its followers throughout the world. I will try my best to repair the damage that I caused to Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) through the film ‘Fitna’,” he said then.

“I will use all my experience in producing an alternative film, which will speak about the true image of Islam and all aspects of the personality of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as well as his great qualities.”

About his Hajj experience the joy he felt for being in the holy city of Madinah, Doorn posted different tweets reflecting his feelings during Hajj.

“Prayer in the Sacred Rawda #Madinah,” Doorn said in a tweet.

“I’m not complaining about crowds at the Market on Saturday #Jamarat”

“Inspiring meeting with the Imam of The Prophets Masjid His Excellency Ali Al-Hudayfee,” he said in another tweet.

Expressing how Islam impacted his entire life Van said:

“Islam has filled the emotional void I have long desperately felt. I missed many things before embracing Islam,” Arnoud was quoted by Okaz.

“My previous life was futile and aimless.”

But, ”now with Islam, many things have changed” in his life, he added.

That’s why he decided to perform the Hajj; “to seek repentance and forgiveness from Allah.”

_________________________

Source: Saudi Gazette and Agencies

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New Muslims Pilgrimage

Hajj 2013: In Pictures

Millions of Muslims converge yearly to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Hajj, one of the world’s biggest displays of mass religious peaceful devotion. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have started to leave the Kingdom after peacefully performing the journey rituals.

The number of pilgrims this year has been put at almost 1.5 million, according to Saudi authorities. Hajj officially began on Sunday, 13 October when pilgrims from all over the world began travelling from the holy city of Makkah to Mina, which is roughly 8 kilometres away.

On the second day, Monday, 14 October, pilgrims were staying in `Arafat until sunset before heading to Muzdalifah, where they spent the night before moving on in the morning to start the ritual of symbolically stoning the devil by hurling pebbles at the three walls of Jamarat.

Hajj, which officially ended on Friday, 18 October, must be performed by every Muslim with the physical and financial means to do so, at least once in their lifetime. Among the rites Muslims must perform during the soul-searching journey are circumambulating the Ka`bah, praying at nearby Mount `Arafat (the most essential ritual in the hajj journey) and stoning the devil.

 

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Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as they pray inside the Grand Mosque during the hajj, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 15, 2013. The hajj, a central pillar of Islam and one that able-bodied Muslims must make once in their lives, is a four-day spiritual cleansing based on centuries of interpretation of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

 

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Muslim pilgrims head to the “Jamarat” ritual, the symbolic stoning of Satan, where they throw pebbles at pillars, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, on Oct. 16, 2013. Pilgrims pelt pillars symbolising the devil with pebbles to show their defiance on the third day of the hajj as Muslims worldwide mark `Eid Al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice, commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isma`il on God’s command.

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat

A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of `Arafat during the peak of the annual Haj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Makkah early on Monday morning. An estimated 2m Muslims were in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage.

 

A Muslim pilgrim prays at Mount Al-Noor ahead of the annual haj

A Muslim pilgrim prays at Mount Al-Nur ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah.

 

APTOPIX Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj

The Friday before the Hajj, Muslim pilgrims attended Friday Prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Makkah. (AP)

 

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On the first day of Hajj, Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise with their hearts tilted toward the Ka’bah (the cube-shaped structure that Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day) in the Grand Mosque. (AP)

 

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Male pilgrims are required to wear Ihram (two white cloths) while female pilgrims usually dress simply and leave only their faces and hands uncovered. The customary dress is a symbol of purity and unity, as socio-economic distinctions are no longer apparent. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Hajj Photo Essay

On the second day of Hajj, Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called `Arafat or the Mountain of Mercy, 12 miles from the holy city of Makkah. It is here that the Prophet Muhammad was believed to have given his last sermon. (AP)

 

Mideast Saudi Arabia Hajj Photo Essay

A Muslim pilgrim reads verses from the Qur’an on the Mountain of Mercy. (AP)

 

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Muslims believe that on this day of the Hajj, the gates of heaven are open, prayers are answered and past sins are forgiven. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Pilgrimage: The Journey of Different Religions

 

kabah_Makkah

The real significance of the destination of Hajj to Makkah is that Makkah is the site of the first house built for the worship of the One and Only God of the universe.

Pilgrimage is an allegory of human life on earth. It is the exteriorization of an inner journey towards truth, or an adventure of spiritual discovery. Pilgrims from distant lands converge at a center, pulled in by a spiritual magnetism.

Thus, pilgrimage is considered a way in which man tries to connect to the Ultimate Reality and live in full harmony with himself and his environment. Most religious traditions emphasize this aspect of pilgrimage and give it a central role in religion.

Pilgrimage in Judaism

The earliest notion of pilgrimage in Judaism comes from the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, in which the happy relationship with God is presented as broken, necessitating a struggle on the human part to move towards God for reconciliation.

The Jews believe they are in exile since God chose Abraham to be the father of God’s chosen people and promised him a land for his people. In the time of Moses, the Jews were exiled in Egypt, then in the desert, and finally they started to settle in Palestine.

The second book of Samuel tells how David captured Jerusalem and brought the Ark of the Covenant to the city. To the Jews, the ark was the symbol of God’s presence in their midst, and so the city of Jerusalem became central to the Jewish identity.

There are three festivals celebrated in Jerusalem every year, and the Jewish families were commanded to undertake a pilgrimage to the city to participate in them (Deuteronomy 16:16).

These three festivals came to be known as pilgrimage festivals. They are Pesach(Passover) or the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks, and Sukkot or the Feast of Booths. These three festivals commemorate important events in Jewish history (Exodus 34:18-23).

Pesach celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ liberation from slavery. Seven weeks are counted from the beginning of Pesach to the feast of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments.

Sukkot (Tabernacles) is a nine-day festival that celebrates the booths the Israelites lived in during the 40 years in the wilderness. Another name for this festival is The Season of Our Rejoicing.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish religion until its destruction in 70 CE, and all who were able were under obligation to visit it and offer sacrifices during the mentioned feasts.

The western wall of the original temple, known as the Wailing Wall, remains in the old city of Jerusalem and has been the most sacred sight for Zionist Jews. Jews from many countries all over the world make periodic pilgrimages to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Pilgrimage in Christianity

Christianity teaches that man was originally in a state of happiness in the garden of Eden, but there he disobeyed God and was banished out of his “earthly paradise”. God did not abandon him and gave him hope by announcing the coming of the Son of God, who will conquer evil and return man to his lost home.

Christianity views man as standing between the recollection of life in paradise and his yearning for a return to that paradise. This means that a Christian has to consider his earthly life as a pilgrimage until he attains his eternal home of peace.

From this perspective, concrete aspects of pilgrimage – the specific destination and the rites and liturgies accomplished there – are of little importance.

The key to the origin of Christian pilgrimage is the devotion to the memory of Jesus. The faithful visited the places that were filled with the memories of their Lord in his earthly life.

For most people, pilgrimage seemed unequivocally a most holy thing to do; and for most Christians, Jerusalem was associated with the earthly life of Jesus. So from the beginning, pilgrims traveled to Palestine with the simple goal of experiencing firsthand the places in which different biblical events had occurred.

Many Christians associate a pilgrimage center with “sacral power” – the power to heal infirmity, solve problems, grant wishes, and have their sins forgiven. Pilgrimages were considered efficacious in this regard.

It was chiefly in the 19th and 20th centuries that a number of new pilgrimage sites were discovered and developed, often as a result of visions of the Virgin Mary in these places.

Pilgrimage in Hinduism

Pilgrimage is deeply embedded in the Indian culture. There are so many pilgrimage sites in India that the entire subcontinent may be regarded as one grand sacred space by Hindus.

In the Vedas, one of the most important Hindu scriptures, mountain valleys and the confluences of rivers are spoken of with reverence, as the gods are believed to have dwelled there. The merits of travel to such places are mentioned, but the act of pilgrimage itself in not specifically discussed.

There are many reasons why Hindus go on pilgrimage. First, it is considered an act of devotion to God. Many of the Hindus believe it will add to their good deeds and bring them nearer to salvation.

Other Hindus go on pilgrimage to fulfill a vow as a thank-you to God because they had a good harvest or passed an examination. Some go to make up for a bad deed, and others go to offer a devotional rite for a relative who has died. Many pilgrims take home small jars of river water and other objects they deem holy.

To the Hindus, as to devotees of other religions, pilgrimage is of special spiritual significance. Since Hinduism allows personal inclinations in matters of worship, the importance of pilgrimage places may vary with individuals.

Hindus honor the concept that Dharma is Karma, or religion is morally correct action, and pilgrimage is an essential part of it. Thus, a sinner seeking purification will be advised to go on arduous pilgrimages to acquit his or her soul from earthly errors and to gain salvation. From ancient times, pilgrims have always been held in high esteem because of the difficulties they undergo in their devotion.

One of the hundred pilgrimage destinations in India that attract millions of people every year, and probably the most famous, is Varanasi, which is a holy city and the home of 50,000 Hindu priests. Historically, the city has served as a center of Hindu worship and pilgrimage for nearly 3,000 years, making it perhaps the oldest continually functioning sacred city in the world.

Among the several hundred shrines in Varanasi, the most important is the Golden Temple, dedicated to Shiva. The city is also surrounded by a 35-mile sacred road, the Panch Koshi. Devout pilgrims take six days to walk its circuit, visiting numerous shrines, temples, and gardens along the way.

Another example of Hindu pilgrimage centers is the Four Dhams or the Four Abodes that represent the four points of the compass encapsulating the subcontinent of India.

Pilgrimage in Islam

In commemoration of the trials of Abraham and his family in Makkah, which included Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in response to God’s command, Muslims make a pilgrimage to the sacred city of Makkah at least once in their lifetime. This pilgrimage to Makkah and its surroundings, known as Hajj, is the fifth pillar of Islam.

Hajj is an obligatory pilgrimage prescribed by God Almighty on all Muslims who are capable; whereas the pilgrimages of other religions are optional. The origin and history of such pilgrimages show that they were initiated by humans much later than the putative origin of those religions, and the purpose of those pilgrimages is set by the pilgrims themselves: for example, the expiation of sins or a special blessing for themselves.

The real significance of the destination of Hajj to Makkah is that Makkah is the site of the first house built for the worship of the One and Only God of the universe; whereas other pilgrimages derive their importance from their connection to the birth, death, or burial of a prophet or saint. The rites performed at Hajj are commemorative of Abraham, the patriarch revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

Before performing the rituals of Hajj, pilgrims enter a state of consecration known as ihram. The specific rituals of Hajj include circumambulating  the Ka`bah seven times, which is known as Tawaf;  walking back and forth seven times between the hillocks named Safa and Marwah, which is known as Sa`i; standing on the Mount of Mercy (`Arafat); throwing pebbles at the stone pillars known as Al-Jamarat; and slaughtering a sheep or a goat, and distributing its meat to the poor, which is known as the sacrifice.

The way and timing of doing these rituals were taught by Prophet Muhammad as prescribed by Allah.

During Hajj, the pilgrims are asked to focus their attention and devotion on Allah alone, in order to gain His promised forgiveness.

Pilgrims come from different parts of the world; they differ in their culture, ethnicity, and color, but this is never an obstacle, as they are supplicating the One God Who unites them under His guidance and protection.

Prophet Muhammad clarified to all Muslims, in a sermon during the Hajj season, that being superior has nothing to do with a person’s ethnicity, language, or race. Whether a person is Arab, non-Arab, yellow, black, or white is of no significance. The only measure of superiority and goodness in Islam is one’s piety and God-consciousness.

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Source: onislam.net.

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Hajj: The Universal Institution of Islam

 

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Hajj is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of the Muslims.

The final pillar and one of the finest institutions of Islam is the Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah. The performance of the Hajj is obligatory, at least once in a lifetime, upon every Muslim, male or female, who is mentally, financially and physically fit.

The Muslim who is of responsible age, in fairly good health, and is financially capable and secure must make the Hajj at least once in his or her lifetime. The financial security here means that he should have enough to cover his own expenses and those of his dependents, and to pay his debts, if he is in debt, until he completes the course of Hajj.

The course of Hajj is another unique characteristic of Islam, it is enjoined by God to serve many purposes among which are the following:

1- It is the largest annual convention of faith where Muslims meet to know one another, study their common affairs and promote their general welfare. It is also the greatest regular conference of peace known in the history of mankind.

In the course of Hajj peace is the dominant theme; peace with God and one’ s soul, peace with one another and with animals, peace with birds and even with insects. To disturb the peace of anyone or any creatures in any shape or form is strictly prohibited.

2- It is a wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of the Muslims. From all walks of life, from all trades and classes, and from every corner of the globe the Muslims assemble at Makkah in response to the call of God. They dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations, utter the same supplications at the same time in the same way, for the same end. There is no royalty, but loyalty of all to God. There is no aristocracy, but humility and devotion.

3- It is to confirm the commitment of the Muslims to God and their readiness to forsake the material interests in His service.

4- It is to acquaint the pilgrims with the spiritual and historical environment of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), so that they may derive warm inspirations and strengthen their faith.

5- It is to commemorate the divine rituals observed by Abraham and Ishmael (Ibrahim and Isma`il), who are known to have been the first pilgrims to the first house of God on earth, i.e., the Ka`bah at Makkah.

6- It is a reminder of the grand assembly on the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before God, waiting for their final destiny, and where no superiority of race or stock can be claimed.

It is also a reminder of the fact that Makkah alone, in the whole existing world, was honored by God in being the center of monotheism since the time of Abraham, and that it will continue to be the center of Islam, the religion of pure monotheism, till the end of time.

In the performance of Hajj it can easily be observed that it is a course of spiritual enrichment and moral rearmament, a course of intensified devotion and disciplinary experience, a course of humanitarian interests and inspiring knowledge – all put together in one single institution of Islam.

The description of the rules and steps followed during the Hajj are rather lengthy.

However, it should be pointed out that during the whole course of Hajj there are informed guides always available to help the pilgrims with right instructions.

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Source: Source: The article is excerpted from Dr. Hammudah’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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Hajj & the Spiritual Homeland of Every Muslim

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The Ka`bah at Makkah is the spiritual center of Islam and the spiritual homeland of every Muslim.

In Islam the entire course of devotion is to God alone. Muslims go to Makkah in glory of God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-divinity.

Kissing or touching the Black Stone at the Ka`bah is an optional action, not an obligation or a prescription. Those who kiss the Black Stone or touch it do not do it because they have faith in the Stone or attribute any superstitious qualities to it. Their faith is in God only.

They kiss or touch or point to the Stone only as a token of respect or a symbol of love for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who laid the Stone at the foundation of the Ka`bah when it was reconstructed.

That event has a special significance. It depicts Muhammad as a man designated for peace. When the Ka`bah was under reconstruction, some years before the advent of Islam, the Black Stone was to be laid at its foundation. The tribal chieftains had a quarrelsome dispute over him who was to have the honor of restoring the Stone.

This was a very serious matter and the shadows of civil war hung over the holy place. The Stone was held in especially high reverence by the chieftains, although it was nothing more than a piece of stone.

This reverence may be attributed to the fact that the Stone was connected with Prophet Abraham, the great grandfather of the Arabs, and that it was, perhaps, the only solid stone remaining from the antique structure of the Sacred Edifice.

Be that as it may, the Stone as such has no significance whatsoever as far as Islam and the Muslims are concerned.

When the chieftains failed to settle the dispute among themselves, they agreed to let the first incomer decide the issue. Prophet Muhammad was the first incomer. He then decided to wrap up the Stone in a piece of cloth and asked the disputants to hold it together and restore it in such a way that each chieftain would have had a part in the operation.

They were happy with his wise decision and put it into effect immediately. Thus the issue died out and peace was maintained. This is the moral of the story of the Black Stone. So when the pilgrims kiss the Stone or point at it with reverence, they do so in remembrance of Muhammad, the wise peace-maker.

The point may become clearer by comparison. It is a natural thing for a good patriot returning from exile, or a fighting soldier coming back from the battlefield to do certain things upon reaching the borders of his beloved homeland. For example, he may kiss the ground at the borders, or embrace with deep emotions the first few compatriots he meets, or show admiration for some landmarks.

This is considered normal and appreciable, but no one would think that the patriot or the soldier worships the ground or deifies his fellow compatriots or attributes some Divine qualities to the landmarks. The behavior of the pilgrims should be interpreted in a similar way.

Spiritual Significance

The Ka`bah at Makkah is the spiritual center of Islam and the spiritual homeland of every Muslim.

When the pilgrim reaches Makkah his feelings would be like those of a patriot coming home from exile or a triumphant soldier returning from a decisive battle. This is not a figurative interpretation. It corresponds with the facts of history.

The early Muslims were expelled out of their home and forced to live in exile for years. They were denied the right to worship in the Ka`bah, the most sacred house of God in existence.

When they returned from exile, the Ka`bah was their main destination. They joyfully entered the Sacred Shrine, destroyed all the idols and images that were there, and completed the rites of pilgrimage.

This interpretation is enlightened by some unusual experiences of extraordinary people. For example, a famous Hungarian writer fled his invaded country and took with him a handful of earth. Literary annals tell that the writer found his greatest comfort and deepest joy in that handful of earth. It was his source of inspiration and symbol of hope that he would return to a free homeland at last. (I read this account during the fifties and very much to my regret, cannot locate the exact source or remember the writer’s name)

Similarly, a documentary called “The Palestinians” was prepared by CBS and televised on Saturday June 15, 1974. In it, a wealthy businessman, who fled the Zionist terror in Palestine, was interviewed at his extremely fashionable home in Beirut. When he was reminded of his good fortune in exile he smiled, pointing to a small bottle half-full of earth. To make his point, he added that he brought it with him from Jerusalem when he fled; that it is more valuable to him than anything he possesses; and that he would give up all his possessions to return to Palestine, his homeland. What is more significant about this interview is that the man’ s family was more emphatic and expressed stronger feelings. It will not be at all surprising if it turns out that this man represents many others like him and if that small“ earth treasure ”becomes a very special, even a sacred, thing in the years to come

In a more tangible sense, the Associated Press reported on October 14, 1973, that “ the Last Israeli strong points on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal surrendered … and 37 tired and bedraggled Israeli troops were paddled in dinghies across the waterway to captivity. … Some of the Egyptian troops, carried away with the emotion of finally liberating this last stronghold (the Bar-Lev line), grabbed handfuls of sand and put it in their mouths. Others kissed the ground.” (Dispatch Observer, p. 2A)

More recently, the same news agency, reporting on the returning Syrian prisoners of war, said that the first man off the plane “sat upright on a stretcher on the stumps of his amputated legs . . . ‘Legs are nothing. We are ready to give our soul . . .’ he shouted. He then insisted on being lifted from his stretcher and placed on the ground so that he could bend down to kiss the soil.” (Dispatch Observer, June 2, 1974, p. 3A)

It is in this human perspective that the Black Stone story should be viewed. And it is in the light of such human experiences under extraordinary circumstances that it is best understood

Concluding Remarks about the Hajj

The visit of to the tomb of Prophet Muhammad at Madinah is not an essential obligation in making the Hajj valid and complete. But it is always advisable and strongly recommended that whoever can reach Madinah should visit the Prophet’ s tomb to pay his respect to the greatest teacher that humanity has ever known.

It should be remembered that the climax of Hajj is marked by offering a sacrifice, an oblation in the way of God, to celebrate the completion of this devotional course and feed the poor so that they may feel the universal joy of the `Eid Day.

This duty is not undertaken by pilgrims only but by all Muslims with means in every corner of the globe

One last remark relates to the question of sacrifice and what it actually symbolizes. As already stated in the discussion of the `Eids, it is not the meat or blood that pleases God. It is the expression of thankfulness to Him, the affirmation of faith in Him, that historic event when Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) was ordered to offer his son in sacrifice, an order which the father and son were ready to obey unquestioningly. But the son’ s life was spared and ransomed by a ram.

The offering of sacrifice has become an annual celebration to commemorate the occasion and thank God for His favors.

Hajj & The Application of Faith

We remind the readers again that there are minor differences of interpretation between the various schools of law regarding few details in the exercise of prayers, fasting, alms & pilgrimage. However, following any of the authentic schools is acceptable.

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Source: Source: The article is excerpted from Dr. Hammudah’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

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