William Ochsenwald

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:

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The Hijaz (Hejaz, Hedjaz), the holy land of Islam, is a geographical region that comprises most of the western part of modern-day Saudi Arabia and is centered on the two holiest Muslim cities—Mecca (also Makka, Makkah) and Madina (Medina, al-Madinah). Mecca is where the Prophet Muhammad was born and raised and is the location of the Ka’ba, which is also associated with the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), while Madina is the location of the first Muslim state and the burial site of Muhammad. God’s revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, the origins of Islam as a faith, and many of the institutions and customs associated with Islam, such as the pilgrimage to Mecca, are all associated historically with the Hijaz and its two holy cities. As a result, the Hijaz has been highly influential throughout the Muslim world, particularly in the 7th century and then again much later, following the development of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil resources in the 20th century. Inside western Arabia, Islam has played a predominant role in politics, society, and the economy. Briefly in the early 19th century and then from the 1920s onward, the Hijaz has been ruled by the Saudi royal family and its allies the Wahhabi ulama (religious scholars). Scholarship on the Hijaz has been influenced by the religious sensitivity and controversial nature of certain topics; Muslim and non-Muslim authors have often differed sharply in approaches and conclusions. Difficulty in gaining access to sources has limited scholarly research, while many fine Arabic-language works could not be consulted by readers who did not know Arabic. Unfortunately, the few studies of this region based on the social sciences are generally not very sophisticated from a methodological standpoint. The strongest research has been historical in nature, though the widespread interest in women’s history with regard to other Muslim regions has only very recently started to develop for the Hijaz.

Article.  8883 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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