Modern Narratives

British Muslim experiences of Hajj

Every year up to 25,000 Muslims travel from the UK to perform Hajj. You can listen to some of their voices here. During October and November 2011, 40 interviews were conducted with British Muslims in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Leeds and Greater Manchester. Interviewees included pilgrims, tour operators, tour guides, Islamic scholars and pilgrim welfare organisations. The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and conducted for this exhibition by researchers at the University of Leeds. The interviews highlight the circumstances of and preparation for Hajj, the significance of performing the rituals and what it means to be a ‘Hajji’. A dedicated online exhibition exploring British Muslim experiences of the Hajj in 30 digital images and related audio clips is hosted by the University of Leeds. It was made possible by the British Academy which awarded a Mid Career Fellowship to Dr Seán McLoughlin, 2013–2014.

Dr Seán McLoughlin interviews

Dr Seán McLoughlin interviews a British Muslim pilgrim, Mr Mogradia, in Bolton. Picture courtesy of the Council of British Hajjis.

Research conducted by Dr Seán McLoughlin, Theology and Religious Studies, School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science, University of Leeds. Assisted by Rabiha Hanan, Dr Muzamil Khan, Dr Asma Mustafa and Dr Jasjit Singh.

Further information:
University of Leeds website 

Saleena's Story

The diary of Saleena Nurmohamed

The diary of Saleena Nurmohamed. Dr & Mrs Nurmohamed

Saleena and Hannah Nurmohamed in front of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina

Saleena and Hannah Nurmohamed in front of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. Dr & Mrs Nurmohamed

The 10-year old girl’s diary moved me the most. It made the experience so real having read the history of the Hajj before it. Thank you for making a very special day trip to London even more memorable.
Cathy, 35, Northhampton (from the exhibition’s guest books)

From Ibn Jubayr, Evliya Çelebi, Nawab Sikander and Lady Evelyn Cobbold, to Saleena Nurmohamed.

This is the diary of Saleena Nurmohamed, who undertook the Hajj in 2006, at the age of ten. In 2006 the Hajj fell on a Friday, and was therefore known as al-Hajj al-Akbar (the Great Hajj). The journal, illustrated with photographs taken during her trip, is a touching account of the physical and spiritual journey of a young pilgrim.

She writes: "I made my way inside cautiously, not wanting to set my eyes on the Ka‘ba (House of God) until I was able to get a clear and unobstructed view, in order to properly savour the moment. I also wanted to pray for three things dear to me as prayers get granted when you first cast your eyes on the Ka‘ba. Words cannot describe the emotions that are created when one looks at the Ka‘ba, such a simple object structurally yet so majestic and awe-inspiring that it is difficult to take your eyes off it. After emotionally gathering myself, I started my Pilgrimage..."

The poignant words of Saleena continue the Hajj stories told in distant times; they also echo the feelings of many Muslims who undertake this journey of a life-time today.

Hajj Stories

Hajj Stories

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

Read and watch stories 

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council