Haji, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is regarded as a religious duty to all Muslim that they should undertake at least once in their lives if possible. The ritual, which takes place at Mecca and its vicinity spans over five to six days, can be traced back to 2000BC to the time of Abraham (Ibrahim) (source).
Since then, more than three million pilgrims from all over the world make the journey every year. Often, it is a journey of self discovery, an experience which profoundness can be felt listening to pilgrims' interviews at the end of the Haji: Journey to the Heart of Islam exhibition currently held at British Museum till 15 April.
The exhibition, divided into ten main sections, features the process of preparing for Haji, the rituals of Haji and the main routes to Mecca from Kufa, Cairo, Damascus and Jedda. Also included are decades old videos footages of past journeys made by pilgrims from India and Southeast Asia.
From the circling of Ka'ba in Tawaf, drinking from the well of Zamzam, the self reflection at Wuquf, gathering of pebbles at Muzdalifa and stoning of jamarat in Mina, and finally the Eid al-Adha, ritual cleansing and animal sacrifice, the Haji exhibition covers it all. Other than that, what stood out for me is the seven minute short film with narrated excepts from IMAX's Journey to Mecca. The short clip really brings the exhibition to life.
Like many religious rituals, Haji isn't spared by consumerism. A display case towards the end of the exhibition laid out the extensive souvenirs from Haji that pilgrims bring back to their loved ones. Cups, keychains, bowls, Zamzam water container and even hats, just to name a few.
Haji: Jouney to the Heart of Islam might not thrill those who are already familiar with the religious ritual. For the rest of us, we can count on it to be a brilliant introduction. Cater at least two hours for this if you plan to go through every display.
Book your tickets here.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Haji: Journey to the Heart of Islam exhibition (British Museum)