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LOS ANGELES (RNS) — To prepare for this year’s hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca that begins August 19, Maryum Ali, a Los Angeles social worker — and the eldest child of the late Muhammad Ali — has been spending time in saunas and walking in the Southern California heat to get acclimated to Saudi Arabia’s 110-degree weather.
She has also been watching her spending. The financial commitment is often the toughest challenge Muslims face as they try to complete one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The Massachusetts-based travel company Adam Travel, for instance, offers nine hajj packages this year, costing between $7,490 and $22,500 per person, depending on the length of stay and quality of accommodations.
Father - Success - Ali - Worker - Salary
Despite her father’s success, Ali, 50, said she has always lived off her social worker salary and “never had $8,000 laying around” to make the trip. A few years ago, she started putting money aside — even forgoing a 50th birthday party, she said — so she could one day make the journey.
Ali had already made a down payment to a tour group when she was connected to the Hajjah Project, a group founded in Los Angeles a year ago by Krishna Najieb, 63, a human resources specialist who converted to Islam in 2009.
Years - Najieb - Women - Trip - Money
After returning from hajj three years ago, Najieb realized how common it is for women to forgo the trip. Not only is money a frequent obstacle, but family duties, health and even how women think about pilgrimage all prevent them from going. This year, Ali became the first woman selected to receive help from the group.
“Putting off things for themselves is just part of being a woman,” Najieb said. “We take care of the family, we take care of our children, we take care of our husbands, we...
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