Narratives and Descriptions of the Hajj

Home | Category: The Hajj


Muhammad going to Mecca

According to the British Museum: “The desire to perform Hajj has inspired Muslims since the beginning of Islam. The journey, the sight of the sacred cities and the rituals of the Hajj themselves have moved many pilgrims to record their experiences. In this section we highlight some of these accounts and also consider three important photographers of the Hajj. Coming from different parts of the world and from different moments in time, their accounts and documentation provide unique perspectives on the unique phenomenon of the Hajj. [Source: British Museum =]

Pilgrims from the Islamic lands highlights five prominent Muslim travellers: the famous Andalucian Ibn Jubayr (1183); the Ottoman cavalryman Evliya Çelebi (d.1685); the Ottoman judge Mehmed Edib (1779) and Nawab Sikander, the Begum of Bhopal (1864) =

Pilgrims from Europe considers the accounts of five interesting Europeans. The Italian traveller Ludovico di Varthema (1503); Joseph Pitts (1680) the sailor from Exeter captured by Barbary pirates; Sir Richard Burton (1853) who went in disguise, and two British Muslims, the intrepid Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1933) and the explorer and writer Harry St John Philby(1931) =

Photographers of the Hajj focuses on three important 19th century pioneers who between them photographed the holy cities, pilgrims and the rituals of Hajj: The Egyptian Muhammad Sadiq Bey (1880), the Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1884) and the Meccan doctor al-Sayyid ‘Abd al-Ghaffar =

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; ; Islamic City ; BBC article ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam ; Islam at Project Gutenberg ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary frontline

Early Narratives of the Hajj

Ibn Jubayr performed the Hajj in 1183. “The Travels (Rihla) of Ibn Jubayr” reads: “As we marched that night, the full moon had thrown its rays upon the earth, the night had lifted its veil, voices struck the ears with cries of “Here I am O God, here I am” from all sides. R.J.C. Broadhurst (transl.) The travels of Ibn Jubayr (London 1952, reprint 2004) p. 75


According to the British Museum: Ibn Jubayr (d. 1217) was from Andalucia in Spain. His is the earliest first-hand account of the Hajj experience and the most important before the 19th century. He began his journey from Ceuta on 3rd February 1183. On reaching Egypt, he travelled up the Nile to Qus and then across the desert to ‘Aidhab. This route avoided passing through the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Ibn Jubayr arrived in Mecca on the 4th August. His detailed account provides a wealth of information about Mecca and the rituals of Hajj including important information on the textiles that covered the Ka‘ba. Illustrated here is the earliest known copy of Ibn Jubayr’s Rihla and held in Leiden University Library. It is copied in Mecca by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Qurashi in Maghribi script. Ibn Jubayr’s text was extensively used by the other famous traveller who went on Hajj, Ibn Battuta (d. 1368). [Source: British Museum =]

Evliya Çelebi (1611–85) performed Hajj in 1672. He wrote: “On the 20th of shawwal in the year 1081 [1672] ... we departed Damascus in grand procession. Day by day pilgrims kept coming from all directions, until the reckoning of tents and marquees stood at 6,300. For this was the Greatest Hajj and only God knows how many were there. [Source: R. Dankoff and S. Kim, An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi (London 2010) p. 341]

Evliya Çelebi was an Ottoman cavalryman born into a wealthy family. From 1640 onwards, he travelled extensively around the Ottoman Empire and further afield on horseback. In February 1671, Çelebi had a dream in which the Prophet Muhammad told him to perform Hajj. He set off for Mecca in May 1671, travelled along the coast, through Syria to Jerusalem, and doubled back to join the Hajj caravan in Damascus. Before reaching Mecca, Çelebi recounted that when they first sighted Medina, the caravan’s animals regained their strength and headed towards the town at great speed. Çelebi was so overcome with emotion when he prayed at the Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina that he nearly fainted. After performing Hajj, he returned to Cairo with the Egyptian Hajj caravan. The notes from all his journeys formed his ten volume work called the Seyahatname – the Book of Travels =

Hajj Pilgrims in 18th and 19th Centuries

According to the British Museum: Mehmed Edib performed Hajj in 1790. He was an Ottoman judge from Crete who went on Hajj in 1779. His narrative — “The Joy of Stopping-Places” — contains a detailed description of his journey, about the landscapes he sees and including a wealth of information about the construction of forts and other buildings along the Syrian Hajj route. Between the sites of Hadiyya and Nakhlatayn for example he mentions a rock known as ‘the rock of salutation’ which was reported to have greeted the Prophet Muhammad on his journey through this area. [Source: translation from Turkish is M. Bianchi, Itinéraire de Constantinople a' la Mecque. (Paris 1825) and extensively quoted in A. Petersen, The Medieval and Ottoman Hajj Route in Jordan: an Archaeological and Historical Study. (Levant Supplementary Series 12 2012), British Museum =]

Guru Nanak Dev Ji (the founder of Sikhism) at Mecca

Nawab Sikander, Begum of Bhopal performed Hajj in 1864. In “Pilgrimage to Mecca,” he wrote: “The hour of my arrival at Mecca was the Isha, and the call to evening prayers was sounding from the different mosques. I entered within the holy precincts by the Bab-us-salam, and, arriving at the house of Abraham, I stood and read the prescribed prayers. [Source: Nawab Sikander, A Pilgrimage to Mecca, Calcutta 1870, pp. 74ff =]

Nawab Sikander (r. 1844–68) was the ruler of the Indian Princely State of Bhopal and performed the Hajj in 1864. She travelled to Bombay by train, and went by steamship to Jedda with a vast quantity of luggage and gifts. The Begum’s pilgrimage account, which she dedicated to Queen Victoria, reflected her forceful character and intelligence. The royal party faced several difficulties. On the journey she recounts: ‘ Nine people in my suite were attacked with various complaints, such as dysentery, fever and tumours of the leg. On the pilgrimage I lost eight altogether, four of whom died on board ship and four at Mecca and Jeddah.’ She also notes how chests of money destined for Mecca and Medina were broken into at the docks in Jedda. When the Begum was performing the Hajj rituals, many pilgrims asked her for gifts, as news of her generosity had spread throughout Mecca. At a dinner hosted by the Sharif of Mecca, the Begum criticised the corruption of the Ottoman Hajj administration and the unsafe roads, where bandits attacked pilgrims. Despite her experiences, the Begum remained deeply committed to the Hajj. She sponsored her subjects to go on Hajj, and funded mosques and hostels for them in Mecca and Medina =

Early European Witnesses of the Hajj

Ludovico di Varthema pf Bologna, Italy witnessed Hajj in 1503. He wrote: “On the 18th of May we entered into the said city of Mecca ; we entered from the north, and afterwards we descended into the plain. On the side towards the south there are two mountains which almost touch each other, where is the pass to go to the gate of Mecca. On the other side, where the sun rises, there is another mountain pass, like a valley, through which is the road to the mountain where they celebrate the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac, which mountain is distant from the said city about eight or ten miles. The height of this mountain is two or three casts of a stone by hand, and it is of some kind of stone, not marble, but of another colour. On the top of this said mountain there is a mosque according to their custom, which has three doors. At the foot of the said mountain there are two very beautiful reservoirs of water. One is for the caravan from Cairo, and the other for the caravan from Damascus. [Source: “The Itinerary of Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna” (Transl. J. W. Jones. London 1928)

Burton drawing of 19th century Hajj pilgrims

According to the British Museum: “Ludovico di Varthema (1470?–1517) was the first non-Muslim European to visit Mecca and witness the Hajj. He left Europe in 1502, travelling to Syria via Egypt. Adopting the name Yunas, he enrolled in the Mamluk garrison in Damascus. From April to June 1503 he accompanied the Syrian Hajj caravan to Mecca as part of the military escort. Once at Mecca he made careful observations of the city, describing it as ‘most beautiful, well inhabited with about six thousand families’. His descriptions, particularly of the rituals of Mecca, are remarkably accurate. He did affirm however, that there were two unicorns within the sanctuary, a gift from the King of Ethiopia to the ‘Sultan’ of Mecca and ‘the finest things that could be found in the world at the present day’. These were probably onyxes.” [Source: British Museum =]

Joseph Pitts (1663 –1735) performed Hajj in 1680. Hewrote in “A True and Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans” (Royal Geographic Society): “The Beat-Allah (Bayt Allah, the House of God or The Ka‘ba), which stands in the middle of the Temple, is Four-square, about twenty four Paces each Square, and nearly four Foot in Height. ‘Tis built with great Stone, all smooth and plain, without the least bit of carv’d Work on it. ‘Tis covered all over from top to bottom, with a sort of Silk....The top of the Beat is flat, beaten with Lime and Sand; and there is a long Gutter or Spout, so carry off the Water when it rains; at which time the people will run, throng, and struggle, to get under the said Gutter, that so the Water that comes off the Beat may fall upon them, accounting it as the Dew of Heaven, and looking on it as of great Happiness to have it drop upon them. [Source: P.Auchterlonie 2012. Encountering Islam. Joseph Pitts: an English Slave in 17th-century Algiers and Mecca. London 2012, pp. 190-191]

According to the British Museum: Joseph Pitts. “a sailor from Exeter, wrote the first English account of Mecca and the Hajj in 1704. At the age of 17 he was captured by Algerian pirates off the Spanish coast and was sold at auction in Algiers and forcibly converted to Islam. His third owner treated him well and took him on Hajj in 1680 A keen observer, Pitts described how Mecca was a centre of trade for precious stones, Chinese porcelain and musk. He was impressed with Muslims’ devotion to their faith. At Arafat, he was incredibly moved: ‘It was a sight indeed, able to pierce one’s heart, to behold so many thousands of Muslims in their garments of humility and mortification, with their naked heads, and cheeks watered with tears.’ While in Mecca Pitts was freed, but he remained a paid servant until 1693.

Richard Burton in Mecca

Arguably, the most colorful explorer since the time of Pizarro and Cortés was a Victoria-era Englishman named Richard Burton (1821-1890). The most famous explorer of his time, he was a pioneering anthropologist who spoke 25 languages and 15 dialects, including the Afghan dialect of Jataki, and filled 43 volumes with observations about customs and natural phenomena and his adventures. [Source: Michael Kernan, Smithsonian]

Sir Richard Burton was one of the first westerners to witness the Hajj. He donned Arab robes, stained his skin with walnut juice and pretended he was a Pathan doctor, treating his patients with "magic nostrums, incantations, aphrodisiacs and hypnosis." He contracted syphilis and his three volume chronicle of his experiences was a bestseller.

Richard Burton in 1864

Burton’s account of his pilgrimage to Mecca made him famous. Ben MacIntyre wrote in the New York Times: “He adopted Muslim customs and Islamic ritual so perfectly that he was able to complete the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1853 undetected, having completed his disguise by the radical precaution of having himself circumcised.” [Source: Ben MacIntyre, New York Times, May 10, 2009]

According to the British Museum: “Sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society, disguised as an Afghan doctor, Burton accompanied the Egyptian Hajj caravan in 1853. As a soldier in India between 1842 and 1853, Burton learnt several languages including Arabic and developed a love of Islamic culture. His monumental work A Pilgrimage to Meccah, and Medinah is the most famous account of Hajj performed by a European in disguise. It was an immediate best-seller, confirming Sir Richard Burton’s status as one of the great explorers of the Victorian era. Burton bought this metal flask in Mecca in 1853. Burton’s wife Isobel donated the flask to the British Museum after her husband’s death in 1890. [Source: British Museum =]

On his arrival in Mecca, Burton wrote: “There at last it lay, the bourn of my long and weary Pilgrimage, realising the plans and hopes of many and many a year. The mirage medium of Fancy invested the huge catafalque and its gloomy pall with peculiar charms. … The view was strange, unique – and how few have looked upon the celebrated shrine! I may truly say that, of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain, or who pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment a deeper emotion than did the Haji from the far-north. It was as if the poetical legends of the Arab spoke the truth, and that the waving wings of angels, not the sweet breeze of morning, were agitating and swelling the black covering of the shrine. But, to confess the humbling truth, theirs was the high feeling of religious enthusiasm, mine was the ecstasy of gratified pride.” [Source: Burton R. Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage Meccah and Medinah. (2 vols). (London 1855–6, vol. 2, p. 161)]

At the Kaaba he wrote: "What a scene of contrasts! Here stalked the Badawi woman, in her long black robe like a nun's serge, and poppy-coloured face-veil, pierced to show two fiercely flashing orbs. There an Indian woman, with her semi-Tartar features, nakedly hideous, and her thin legs, encased in wrinkled tights...Every now and then a corpse, borne upon its wooden shell, circuited the shrine by means of four bearers...In another, some poor wretch with arms thrown on high, so every part of his person might touch the Ka'abah, was clinging to the curtain and sobbing as though his heart would break." Had he been identified he would have been killed.

Richard Burton’s Pilgrimage to Mecca, 1853

Burton dressed in Arab clothes

Sir Richard Francis Burton wrote in “A Pilgrimage to Mecca, 1853": “Having resolved to perform the Mecca pilgrimage, I spent a few months at Cairo, and on the 22d of May embarked in a small steamer at Suez with the mahmil, or litter, and its military escort, conveying the kiswah, or covering for the kabah. On the 25th the man at the wheel informed us that we were about to pass the village of Rabikh, on the Arabian coast, and that the time had consequently arrived for changing our usual habiliments for the ihram, or pilgrim-costume of two towels, and for taking the various interdictory vows involved in its assumption: such as not to tie knots in any portion of our dress, not to oil the body, and not to cut our nails or hair, nor to improve the tints of the latter with the coppery hue of henna. Transgression of these and other ceremonial exactments is expiated either by animal sacrifice, or gifts of fruit or cereals to the poor. [Source: Eva March Tappan, ed., Egypt, Africa, and Arabia, Vol. III in The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song, and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), pp. 537-542, Internet Islamic History Sourcebook,]

“After a complete ablution and assuming the ihram, we performed two prayer-flections, and recited the meritorious sentences beginning with the words, "Labbaik Allah, huma labbaik!" "Here I am, O God, here I am! Here I am, O Unassociated One, here I am, for unto You belong praise, grace, and empire, O Unassociated One!" This prayer was repeated so often, people not unfrequently rushing up to their friends and shrieking the sacred sentence into their ears, that at last it became a signal for merriment rather than an indication of piety.

“On the 26th we reached Jeddah, where the utter sterility of Arabia, with its dunes and rocky hills, becomes apparent. The town, however, viewed from the sea, is not unpicturesque. Many European vessels were at anchor off the coast: and as we entered the port, innumerable small fishing boats darting in all directions, their sails no longer white, but emerald green from the intense luster of the water, crowded around us on all sides, and reminded one by their dazzling colors and rapidity of motion of the shoals of porpoises so often seen on a voyage round the Cape.

“On disembarking we were accosted by several mutawwafs, or circuit-men, so termed in Arabic, because, besides serving as religious guides in general, their special duty is to lead the pilgrim in his seven obligatory circuits around the Kabah. We encamped outside the town, and having visited the tomb of "our Mother Eve," mounted our camels for Mecca.

“After a journey of twenty hours across the Desert, we passed the barriers which mark the outermost limit of the sacred city, and ascending some giant steps, pitched our tents on a plain, or rather plateau, surrounded by barren rock, some of which, distant, but a few yards, mask from view the birthplace of the Prophet. It was midnight; a few drops of rain were falling, and lightning played around us. Day after day we had watched its brightness from the sea, and many a faithful haji had pointed out to his companions those fires which were Heaven's witness to the sanctity of the spot. "Alhamdu Lillah!" Thanks be to God! we were now at length to gaze upon the Kiblah, to which every Mussulman has turned in prayer since before the days of Muhammed, and which, for long ages before the birth of Christianity was reverenced by the Patriarchs of the East. Soon after dawn arose from our midst the shout of "Labbaik! Labbaik!" and passing between the rocks, we found ourselves in the main street of Mecca, and approached the "Gateway of Salvation," one of the thirty-nine portals of the "Temple of Salvation."

Burton drawing of the hairstyles of Hajj pilgrims

“On crossing the threshold we entered a vast unroofed quadrangle, a mighty amplification of the Palais Royal, having on each side of its four sides a broad colonnade, divided into three aisles by a multitude of slender columns, and rising to the height of about thirty feet. Surmounting each arch of the colonnade is a small dome: in all there are a hundred and twenty, and at different points arise seven minarets, dating from various epochs, and of somewhat varying altitudes and architecture. The numerous pigeons which have their home within the temple have been believed never to alight upon any portion of its roof, thus miraculously testifying to the holiness of the building. This marvel, however, of late years having been suspended, many discern another omen of the approach of the long-predicted period when unbelievers shall desecrate the hallowed soil.

“In the center of the square area rises the far-famed Kabah, the funereal shade of which contrasts vividly with the sunlit walls and precipices of the town. It is a cubical structure of massive stone, the upper two-thirds of which are mantled by a black cloth embroidered with silver, and the lower portion hung with white linen. At a distance of several yards it is surrounded by a balustrade provided with lamps, which are lighted in the evening, and the space thus enclosed is the circuit ground along which, day and night, crowds of pilgrims, performing the circular ceremony of Tawaf, realize the idea of perpetual motion. We at once advanced to the black stone embedded in the angle of the Kabah, kissed it, and exclaimed "Bismillah wa Allahu Akbar," — "In God's name, and God is Greatest." Then we commenced the usual seven rounds, three at a walking pace, and four at a brisk trot. Next followed two prayer-flections at the tomb of Abraham, after which we drank of the water of Zamzam, said to be the same which quenched the thirst of Hagar's exhausted son.

“Besides the Kabah, eight minor structures adorn the quadrangle, the well of Zamzam, the library, the clockroom, the triangular staircase, and four ornamental resting-places for the orthodox sects of Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki, and Hanbali. We terminated our morning duties by walking and running seven times along the streets of Safa and Marwa, so named from the flight of seven steps at each of its extremities. After a few days spent in visiting various places of interest, such as the slave-market and forts, and the houses of the Prophet and the Caliphs Ali and Abu bakr, we started on our six hours' journey to the mountain of Arifat, an hour's sojourn at which, even in a state of insensibility, confers the rank of haji. It is a mountain spur of about a hundred and fifty feet in height, presenting an artificial appearance from the wall encircling it and the terrace on its slope, from which the iman delivers a sermon before the departure of his congregation for Mecca. His auditors were, indeed, numerous, their tents being scattered over two or three miles of the country. A great number of their inmates were fellow-subjects of ours from India [Burton posed as a native Afghan]. I surprised some of my Mecca friends by informing them that Queen Victoria numbers among twenty millions of Muhammadans among her subjects.

“On the 5th of June, at sunset, commencing our return, we slept at the village of Muzdalifah, and there gathered and washed seven pebbles of the size of peas, to be flung at three piles of whitewashed masonry known as the Satans of Muna. We acquitted ourselves satisfactorily of this duty on the festival of the 6th of June, the 10th day of the Arabian month Zu'lhijah. Each of us then sacrificed a sheep, had his hair and nails cut, exchanged the ikram for his best apparel, and embracing his friends, paid them the compliments of the season. The two following days the Great, the Middle, and the Little Satan were again pelted, and, bequeathing to the unfortunate inhabitants of Muna the unburied and odorous remains of nearly a hundred thousand animals, we returned, eighty thousand strong, to Mecca. A week later, having helped to insult the tumulus of stones which marks, according to popular belief, the burial place of Abulahab, the unbeliever, who we learn from the Qur’an, has descended into hell with his wife, gatherer of sticks, I was not sorry to relinquish a shade temperature of 120 degrees and wend my way to Jeddah en route for England, after delegating to my brethren the recital of a prayer in my behalf at the Tomb of the Prophet in Medina.”

Lady Evelyn Cobbold and Harry St. John Philby on the Hajj

Harry St John Philby

Lady Evelyn Cobbold, (1867 –1963) was the first British woman. She wrote: “We walk on the smooth marble towards the Holy of Holies, the House of Allah, the great black cube rising in simple majesty, the goal for which millions have forfeited their lives and yet more millions have found heaven in beholding it … the ‘Tawaf’ is a symbol, to use the words of the poet , of a lover making a circuit round the house of his beloved, completely surrendering himself and sacrificing all his interests for the sake of the Beloved. It is in that spirit of self-surrender that the pilgrim makes the ‘Tawaf’. [Source: Lady Evelyn Cobbold, “Pilgrimage to Mecca” (London 1934, reprinted 2008, p. 183

At the age of 65 Lady Evelyn Cobbold traveled to Jedda via Cairo. In a letter dated 14 March 1933 Lady Cobbold told her grandson Toby Sladen: ‘I have now got permission from the king [‘Abd al-‘Aziz] to do my pilgrimage – I will be the first European woman to enter the Sacred Cities.’ According to the British Museum: “Once King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Sa‘ud granted his permission, Lady Cobbold travelled to Medina to visit the Prophet’s tomb and then arrived in Mecca to perform Hajj on 26 March 1933. Her pilgrimage account, published in 1934, received favourable reviews in most British newspapers and periodicals. Unlike other authors of Hajj accounts, she was able to describe women’s life in the holy cities. As a child, Lady Evelyn spent the winters in North Africa. While she never formally converted to Islam, it is clear from her papers that she considered herself a Muslim by 1914 and adopted the name Zainab. She later wrote that she did not know ‘the precise moment when the truth of Islam dawned on me. It seems that I have always been a Moslem.’ Her stay in Mecca was organised for her by St. John Philby.

Harry St. John Philby, father of the Cambridge spy Kim Philby, performed the Hajj in 1931. He wrote: “To enter the Ka‘ba is the ambition of every Muslim…and the opportunity came to me in a manner absolutely unique’. It is a great honour to participate in this ritual, which still takes place today, and foreign dignitaries are often invited. The ceremony re-enacts a tradition begun by the Prophet Muhammad, and is an act of deep respect. [Source: Harry St John Philby, A Pilgrim in Arabia (London 1946)]

According to the British Museum: Harry St. John Philby converted to Islam in 1930. In A Pilgrim in Arabia he describes his experience of Hajj in 1931, giving detailed descriptions of Hajj rituals and life in Mecca and Medina In 1933 King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz invited Harry St. John Philby to take part in the ceremonial cleaning of the interior of the Ka‘ba. The Ka‘ba is cleaned with water from the Zamzam well and perfumed with incense, before a new textile covering for the Ka‘ba is laid. Philby was first a British official in India and the Middle East, then a businessman in Jedda. He was a prolific writer and explorer of the Arabian Peninsula and author of numerous publications [Source: British Museum =]

Malcolm X’s Hajj, 1964

This letter was written by Malcolm X in April of 1964 during his pilgrimage to the Holy City of Makkah (Mecca): “Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors. /~/

“I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca. I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad. I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat. /~/

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white. /~/

“America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered 'white' — but the 'white' attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color. /~/

Malcolm X after returning from the Hajj in 1964

“You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth. /~/

“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept in the same bed (or on the same rug) — while praying to the same God — with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions in the deeds of the 'white' Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana. /~/

“We were truly all the same (brothers) — because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude. /~/

“I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man — and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their 'differences' in color. /~/

“With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called 'Christian' white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster — the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves. /~/

“Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities — he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth — the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to. /~/

“Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a 'white' man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed...Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors — honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King — not a Negro. /~/

“All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
(Malcolm X)

Height of the Hajj, 2017

at the pillar on top of Mt Arafat

Reporting from Mount Arafat, outside Mecca, Omar Akour and Ahmed Hatem of Associated Press wrote: “With their palms facing the sky in supplication, and many with tears in their eyes, around 2 million people from around the world gathered Thursday in an effort to start anew, erase past sins and beg God for forgiveness and guidance in the peak day of the hajj pilgrimage. From dawn until dusk, the massive crowd of people will be gathered here in Mount Arafat to spend the day in supplication and contemplation. It is here, on this mountain surrounded by desert, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon more than 1,400 years ago. "We hope that Allah will forgive our sins, and we hope to have a new start with our God," said Khaled Ahmed, a 47-year-old pilgrim from Egypt. [Source: Omar Akour and Ahmed Hatem, Associated Press, August 31, 2017 ^]

“The large crowds gathered from more than 160 countries around the world, dressed in nearly identical white garments, are meant to symbolize unity among Muslims, humility and equality before God. The rich and poor among men are to dress the same while performing the rites of hajj. Noura Sulieman, a pilgrim from the Philippines, said she'd been to the hajj many times before and was here again to pray for her family. "I came here to Arafat to pray for my family, for my daughter, and my son, and all my family, and all the Philippines Muslims, and all Muslims in all countries," she said. "God willing, Allah will accept our pilgrimage."^

“The movement of such a large and diverse crowd of people in a short period of time in limited spaces is a logistical challenge for the Saudi government. Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 security forces to secure the hajj and assist pilgrims. Additional doctors, nurses, ambulances and mobile health centers are also deployed in the areas of hajj.Many begin their pilgrimage by traveling to Medina, the site of both the Prophet Muhammad's first mosque and where he is buried. ^

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art,, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.