When Moroccan pilgrims narrate their hajj experiences, they speak of the importance of the pilgrimage as a sacred journey that freed them from sins and, importantly, gave them the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. They often describe this journey by referring to the five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing, which are discussed in this chapter as part of the pilgrimage as a ‘sensational form’. Taking the narratives of Moroccan pilgrims as point of departure, the pilgrimage experience is discussed through its capacity to address the physical senses of pilgrims through which their emotions are evoked. It is demonstrated that although pilgrims often assert that their experience was one ‘beyond words’, by using their senses as a medium of expression, pilgrims try to demonstrate the religious and spiritual connectedness to the holy sites they visited during their pilgrimage, their piety in performing the ritual, and the authenticity of their experience. It is argued that at a personal level, the use of senses in descriptions of the pilgrimage allows individual pilgrims to memorialize the sacred time and space upon return through narrating their embodied experiences of hajj. At a group level, sharing hajj experiences stimulates feelings and emotions for both those who have previously been on hajj and those who have not (yet) visited Mecca.
This chapter explores how pilgrims’ specific positionality informs their appropriation of the Islamic heritage by focusing on the ways the meanings they attribute to their pilgrimage experiences connect to their life stories. To this end, the pilgrimage accounts of two young adult pilgrims from the Netherlands are analysed to ask how age and gender intersect. It is argued that rather than viewing pilgrimage as a fitting conclusion of one’s life trajectory, for these young pilgrims visiting Mecca serves the purpose of preparing them for adult life first and foremost. It is demonstrated how both pilgrims explicitly interpret their pilgrimage experience in terms of overcoming previous biographical hindrances and repositioning themselves as active agents in their social networks and in Dutch society more widely. In particular, it is shown how in line with the main developmental tasks that characterize emergent adulthood, their accounts illustrate a reconsideration of agency and communion and a focus on activities that aim to shift the balance between the two.
In this chapter two hajj travelogues written by Persian princes in the nineteenth century are compared. The two texts are successively introduced by outlining their trajectory, historical context, and major features. The similarities between the two texts will be pointed out by discussing the genre markers of Persian travelogues outlined by Hanaway and the authors’s perceptions and assessments of European culture in the Caucasus and the Ottoman Empire will be discussed, as well as their portrayal of the Sunni-Shiʿi divide. In conclusion, it is argued that both hajj travelogues are typical exponents of Persian travelogues in the nineteenth century and show resembling perceptions but, in some cases, different judgements due to varying personal preferences.
This chapter presents and contextualizes a poem written in the sixteenth century in Aljamiado (Spanish of the sixteenth century rendered with the Arabic alphabet). In this text, written in Spanish coplas, the author describes different aspects of a hajj pilgrimage—likely undertaken at the beginning of the sixteenth century by a Mudejar from Aragon, who travelled from Spain to Mecca. The poem is a statement of the hybrid identity of its author (a traditional Spanish poetic form to express a Muslim message), and a testament to the poet’s (and his community of coreligionists’) resilience, because he remained and sustained his Muslim identity in the face of an administrative policy that had forbidden any and all expressions of Islam in Spain. As such, this was an act of counter hegemony that defied the persecution of Moriscos and Islam in Habsburg Spain. For all Muslims, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca is an achievement, for a Mudejar it was more than that, given the difficulties the Spanish authorities imposed on such travels. And for a Morisco, copying and keeping a manuscript version of this poem hidden at home, was an act of defiance and a form of jihad.
Much of the Shiʿi pilgrimage experience on the hajj is about experiencing, negotiating, and ultimately, pushing up against the Saudi government’s attempt to monopolize definitions and parameters of religious expression. In this auto-ethnographic memoir of his pilgrimages to Mecca as a North American Shiʿi Muslim, the author addresses the following questions: How does one’s experience of the hajj change if you can wall of the Saudi state by plugging in your headphones and listen to a Shiʿi prayer or even a Shiʿi preacher of your own choosing? How does this change, if at all, the minority Muslim’s narrative of being an ‘outsider’ in Mecca, especially given that Shiʿi Muslims have long enjoyed a tenuous relationship not just with the Saudi state but also with other pilgrims? Finally, how does these new technologies have a capacity to change the power relations between Shiʿa pilgrims and Saudi religious authorities in Mecca and what limits are still there on Shiʿi religious performativity through prayer and bodily postures?
This research explores the ways in which young Muslims (18–35 years of age) experience the life-altering event that is hajj and the ways in which information has mediated and shaped their journey. Specifically, the chapter examines the post-hajj phase and the information practices that pilgrims engage in as they make sense of their experience upon return, as they negotiate their new status as ḥajjīs/-as, and as they embrace their membership as part of the global Muslim umma. Adopting the lens of practice theory, the argument focuses on the production of social life through the rich and nuanced dynamics of pilgrims’ everyday life. The chapter sketches the shared practices and routinized behaviours that returning pilgrims engage in as they partake in meaning-making (which includes documenting as a form of remembering), community-maintenance rituals, and building capital through their knowledge brokering activities. The chapter is concluded with an invitation to deepen our reflection on what counts as religious capital in the context of twentyfirst-century pilgrimages.
This chapter explores Arabic pilgrims’ hajj experiences and emotions in the first half of the twentieth century, linking these to central events of that time that had a transformative effect on the hajj and its journey. It draws on a small set of travelogues that circulated in manuscript-form in the anti-colonial and revivalist context of a Moroccan Sufi order in Fes at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as several travel accounts originating in Cairo and dating to the first half of the twentieth century. Through these texts, the chapter explores the diversity of hajj experiences articulated by pilgrims who encountered the new contexts of steam transportation, quarantine and Saudi governance. It ends with a reflection on this variety, and relates it to the role the genre of hajj travelogues might play in preparing pilgrims for particular emotional states and ways of interpreting their experiences of the hajj.
In April–May 1963 the Tajik writer Fazlidddin Muhammadiev, a member of the Communist Party and atheistic propagandist, performed his first and only hajj in the company of 17 Soviet pilgrims. This journey resulted in an autobiographical novel In the other world or a tale of the great hajj (1965) that was republished multiple times as a Soviet best seller in Tajik, Russian, and other languages. It is a unique, detailed, emotional, though sometimes blasphemous, Soviet pilgrim’s account. This paper examines Muhammadiev’s novel in terms of entangled narratives of the pilgrimage from Central Asia to Mecca proposed by Communist propagandists, academic Orientalists, and Soviet Muslim officials in the Cold War period when Islam was partly legalized in post-Stalinist Russia. It shows continuity and ruptures between Orientalist discourses of Islam in late tsarist and Soviet Russia, and sheds light on individual and collective religiosity of post-war Soviet Muslims.
This chapter gives a brief outline of the development of hajj accounts as a generic corpus from the early beginnings in the twelfth century until the mid-twentieth century. It focuses on two main aspects: the connection of hajj accounts with the broader hajj tradition; and the formation of a corpus of hajj accounts in which various strands converged in the course of the eighteenth century. Under the influence of processes of globalization, the Maghribi and eastern-Islamic traditions developed into a dominant form, which was marked by the interaction between two narrative levels, respectively of the journey as a physical undertaking, and the hajj as a ‘signifier’ structuring the religious symbolism of the text. It is argued that in spite of the diversity and dynamic nature of the corpus, these elements remained dominant and provided continuities which connect the early-modern and modern periods. They were the basis of the hajj account as a narrative discourse which persisted into the modern age and can even be found in modern oral accounts of pilgrimage experiences.
In this chapter a hajj journal is analysed written by a Moroccan pilgrim who travelled to Mecca in 1929. Sīdī Muḥammad al-Tawzānī al-Miḍārī was a Sufi shaykh from a small town in northern Morocco. His journal reports in a very detailed way on the mishaps and difficulties of the journey, focusing on illness, inconveniences of travel, food, etc. Although the ultimate experience of the hajj is expressed in positive terms, the account gives a very personal and realistic image of the hajj, through the eyes of a sincerely religious but unpretentious shaykh. It is argued that, although most hajj accounts tend to contain idealizing strategies, it is also not uncommon for pilgrims to tell about the hardships of the hajj and their individual complaints and experiences without embarrassment. Because the diary is a straightforward account without much personal meditations, it gives a vivid and realistic picture of the hajj in the interwar period.