Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 3: Hajj

Activity time: 25 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Writing paper and pens/pencils

Preparation for Activity

  • Consider lifelong goals (spiritual or otherwise) you may have, or have had, that you can share with the youth.

Description of Activity

Participants consider the value of a lifelong religious goal and ponder what a Unitarian Universalist version of such a goal might look like.

Ask participants if they have any lifetime goals-for example, something they want to learn sometime in their lives, something they want to continue doing their entire lives, a place they want to someday visit or live. Hear and respect all answers. Ask specifically if the youth have any spiritual or religious goals for their lives. If helpful to start the conversation, share any lifelong goals you have, or share the fact that you do not have any.

Recall that the Five Pillars of Islam pertain to behavior and beliefs that Muslims are expected to so throughout their lives. There is one Pillar, however, which is a once-in-a-lifetime requirement. Ask if the youth remember the name of this Pillar. It is Hajj (pronounced "HAH-dge"), which calls on every Muslim to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetime.

Here are some important aspects of Hajj:

  • This is an once-in-a-lifetime journey taken not for business or pleasure, but to demonstrate love and devotion to Allah.
  • The Muslim world sets aside a specific date in the year for Hajj. It is not done individually, but collectively. About two million Muslims participate yearly, from all over the world.
  • Tour groups sponsor Hajj tours to make it affordable and simplify travel logistics.
  • All Muslims-women, men, youth, children-are welcomed on Hajj.
  • Everyone changes into a simple white garment to perform Hajj, called Ihram. No accessories can be worn. Everyone is dressed the same to remove outward appearances of class, ethnicity, or other differences. The only identity one has on Hajj is "Muslim."
  • Rituals are performed, including circling the Black Stone or Ka'ba, seven times. This stone is believed to have been laid by Abraham. Remind youth of the story of Abraham in Workshop 5. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims believe Abraham is the father of their faith. That is why these three religions are referred to as "Abrahamic" faiths.
  • More young people are going on Hajj than in previous years. Young adults might go before starting jobs that might limit their ability to travel. Young couples might go before starting a family. Young people are using Hajj to learn more about their religion.
  • Participants frequently feel transformed by the experience. One famous transformation was experienced by African American leader Malcolm X, who came to truly understand "brotherhood" from his Hajj. Hajj is a purifying experience, a chance to start anew in devotion to Allah. Feelings of solidarity and a deepening of Muslim identity occur when surrounded by millions of other Muslims, who may not speak the same language or share the same culture.

Let youth share any thoughts they have about Hajj.

Inquire if the group is aware of any such opportunities in Unitarian Universalism. Share that many congregations ask youth to participate in a Coming of Age or Bridging program. Some visit the UUA headquarters in Boston, MA. Many Unitarian Universalists participate in civil rights tours that explore our history. Some Unitarian Universalists set a goal of attending General Assembly, the business meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Some people have suggested a year of service program for young adult Unitarian Universalists. One experience that UUs of all ages often experience as a special immersion in Unitarian Universalist community is UU camps and conferences. These weeklong camps are often the first time UUs are with UUs from all over the country. Of course, none of these activities is mandatory.

Ask youth to consider the idea of a once-in-a-lifetime expression of faith for Unitarian Universalists. Unitarian Universalism is theologically diverse; it contains people of countless beliefs. However, if an action might be identified that would be a suitable expression of faith for all or most Unitarian Universalists, what would it be? Encourage broad thinking: it could be anything from creating a book or song, climbing a mountain, visiting Unitarian Universalist congregations in every state, or performing 1,000 unacknowledged acts of kindness.

Ask youth to form groups of three to brainstorm an action that might be considered an expression of a lifetime of Unitarian Universalist faith. Provide paper and writing utensils. Allow five minutes for collecting ideas.

Re-gather the group and allow youth to share their ideas. What ideas appeal to them most? What kinds of ideas appeal to them? What makes these ideas particularly suitable to Unitarian Universalism? What does it say about our faith that these ideas seem to be its best expression?