Synopses & Reviews
The Hadj, or sacred journey, is the pilgrimage to the house of God at Mecca that all Muslims are asked to make once in their lifetimes. One of the worlds longest-lived religious rites, having continued without break for fourteen hundred years, it is, like all things Islamic, shrouded in mystery for Westerners. In The Hadj, Michael Wolfe, an American who converted to Islam, recounts his own journey a pilgrim, and in doing so brings readers close to the heart of what the pilgrimage means to a member of the religion that claims one-sixth of the worlds population. Not since Sir Richard Burtons account of the pilgrimage to Mecca over one hundred years ago has a Western writer described the Hadj in such fascinating detail.
The hadj, or sacred journey, is the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetimes. Its purpose is to detach human beings from their homelands and, by bringing them to Mecca, temporarily reinstate the equality of all people before God. One of the world's longest-lived religious rites, the hadj has continued without break for fourteen hundred years. It is, like most things Islamic, shrouded in mystery for Westerners. In his new book, Michael Wolfe, an American-born writer and recent Muslim convert, recounts his experiences on this journey, and in the process brings readers closer to the meaning of Islam. Wolfe's book bridges the high points of the Muslim calendar, beginning in April with the annual month-long fast of Ramadan. In Morocco, he settles into daily life with a merchant family in the ancient quarter of Marrakesh. During his three-month stay, he explores the intricate traditional life of Muslim Morocco. His accounts of this time deepen our feeling for Islam, a faith that claims one-sixth of the world's population. As summer approaches, he travels north to Tangier, where he visits Western writers and Moroccan mystics. In June, he arrives in Mecca, a city closed to all but Muslims. The protean experience of the hadj, and the real Mecca, that most religious and mysterious of cities, are captured in the last half of the book. Inevitably, the buildup to the Gulf War hovers in the background - the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is just weeks away. Yet it is the author's participation in the age-old rites of the hadj that most preoccupies his thoughts, strengthening his bond to the faith he has embraced as an outsider, developing and transforming it, makingit personal and alive.
A convert to Islam describes his pilgrimage to Mecca, recounting his preparations for the trip, the significance of the pilgrimage, and his journey across Muslim North Africa.
About the Author
Michael Wolfe is the author of eleven books of poetry, fiction, and travel. In 1990, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca and subsequently wrote two books on the subject, The Hadj: An Americans Pilgrimage to Mecca and One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage. For 15 years he was the publisher of Tombouctou Books. He is currently Co-Executive Producer and President of Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit media company that produces documentary films for television.