CAIRO - Familiarizing with the fifth pillar of Islam, American students are stimulating the spiritual journey of hajj, performing the rituals millions of pilgrims are engaged in the holy lands.
"Most of these kids are too young to fully understand the significance of what they're doing, Souheil Zekri, principal of the American Youth Academy, told Tampa Bay Times.
But we try to get them into a rhythm.
"Islam is all about finding a rhythm. It's the rhythm of life."
Singing together and holding hands, children as young as two have joined together to stimulate the rituals of hajj, which started on Wednesday, October 24.
Some students climb into a tent to demonstrate how pilgrims stay in the tent city of Mina as the start of hajj.
Then they move to Mount Arafat, which marks the climax of the ritual.
Afterwards, students collect stones to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil as the pilgrims do.
Students, who have performed the hajj simulation before, whispered excitedly as they scrambled for pebbles.
This is the fifth year the academy organized the hajj stimulation to familiarize students with the rite.
Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Fatima Khan is watching her son Adil as he is performing the ritual.
"It's quite the change for him," she told Tampa Bay Times.
"He doesn't speak a word of Arabic."
Khan believes that the stimulation will help teach her son about his religion.
"We wanted him to learn some basic religion," said Khan, a dentist who works in the area.
"I don't know if it's because we have two children now and work full time, but it's become so much harder to teach them at home."
Shahira Saad, 25, can't stop her tears from rolling down her checks as she watches her children perform the ritual.
"He's been singing the songs all week," said Saad, pinning a white towel across the chest of her son, Abdelrahman Yasin, 5.
"I can't help getting all emotional."
Five-year-old Jude Sullaiman is very excited about drinking the holy water of Zamzam during hajj stimulation.
The water, poured out in colorful plastic cups, tastes "sweet, like strawberries," she said.
Many attending parents hope that their children will before the ritual in reality one day.
"I hope someday she will have the desire to go and do it for real," said Soloman Tamari of his daughter Zain, 5."This teaches her early to appreciate the hajj, to have a good, clean heart."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net