Preparing for the Journey

Indonesian pilgrims preparing for Hajj

Indonesian pilgrims preparing for Hajj. Annabel Gallop, 2012

One blessed night... I dreamed that I saw the Holy Prophet in person... he raised his veil, revealing his beauteous countenance, smiled, and said “My intercession and my travel and my pilgrimage, may God give you health and well-being."
Evliya Çelebi (1611–85)

Pilgrims often feel called to go on Hajj and in the Islamic tradition pilgrims to Mecca consider themselves to be guests of God. Sometimes this invitation comes in the form of a dream. Pilgrims respond to God’s call by laying aside all other preoccupations in their daily lives. Before embarking on Hajj, pilgrims must settle all debts, make provision for any dependents and ask forgiveness from others.

Interior of a London travel agent that specialises in Hajj packages

Interior of a London travel agent that specialises in Hajj packages, 2010.

'Please forgive me if I have done you wrong. I am going on Hajj.'

'Please forgive me if I have done you wrong. I am going on Hajj.' Newsha Tavakolian

Guide to the rituals of Hajj (c. 1420-25)

Guide to the rituals of Hajj (about 1420-25)

Leiden University Library, Or. 458

This guide to the rituals of Hajj (manasik) according to the four schools of Islamic law, (Hanafi, Shafi‘i, Hanbali and Maliki) was dedicated to the Mamluk Sultan al-Mu’ayyad (ruled 1412 – 21) and later owned by the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt Jaqmaq Abu Sa‘id (ruled 1438 – 53), whose name appears in the illumination. Known for his piety, he commissioned charitable works across Egypt, Syria and in the holy cities. The purpose of the book was to provide guidance on how to perform the rituals of Hajj correctly.

A modern guide to Hajj

A modern guide to Hajj

British Museum

Modern guide books known as manasik are an important tool to help the pilgrim understand the Hajj and the meaning behind its rituals. A pilgrim will study a guide before departure but will also refer to the text during Hajj. This example describes the stages of Hajj in detail and the prayers to be recited at each stop. Its format means that it can be carried conveniently round the neck.

Prayer book (2006)

Prayer book (2006)

British Museum

Pilgrims often take a volume of prayers with them to Mecca. These books contain prayers taken from the Qur’an and sayings from the Prophet Muhammad. These collections help pilgrims express their thoughts and feelings and to structure their prayers in order to achieve the most spiritual blessings (baraka) whilst on Hajj.

Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council