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The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, is a journey all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homes and, by bringing them to Islam's birthplace, to emphasize the equality of all people before God. Since its inception in the seventh century, the Hajj has been the central theme in a large body of Islamic travel The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, is a journey all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homes and, by bringing them to Islam's birthplace, to emphasize the equality of all people before God. Since its inception in the seventh century, the Hajj has been the central theme in a large body of Islamic travel literature. Beginning with the European Renaissance, it has also been the subject for a handful of adventurous writers from the Christian West who, through conversion or connivance, managed to slip inside the walls of a city forbidden to non-Muslims. One Thousand Roads to Mecca collects significant works by observant writers from the East and West over the last ten centuries. These two very different literary traditions form distinct sides of a spirited conversation in which Mecca is the common destination and Islam the common subject of inquiry.


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The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, is a journey all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homes and, by bringing them to Islam's birthplace, to emphasize the equality of all people before God. Since its inception in the seventh century, the Hajj has been the central theme in a large body of Islamic travel The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the Hajj, is a journey all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homes and, by bringing them to Islam's birthplace, to emphasize the equality of all people before God. Since its inception in the seventh century, the Hajj has been the central theme in a large body of Islamic travel literature. Beginning with the European Renaissance, it has also been the subject for a handful of adventurous writers from the Christian West who, through conversion or connivance, managed to slip inside the walls of a city forbidden to non-Muslims. One Thousand Roads to Mecca collects significant works by observant writers from the East and West over the last ten centuries. These two very different literary traditions form distinct sides of a spirited conversation in which Mecca is the common destination and Islam the common subject of inquiry.

30 review for One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Wolfe relates his own pilgrimage, and that on many other pilgrims over the centuries, showing how the journey and it's destination have vastly changed over time. It's done in a very enjoyable way. Wolfe relates his own pilgrimage, and that on many other pilgrims over the centuries, showing how the journey and it's destination have vastly changed over time. It's done in a very enjoyable way.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    I really enjoyed this book and think the author did a lovely job. Because I am not a Muslim, I will never be allowed to make the Hajj or visit Mecca, which is the right thing, but does not prevent me from being curious to know more about such a spiritual journey. The various authors, over time paint an interesting and changing story that is ever the same and yet always different. I especially liked the later stories, but I think they would not have been as good had I not read the earlier stories. I I really enjoyed this book and think the author did a lovely job. Because I am not a Muslim, I will never be allowed to make the Hajj or visit Mecca, which is the right thing, but does not prevent me from being curious to know more about such a spiritual journey. The various authors, over time paint an interesting and changing story that is ever the same and yet always different. I especially liked the later stories, but I think they would not have been as good had I not read the earlier stories. I believe that the Hajj literature builds on itself, layer by layer. I really liked Jalal Al-e Ahmad's story as many of his observations as a writer and traveler and the way he approached the Hajj were done in ways I could relate to. His voice spoke to me. I loved the Malcolm X story, because it revealed a side of the man and a key turning point that I think few understood. It revealed also the healing aspects of Islam. I may never be able to make the Hajj, but I have even more respect for the power of this ritual and for those millions over the years who have made the journey. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Humza

    Travel Literature is one of my favorite genres for many reasons. An observant travel writer doesn’t simply recount their trip. They give an intimate look into the history, culture, and religion of a place that can only come from traveling there. This book is a very interesting compilation of observant accounts of the Hajj Pilgrimage. The chapters are arranged chronologically and grouped into categories such as Pre/Post-Colonial Hajj, “Jet Age Hajj”, etc. It includes accounts from the time of Ibn Travel Literature is one of my favorite genres for many reasons. An observant travel writer doesn’t simply recount their trip. They give an intimate look into the history, culture, and religion of a place that can only come from traveling there. This book is a very interesting compilation of observant accounts of the Hajj Pilgrimage. The chapters are arranged chronologically and grouped into categories such as Pre/Post-Colonial Hajj, “Jet Age Hajj”, etc. It includes accounts from the time of Ibn Batuta all the way to present-day. The authors are from diverse cultural, socio-economic, and even sectarian backgrounds. They include well known travelers, statesmen, famous authors, normal citizens of every age, Sunnis and Shias, and modern day personalities. It is truly amazing to see how such a life changing journey can be experienced in so many different ways, yet at the same time remain so consistent. While the means of transportation may have changed (commercial jets have replaced the robbery-prone camel caravans), the underlying rituals and even many of the challenges have remained the same. An interesting aspect of this book is the inclusion of so many “imposter accounts”. These were penned by non-Muslims who snuck their way into the pilgrimage and in many cases misrepresented (intentionally or not) the Hajj. Although blameworthy from an ethical perspective, one has to admire the doggedness of of these imposters. Some spent decades living in Muslim lands as pseudo-Muslims in order to learn the customs and culture before slipping their way into Mecca. As mentioned earlier, the constancy of the Hajj throughout history is unlike any other pilgrimage in the world. The administration of the pilgrimage has been undertaken by various empires/states and the accounts in this book show first hand just how much the Hajj experience differed according to the ruling party. For example, although most accounts denounce the Wahabbis as overly puritan and out of touch with the spiritual essence of Hajj, even the most sectarian authors admit that the organization brought to the pilgrimage by this group facilitated an orderly and easier Hajj. The accounts during Ottoman times talk of the reverence the rulers had for this sacred pilgrimage but lament the lack of organization and order during the late Ottoman era. The editor of this book, Micheal Wolfe has included his account from his own book “The Hadj”. This chapter can only be described as transportive. His description of his daily schedule in Mecca and Medina truly makes the reader feel that they are with him in this other-worldly place. However, my favorite chapter has to be Muhammad Asad’s from “Road to Mecca”. “Road to Mecca” is my favorite book of all time and his Hajj/Umrah descriptions are the most beautiful and meaningful writing I’ve ever read. Whether writing about theology or history, Asad has a unique ability to bring out the most beautiful aspects of the English language and use them to leave an imprint on the reader’s mind and heart despite English being his third language after German and Arabic. Overall this book was an excellent compilation and will enrich the reader’s understanding of both the rituals and the sentiment behind the transformative experience that is the Hajj Pilgrimage.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Whimsicalmaria

    This is one of those expensive books that is worth every single cent spent on it! Every sinlge page from the foreword, preface, and introduction, from chapters one to five; is worth reading word to word. Even the maps and the glossary (of course) is worth reviewing! Of course, the bibliography is an essential list to run through – you’d probably spend half your life just chasing after every single item in it! One Thousand Roads to Mecca is a compilation of narratives about journey to hajj from th This is one of those expensive books that is worth every single cent spent on it! Every sinlge page from the foreword, preface, and introduction, from chapters one to five; is worth reading word to word. Even the maps and the glossary (of course) is worth reviewing! Of course, the bibliography is an essential list to run through – you’d probably spend half your life just chasing after every single item in it! One Thousand Roads to Mecca is a compilation of narratives about journey to hajj from the years 1050 to 2001, which includes names like Ibn Jubayr, Ibn Battuta, John Lewis Burkhardt, Sir Richard Burton, Lady Cobbold and Malcolm X. It is edited by Michael Wolfe, who himself wrote one section in the final chapter, which is as enjoyable as many others before him. For each chapter there is an introductory section, which is deeply informative and sets the tone for the rest of the chapter. The various journeys throughout the century makes it such a wondrous book for avid travellers. It is amazing how different the expeditions could be, but it ends up the same, with similar deep emotions, with utmost awe at the grandeur of the Ka’abah, despite its cubic simplicity, the profound effects of belief, of faith, to a person. As people living in this era of which we live in multiracial, multicoloured world wherever we are, it is easy to take it for granted. It is easy to assume that this has always been the case in the past. Arriving in Mecca, looking at all those colours, sizes and shapes, does not surprise most of us anymore. It’s like…..London, Paris, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. We have met many of them before. But it was not like that in the world even a hundred years ago. Therefore the one and only multiracial meeting that has ever existed in the world until recently, is hajj. Imagine coming from 12th century Java, or India, or Maghribi. Arriving in Mecca realizing that Muslims comprise of a multitude of sizes, shapes, colours, and cultures. . . . It is not all romantic and poetic in Mecca. The reality could be too harsh for some. There are some periods of time when travel was so unsafe, you might not even reach Mecca. Highway robbers can bring danger to the travelers. The city itself, despite its holy status, is still amassed with cheating guides and hoteliers. Plagues hit the city occasionally. The local government, time and time again, did not help with the situation. These dire situations did not stop the Muslims from planning to perform pilgrimage at least once in their lives. The rewards are too big to refuse. Of course, different governments took some effort to improve the pilgrim’s plight and condition. These days, different Muslim countries contribute in their own way to the care of the pilgrims. Indeed, this is a fascinating book to read. We get to see how Muslim lands evolve from the glorious 11th century to the modern world with its jet travel and differently-starred hotels. We get to experience diverse forms of pleasing culture; each era has its own special beauty. We get to view the world through the ages, from the eyes of contrasting personalities and background

  5. 4 out of 5

    Zainab Bint Younus

    Is there anything more deliciously magical than stumbling upon a fascinating book in an indie bookstore? I think not. "One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage" is a treasure trove: the chronicles of hujjaaj from across time & geography, including - to my special interest - women. I immediately jumped to their stories, eager to discover what it must have been like to make the long journey in their own eras, what historical factoids & spiritual ref Is there anything more deliciously magical than stumbling upon a fascinating book in an indie bookstore? I think not. "One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage" is a treasure trove: the chronicles of hujjaaj from across time & geography, including - to my special interest - women. I immediately jumped to their stories, eager to discover what it must have been like to make the long journey in their own eras, what historical factoids & spiritual reflections they might have shared. Sikandar, the Begum of Bhopal, went for Hajj in 1864... & was completely unimpressed by Ottoman bureaucracy, bandit Bedouins, threats of violence to induce her to dinner with the Sharif of Makkah, & most bizarrely, the alleged practice of Makkan women to replace their husbands with younger models every few years. Winifred Stegar of Australia (1927), however, was a woman after my own heart: thoroughly adventurous, unafraid of brawling with an abusive doctor, & handling the many unexpected twists & turns of the Hajj journey with good humour & strong spirit. Next was the legendary Lady Evelyn Cobbold of England, who made the trek to Makkah at the age of 66. Her accounts are riveting, of a freshly-minted Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, still mysterious & magical & untainted by the dirty politics of oil. In 1970, Saida Miller Khalifa recounted her Hajj; her descriptions are vivid & her anecdotes charming and reflective, giving insight to a type of Hajj experience that could never be replicated today. I was & am deeply in love with the women's narratives. Female realities are utterly differently from male ones, even when performing a universal ritual such as Hajj, & the written accounts of these Muslim women give us insight into some of those differences. More's the pity that such records are so rare, & even more rarely preserved & published! This book is an absolute treasure, & I am so grateful to have stumbled upon it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shakil Akther

    A wonderful book. Remind me of the time I did my Hadje; remind me the time I heard the experiences of my parents, my grand parents. I tried to visualize the things and somehow feel that I am not reading but looking at the travels of Nasr - e Khasru or Ali Bay Abbassi. The readings of the queen of Bhopal and Dr. Qanta Ahmed and comparing them with my experience led me to believe plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Interestingly both of them are of Indian origin like me but I feel more like A wonderful book. Remind me of the time I did my Hadje; remind me the time I heard the experiences of my parents, my grand parents. I tried to visualize the things and somehow feel that I am not reading but looking at the travels of Nasr - e Khasru or Ali Bay Abbassi. The readings of the queen of Bhopal and Dr. Qanta Ahmed and comparing them with my experience led me to believe plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Interestingly both of them are of Indian origin like me but I feel more like Abdullah Hammadi as like him before performing my Hadje I was not a practicing one; I went there to accompany my wife and learn what the fuss about. But like Dr. Ahmed or Dr. Hammadi the Alimighty has something else. I would give the book a 5 if it did not include the narration of di-Verthema. After reading his experience I can say that he did not visit Kaba or perform Hadje. It is not because he talked about unicorns but also about circumbation around Kaba, Zamaara, or animal sacrifice. I would love to read about the narration of Jules Gervais-Courtellement who was credited with taking the first photograph of Kaaba. The other point of my disappointment is the maps - it should have been along with the narration and may be of better quality.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pharlap

    23 personal relations from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Most of them are just pages from travel diary - names of places, list of events, very rarely there is some religious reflection, but lots of social gossip. Only 3 relations I found really interesting. Year 1927 - Mohammad Asad. Austrian of Jewish origin, who wholeheartedly converted to Islam. His relation is truly inspired by his beliefs. Maybe worthwhile to mention, that in later years Mohammed Asad was very involved in creation of Pakistan and occ 23 personal relations from a pilgrimage to Mecca. Most of them are just pages from travel diary - names of places, list of events, very rarely there is some religious reflection, but lots of social gossip. Only 3 relations I found really interesting. Year 1927 - Mohammad Asad. Austrian of Jewish origin, who wholeheartedly converted to Islam. His relation is truly inspired by his beliefs. Maybe worthwhile to mention, that in later years Mohammed Asad was very involved in creation of Pakistan and occupied high position in Pakistani government, he served as a plenipotentiary minister in United Nations. He is also an author of highly praised translation of Qur'an. Year 1927 - Winifred Stegar, a pilgrim from Australia. The strange thing is, that there is no relation of her visit to Mecca. Her story is cut at the city borders. I read a voluminous biography of Winifred which contains a long relation of visits to Mecca an Medina. There is absolutely no religious inspiration in it, but lots of relations about maltreatment, cheating, robbery. Year 1964 - Malcolm X - Afro-american activist who calls himself an extremist. This one I found most authentic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom Ransohoff

    This book was a journey. It is a well-edited collection of excerpts from literary works related to the Hajj over more than a thousand years. It is fascinating to read this famous religious rite over the centuries from a wide variety of perspectives and sources. For me, as a Christian with a Jewish heritage, it was enlightening. I knew relatively little about Islam in general and less about the Hajj before reading this book. It opened my eyes to the world of Islam in a way that transcended the li This book was a journey. It is a well-edited collection of excerpts from literary works related to the Hajj over more than a thousand years. It is fascinating to read this famous religious rite over the centuries from a wide variety of perspectives and sources. For me, as a Christian with a Jewish heritage, it was enlightening. I knew relatively little about Islam in general and less about the Hajj before reading this book. It opened my eyes to the world of Islam in a way that transcended the limited views that permeate the world I live in. For anyone interested in learning more about the history of the Hajj and Islam, I highly recommend this book

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daughters Of Abraham

    “One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage,” edited with introductions by Michael Wolfe. One member also sent around a link to some beautiful photos to help us get a visual sense of the Hajj. We plan to discuss selected sections of this book at our meeting next week. (Cambridge 2 - May 2013)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eiman

    Didn't read cover to cover but a great resource for personal accounts of the pilgrimage throughout history. Didn't read cover to cover but a great resource for personal accounts of the pilgrimage throughout history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Fairyal

    Loved it... I would definitely recommend this to everyone, but especially to all the hajjis who would probably identify more with the journey and the emotion.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Safiya

    Dozens of stories of Muslims and fake Muslims' journeys to Mecca throughout the ages. Very interesting and enriching. Dozens of stories of Muslims and fake Muslims' journeys to Mecca throughout the ages. Very interesting and enriching.

  13. 4 out of 5

    fahad

    this started off as quite interesting but slowly got more repetitive as time moved closer to now. i didn't read the whole book. this started off as quite interesting but slowly got more repetitive as time moved closer to now. i didn't read the whole book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    anyone interested in a primer on Islam and the annual pilgrimage to Makkah should read this... more great first person accounts which speak to us through centuries past...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Wolfe

    "Highly recommended." Library Journal (starred review) "Highly recommended." Library Journal (starred review)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aysenur

    It is one of the best books i have ever read. I will definitely read it again some time soon.

  17. 4 out of 5

    BD

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fatima

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad A

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nishat Mujeeb

  22. 5 out of 5

    Del 4

  23. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sascha Benjamin Cohen

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yara

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ariana

  27. 5 out of 5

    Flamur Vehapi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ummu Ahmadh

  30. 5 out of 5

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