Abdul Natour of Dearborn is eager to go on hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia that hundreds in metro Detroit will make this month.
But at the same time, he’s anxious — about the crowds, the confusion, and whether he’ll correctly perform all the rituals that Islam prescribes.
To help guide pilgrims like Natour, a growing number of mosques across Michigan are holding hajj etiquette classes. The sessions cover what to pack, how to dress and what Islam requires of them during the trip.
Some classes also teach pilgrims how to deal with Saudi Arabia’s religious police, which can be intolerant.
“I’m excited, but I’m nervous,” Natour, 63, said about what will be his first pilgrimage. “Will I do everything right? Will it be accepted by God? There are certain things you have to do right or it won’t be accepted.”
On a recent Friday night, Natour joined about 50 other Muslims for a hajj class in Canton at the Muslim Community Center of the Western Suburbs. A chalkboard in front featured a sketch of the Kaaba, the holy site for Muslims that they encircle during hajj. Rules for the pilgrimage were projected by a computer onto a wall.
“You will get lost if you don’t follow the rules,” Hanih Saleh of Dearborn cautioned the crowd. “But if you follow them, you won’t. Don’t be scared … Allah will make it easy for you.”
Saleh has gone on hajj 18 times and is an expert in guiding new pilgrims. This month, he will lead a group of about 250 Muslims on hajj.
“We will not do any step until everyone is satisfied,” he assured the group, which departs Wednesday. “If you ask me the same question 10 times, I don’t mind. … This is the best and greatest journey for you in your life and you should enjoy it.”
Islam requires observant followers to make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia at least once in their life. About 2 million do so annually.
To make an orderly hajj, the Saudi government has quotas for each country that limit how many pilgrims can visit. Up to 20,000 slots were reserved for American Muslims this year, said Saudi Embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubeir.
Some of those going on hajj, especially Shi’ite Muslims, are concerned they might get mistreated inside Saudi Arabia by its religious police, known as mutawa.
In August, a group of American and British Shi’ites who were visiting the country for a lesser pilgrimage known as Umrah said they were insulted, beaten and jailed because they were Shi’ites.
One of them, Jawad Qazwini, is the nephew of Imam Hassan Qazwini, head of the Islamic Center of America, a Shi’ite mosque in Dearborn.