By REUTERS-PARIS alarabiya.net
The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is one of the five pillars of Islam and required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, but it is not an easy task.
An association in France, the ‘SOS Pilgrims,’ has created the ‘Hajj Academy’ in Paris which offers classes to hopeful pilgrims wishing to prepare for the trip.
Started in 2007, the Hajj Academy offers counsel and instructions about the difficulties of the pilgrimage and helps worshipers gather funds for the trip.
“The Hajj Academy is a training center whose objective is to prepare pilgrims to understand the environment of the Hajj pilgrimage or of the Umrah pilgrimage. There are certain teaching units, some very technical on health and security aspects and other aspects of rituals and steps and particularly one element which we think is important for the Hajj Academy: it’s to prepare French and European pilgrims for the diverse and multicultural context of meeting, that one experiences when one is in Mecca,” said Zacaria Nana, President of ‘SOS Pilgrims’.
Doctors, academics and religious leaders are invited to speak about their experiences and offer advice.
For Ghaleb Bencheickh, Islam specialist and guest speaker at a Hajj Academy class, the pilgrimage is a trip of a lifetime for those of the Muslim faith.
“It is very important for a Muslim to accomplish this pilgrimage which is one of five pillars of Islam. It’s an intense, spiritual and religious moment for men and women of the Muslim faith. It’s the trip of a lifetime; it’s the place where one meets God. It’s also a place of brotherly gathering where Muslims express sentiments of fraternity, of liking. They exploit the gentleness and clemency of God. It’s really a very strong moment in the life of a Muslim,” he said.