Salah Shamsi was one of about 2 million Muslims who gathered last year in the Islamic holy city of Mecca for a pilgrimage.

The ritual was arduous at times, requiring the Pakistani native to walk many miles and endure long hours of prayer. He and his wife, Rukhsana, who now live in San Antonio, set aside money for nearly a dozen years to pay for the trip. Yet the feeling of forgiveness they felt there was worth every penny, Salah Shamsi said.

“I was literally shivering and asking for the forgiveness of Allah, that I don’t make any mistakes,” he said. . .

Sarwat Husain, president of the Council on American Islamic Relations in San Antonio, said the prayers she had been prepared to recite froze in her head when she came face to face with the Ka’bah.

“I thought, ‘My God, this is it,'” said Husain, who made the pilgrimage last year. “I never thought I would get there. I just don’t have the words to explain what it did to me.”

Before hajj is complete, pilgrims must walk seven times between the two hills that Hagar ran between in search of water.

Husain said it took her more than two hours to circle the Ka’bah seven times. That ritual, she said, is by far the most strenuous because pilgrims are not allowed to rest before they are done.


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