This cool picture of Muslims walking around the Kaaba in Mecca is on the front page of today’s Washington Post:
The hajj is a pilgrimage that all Muslims are supposed to take to the holy city of Mecca at least once in a lifetime, if that is financially possible. Making the hajj is one of the “Five Pillars of Islam.”
For context, here is a summary of The Five Pillars, according to Wikipedia:
The Qur’an presents [the Five Pillars] as a framework for worship and a sign of commitment to the faith. They are (1) the shahada (creed), (2) daily prayers (salat), (3) fasting during Ramadan (sawm), (4) almsgiving (zakāt), and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.
For the past four years, I taught students about Islam in my world history class. I never felt like we had enough time to respectfully approach the subject. We did a few weeks and then, just as students were getting into the material, we had to move on to the next subject.
Last year, I invited the imam from Duke University, Abdullah Antepli to speak with my students (click for a 50-minute video of Abdullah talking on a Duke University video). He spoke for about 25 minutes and then answered student questions for the better part of an hour. He spoke about how 9/11 changed life in America for Muslims, and how it feels to have your religion hijacked and equated with terrorism. He suggested that one of the best ways to learn about Islam is by making having dinner at a Muslim friend’s house.
It’s important to know about Islam, since there are about 1.5 billion Muslims on the planet (estimates vary). In the unit I taught about Islam, one of the best things we did — other than have Abdullah Antepli come speak, which was amazing — was to have some Muslim students I met at Duke answer some questions my students asked about Islam.
I was introduced to two Duke students when I met Abdullah Antepli at the Muslim Student Association at Duke. Those two students had two friends, and the idea was for each of the four of them to correspond with one of my four sections of World History.
That proved too hard to coordinate, and we did not have time in the curriculum to devote to extending that activity… so sadly, we had to move on to the next topic in the curriculum.
This morning, I emailed one of the four Duke students, Ahmed, who had written a particularly thoughtful set of answers to my students’ questions back in April. I asked him if he minded if I shared his responses on this blog.
Here’s what he wrote me back:
Steve,Great to hear from you again, and I’m really hoping for the best for this new school you’re planning. It sounds like a wonderful idea. Teaching about awareness in a global context is the best way to break past these stereotypes that come form lack of education.Of course you can use whatever I wrote! You can or not include my name, it’s all up to you and whatever makes your blog more effective. And if you have any further questions, please ask away. Once you start things with the school also, I would be glad to assist in any way.I’m going to start following your blog, it seems really interesting. I also wanted to share with you my and 7 other Muslim Duke students experiences over Fall Break. We went on a five day trip across NC to explore different Muslim communities. Some of the stories we found there were both joyful and heartbreaking. They show the diversity of bond of the Muslim community. The blog is http://nomadsofnc.wordpress.com/. Maybe it’ll give you a few ideas or you could use the articles in any way!Again, feel free to use my answers and please let me know if you need anything else!Ahmed
So now, with Ahmed’s permission secured, here is a link to the six page document he wrote back in April 2011 for my students (it’s a Google Doc). It contains many thoughtful responses that help the reader empathize with what it’s like to be a Muslim student at Duke University — because not all of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are alike, right? :)
In terms of getting another person’s perspective on the world, I have found that Islam is a great topic to learn about. In preparing this post, I found it useful to think about this sentence from the Wikipedia article about the Islamic Calendar: “The current Islamic year is 1432 AH, from approximately 7 December 2010 (evening) to 26 November 2011 (evening).”
I was initially going to title this post Hajj 2011 — but when I thought about it, I decided to go with Hajj 1432. I thought it would make people who are used to the Gregorian calendar’s 2011 more curious :)
A great starting point for learning about the hajj is the Wikipedia article about the Hajj. It’s a manageable size, and contains links to lots of additional information.
When I taught about the hajj, I found this diagram (taken from the Wiki article) quite useful:
To whet your appetite for learning more about the hajj, here’s a one-minute video clip of recent footage from the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
Now how did I find that? Not very difficult…
I encourage you to take some time — if you have not already done so during your learning journey on this planet — to use the hajj as an opportunity to teach yourself a bit about Islam.
In an ideal world, you might want to take the initiative to meet a Muslim or two in the next few weeks — have a conversation; break some stereotypes; make a new friend :)
To give you another personal perspective on the hajj, here’s a first person account of a pilgrimage to Mecca from Saturday’s LA Times.
I find it interesting that there’s no mention of the hajj on the main page of the News and Observer.
When I ran a search for hajj on the paper’s website, I did find one article (screen shot below) — but I wonder how many students in the Triangle will use the news as a springboard to talk about the hajj this week…