One week after the rising of the new moon in the lunar month of Dhu’l Hijja, the last month of the Muslim calendar, more than three million pilgrims travel to the western Arabian city of Mecca. As they have done for over 1400 years in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim men and women embark upon a transformative ritual that draws them closer to God. This annual pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings on earth, lasting up to five days, is known as the hajj. While an illustration of Muslim unity, solidarity and cohesiveness, the hajj also enables and invites a range of personal interpretations and expressions.
At the heart of the world’s most famed mosque in the center of Mecca lies the Ka’ba, an Arabic word meaning cube. The Qur’an, the recorded revelation of God to Prophet Muhammad, refers to the Ka’ba as the Sacred Sanctuary, al-masjid al-haram. It is here and in the surrounding desert landscape that a religious practice linked both to Prophet Muhammad and to his ancestor, the Biblical Patriarch Abraham unfolds. Building on the narrative of Abraham in the Old Testament, the Muslim sacred text further describes the Father of the three monotheistic religions as having constructed the Ka’ba.