The Hajj, Ethnography and British Muslims

Up to 25,000 British Muslims travel annually to Makkah and its' environs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. As the fifth pillar (arkan) of Islam, the great pilgrimage returns Muslims to the birthplace of their faith and is a religious duty once in their lifetime, so long as they have the health and wealth to do so. In the late modern period, the number of pilgrims performing Hajj has mushroomed, with between 2 and 3 million expected in 2015. This has prompted a huge expansion of Makkah's infrastructure. As for Muslims in the West, given generous quota allocations and relatively high incomes, they have more opportunity to make the pilgrimage at a time of their choosing than pilgrims elsewhere in the Muslim world.

Hajj is performed over five days, 8-13 Dhu al-Hijja in the Islamic lunar calendar, and in 2015 will fall during late September. This is a timely moment then to the launch this gallery. In 15 images I offer a ‘thick’ visual description of British-Muslims' sacred journeys, most especially in terms of the trans-national circulations of people, places, capital, objects and ideas they represent. It was while conducting ethnographic research among pilgrims, tour operators, community organisations and governance authorities in London, the Midlands and the North of England, that I began to collect Hajj related images. At different stages, this work has been funded as part of an AHRC award to the British Museum and Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam (2012) curator, Dr Venetia Porter, as well as during a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2013-14).

My gallery also reflects a shift in the study of religion(s) during the last decade. There has been a new exploration of the governance and marketization of religion, as well as lived, material and embodied religious practice, all of which is enacted at multiple and inter-linked temporal-spatial scales. AHRC strategic programmes on ‘Religion and Society’ (2007-13) and ‘Diasporas, Migration and Identity’ (2005-10) have shaped such agendas significantly, not least in terms of encouraging greater multi-disciplinarity. Indeed, this project has worked across Islamic Studies, the Anthropology of Pilgrimage, Sociology of Religion and Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Further Information:

Biography:

Acknowledgement:

  • This gallery was prepared with assistance from Steve Honeyman and Chris Taylor at the University of Leeds.
  • Image of Longing for Sacred Homelands
    Longing for Sacred Homelands about Longing for Sacred Homelands
  • Image of The UK Hajj Industry
    The UK Hajj Industry about The UK Hajj Industry
  • Image of Making Preparations
    Making Preparations about Making Preparations
  • Image of Welfare, Training and Governance
    Welfare, Training and Governance about Welfare, Training and Governance
  • Image of The British Hajj Delegation
    The British Hajj Delegation about The British Hajj Delegation
  • Image of Ihram and Ritual Separation
    Ihram and Ritual Separation about Ihram and Ritual Separation
  • Image of Guests in the House God
    Guests in the House God about Guests in the House God
  • Image of In the Footsteps of Hajar
    In the Footsteps of Hajar about In the Footsteps of Hajar
  • Image of Community, Equality and Difference
    Community, Equality and Difference about Community, Equality and Difference
  • Image of Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat
    Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat about Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat
  • Image of Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars
    Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars about Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars
  • Image of From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha
    From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha about From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha
  • Image of Souvenirs and Shared Blessings
    Souvenirs and Shared Blessings about Souvenirs and Shared Blessings
  • Image of Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance
    Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance about Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance
  • Image of Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return
    Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return about Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return