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Journey of faith

January 08, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN -

The Imam of The Islamic Society of Western Maryland's Masjid, or mosque, Qasim Burmi, his wife and other members of the Islamic Society are in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to participate in the annual Hajj, or obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, Dr. Shahab Siddiqui said Friday.

Millions of Muslims across the globe will begin their religious observances of the annual Hajj on Monday, the pilgrimage Muslims must make at least once in their lifetimes.

Hajj is one of five pillars of the Islamic faith, or obligations those who practice the religion must fulfill. The other four pillars include a declaration of faith, daily prayer, offering regular charity and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

"Most (Muslims), as a mark of tradition, fast (Monday), pray and worship," Siddiqui said.

On Tuesday, Muslims worldwide will gather for communal prayers on the first day of Eid ul-Adha, one of two festivals Muslims celebrate. It is celebrated as a commemoration of Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who was replaced with the sacrifice of an animal, for God, Siddiqui said.

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Siddiqui said services will be held at The Islamic Society of Western Maryland's mosque, at 2036 Day Road behind the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway, on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. He said there are about 300 members.

The Islamic Society will host "communal prayer and a celebration of sacrifice."

The sacrifice is in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son at God's command, Siddiqui said. The meat from the animal is given to the poor and needy and shared with relatives. Siddiqui said the Islamic Society typically takes a cattle to a slaughterhouse in Williamsport for this part of the celebration. Members gather again in the evening to have dinner and socialize, he said.

Activities for children also will be held at the mosque, Siddiqui said.

As part of Hajj, Muslims have obligatory and optional duties. Among them, they must practice self-control, a state called "ihram," which forbids them from either harming living creatures, including insects and plants, or raising their voice in anger. Siddiqui said Muslims wear two pieces of cloth to symbolize their observance of "ihram." Muslims have the option to cut their hair to symbolize the completion of Hajj.

Muslims must face in prayer the direction of the "Ka'aba," a stone building that Muslims believe originally was built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael, which is considered by those of the faith to be the first sanctuary on Earth dedicated to the worship of one God.

If one cannot make it Mecca, Siddiqui said Muslims in other parts of the world use compasses to position themselves in the direction of Ka'aba. Those who are in Mecca circle around the Ka'aba.

"From anywhere in the world, we pray toward Mecca," Siddiqui said.

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