Hajj and Local Indonesian
What is the social and religious importance of the hajj in
What are some of the distinctive characteristics
of local forms of Muslim pilgrimage in Southeast
What is the social, political, and economic significance
of these pilgrimages?
Participation in the hajj is ideally a universal Islamic experience.
However, because of the enormous numbers of pilgrims coming from
every corner of the globe, there is great diversity even within the unity
of this religious ritual. Students will examine the Javanese Muslim participation
in the hajj, as well as compare and contrast the hajj with the
local Indonesian pilgrimage to Tembayat, in Java, identifying religious,
social, political, and economic impact of the pilgrim experiences.
Students will be able to:
- Identify the reasons for, and impact of religious pilgrimage on a
local and global level, including religious, social, political, and
- Identify the key elements of the hajj, as a universal and personal
experience of Muslim faith.
- Identify the key elements of a local pilgrim experience in
Southeast Asia, and compare these to the hajj.
Two to three class periods
The following supplemental reading on the hajj should
be used along with the background essays, especially Religious Practices and Cultural Expression by
The hajj is the Fifth Pillar of Islam and therefore a requirement
for all Muslims who are physically and financially
able to undertake the journey. In addition to
bringing together Muslims from around the world to
participate and interact with each other, the hajj is also
an occasion in which the great internal diversity is apparent
among pilgrims. Nevertheless, all pilgrims perform
a prescribed set of rituals or devotions as part of
“The pilgrim enters the sanctuary of the Ka‘bah
in Mecca in a state of ritual purity (ihram) clad in two
plain white pieces of cloth, indicating the equality of
all believers before Allah. The unity and universality of
the community is reflected in the pilgrims’ gathering
together from every corner of the globe. Over several
days a number of acts are performed as part of the pilgrimage,
most having been incorporated from similar
pre-Islamic practices. These include the circumambulation
of the Ka‘bah, the sacred house originally built by
the patriarch Abraham; the procession between the hills
of Safa and Marwa, commemorating Hajar’s desperate
search for water for her son; the stoning of three pillars
where Ibrahim (Abraham) is said to have been tempted
by the devil not to sacrifice his son; and a visit to the
plain of Arafat, where the pilgrims stand in repentance
before the spot where the Prophet Muhammad is said
to have preached his farewell message of peace and harmony
to all people. The pilgrimage concludes with the
second of the major Muslim celebrations, the feast of the
sacrifice (‘id al-adha), or the Great Feast. The sacrifice
of animals and the distribution of the meat to the poor
are performed not only in Mecca but throughout the
world wherever Muslims celebrate away from the holy
city itself. The traditions are replete with details of the
way the Prophet performed the rites at the various stages
of the pilgrimage, details replicated in the compendia of
legal rules of the different schools of law.”
From David Waines, An Introduction to Islam. Second Edition. Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 92.
Muslims on the hajj come together from a wide variety
of geographical locales. There have been revitalized
awareness and interest in the hajj on the part of Indonesians over recent decades. Aside from the hajj,
there also exist local traditions of pilgrimage such as the
pilgrimage to Tembayat, a favorite practice for many
Javanese Muslims. These practices have grown out of local
traditions and out of local understandings of Islam.
In the modern period, a number of Muslim reformists
have launched strident critiques of such practices, which
they deem to be un-Islamic.
Additional reading by R. Michael Feener, National University of Singapore
- Document Package, including: (one per student)
- Pilgrimage Response Grid (one per student)
- Begin by explaining to students the concept of pilgrimage
as an experience common to many religious
traditions, combining a quest for a blessing or some
grace and involving a journey that could be physically,
spiritually, and economically demanding. Pilgrimages
may also be made to fulfill a promise, to plead for a
favor such as a cure, or to seek a place imbued with the sacred. Ask students for examples of pilgrimages in their lives.
Note literary connections such as the pilgrims of
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, historical connections to
the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, or religious pilgrimages
to locations associated with various world religions.
- Break students into groups of four to six. Present
each student with a Document Packet and Pilgrimage
Response Grid. Members of the group should work
together to complete the Grid.
- As a class, have students share their responses.
Consider the following questions:
- What experiences are universal to all Muslims
on a pilgrimage?
- How does the experience of the hajj unite
- What kinds of experiences will likely be unique to
an Indonesian Muslim at the annual hajj? What
particular challenges did the cartoons suggest?
- Why might an Indonesian Muslim choose to go
on the pilgrimage to Tembayat?
- What benefits and challenges would such a
pilgrimage share with the experience of the hajj?
Students will be assessed on responses to the Pilgrimage
Response Grids, participation in small group work, and
the class discussion as they reflect on the goals and
objectives of the lesson.
Contents of the learning packet may be amended for the
class, or a group, as ability dictates. Using heterogeneous
groupings will support English language learners and
students with special needs.
Have students generate a Guide to a Muslim
Pilgrimage, offering them the choice of focusing on
the hajj experience, or the ziarah to Tembayat.
The booklet should contain a map, illustrations
or pictures, an explanation of the purpose of the
pilgrimage, the major events that would take place,
and the benefits of making such a pilgrimage.
- Ask students to write an essay examining the way
in which the Indonesian hajj and the Javanese
pilgrimage to Tembayat involve religious, social,
economic, and political aspects.
- Research written narratives of other pilgrims’ hajj
experiences and prepare a report.
- Research and create a presentation describing the
variations of female pilgrims’ hajj attire and their
roots in diverse local traditions of Muslim societies.
As a starting point, use this account by the
Indonesian author A. A. Navis, from his Letters
and Memories from the Hajj (Surat dan Kenangan
Haji. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 1996, pp.
40-41). (This selection was translated by Michael
Feener and Anna Gade and was published in their
Patterns of Islamization in Indonesia: A Curriculum Unit for Post-Secondary Level Educators. Ithaca:
Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1999,
p. 49. Reprinted by permission of Cornell University
Southeast Asia Program):
“Looking at the women from various countries here
on the hajj, one sees that each nation has its own
style of dress. In general, they cover almost their
entire body except for their faces. When they don
their special pilgrim’s garb, the women cover their
entire bodies except for their faces and the palms
of their hands. However, even in this they do not
all look the same. Some wear socks, and some do
not. City girls, especially those from the chic Jakarta
set, really pay attention to their looks. Their clothes
are always something special, even when they are
dressed as “humble” pilgrims. They wear special
gloves that cover their wrists, while the palms of
their hands are bare, and these gloves can be lacy.
Young women from other countries, even Arabs, just
wear simple clothes, which are not lacy or fancily
decorated. Turkish or Iranian women wear creamcolored
blouses with long sleeves, and they also
wear a triangular scarf as a form-fitting head covering
so that no hair can become exposed. Women
from central Africa tend to wear colorful clothing.”
Photos illustrating the overwhelming throng of humanity
in Mecca during the hajj available at several places on the
UCLA’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies
The Guardian newspaper