Yusuf Hai said making the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with his wife, Amera, during one of their religion's holiest periods is 'a blessing.' (Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News)
Next week, Yusuf Hai and his wife will fulfill a goal required of all able Muslims: Completing Hajj, the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.
Joining millions of others from around the world at sacred sites during one of their religion’s holiest periods is “a blessing,” the managing director from Canton Township said. “It’s a time of refocusing and renewing. My wife and I have contemplated … how to recommit ourselves to what we believe the world is truly about, which is focusing on God.”
Other Metro Detroiters abroad for the pilgrimage are set Sunday to start the rites associated with the annual Hajj, which is determined by the sighting of the new crescent moon in Saudi Arabia.
It coincides with Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, the major holiday many Muslims begin celebrating Tuesday with prayers, gifts and charitable giving.
The period commemorates the story in the Quran, the Muslim holy text, recounting the willingness of Abraham, also known as Ibrahim, to sacrifice his son to God.
That will guide the Hajj pilgrims as they embark on a series of rituals over five days.
From tearfully praying for forgiveness of sins to stoning a large pillar representing the devil, “the spiritual experience is unmatched,” said Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren, who will be there with a group next week.
Among those journeying is Suehaila Amen of Dearborn Heights. Accompanying relatives for her first pilgrimage, the university recruitment events coordinator welcomes the chance to reflect and strengthen her spirituality.
“This is just my opportunity to go and give the ultimate thanks for all of the things I have been given in my life,” she said.
Sheikh Ali S. Ali, an imam at the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton Township, who left last week to guide a group on the pilgrimage, said the aim is simple: “We glorify the almighty God.”
Spiritual focus also infuses local celebrations of Eid al-Adha, often observed for several days.
During the period, Muslims are asked to sacrifice an animal, often a sheep, then donate a portion to the poor. Some opt to donate the cost of a sacrifice and have it done elsewhere.
At Harper Woods’ Albanian Islamic Center, members will send money to a humanitarian group that will arrange meat distribution in the Balkans, Imam Shuajb Gerguri said. “We are able to fulfill our duty and at the same time we fulfill another duty, which is helping our brothers,” he said. “By doing this, people thank God we have enough ourselves that we are able to help.”
On Tuesday, many Muslims also plan to leave school and workplaces to pray in their mosques as well as host festive gatherings.
Parwin Anwar, a bilingual tutor from Sterling Heights, expects to prepare a rice dish for loved ones. “It’s just a time of happiness and also remembering God and a lot of prayer,” she said.