LOS ANGELES – Maryum Ali, a Los Angeles social worker and the eldest child of the late Muhammad Ali, is going to hajj this year, thanks to help from a group of Muslim women.
“‘It’s not going to be perfect; there (are) 2 million, 3 million people there,’” Ali, who received $500 financial support from Hajjah Project, told Religion News Service (RNS).
Hajjah Project, launched from Los Angles, hopes to change women’s thinking about the lifetime journey, tearing down frequent obstacles that prevent them from the pilgrimage.
“Putting off things for themselves is just part of being a woman,” Krishna Najieb, 63, a human resources specialist who converted to Islam in 2009, said.
“We take care of the family, we take care of our children, we take care of our husbands, we take care of our parents. I wanted to do something that would inspire and educate women to want to make hajj a higher priority in their lives.”
Najieb launched the Hajjah Project a year ago to help women wishing to go to hajj.
The idea first came to her mind after returning from hajj three years ago when she realized how common it is for women to forgo the trip.
Money is not the only frequent obstacle, but also family duties, health and even how women think about pilgrimage, all prevent them from going.
Najieb herself faced obstacles when she first decided to go on hajj. Putting a down payment of $10,000, the couple were asked to pay the balance of $4,000 before they were ready.
So she and her husband set up a GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign to raise the remaining amount.
“For some people it was inappropriate, it was Islamically not sound,” said Najieb. “For others, it was like, ‘Oh, good idea.’”
That’s when the Hajjah Project was born. “I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that if you’re serious and Allah has accepted your request to go to hajj,” she said.
The Hajjah Project doesn’t fund anyone’s hajj entirely so they would take away from her intention to make hajj.
Financial support is not the only benefit Muslim women got from the project, with many praising the advice they got as more important.
“Even though hajj is spiritual, there are a lot of logistics to adjust to,” said Ali.
“They let me see a visual that you don’t get in any of the tutorials on YouTube.”
Noor Abbas, an engineer from Los Angeles, also received the group’s financial support.
“I attended another hajj workshop and read books and things like that, and it’s almost always from the male perspective,” said Abbas.
“I learned all the rules, but I wanted to get more of a woman’s perspective and hear about what it’s like from our side.”
The group also provided women with a heavy-duty backpack filled with toiletries, a headscarf, a prayer booklet, snacks and built-in water storage.
“They eased a lot of anxiety,” Ali said.
For Abbas, the Hajjah Project is an example for other Muslim women.
“It shows that women should be doing this and can be doing this, and have the support of other women if they are doing this.”