What Does the Hajj Mean?

Robert R. Bianchi

in Guests of God

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780195171075
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835102 | DOI:
 What Does the Hajj Mean?

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Modernist Islamic thinkers see the hajj as a treasure house of fluid symbols carrying infinite meanings everyone is free to interpret and reinterpret as they choose. In their view, “reading” the hajj’s inner meanings is similar to reading any sacred text, including the Qur’an–every mortal mind can grasp a fraction of God’s message, but no human authority, no matter how learned and esteemed, can monopolize the discussion or claim the final word. Three writers have produced widely influential reinterpretations portraying the hajj as a powerful agent of social and political reform–Muhammad Iqbal of India, ‘Ali Shari‘ati of Iran, and Mohammed Arkoun of Algeria. Iqbal’s revivalism, Shari‘ati’s rebelliousness, and Arkoun’s humanism have merged into a modernist stream of hajj interpretation that enjoys mass audiences in dozens of languages and nations. Their views are constantly discussed and debated by a cosmopolitan hajj community that is increasingly youthful, female, educated, urban, and non-Middle Eastern.

Keywords: Muhammad Iqbal; ‘Ali Shari‘ati; Mohammed Arkoun; symbols; meanings; interpretations; revivalism; rebelliousness; humanism; Qur’an

Chapter.  6615 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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