Pogba performs Umrah in Makkah to say ‘thank you’

Paul Pogba the French footballer who plays for Manchester United posted the following photo to his 15 million Instagram followers with the caption: “Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life 🕋🙏🏾

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He is wearing the ihram – a simple set of clothing consisting of two un-stitched sheets, with the Ka’bah behind him. The Ihram demonstrates that we are all equal before God no matter how rich or famous one may be.

Pogba also sent a tweet wishing everyone a “happy Ramadan”.  Out in Makkah he is attending Umrah, a non-compulsary Muslim pilgrimage. During Umrah, pilgrims do not go to Mina, Arafaat and Muzdalifah or throw pebbles on the Jamrahs (stone pillars representing devils) or offer animal sacrifice which we would know from Hajj. These rites are only performed during Hajj. Pogba is reported to have visited Makkah at least once before, when he performed the Hajj, a journey every healthy adult Muslim who can afford it is supposed to make at least once in their lives. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam:

five pillarsThe 24-year-old became the most expensive footballer in history last summer, after Manchester United paid Juventus a reported £89m fee. Last Wednesday, he lifted the Europa League cup after Manchester United beat Ajax in the final in Stockholm. Here he is on the right with his team-mate Fellaini a Belgian international.

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It is no surprise that Pogba was in awe of the Ka’bah behind him.

The Ka’bah is a huge black stone structure that sits at the heart of the Grand Mosque, Islam’s most sacred place of worship. When Muslims pray as part of Salat they face the Ka’bah from wherever they are in the world. Some of its parts are connected to important episodes in Islamic tradition. On the eastern corner of the Ka’bah, to the left of the door, is the Black Stone, which according to Muslim tradition fell from heaven at the time of Adam and Eve. During Hajj pilgrims try to kiss the stone, emulating the kiss the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have placed on it.

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The cube-shaped structure is roughly 15 metres high, and it is about 10 by 14 metres at its base. Constructed of gray stone and marble, it is oriented so that its corners roughly correspond to the points of the compass. The interior contains nothing but the three pillars supporting the roof and a number of suspended silver and gold lamps.The Ka’bah is covered with the Kiswa which is a black brocade cloth. The Muslim declaration of faith, as well as Qu’ranic verses, are embroidered on it. A new Kiswa is made every year.

The Sunni-Shia Divide

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In the new AQA GCSE Religious Studies our students have to know more than just ‘Muslims believe…’ or ‘Muslims do…’ for their exam paper about Islam and instead need to be specific about the different types of Muslims and their specific beliefs. So in class we often refer to Sunni and Shia Muslims, and we try to specify when their beliefs and practises are different.

the roots

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The Council on Foreign Relations has a really interesting set of articles about the Sunni-Shia Divide which outlines the origins of the schism; modern tensions; practising the faith; sectarian militants and flash points.

Looking at the articles though I was left wondering who the Council on Foreign Relations were; we all need to check where our facts and knowledge are coming from, especially in 2017, when the media is so full of bias and fake news.

Interestingly the Council started in 1921 in the USA and has had all sorts of members from past presidents, media owners, Federal Judges and ambassadors. Below are its founding members:

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On its website it says it is ‘an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher’.

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We always need to check our source of information especially when there is so much politics involved in Religion.

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Things not to say when…

It is always best to avoid offending people. It makes life easier and helps you avoid aggressive confrontations or moments of utter embarrassment.

However avoiding saying the wrong things isn’t always that easy if you are faced with a  situation you’ve never been in before. Perhaps you’ve never seen on TV, film or online how you should respond in a polite and positive way, so you’re left on you’re own… will you say the right thing?

BBC Three have a plethora of short witty advice segments called Things not to say when… which cover topics as varied as:

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Visit My Mosque Day

#VisitMyMosque day is a national initiative facilitated by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), encouraging mosques across the UK to hold mosque open days. In Year 8 students first find out about the work of the MCB with an activity about Muslim denominations where we pretend the MCB has requested our school design a set of T-shirts and mugs to educate the British public about Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Well here is some real work by the MCB – organising a day where people of any faith or none can visit their local Mosque and get to find out what goes on there. The Independent reported today’s events by explaining how people had interesting questions and concerns – Are women allowed to visit? Yes. Do women need to cover their hair? Not necessarily, but it might be nice to try it out. Can couples hold hands? I don’t see why not. What about LGBTQ visitors? All welcome, as the invitation says. Visitors found out that mosques serve pastoral as well as religious needs. Alongside prayers and Ramadan gatherings, you’ll find food banks, soup kitchens and mother and toddler play groups. Newer mosques are being designed to be carbon neutral, or with theatres and restaurants for all the community – Muslim or not – to enjoy.

Woking’s Shah Jahan Mosque was open for the day so that visitors could see all the work that it does in the local community.

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Daily Mail pay out £150,000 for false reporting

The Daily Mail has been forced to pay £150,000 to a British Muslim family for falsely reporting they were terrorist sympathisers. The British family had been stopped by US authorities from travelling to LA on a family holiday and the Mail had reported via their journalist Katie Hopkins that the family were certain extremists.

The family’s lawyer made the statement after the victory in court:  “… matters are not helped when sensationalist and, frankly, Islamophobic articles such as this are published, and which caused us all a great deal of distress and anxiety. We are very pleased that the record has been set straight.” Carter Ruck the lawyer said that while most of the coverage of the Mahmood family’s ordeal had been fair and balanced, “there was absolutely no basis for suggesting that any of the Mahmoods were or are extremist, and the family were simply going on holiday”.

This all shows the importance of being aware of bias and false reporting in your news stories. History and English lessons should really help you in this; making you aware of political bias.

Hajj brings most of Islam together

The scenes from Saudi Arabia when Hajj is on each year are always breathtaking. To see millions of Muslims together celebrating their faith and asking forgiveness from Allah, walking in Muhammad’s footsteps. With all the news coverage you can easily learn about this Muslim pilgrimage, one of the five pillars and about the numerous stories which appear in the Qur’an.

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This year though there is a political story too with Iranian Shia Muslims not making the journey, partly in response to last year’s stampede deaths but also because of the conflicts in the Yemen which pits Shia and Sunni Muslims against each other. The biggest leader of Islam in Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the grand mufti, who has given a speech for the last 35 years to pilgrims is this year not giving the sermon. Perhaps his recent comments that Iranians are not proper Muslims has lead to him sitting it out this year.

Knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims has become paramount to anybody trying to understand current world politics, never mind RE Lessons! The BBC iWonder pages gives a really thorough but easy to understand explanation. Or you could check out this Daily Express article for a basic idea.