Muslims make pilgrimage to Riverdale for Hajj

By Greg Gelpi

While millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca, locally, hundreds of Muslims will observe the pilgrimage by journeying to Riverdale.

About 600 Muslims from throughout the Southern Crescent completed the 10 days of Hajj, a word that means "pilgrimage," Sunday with a prayer at Sparkles Skating Rink.

Huma Faruqi, 45, of Peachtree City, has made two pilgrimages to Mecca and attended Sunday's prayer in Riverdale. Islam requires Muslims to visit Mecca at least once if they are financially able to do so.

"It's a time when you get spiritually rejuvenated," she said. "It was beautiful. You kind of left with the feeling of a really good memory."

Hajj consists of fasting, prayer and service to the community, Faruqi said. To break the fast, it is customary to slaughter an animal, such as a ram or a goat, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham from the Old Testament. God asked Abraham to demonstrate his faith by making a sacrifice.

Although few Muslims slaughter their own animal in metropolitan areas these days, Faruqi said, many go to halaal butcher shops, which are similar to Jewish kosher stores.

The meat is divided into three sections n one for the immediate family, one for family and friends and one for the needy in the community.

Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, provides an opportunity for Muslims around the world to come together as one. Muslims ask God for forgiveness during the Hajj.

During the pilgrimage to Mecca, Faruqi said there are many practices observed. One such practice involves Muslims retracing the steps of Abraham and throwing pebbles at Satan represented in the form of pillars. Muslims believe that Satan tempted Abraham not to obey God at these locations.

"(The pilgrimage) is recognized as a way of seeing God Almighty," Shahir Raslan, a Muslim from Newnan, who attended the prayer at the skating rink Sunday, said.

"No difference in color, no difference in money," Raslan said. About two million to three million journey to Mecca each Hajj in an international meeting to address the needs of Islam.

Raslan with 400 fellow Muslims from New York, Muslims from around the world, including those of African and Irish descent, made a pilgrimage to Mecca.

"It was phenomenal to see that in these 400 people were people represented from throughout the world," Raslan said. "It is one of the greatest benefits to go to Hajj from the United States, the country with the greatest diversity."

He said he will especially be praying for those in Iraq, both the Iraqis and the American "kids" fighting for their country.