Exploring Hajj with Books at Home

 Disclosure: Tuttle Publishing gave me a copy of this book free of charge for this review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. They also sent me a copy to giveaway! As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation.

This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Hajj for Kids Blog Series. As we are Christian I did not know much about Hajj. I knew that Muslims try to make the hajj at least once in their lives and that it involved visiting Mecca. As a member of Multicultural Kid Blogs I learn new things about other cultures through the group and one thing I found out was there is actually a time in the year called Hajj when the trip is suppose to take place. This year Hajj falls between September 21-26. It of course changes each year since the Muslim calendar is different from our calendar. To explain Hajj to Hazel and myself, I turned to our library. I did not find much. However we did find Hajj Stories by Anita Ganeri.

In this book Anita shares about Hajj and the trip. She simplifies many of the events to a child's level. She also shares the stories of Hajar (Hagar in the Bible) and of Ibrahim and Isma'il (in the Bible it is when Abraham goes to sacrifice Isaac, but the Qur'an they say it was Ishmael and not Isaac). Then she shares about Id-ul-Adha, the holiday at the end of Hajj and provides a prayer and craft for Id-ul-Adha. This gave us a basic idea of Hajj and the Muslim holidays. However the stories confused us since we knew the Bible versions with different names. Since Hajj is about visiting Mecca I thought it would help to be able to see pictures of the actual events. My friends at Tuttle Publishing provided us with the perfect photography book to do this.

Mecca The Blessed, Medina the Radiant: The Holiest Cities of Islam photography by Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi and text by Seyyed Hossein Nasr,  is divided into five chapters. The first gives a bit of history of the cities and Islam in the cities. The second chapter is about Mecca and is mostly photographs with a small amount of text. The third chapter is the one we paid most attention to and it is about Hajj. It breaks Hajj into the various stages and provides photographs of them. The fourth chapter is on Medina and the fifth is on the Arabian Peninsula. 

Hajj is broken into different stages and there can be variations on them depending on the various schools of Islamic laws. The pilgrims arrive in Mecca by the seventh day of the pilgrimage month. The men must cleanse themselves and wear ihram which consists of two white seamless cloths. 

Ihram for umrah
Ihram By Rammaum (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The women also cleanse and wear white. Upon arriving at the Great Mosque the pilgrims perform seven tawaf or walk around the Ka'bah (the Ka'bah is the large black boxy building in the middle) seven times and then perform the sa'y between Safa and Marwah seven times. There is a special sermon preached from the Great Mosque of Mecca.

Photo of Tawaf from book (Source)
 The next morning the pilgrims are given water and then they leave for Mina to spend the night. Mina has tents set up for the pilgrims and they are assigned by the country from which the pilgrim comes. The next morning the pilgrims leave Mina for the plain of Arafat. Here the Qur'an and prayers are recited. People try to climb Jabal al-Rahmah, the Mount of Mercy, which is in the center of the plain. At sundown they leave Arafat for Muzdalifah. They spend the night there and gather pebbles to use the next day.

Muzdalifah photo from book (Source)
After midnight or at dawn the pilgrims move to Mina and throw the pebbles at the largest of three stone pillars there. The pillar represents the Devil. After this often an animal is sacrificed. Men have some of their hair cut off and some shave their heads and the ihram is removed. They stay here for two more days and throw stones at the other two pillars which also represent the Devil and then return to Mecca where the tawaf al-ifadah is performed (walking around the Ka'bah).

Stoning Jamrat al-Aqabah Photograph from Book (Source)

 On the twelfth day everyone leaves or has left Mina and Id al-adha begins. The men who have completed the Hajj gain the title of hajji and the women gain the title hajjiyah

The photographs I found on-line from the book are not my favorite ones. Some of the photographs in the book show the number of people who make this great journey each year. The crowds and camaraderie that must be felt to be one of the millions there must be amazing. The Hajj chapter has the most text of the entire book. It explains the various stages of the journey well and in much more detail than Hajj Stories did. I really feel like it gave us a good introduction to the amazing trip and the effort it must be to make it. 

Medina is the city where the prophet Muhammad lived and died and was the location of the first Islamic community. Muhammad is laid to rest there as well. The photographs of Medina are beautiful and many show the beautiful designs of Islamic art. Having taught a small bit about Islamic art in geometry classes makes this extra exciting to me. The culture and environment in these cities is so different from ours and this book gives us a glimpse of it. I love learning about other cultures and sharing them with Hazel and the photographs really did this for us!