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.

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Why wear a black headscarf to visit the Pope but not a hijab when visiting Saudi royalty?

At first glance it seems odd that Melania Trump (a Christian) and Ivanka Trump (converted to Judaism) would both wear black and also have black lace headscarves to visit the Catholic Pope in the Vatican Rome, but would a few days previously not wear any headscarves in Muslim Saudi Arabia. It might appear that they are going out of their way to be incredibly respectful to the religious beliefs of Catholicism and less so to Islam.

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But first appearances are not always completely what they seem. Female foreign dignitaries such as politicians or royalty are not required to cover their heads when they visit the Saudi Arabia- only Saudi nationals are. Meanwhile the Vatican (where the Pope lives) did speak of a dress protocol to Mrs Trump’s office at the White House, but no such requests had been made by Saudi Arabia. The Vatican website lays out some of the rules: modest dress, with your shoulders covered, for those attending a Papal Audience – especially if indoors. In fact women visiting sometimes wear deep lace mantillas to just a black veil. When the Queen went to see the Pope when as a young woman, she dressed up like the Spanish infanta, even though she is a Protestant Head of State.

Apparently Melania Trump, President Trump of the USA’s wife, asked the Pope to bless her rosary beads.

How_to_Pray_the_Rosary  praying-beads

 

3 million people displaced, 14 million facing starvation – heard of the civil war in the Yemen?

A YouGov poll by the Independent newspaper found that only 49% of people questioned had heard of the conflict currently causing death and hunger in the Yemen. This number got even smaller with the younger age group of 18-24 year olds with only 37% knowing about the conflict. The map below shows that Yemen is located south of Saudi Arabia:

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Thanks to Sophie our school’s BBC School reporter even more people will have heard about what’s going down in the Yemen. You may need to search Global, RE on the school’s BBC Report page to read Sophie excellent report. The Independent are trying their best to make  UK citizens aware of a conflict where British weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia are being used in questionable circumstance.

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Only know about the conflict in Syria? Don’t forget the Yemen.

The United Nations believe that over 10,000 have been killed in the two years that conflict has resided in the Yemen. And that 3 million people have been displaced by the conflict.

The United Nations are urging the two sides to bring this conflict to a peaceful end so that the huge humanitarian costs can stop. So who is fighting? The Houthis group, backed by Iran, overthrew the president of Yemen two years ago and took over the capital. The Saudi Arabian backed president fled to the south of the country and is now being supported with the military might of Saudi Arabia. Adding to that, the Saudis are hugely supported by the US and UK.

When it comes to killing innocent civilians both sides can be found guilty. You can also add to the mix child soldiers and over 80% of the Yemen population requiring humanitarian aid to survive.

Isn’t it sad that nobody really talks about it; that so few people really know about it?

Heard of the war in the Yemen? Thought not.

You may never have even heard of the Yemen which is just south of Saudi Arabia. So it is therefore highly unlikely you’ve ever heard of the war which has been taking place in the Yemen since September 2014. When rebel troops took over the capital city and ousted the President, Saudi Arabia tried to set up a coalition of countries to fight back and re-instate the old Present because they were fearful that Iran and Shia Islam would rise to dominance.

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In March 2016 the BBC published a report which clearly explains who is involved in the war, and showed that the British were selling weapons to the Saudi troops. When those weapons are used like they were this weekend, killing a funeral party of 140 people, questions should be asked on whether a trade embargo should be put in place against the Saudi kingdom. Amnesty International provide a thorough analysis of the conflict so far.

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UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, condemned Saturday’s strikes on the funeral gathering as a “horrific attack”. He said that aid workers who arrived at the scene had been “shocked and outraged”.

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.