Hajj, which is the fifth pilar of Islam, is the pilgrimage to Mecca, occurring on the 7th-12th days of the month of Dhu al-Hajja in the Islamic calendar. This is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, and all able-bodied Muslims are required to participate at least once in their lifetimes. Several rituals are performed during this pilgrimage, including walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building representing the Muslim direction of prayer, and drinking from the Zamzam well. Waqf al Arafa is the Islamic observance day during Hajj when pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy. Pilgrims stay awake at night to pray on the hill of Arafat, the site where Muhammad delivered his last sermon.
Waqf al Arafa/Day of Arafa is significant in that it is said that a Muslim who fasts for this holiday receives atonement for the both; previous year’s and the coming year’s sins. Hajj is performed for many spiritual reasons. The first, to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad, Ibrahim (Abraham), and Ismail. Another, Hajj is a virtual simulation of the journey to the afterlife.
I found a nice, easy to understand explanation of Hajj here
For the boys I said this is a holiday for people who are Muslim to make a trip to the sites that are important to their religion. I told them these sites are important because some of the important things that happen in Islam occurred at these sites. They wanted to know what the sites were so I read them this:
The sites are:
- Holy Mosque in Makkah (Mecca)- The holiest shrine of Islam, the Kaaba (more information in the link- is what Muslims are expected to face when they are praying), is situated at the heart of the Holy Mosque's courtyard.
- Prophet's Mosque in Medina (which contains the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed and is therefore one of Islam's most sacred shrines.)
- Arafat- here Muslims believe Adam and Eve, separated for 200 years following their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, recognized each other and were reunited. Here too they were forgiven by Allah.
- Muzdalifah- is a valley between Mina and Mount Arafat where pilgrims on Hajj spend the night and gather pebbles to hurl at the pillars of Mina.
- Mina- lies between Mecca and Muzdalifah. Here there are white pillars representing the devil which pilgrims cast the pebbles they gathered at Muzdalifah.
For our craft we decided to make a pinwheel. I had debated about something involving throwing pebbles- but I have a highly impressionable 18 month old who already likes to throw things so pinwheel won. While our pinwheels sometimes go around more then 7 times, I did like that the edges of the pinwheel would be circling around the center piece- which helped give a visual of a pilgrim circling the Kaaba. We even made our pinwheels turn counter clockwise.
For our pinwheels we used paper, rulers, and paper fasters. For decoration purposes we used crayons and, my favorite, washi tape.
To begin we folded down the corner of our standard size paper to make a square by cut off the excess rectangle.
I then told the boys to decorate, but they wanted to draw after we had made the pinwheel. So first we folded the square in half the opposite way from the original fold so that we would have guiding lines for our next cuts. Then we drew a circle around the center of the square (about an inch maybe inch and a half diameter) and cut down our guidelines until we reached the circle.
Once the cuts were made the boys folded the corners down to the center of the circle and secured the ends with tape.
Next step was to put the fastener through the middle of the pinwheel. I had to cut a small hole to get through the tape.
Finally we put the fastener through the wheel and then through the hole in the ruler. We fastened the clip leaving room for the wheel to be able to move without much resistance. Then we watched our pinwheels spin counter clockwise!
When researching Hajj, I saw that often people will travel with bread, although devotees will have places to eat as there are food stands and restaurants ready to serve those who are completing the Hajj. For our food I decided to give a popular Middle Eastern bread a try, the pita. I again looked to smittenkitchen for the recipe. I did not tweak it-as it was my first attempt at pita, so for the directions go to the link!
Our experience with the recipe:
I had my middle son help with all the measuring and he happily threw everything into the mixer.
He also was happy to get to work the mixer, as his older brother seems to always make it there first. We mixed the first 20 seconds with the paddle and then ten minutes with the hook. I have never seen my Kitchenaid move so much before as it did during that ten minutes of kneading. However all the hard work was worth it as the dough was very soft.
After the kneading we put the dough in a covered container and I drizzled some of the oil my husband bought for me on his last trip to Jordan over the top of the dough and put it into the fridge over night. I took a few peeks and smooshed the bread down to make sure it wasn't growing too much.
The next day was go time. So we preheated the oven for an hour before cooking time and got to work with working and waiting and working and waiting for the dough to be right.
This recipe was a bit putsy at times, so I was hoping the end result would be worth it. It was. The bread was totally delicious although the first few batches I did not get to rise. I think its because my dough was in a chilly metal bowl and took a little longer to warm to the proper temperature. The last few breads that went into the oven seemed to work the best. The dough was incredibly soft from being at more of a room temperature and they puffed up wonderfully. I also had flipped some of the pita and found they turned out nicer if I did not flip them. They were so tasty- and I will definitely be making these again!
That's all for Waqf al Arafa or Hajj- stay tuned for Eid al-Adha. Thanks for reading!