As someone born and raised in Iowa as a Muslim but who had never been to the Muslim world, I visited Mecca for the first time in August and September. I went to study with the scholars and, more importantly, to perform the minor pilgrimage in Islam known as “umrah.” The umrah is like the Hajj — the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the five pillars of Islam — but is shorter in rites duration and can be done any time of the year.

For Muslims, Mecca is the most revered and holy city in the world. The city is mentioned in the Bible as “Becca.” It is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad (d. 632 C.E.), peace be upon him, who Muslims believe was the last messenger of God for all time and humanity. Muslims do not believe the message he came with was new but was the same basic message revealed to previous prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses and Jesus, son of Mary, may peace be upon them all. The basic message being that there is nothing worthy of worship except God alone, without partners or associates.

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