In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
You may or may not know this, but last Sunday – all thanks and praise is due to God Almighty – I was blessed and honored to be interviewed on CNN live about the Hajj. I don’t know from where they got my name, but I was honored and happy to do it nonetheless. Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, I happened to come across a transcript. I have reproduced it below:
HARRIS: A journey of lifetime begins as more than 2 million Muslims from around the world gather for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. We’ll explore the spiritual cleansing next in our “Faces of Faith.”
HARRIS: It is considered a journey of a lifetime, a spiritual cleansing. This weekend, more than 2 million Muslims have gathered for the Hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, that began at sunrise this morning. The symbolic image of Muslims of all races, dressed in white robs, represents the fifth pillar of Islam, it is known around the world. Joining me in today’s “Faces of Faith” is columnist and author of the “Believe Net Guide to Islam” is Hesham Hassaballa. Hesham, good to see you this morning. Thanks for taking the time.
HESHAM HASSABALLA, COLUMNIST & AUTHOR: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS: You have to talk to us, first and foremost, about your personal pilgrimage, making the Hajj. When did this happen in your life?
HASSABALLA: My wife and I went and made the Hajj three years ago, almost to the day. And it was the most powerful spiritual experience I’ve ever had. Every day since I was about nine, five times a day I’ve been facing Mecca to pray, the five daily prayers which is one of the five pillars. And to go there and see the shrine in front of your face, the same shrine built by Abraham and his son, Ishmael, was almost indescribable. I couldn’t help but cry when I first saw the shrine. My wife cried. It was just absolutely amazing. Absolutely amazing.
HARRIS: Hesham, describe that sense of being among so many brothers and sisters; 2 million, robes and sandals, and we see the pictures of everyone praying. And it is an awesome spectacle.
HASSABALLA: It is one of the things that were most striking, people from everywhere are there doing the same thing, at the same time. You really feel part of the human family. You really feel that there is a time where human beings can come together, be truly brothers and sisters. One of the requirements of the Hajj is to when you’re in that white cloth, called the Haram (ph), that you’re not supposed to argue or harm anything. And it really makes you feel part of an entire human family. That’s what struck the civil rights leader Malcolm X the most about the Hajj. And that is what it was. It was wonderful to see people from as far away from China and Turkey, and all over the Middle East and even people from America that I hadn’t seen in years, happen to be there at the same time. It was just absolutely amazing.
HARRIS: Hesham, walk us through the five pillars of Islam.
HASSABALLA: Sure. The first one is called the, Shahad (ph), or the testimony of faith, where a Muslim or someone who wants to convert to Islam, testifies that there is nothing worthy of worship except God, alone, the God of Abraham, the God of Jesus, the God of Moses. And that Mohammed, peace be upon him, is the final messenger. He is the last prophet sent to mankind. That’s the first pillar. The second is daily ritual of prayer, five times throughout the day, at different times throughout the day and night. Muslims make a ritual prayer and they face towards Mecca every day. The third is fasting during the month of Ramadan, which many Americans are familiar with. The fourth is called Zakat, which is an annual alms tax, 2.5 percent of any unused wealth that has accumulated over one year. The fifth is the Hajj.
HARRIS: I have to ask you, so many years in the past, this pilgrimage has been associated with great tragedy, stampedes and loss of life. We know that just this past week there was a hotel that collapsed, 76 people were killed. I have to ask you, we know that there is stepped up security now, concerns about terrorism. Is there a point at which the security becomes — it gets to the point where it begins to interrupt the process itself, to intrude on the process, on the pilgrimage?
HASSABALLA: When I was there three years ago I never felt that. I think that’s one of the miracles of the Hajj, is that, you know, I’m never worried about security there, even in a world as today, I’m really not worried. All I am there is engrossed in the — at first when I first went there, I couldn’t help but be humbled by the power of God. But that went away pretty quickly and the Lord opens his arms up to me and took too me in, and said welcome home. And I really developed a very powerful friendship with God there. And I talked to him all the time and it came with me. And he came with me much closer friend than he ever was before I went to the pilgrimage. That was never an issue in my mind.
HARRIS: Yes, Hesham Hassaballa, thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
HASSABALLA: Thank you very much for having me.
HARRIS: Our pleasure.