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Islamic celebrations like Dhul-Hijjah are still struggling as the pandemic dies down

Omar Aftab, Reporter

Muslims are still struggling to fully practice their faith as Hajj has been closed off to foreigners for 2021, despite COVID-19 restrictions easing.

Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah and is one of the five pillars of Islam. All able-bodied Muslims are required to participate at least once in their lives. It’s one of the largest gatherings in the world and, according to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in the past ten years has seen more than 150 million pilgrims. 

In 2020, only people residing in Saudi Arabia could do Hajj. The same rule has been imposed this year, but more people are allowed to participate.

The CDC recommends that Americans already in Saudi Arabia still not participate, as the gathering, though significantly smaller than usual, is still likely to spread coronavirus even if one is vaccinated.

 Photo by Haidan on Unsplash

Areej Khokhar, a representative for UNF’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), was planning to go on Umrah, a minor Islamic pilgrimage done during any time of the year, with her family just before this year’s Hajj. However, they found out that the U.S. is on a list of countries that are currently banned due to the pandemic. 

With that being said, Muslims are still participating in other ways. Many Muslims who don’t participate in the pilgrimage fast during the days of Hajj, and this year is no exception. The Muslim community in Jacksonville is still able to gather at the mosque, albeit while following COVID-19 protocol. For something testing and restricting like fasting, having a community is always better than being alone.

“When you’re all together, you all hold each other accountable for keeping up with traditions,” Khokhar said.

After the final day of Hajj, Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year. During this time they sacrifice animals such as goats, sheep, and camels in honor of the story of Abraham in which he was commanded to sacrifice his son, only for it to be replaced by a ram at the last moment. Muslims then distribute the meat between themselves, their families, friends, and those in need.

The pandemic has affected UNF students who celebrate Eid Al-Adha as well. According to Khokhar, in previous years, the MSA would always host some sort of event celebrating the holiday. However, the pandemic prevented this last year. In recent months, though restrictions have eased up, the MSA has yet to recover. Muslims at UNF will have to look elsewhere to find a community to celebrate Eid with.

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