January 1998 - Updated 02/01/98

The Kabbah in Mecca
The Kabbah in Mecca

Friendship Tour
joins Ramadan celebration


by Askia Muhammad
Washington Bureau Chief

Before the Honorable Louis Farrakhan and the small party accompanying him could even find their way out of Al-Haram Mosque after Salatul-Taraweeh (prayers) on the 27th night of Ramadan, the word had already spread among many of the 2 million faithful that he was there.

Saudi Arabia Page
Saudi Arabia

The whispers, "Farrakhan-Amerikee" and "Meel-yon March," rippled in dozens of accents and dialects through the record crowd of whispers who had thronged the Grand Mosque seeking the "Lailat Al-Qadr," the most important night in the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Welcome to Saudi," "I'm from Pakistan," "Please come to Dubai," "I'm from Egypt," "I'm Canadian," "I'm Nigerian," "I'm from Pakistan," "I'm from Bangladesh," "I'm from India, the pilgrims told the Muslim leader from the "United States as they clamored to shake his hand. Others in the overflow crowd which occupied the terrace, the courtyard, and surrounding areas of the holiest shrine in the Islamic world, simply pointed to Min. Farrakhan when they recognized his face as he walked by, escorted by a small contingent of police.

According to the Holy Qur'an, Lailat Al-Qadr (the Night of Power) is better than a thousand months. The first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on this night. The month of Ramadan is when Muslims throughout the world abstain from eating, drinking, or taking anything into their bodies, or sexual relations with their spouses from the break of dawn until sunset.

Customarily, Muslims visit the two Holy Shrines at Mecca and Medina during Ramadan, particularly during the last 10 days. Jordan's King Hussein, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sultan Hasan Al-Bokiah of Brunei, as well as dozens of close relatives of other Muslim heads of state visited Saudi Arabia this week for prayers and to perform "Umrah---which is pilgrimage at Al-Haram, wearing simple unstitched garments, performed at any time other than the official "Hajj" season.

Minister Farrakhan and his 24-member delegation, visiting Saudi Arabia as the 20th stop on a 53-nation World Friendship Tour which began Dec. 1, 1997 performed Umrah on the night of Jan. 18 and the morning of Jan. 19, 1998, the 20th night of Ramadan. During his stay in the kingdom, the Nation of Islam leader was greeted by Mustapha Osman Ishmael, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Sudan; Madame Yahyah Jammeh, First Lady of The Gambia; Ali Bongo, son of President Omar Bongo of Gabon; and Hassan Mywinzi, the former head of state of Tanzania; all of whom were here to make Umrah.

The optional Salatul-Taraweeh, is offered each night during Ramadan, after Salatul-Isha, the night's final obligatory prayer. Muslims strive to recite the entire Qur'an, by reciting consecutive portions of it on successive nights as part of the offering of Taraweeh prayers. Praying at microphones just a few feet away from Minister Farrakhan and Sultan Al-Bokiah's brother, the Crown prince of Brunei, the prayers were led by Shaykh Saud Al-Sheraim and Shaykh Muhammad Al-Sudais, who brought many worshipers to tears with several passionate "du'a," (supplications).

The inspirational service was punctuated often by the sound of crying babies---in the arms of their mothers, or on the shoulders of their fathers as the pilgrims performed "Tawaf," (circuits around the Kabah with it on the left side)---and occasionally by Salatul-Janazah (funeral prayers), as the bodies of deceased worshipers, with their faces turned towards the Kabah, were carried over the heads of the congregation before the final prayer was said for them.

After a record number of 1.5 million worshipers---including several members of Min. Farrakhan's delegation---thronged the Grand Mosque on Friday, Jan. 23 for the final Salatul-Jummah of Zilramadan 1418 A.H., Mecca police deployed additional security officers at all entry points into the city, as well as along the streets around the mosque to control the heavy traffic. Officially, the mosque has the capacity to accommodate about one million worshipers at a time.

In his "Khutba" (Salatul-Jummah sermon) Dr. Omar Muhammad Al-Subayyel, the Imam and "Khateeb" (leader of prayer) of the Grand Mosque called for an end to the bloodbath in Algeria. He also urged Muslims to unite under the banner of Islam to liberate Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and to counter the challenges facing them, according to delegation member Shaykh Ahmed Tijani Ben-Omar, Khateeb of Mosque Maryam in Chicago.

The Imam also deplored the banning of the Islamist Welfare Party in Turkey. "They ignored international law when they chose to disregard the interest of their people," he said referring to the ban on the popular party by the country's secularist Constitutional Court, according to published reports.

During the last several days of Ramadan, officials estimate that about 2 million pilgrims have visited Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca every day. The faithful are encouraged by a Saying of the Prophet (PBUH), who is reported to have said that an Umrah during Ramadan is equal to Hajj.

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