(RNS) — Shaykh Hassan Lachheb remembers first dreaming of hajj as a child, looking at small Polaroid photographs of his father at an airport in his native Morocco as he left for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, one of the five obligations required of devout Muslims. Lachheb determined then to make the journey one day himself.

Lachheb, now president and co-founder of Tayseer Seminary in Knoxville, Tennessee, realized his dream many years later. For the past five years he has led groups of American Muslims on twice-a-year trips to Mecca during hajj, which takes place in the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah, and umrah, a non-obligatory pilgrimage performed any time of year.

“Hajj is the fullest manifestation of what Islam is,” he said,

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