Read, Watch and Listen

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Community, Equality and Difference

Having performed the Makkan rites, pilgrims leave their hotels and travel several kilometres into the valley of Mina. Here they camp overnight in a vast tented city. British-Muslims describe increased opportunities for interactions, both within their own groups and with pilgrims from across the world. They relate sublime and everyday moments when social divisions are dissolved and the idea of a united Muslim ummah (community) emerges. Yet, at other times, differences of class, gender, ethnicity and denomination also remain apparent.

© Simon Martin, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

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Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat

The zenith of the Hajj occurs on the plain of ‘Arafat beyond Mina. Here Adam met again with Eve after the Fall, and many pilgrims turn inwards to repent on Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) where Muhammad gave his farewell sermon. As shown here, pilgrims stand in congregation (wuquf), fervently supplicating from noon until sunset. In their shroud-like ihrams, British-Muslims say that this also rehearses the Day of Judgement. Hajj is indeed a journey from sinfulness to purification.

© Simon Martin, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

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Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars

Having collected pebbles at Muzdalifa overnight, pilgrims stone three jamarat (pillars) back at Mina. This cathartic ritual commemorates Ibrahim's physical actions in rejecting Satan's attempts to test him. In the 1970s a jamarat bridge was constructed to convey pilgrims to the pillars, a site notorious for stampedes. In 2004 the pillars were replaced by huge walls. However, as this photograph shows, following 300 deaths in 2006, an entirely new bridge and multi-storey system was introduced. British-Muslims report feeling much safer.

© Simon Martin Photography, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

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From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha

Together with the shaving/cutting of pilgrims' hair, it is the qurbani or animal sacrifice that seals Hajj. Most restrictions associated with ihram now come to an end. ‘Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) is celebrated simultaneously in Makkah and across the Muslim world. It commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, Isma‘il, in obedience to God. Today charities encourage British-Muslims to donate their qurbani offering to the poor world-wide. Here, an Islamic Relief shop in Bradford, promotes its campaign.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

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Souvenirs and Shared Blessings

Travelling material objects share the baraka (blessings) of the Holy Places. Perhaps the most significant of these is water from the well of Zamzam, which stands near the Ka’ba. Airlines currently allow each pilgrim to return home with up to 10 litres often in large, mass-produced plastic bottles like the one here at a mosque in Bury. Visitors may be invited to stand facing Makkah and drink the Zamzam from special cups, while listening to stories about its curative properties.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

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Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance

Returning pilgrims bear the new, honorific titles of ‘Hajji’ (men) and ‘Hajja’ (women). Traditionally expected to be more pious and enlightened, they have often been given a special respect in Muslim communities. This shop-front in East London illustrates how such values still find expression in the urban landscape. However, Hajj-going has become rather commonplace in Britain and the public significance of performing the pilgrimage is declining. Nevertheless, a pilgrim's lifestyle can still be a matter of scrutiny in close-knit communities.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2014. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

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Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return

For Hajjis like Bilal, photographed here at home in Leeds wearing clothes and scent from the Holy Places, and standing in front of a picture of the Great Mosque, Hajj is profoundly spiritually uplifting and potentially life-changing. Some pilgrims do manage to take their experiences forward with them as they settle back into everyday routines. But this is not easy to sustain. Thus British-Muslims today tend to be unanimous in their desire to return to Makkah and Madinah one day.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2011. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

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Wilhelm His and Karl Seffner - Facial reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bericht an den Rath der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig 1895.)

Early attempt at facial reconstruction: German Anatomist Dr. Wilhelm His took measurements of facial tissue from a small number of cadavers and using this data he worked with a sculptor, Karl Seffner, to model a bust of composer Johann Sebastian Bach onto a replica of the skull. 

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3D bust of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Ivan IV (Gerasimov, 1955)

Dr. Mikhail Gerasimov pioneered research into facial anthropology and developed the technique known as the anatomical method. His research had a significant influence on current facial depiction practice, and focused on an understanding of facial anatomy and the importance of muscle structure and position for the production of a recognisable likeness. Image used with permission of Elizaveta Veselovskaya, Moscow Institute of Sciences.

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Reliability assessment (Helmer, 1993)

A double blind accuracy study was carried out by Prof. Dr. Richard Helmer. Two researchers reconstructed 12 skulls following a plan based upon the skull morphology. Each reconstruction (examples A & C) was then compared to an ante-mortem photograph of the subject (examples B) using resemblance ratings from five observers. The results suggested the reconstructions were closer resemblances to each other (50% approximate) than to the subjects (42% slight). Image courtesy of Wiley-Liss Inc.

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