29 July, 2021

Everyman’s Mecca

Raison d’etre for travel, crucible of history, simple article of faith—accounts of Haj as this merit retelling

Everyman’s Mecca

Western scholars have noted that from the fourth to the 16th century, pilgrimage was the dominant mode of travel to the Middle East and the most common paradigm for travel writing. The Crusades were fed as much by religio-political aspirations of regents as by the desire of European ‘commoners’ to see the Holy Land. It was they who often formed the most vehement of crusaders, a rag-tag army trailing behind the knights and princes.

Again, from the 19th century onwards, there was a revival of the practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Land from Europe and the US. While this history of Western pilgrimage has been widely studied, the parallel history of Haj pilgrimages is only now being excavated and examined in English. In this context, the book under review—the first English translation of Amir Ahmad Alawi’s Journey to the Holy Land, and the excellent introduction by translators Mushirul Hasan and Rakhshanda Jalil—is a major contribution to a burgeoning branch of study.

All religions have...

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