At a site visitors circle in Maryland, Mona Eldadah watched her father plodding in circles.
Hadi Rahnama, 77, was strolling round a black dice, a reproduction of the Kaaba shrine in Mecca, to reveal the tawaf, or ritual prayer, that Muslims carry out once they go to the shrine on the hajj.
Eldadah corrected her father.
“No, Daddy, the idea is that the car is actually going to do the tawaf,” she stated. “It’s a drive-through.”
This is the time of 12 months when many Muslims undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca referred to as the hajj.
But the coronavirus pandemic has prompted Saudi Arabia to limit access to a restricted variety of Saudis and foreigners dwelling inside the dominion.
So Eldadah created a miniature model of the hajj final Sunday in Sandy Spring, Md., finished by automobile to maintain folks protected from COVID-19.
Religiously talking, it was not an alternative choice to the true hajj, which all Muslims should attempt to make of their lifetime.
Rahnama had made the true pilgrimage to Mecca thrice, the place he joined a river of Muslims, all wearing white, circling across the black monument.
“Nobody knows whether they’re poor or they’re rich or whatever. Equality 100 percent,” he stated. “And that is the beauty of the whole thing.”
Eldadah, 43, had deliberate to be in Mecca this week, sporting a flowing white embroidered tunic that her mother-in-law wore on her personal hajj.
She is inventive director of Next Wave Muslim Initiative, a Montgomery County, Md. Islamic nonprofit. She proposed to her colleagues that they seize the vacation spirit by automobile — very similar to a drive to see Christmas lights.
“All you’re doing is kind of looking out from your window,” she stated. “But you get in the festivities of the season. So I said, you know, we could do the same thing.”
Eldadah hosted the mock pilgrimage at Sandy Spring Friends School, the place three of her kids went to highschool and a fourth is about to start out within the fall. Eldadah wore her heirloom tunic and a face masks and directed friends to stations the place they may reenact the rites she was lacking.
First, vehicles drove round a reproduction of the Kaaba, which Eldadah made by draping black flannel over PVC pipes. In distinction to the strolling swirl of humanity in Mecca, in Sandy Spring, Hondas and Teslas drove across the monument.
The guests might then hear a reside chanting of the prayer recited on Mount Arafat, which pilgrims on hajj go to to commemorate the place the Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon.
That was significant for Ranwa Abdelnabi, 45, who lately moved from Egypt along with her husband and daughter. She stated the previous few months have been isolating.
“It takes time to really build strong relationships, so the pandemic is not helping that,” Abdelnabi stated.
At one other station, 6-year-old Yaseen Khan leaned out of a white minivan to throw pebbles at a cardboard pillar. That evoked the hajj ceremony of casting stones to drive out the satan.
His father Faisal Khan, 41, stated he is been avoiding mosques due to the pandemic. But he nonetheless needed to show his two boys concerning the vacation.
“It definitely feels much more safe when we’re in a car, not close to a bunch of people. It’s really nice what they did,” stated Khan.
Islamic faculties usually educate kids utilizing a miniature hajj, stated Hurunnessa Fariad, who heads outreach on the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center in Sterling, Va., one of many largest mosques within the nation. Those indoor pilgrimages are principally canceled this 12 months, nonetheless. Fariad stated she by no means heard of a drive-through.
“This is the first year I saw that, because of COVID. I thought it was really cute to keep the kids and the families engaged,” she stated.
This innovation is a part of a development throughout religions of in search of new methods of holding the religion throughout a pandemic. One Los Angeles cantor presided over a “Car Mitzvah” celebration in a parking zone. Churches hosted drive-in services.
Fatimeh Asi, a 38-year-old homemaker and mom of three daughters, stated she discovered the Maryland drive-through hajj refreshing. She stepped out of her blue Tesla and stood, masked, with associates close to the parking zone. Asi stated she marked Ramadan by tuning into Zoom sermons and different holidays with smaller household gatherings, however not often noticed members of her congregation within the pandemic.
“This is the first actual real-deal community feeling, and my kids feeling like they’re seeing the rest of the community,” she stated. “This is the first.”
Eldadah estimates about 500 folks got here to the drive-through pilgrimage. The guests additionally left about $2,000 in donations for the needy, she stated. Eldadah stated she hoped the “pilgrims” drove away impressed to go on the true journey as soon as it is potential.