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Sunday, January 15, 2006

American Muslim's Haj Guide - A Big Hit in Mina

Thursday, 12, January, 2006 (12, Dhul Hijjah, 1426)

American Muslim's Haj Guide Is a Big Hit in Mina

Siraj Wahab, Arab News

MINA, 12 January 2006 - Nothing could be more rewarding for a Muslim than to be able to do good deeds while in preparation for the journey of a lifetime. One American Muslim, Yousuf Baaghil, a lawyer from San Francisco, has been able to do just that.
Prior to setting off on the pilgrimage, last year Baaghil and his wife went to a local Islamic center and took classes in order to learn about the Haj rituals. It was a very intensive training course during which an enormous amount of material was presented.

At home, after the final class, Baaghil's wife attempted to create a semblance of order out of all the information they had been given. It was a difficult task and the harder she tried to make some sense of the stack of information before her, the more confused she became.

Baaghil soon joined in the effort and even after consulting all their notes and turning to numerous textbooks on Haj, they were more confused than ever.

Most of the books explaining the pilgrimage were weighty volumes, filled with hundreds of pages of information. A straightforward guide to the rituals simply did not exist. So the couple made it their mission to create one.

"Haj and Umrah at a Glance," is a one-page guide based upon the books of Sheikh Muhammad Naasirruddeen Al-Baanee. The idea behind the guide is that Muslims can fold the guide into a small size, tuck it anywhere and carry it at all times during the pilgrimage. An attempt was made to cram on the one sheet every detail of importance to a first-time pilgrim. This includes tiny illustrations of key points and a diagram of the Holy Mosque, plus prayers and supplications that are written in Arabic with transliteration and translation in English.

"While every Haj group has a well-informed guide it is not possible to catch hold of this person all the time and there are moments when you are all by yourself and you have no idea how to perform the ritual or you need clarification on what ritual will come next," said Baaghil.

Initially, Baaghil distributed printed copies of the guide himself. Then with help, he set up a website, www.islamicbulletin.org, to enable individuals to download the guide in PDF format, wherever they might be.

Within just a few months of the guide appearing on the Internet, Baaghil was deluged with requests to create similar guides in other languages. Through the website people volunteered their language services and now the guide is available in six languages - English, Turkish, Indonesian, French, Spanish and Urdu. All can be downloaded free of charge.

This year, Baaghil and his wife made the trip to Saudi Arabia in order to perform Haj. While in the Kingdom, Baaghil took the opportunity to present himself at the offices of the Ministry of Haj to discuss the possible distribution of "Haj and Umrah at a Glance" to the pilgrims.

"I was pleasantly surprised that the staff at the ministry were already aware of the guide!" exclaimed Baaghil with a smile. "They ran a trial this year in which they downloaded the PDF files in different languages, printed the guide on glossy paper in color and distributed thousands of copies to pilgrims before the Haj. I was told that it was well received. Every good deed done by a Muslim, however small, will be rewarded by Allah. This is a small deed from my side and I hope it will aid many Muslims in enriching their Haj experience."


To Download a copy of one-page guide in Word or PDF.


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