THE HAJJ, RETURNING PILGRIMS, ISLAMIC CENTER OF AMERICA, JANUARY 12, 2007
“Asalaamu Alaykum,” was the traditional and gentle Arabic greeting offered by Imam Hassan Qazwini, Religious Leader of Dearborn’s incomparable Islamic Center Of America. It means, “Peace be upon you.”
The Hajj is one of the most important spiritual and physical experiences in the life of Arabs, and at the recent, unifying event we witnessed at the Islamic Center, an occasion for joy and friendship among our local Arab community.
Required by Islamic law for any able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, the Hajj is a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the fifth of the Five Pillars in Sunni Islam and one of the ten Branches of religion in Shi'a Islam. The government of Saudi Arabia issued special visas to Americans for the purpose of the pilgrimage, which took place during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (the twelfth and final month in the Islamic Calendar), roughly corresponding to what non-Muslims may consider December.
During that time, entrance to Mecca itself is forbidden to non-Muslims, and the entire city is then considered a holy site to Islam.
Recently returned pilgrims from the Dearborn area gathered to discuss their journey, to inspire others who have not yet made the trip, to listen to inspiring words by Imam Hassan Qazwini and young people who’s pilgrimage was clearly among the most important moments of their lives.
The Visionalist crew was honored and touched to have been allowed full access to the celebratory, but respectful event. Our hosts, Ron and Mona Amen, and Ron’s sister Sandra, were instrumental in helping us understand some of the traditions (and yes, difficult Arabic pronounciations) surrounding Hajj, illuminating it’s importance in the life of a Muslim.
Thanks to them, we were able to film both prayers and laughter, speeches and family interactions, inspiration and comradery.
The accompanying photographs will hopefully illustrate many sides of a fascinating cultural story.