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Local Muslims consider deaths both tragic, lucky

January 13, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

He remembers when he was there.

Two million people excited to be on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.

"Everyone is in a rush," said Dr. Khalid Waseem, of Hagerstown, while shaking his head. "So many people."

Waseem called "tragic" the deaths Thursday of at least 345 Muslims during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the fifth of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Waseem and his family went to Hajj four years ago, and he said they had no problems.

This year, two Hagerstown families made the trip, he said.

Waseem said he had heard from only one of the families.

"We heard they were OK, and then relief," he said.

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He said he is hoping to hear from the other family soon.

Waseem said every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to go to Hajj is obligated to go at least once during their life.

Dr. Mohammad Chaudhry said Muslims pay off any debts they have while preparing for the trip, in case they die on the pilgrimage.

"We want to cleanse ourselves from any debt or obligation, so if you die, you are cleansed," he said. "Any reasonable Muslim will free himself from any debt before Hajj."

If Muslims die during Hajj and have no debt, Chaudhry said, they may go straight to Heaven and do not have to go through reckoning.

Haroon Ghias of Hagerstown said the loss of so many during Hajj was tragic.

Others said dying during Hajj is considered "lucky" for Muslims.

"You would consider that a lucky person," Waseem said.

Hanif Brown of Hagerstown said Muslims would consider Hajj a good time to die.

"After the grief, Muslims would first think that wouldn't be a bad place to go," Brown said.

Chaudhry said he has heard about accidents before during Hajj. With so many people, incidents can happen, he said.

"If that happens, it's God's will, and we don't cry for them," he said. "That is why they cleanse themselves before Hajj."

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