The Hajj

Shadia Alem, 2010

One of the five pillars of Islam central to Muslim belief, Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime if they are able; it is the most spiritual event that a Muslim experiences, observing rituals in the most sacred places in the Islamic world.

From 26 January to 15 April 2012 the British Museum presented a major exhibition, ‘Hajj: journey to the Heart of Islam’, that uniquely charts the history of this deeply personal journey. Beautiful objects, including historical and contemporary art, textiles and manuscripts bring to life the profound spiritual significance of the sacred rituals that have remained unchanged since the Prophet Muhammad’s time in the 7th century AD.

The Hajj virtual project preserves the legacy of ‘Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam’ and presents highlights from the exhibition and other fascinating objects for those who were unable to attend the exhibition, want to revisit some of its star objects, or want to learn more about the Hajj.

The Meaning of Hajj

The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is the fifth pillar of Islam and a religious duty that Muslims should undertake if they are able, at least once in their lives. It is both a collective undertaking and a deeply personal experience.

Read more about the Meaning of Hajj  

The Journey

The Hajj is a journey, physical and spiritual, that pilgrims from the furthest reaches of the Islamic world have made responding to God’s call. Much reflection and preparation is needed for traversing the paths to the heart of Islam.

Read more about the Journey  

Mecca the Blessed

Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. The sanctuary there with the Ka‘ba is the holiest site in Islam. As such, it is a deeply spiritual destination for Muslims all over the world; it is the heart of Islam.

Read more about Mecca the Blessed 

The sacred textiles of Mecca

Adorning the holy sanctuary in Mecca has traditionally been part of the reverence owed to this sacred place. Made from the best materials and inscribed beautifully with verses from the Qur’an and pious expressions, the textiles have become some of the most iconic objects related to the Hajj.

Read more about The sacred textiles of Mecca 

The Rituals of the Hajj

The pilgrimage consists of a series of rites performed in and around Mecca. They are performed between the 8th and the 13th of Dhu al-Hijja – the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar.

Read more about The Rituals of the Hajj  

Medina the Illuminated

After Mecca, Medina is the second holiest site in Islam. Medina is known in Arabic as al-Madina al-Munawarra (the Illuminated City). The Prophet built the first mosque at Medina.

Read more about Medina the Illuminated  


As Hajj is a once in a life time journey, it has inspired many pilgrims to record their experience and preserve the memories of such a momentous event. It has inspired a rich body of poignant narratives from early Islam to the modern day.

Read more about Narratives  

The modern art of Hajj

The Hajj has inspired works of art that reflect the significance of the rituals and the places in which they happen. The impact of these places on the beholder is communicated through striking photography, paintings, and installations.

Read more about the modern art of Hajj  

Blessed Souvenirs

It is part of the Hajj experience that pilgrims spare time to purchase gifts for friends and family. These gifts can count among the most precious and significant items in a Muslim’s home.

Read more about Blessed Souvenirs 

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

The exhibition

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

Find out more about the 2012 exhibition

Islam is to testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; to perform the prayer; to pay the zakat; to fast in Ramadan; and to make the pilgrimage to the House [the Ka‘ba] if you are able to do so.
From the Hadith (the traditions which relate to the life, sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad); Sahih Muslim , Bk. I, Ch. I, no. 1.

Read an introduction to Islam  

Hajj Stories

Hajj stories

The Museum asked people to share their most vivid memory of Hajj or 'Umra. Over 400 people submitted their particular memory, helping the British Museum create a picture of what this journey is like.

Read and watch stories

Explore the Islamic Collection

Pilgrim Flask

There are many Islamic objects to discover online and in the galleries at the Museum.

Collaborative events

The British Museum has been working with a number of partner institutions to create different versions of the British Museum exhibition.

  • The most interesting exhibition I have ever visited. Very beautifully designed it opened my heart and broadened my understanding of the world of my Muslim friends. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.
    Leuka, 24, Czech Republic
  • Words cannot express the feelings experienced when viewing the artefacts and history of this event… a truly innovative, inspirational and heartfelt experience.
    Sherifa, British – West Yorkshire
  • I liked every second of this exhibition. My favourite part was looking at the Ka‘ba curtain. It was a very moving exhibition.
    Umayr, 9, Bangladeshi
  • As a non-Muslim, this was a wonderful opportunity to enter into conversations with followers of Islam and learn more about this extremely important journey. A deeply profound and moving exhibition.
    Sandra, Australia
  • This is the most beautiful exhibition I have visited in my life. Thank you for your contribution to a better mutual understanding of cultures and religions! Your work has been done with a lot of love!
    Zeid, Austria
  • An awe-inspiring and breath-taking exhibition that not only inspires but humbles you. Many thanks for allowing us all the opportunity to gain insight to the beauty of Islam.
    Parveen (42) and family, Britain
  • I came for the second time to this stunning exhibition, drawn in by its inspiring collection full of wonders. I would not have otherwise seen. Had to bring my mom!
    Anjum, 23, London
  • In a time of crisis … and misunderstanding, this exhibition is a beautiful way to bring people together and to make people know more about the beauty of Islam.
    Rebecca, 23, France/Haiti
  • This was a very emotional and moving exhibition and wonderful to see the togetherness that Hajj inspires. I felt delighted to share it with my baby son and the other visitors.
    Magda, 31, Britain
  • I am very grateful to the British Museum for putting on the Hajj exhibition. It is fascinating – although I’ve been to Hajj, I felt I am performing it in the exhibition. Thank you.
    Yasmine, Britain
  • Awesome!! I cannot describe this in words. I felt so blessed to have experienced the Hajj exhibition! I’ll remember it forever!
    Kyoko, 41, Japan
  • As Christians we can’t go to Mecca, thank you British Museum for bringing Mecca to us!
    Emma and Julian

Guest comments from the Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam exhibition