The Hajj: A Special Issue
In December 22 more than a million Muslims from every corner of the globe will gather in Saudi Arabia to begin the Pilgrimage to Mecca-what Muslims call the Hajj.
For nearly 14 centuries the Hajj has been one the most impressive religious gatherings in the world, yet to this day few Westerners have more than a vague appreciation of the importance of the Hajj to the Muslim world and virtually no understanding of its rituals. To Americans and Europeans sight of millions of Muslims tramping in circles around a large cubical structure in Mecca, kissing a fragment of black rock, hurling pebbles at stone pillars and slaughtering thousands of sacrificial animals was—and often still is—simply baffling.
This is partly because the approach of most writers who have attempted to explain the Hajj has been limited. Although there are notable exceptions on both sides (see p. 17), Muslim writers, while faithful to the spirit of Islam, sometimes overlooked Western insistence on facts, figures and explanations; and Western writers, while faithful to the spirit of objective observation, usually failed to grasp Islam's deeper meanings.
For this issue on the Hajj, therefore, the editors chose and assigned several contributors whose, religious, cultural, national and professional backgrounds tended to overcome the limitations that have often affected other efforts to explain Islam to the Ismail Ibrahim Nawwab is a Saudi Arab born in Mecca, who earned his degrees and later lectured at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Paul Lunde is an American who grew up in Saudi Arabia, spent three years at the London School of Oriental and African Studies and has since specialized in Islamic studies. Shaikh Muhammad Amin is a Pakistani Muslim who has made the Hajj as both pilgrim and photographer. Above all, there is Michael Elin Jansen, a woman, an American brought up in an Episcopalian family who, after years of study and contemplation, adopted Islam. She is also one of very few Western women, and possibly the first American woman, to make and then write about the Hajj.
How well they have succeeded is, of course, a decision for the reader, but we think that by combining Eastern reverence with Western observation they have provided a viewpoint that is surely unusual and may be unique. —The Editors