Local Muslims packed into the Islamic Center of Central Missouri on Thursday, one day after millions of Muslims worldwide completed their pilgrimage to Mecca.
The end of the pilgrimage, or hajj, marks the beginning of a three-day holiday called Eid al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice. Men and women began filing into the mosque around 8 a.m. Some were already quietly intoning “God is great” as they slipped off their coats, scarves and shoes.
Rashed Nazem, the Imam of the mosque, began the service with greetings and announcements. He then offered a prayer in Arabic. Shakir Hamoodi then delivered a sermon on the spiritual significance of the hajj.
The hajj is the final of the Five Pillars of Islam, following testimony of faith, prayer, fasting and charity. Each Muslim is required to travel to Mecca once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able.
“Once you do it you have completed the entire religion,” said MU biology student Emad Maqbool. “This is what makes you a true Muslim.”
Mecca is said to be the site of an altar built by Abraham, said Nazem. Muslims consider it the first house of worship.
“Whatever we do, we follow our father Abraham,” said Nazem.
Emad is a first generation Pakistani-American. His large family tries each year to complete their hajj, but has not yet made it.
“Eventually we’ll get there,” said Maqbool.
Traditionally, Muslims commemorate the holiday by feasting on a lamb. The family eats one-third of the meat and gives a third each to friends and to the poor. Nazem said many members of the Islamic Center have sent money to their home countries to have an animal offered for consumption in their names.
In addition to the feast, the center is also celebrating the holiday with a children’s play time at Brady Commons on the MU campus on Friday and a feast at the mosque on Saturday evening.