Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam - Exhibition at British Museum

by FrancesSpiegel

Display looks at the Hajj. Through beautiful objects related to the pilgrimage, the display engenders greater understanding of the Muslim faith.

Mecca is a place sacred to Muslims and no non-Muslim is permitted to enter. The Hajj is a ritual that takes place once a year when Muslims from all over the world gather at Mecca before the Kaaba to praise Allah together. Every Muslim hopes to make the pilgrimage at least once during their lifetime. The bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood are strengthened by making this pilgrimage. The pilgrims wear simple white clothing called Ihram – all symbols of pride, wealth and social status are removed to show that all are equal in the eyes of Allah.

The First Major Exhibition Devoted to the Hajj

The British Museum presents ″Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam″. This ticketed exhibition will run from 26th January to 15th April 2012. The display has been mounted in partnership with King Abdulaziz Public Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with support from HSBC Amanah.


This is the first major exhibition devoted to the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah) made by most Muslims at least once in their lifetime. This journey takes place during Dhu’l Hijja, the last month of the Islamic year.

The Hajj

Muslim Pilgrims Performing the Hajj, at the Afternoon Prayers Inside the Grand Mosque, Mecca
Pilgrims at the Kaaba
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History and Cultural Importance of the Hajj

Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam examines the history and cultural importance of the pilgrimage as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The display looks at the logistics of mass travel and how it has changed over time, as well as how the actual event has evolved over the years. The installation will reflect on the personal experiences of pilgrims and how the journey affected them.


The exhibition, located in the Reading Room of the British Museum, explores sacred rituals, unchanged since the time of the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century AD. The installation showcases many beautiful objects, including Hajj certificates, textiles, manuscripts and artworks, many on loan from Saudi Arabia. The display will enable a deeper understanding of the significance of the Hajj. For non-Muslims, this is a rare opportunity to examine an aspect of Islam that they would not normally be able to witness.

Highlights of the Exhibition

At the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca is the Ka'ba, the holiest site in Islam. Muslims believe the cube-shaped building was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. The display includes sitarah (curtains) made for the door of the Ka'ba. Also on display are pilgrims' handbooks, Qur'ans and other manuscripts together with views of sanctuaries at Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem..


A large number of exhibits have been loaned by the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, which has one of the world's most comprehensive holdings including artefacts from the 7th Century to the present day. One of the most important pieces is ″Panoramic View of Mecca″. The view was created in ink and opaque watercolour in about 1845 by the Delhi cartographer Muhammad 'Abdullah. The piece, commissioned by the Sharif of Mecca, shows a plan of the city with a bird's eye view of about 60 degrees. Views like this one frequently occur on Hajj certificates issued to pilgrims.


The Hajj - Journey to the heart of Islam

Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam
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Hajj and Umrah: A Brief Guide
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Fully Illustrated Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated publication. The 272-page book reproduces 200 colour illustrations. The publication has been edited by Venetia Porter, who is supported by essays from leading historians including Muhammad A S Abdel Haleem, Karen Armstrong, Hugh Kennedy, Robert Irwin and Ziauddin Sardar. The publication is available in hardback (ISBN: 9780714111766) and paperback (ISBN: 9780714111759) editions, priced at £40 and £25, respectively.

Buy Tickets From the British Museum

Admission charge is £12. Children below the age of 16, and Members of the British Museum go free. Opening hours are: Saturday to Thursday: 10.00-17.30, Friday: 10.00-20.30. Tickets can be booked at British Museum or by calling 020 7323 8181.




Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam - Exhibition at British Museum

Five Pillars of Islam


Updated: 03/05/2013, FrancesSpiegel
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FrancesSpiegel on 08/12/2012

Mira - the atmosphere in London with the Olympics is electric and there are more great exhibitions opening all the time.

Mira on 08/11/2012

Thank you, Frances, for a nice article! I wish I were able to visit London more often. I love the city -- there's just so much to see, and the vibe is great :-). Add to that the great museums, which tell different stories each time, partly because the temporary exhibition change, and partly because you, too, change, learning new things and seeing old things differently.

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