CAIR-PHILLY: A JOURNEY TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH
The journey from being Muslim in name only to being a pilgrim in Islam's holiest city was more than 40 years in the making for Osama Al-Qasem.
The marketing manager at a Warminster manufacturing firm didn't practice the religion of his birth until the wife he had known for only 11 days before they became engaged began to influence him.
"He would see me pray and started to ask me questions," Manal Al-Qasem said. "I started giving him books, and then one day he surprised me and said he wanted to perform the pilgrimage."
Osama Al-Qasem, of Holland, and his neighbor and friend Kareem Ali boarded a plane in New York on Dec. 24, beginning their pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They were one of more than three million Muslims on the annual spiritual journey that the tenets of Islam say Muslims should complete - if able.
Al-Qasem and Ali's pilgrimage began Dec. 29, during the sacred Islamic month of Zul-Hijjah. . .
Traditionally, an animal is sacrificed, but today, pilgrims buy vouchers and an animal is sacrificed in their name with the meat sent to the poor, said Al-Qasem, who serves as acting fund-raising chair for the Philadelphia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. A farewell tawaf ends the pilgrimage.
"I feel quieter, more spiritual," Ali said. "I take my problems one step at a time with ease."