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US Olympian Ibtihaj Reflects on Hajj Journey

MINA – Going to hajj this year, American Muslim Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad said she was impressed to see how Islam united people coming from across the world to show devotion to one god and one faith.

“It is something as a Muslim growing up and living in the US that you don’t get the opportunity to see,” she told Arab News on Tuesday, August 28.

“I feel I get that sense when I travel to the Middle East, particularly this trip to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj — it is something I will never forget.”

Ibtihaj revealed that she did not know she was coming to hajj until about three weeks before it began.

The Muslim Olympian was invited by Dar Al Islam travel agency.

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“I felt like it was something Allah called on me to perform Hajj and I was very excited. I was also very apprehensive and did not know what to expect; as you read and try to prepare for the journey it is more than anything you can anticipate. It feels like a blessing and I am really excited,” she said.

The American Olympian lauded the Kingdom’s efforts for the organization of hajj this year.

“To the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I thank you for having me; it has been a really transformative experience,” she said.

In Madinah, Ibtihaj found one of the most peaceful places on earth, coming before arriving Makkah for hajj.

“Once I had arrived to see the Ka`bah for the first time — it is something that you read about it and hear about from your parents — but to see it for the first time for yourself and to see so many pilgrims walking around it was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. It is something that you dream of and you pray that Allah invites you, so to have the opportunity to do that was very exciting,” she said.

Muhammad is the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab when representing the United States at the Olympic games.

Earning a bronze medal for her country in Rio Olympics, she went on to highlight the important contributions that America’s Muslims have made to healthcare, education and all aspects of life in the country.