By Marcus Henderson
The San Quentin Muslim community was treated to a slide show of the trials and benefits of the spiritual journey to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, that millions of pilgrims throughout the world take. The pilgrimage, known as Hajj, is to visit the Holy Mosque (the House of God).
The pictures showed acts of worship performed at Mecca such as the seven circles around the Ka’ba (the squared house, known as The House) and the running back and forth through the hills of Safa and Marwa.
“Seeing the Hajj for someone like me inspired an overwhelming desire to complete that momentous task,” said Abd Allah Mustafaa. “Knowing that one who completes the obligation solely for the pleasure of Allah, all his/her previous sin would be forgiven, demonstrates God’s awesome mercy.”
Hajj is the fifth principle of the Islamic faith. Hajj comes from the traditions of Abraham, the father of the monotheist faiths. The House was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. According to the principle, those who have the means must perform a Hajj at least once in his/her lifetime.
Imam H.Q. Hussein, the Islamic chaplain, and guest volunteer Mustafa Oscar Pena shared the experiences of their Hajj and used the slides to point out sacred sites.
Chaplain Imam Hussein passed around two pieces of unstitched white wraps called an Ihram (pilgrim garb) to the audience. He demonstrated the proper way to wrap the items, one covering his body from his neck to his waist and the other from his waist to his feet. He explained how this is to be done before entering Mecca and once there when you begin to chant.
“Yes, here I am O’Lord, here I am. There is no partner for you. Yes, here I am.”
The desert heat and the patience one must exhibit while being among a large crowd of people takes a lot of fortitude, Pena stated. He added, “This is relevant because Hajj puts you in harmony with the rest of the world. It teaches you not to complain and to appreciate God’s gifts.
“If we’ve done wrong, we need to seek forgiveness and don’t think anything is insignificant because that could be the thing holding you back from getting your blessings.”
The men were instructed on cutting or shaving their heads for the trip, not wearing or using hygiene products and no intimate relations with your wife once you are in Ihram (pilgrim garb).
“The presentation actually put you there,” said Jihad Muhammad-Bey. “It helps you put in perspective the books you read on Hajj.”
The end of Hajj is marked by a special prayer and a celebration of the Islamic year. It commemorates Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
“It’s in our oral history to pass down our benefits and mistakes,” said Pena. “To give the men a firsthand look of the environment in Mecca and the rituals to be performed helps them to get prepared now.”