Muslim Student Association celebrates Hajj



By Brian Hancock

The UK Muslim Student Association presented “The Journey of a Lifetime” Monday night in the Student Center Grand Ballroom to raise awareness about Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

“This is an opportunity for students on campus to get together in interfaith and elevate the awareness of the Muslim faith,” said Suleiman Darrat, the MSA adviser.

The pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious duty which must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim at some point during their lives.

Darrat said the MSA usually hosts an event celebrating Ramadan, which consists of daily fasting during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

“In years past we have held a Fast-A-Thon,” Darrat said.

The MSA normally invites students to fast all day and attend a celebratory meal in the evening.

But because the Islamic lunar calendar moves up 10 days each year, Ramadan fell during the first few weeks of school this year. The students in MSA decided to bypass a campus-wide Fast-A-Thon this year and held this event instead.

Donations from the event went to the Kentucky Refugee Ministry.

Heba Suleiman, the MSA president, opened the event with a typical Islamic greeting of, “as-salamu alaykum,” meaning “peace be upon you.”

The MSA was started at UK in 1971, she told an audience of several hundred people. It now consists of more than 100 active members and holds meetings every other Thursday.

“We act as a learning tool for Muslims and non-Muslims through events like these,” Suleiman said.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Imam Shakir Pandor. Pandor is the Imam, or spiritual leader, of the Islamic center in Elizabethtown.

Pandor spoke to the crowd of both students and community members on the process of Hajj and its importance to the Islamic community.

“It’s about the journey,” he told the audience. “It’s an emotional journey.”

Pandor described Hajj as consisting of three main sacrifices: physical, financial and a mixture of the two.

A Muslim is prepared for the journey through daily prayer and annual fasting, he said. Muslims face the direction of Mecca during all five of their daily prayers.

Additionally, Muslims carry out Zakah, which is an annual form of charity. The word literally means purification.

The pilgrimage to Mecca itself is a combination of both sacrifices.

“In essence, Hajj is a journey of the love and obedience of God,” he said.

Several UK students taking Islamic studies courses were present at the event. Many said they have gained respect for Hajj through their studies.

“It’s something really spiritual because they get away from all their material possessions and get in touch with God,” said Holly Hornbeak, an architecture freshman.

“I’ve come to appreciate the different spiritual journeys that people experience and the dedication that the Hajj demands,” international studies senior Sarah Woodall said.