Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam is the first major exhibition dedicated to the Hajj; the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is central to the Muslim faith. The exhibition will examine the significance of the Hajj as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, exploring its importance for Muslims and looking at how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history. It will bring together a wealth of objects from a number of different collections including important historic pieces as well as new contemporary art works which reveal the enduring impact of Hajj across the globe and across the centuries. The exhibition which has been organised in partnership with the King Abdulaziz Public Library Riyadh will examine three key strands: the pilgrim’s journey with an emphasis on the major routes used across time (from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East); the Hajj today, its associated rituals and what the experience means to the pilgrim; and Mecca, the destination of Hajj, its origins and importance.
It is laid down in the Qur’an that it is a sacred duty for Muslims everywhere, if they are able, to make the journey to Mecca at least once in their lives. This pilgrimage takes place during the last month of the Islamic year, known as Dhu’l Hijja. At the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca lies the Ka’ba, the cube-shaped building that Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. It was in Mecca that the Prophet Muhammad received the first revelations in the early 7th century. Therefore the city has long been viewed as a spiritual centre and the heart of Islam. The rituals involved with Hajj have remained unchanged since its beginning, and it continues to be a powerful religious undertaking which draws Muslims together from all over the world, irrespective of nationality or sect. .
A wide variety of objects will be lent to the exhibition. Loans include significant material from Saudi Arabia including a seetanah which covers the door of the Ka’ba as well as other historic and contemporary artefacts from key museums in the Kingdom. Other objects have come from major public and private collections in the UK and around the world, among them the British Library and the Khalili Family Trust. Together these objects will evoke and document the long and perilous journey associated with the pilgrimage, gifts offered to the sanctuary as acts of devotion and the souvenirs that are brought back from Hajj. They include archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles, historic photographs and contemporary art. The Hajj has a deep emotional and spiritual significance for Muslims, and continues to inspire a wide range of personal, literary and artistic responses, many of which will be explored throughout the exhibition.
This exhibition concludes the British Museum’s series of three exhibitions focused on spiritual journeys.
Until 15 April 2012 at the British Museum.
The Hajj stories videos – The British Museum has been asking for memories of Hajj or Umrah to create a picture of what this journey is like.
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.
RMW Special Presentation: A Behind the Scenes look at The British Museum’s upcoming “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” exhibition.
Video from Financial Times
Hajj exhibit in London opens
The largest ever exhibition on Hajj in the west, entitled “Journey to the heart of Islam” was officially opened at the British Museum by Prince Charles and Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdulla deputy minister of foreign affairs in Saudi Arabia.
King Abdulaziz public library a major contributor to the Hajj exhibition painstakingly gathered other treasures from public and private collection from the UK, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world to display over 250 remarkable items.
Prince Charles emphasized the spiritual aspect of this trip made by 3 million Muslims to Makkah every year and paid special tribute to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdulla bin Abdulaziz on the hospitality to pilgrims in providing all facilities to them.
Beautiful relics, including historical and contemporary art, textiles and manuscripts bring to life the profound significance of the Hajj, the pilgrimage that has remained unchanged since the prophet Mohamed’s time in the seventh century.
The exhibition traces some of the main routes Muslims have followed over the centuries to get to Makkah, including from Kufa, Cairo and Damascus, and seeks to explain some of the rituals associated with the Hajj.
It features recorded accounts of what the journey meant to Muslims around the world and includes loaned items from Saudi Arabia such as a “sitara” which covers the door of the Ka’ba.
Among the artifacts on display is a “Mahmal”, one of the ceremonial curtained transports in which the Sultans were carried from Cairo to Makkah, and a copy of the holy Qur’an from the eighth century.
Also on show is “Milestone”, one of the stone slabs once used by pilgrims in Iraq to mark their route to Makkah, so they could find their way home.
“Magnetism”, a minimalist piece of art by Saudi artist Ahmed Mater of the Ka’ba, adds a modern touch.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdulla deputy foreign minister and member of the board of King Abdulaziz public library expressed how proud Saudi Arabia is to participate in this event since it host the largest annual gathering for peace , goodness and devotion to God the creator.
The Hajj exhibition offers the opportunity to hear both contemporary and historic pilgrim’s experiences and the chance to Muslims and non-Muslims alike to see and understand this spiritual journey that is part of the Muslim faith.
Prince Mohamed bin Nawaf the Saudi ambassador in London pointed out that Hajj exhibition is an expression of peace, unity and harmony among all men and women from different ages and countries.
“Hajj … Journey to heart of Islam” will run till the 15th of April.
Text by Mostapha Zarou, Al Arabiya