Rashid is a practicing Muslim and decided earlier this year that he had reached the right time in his life to make the pilgrimage, and has been granted leave by the ECB and Yorkshire. He flies to the Middle East on Saturday and is expected to return in mid-July, ahead of England’s white-ball series against South Africa.
All adult Muslims are expected to undertake the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically capable and have the financial means to do so.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for a little while but I’ve found it pretty difficult with the timings,” Rashid told ESPNcricinfo, speaking after an England nets session in Amstelveen during their 3-0 ODI series win against the Netherlands. “This year, I felt as though it was something that I had to do, and something I wanted to do as well.
“I spoke to the ECB and to Yorkshire about it and they were very understanding and encouraging, like: ‘yep, you do what you’ve got to do and then come back when you can’. Me and the missus are going and I’ll be there for a couple of weeks.
“It’s a massive moment: each faith has got their own different thing but for Islam and being a Muslim, this is one of the biggest ones. It’s a big thing for my faith and for myself. I knew that I needed to do it while I’m young and strong and healthy. This is something that I really committed to myself that I would do.”
Rashid expects to miss all six limited-overs against India from July 7 to 17 but said the fixture list was not a major consideration in his decision. “It wasn’t like, right, I’m playing against India – I’d better not go,” he said. “That didn’t really cross my mind. It was purely: right, I’m going – the decision was irrelevant of cricket, in that sense.
“All I had to do was speak to Yorkshire and England and get their go-ahead. That was very easy and they were very understanding. To have that backing from your county and from your country, it feels like a big boost.”
Rashid credited Eoin Morgan and the England hierarchy with creating a “very supportive” environment for him and his Muslim team-mates Moeen Ali and Saqib Mahmood. “Everyone in the dressing room respects our faith massively, and they’ve got a good understanding of it now with myself and Moeen around,” he said.
“It’s very easy for us to be who we are in the dressing room, on and off the pitch, around the boys because they’re so understanding. A lot of credit goes to England for making that environment very easy – not just for myself and Mo, but for other people.
“It’s about having that support for people coming in and making them feel comfortable – like they can be themselves, that there’s no pressure around doing certain things and that everybody is understanding of it and respectful.
“We’re all from different backgrounds and different countries – it’s a very diverse team – but everyone gets along and respects each other massively. That’s a big credit to Morgs for making that environment, and to the hierarchy.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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