Philip Seib

LONDON — “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam,” the exhibition at the British Museum that has drawn more than 80,000 visitors since it opened in late January is a remarkable achievement. First, it is glitz-free, relying on its intellectual content rather than the son et lumiere approach on which so many museums today rely. It explains, in a straightforward way, the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken each year by about three million Muslims. Participating in the Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, required of every Muslim who is able to make the trip.

The exhibition also addresses the controversial topic of what Islam is about. Many people in the non-Muslim world think that “Islam” means terrorism, and they react to mentions of Islam with fear or anger. In doing so, they dismiss the sanctity of one of the world’s great religions, which has roughly 1.6 billion adherents. The Hajj exhibition offers a straightforward explanation of a duty that has nothing to do with politics but rather is an affirmation of religious belief. [Read more…]