- Umar Ryad
The Hajj and Europe in the Pre-Colonial and Colonial Age
The Hajj, or the Muslim Pilgrimage to the Holy Places in Mecca and Medina, is not merely a religious undertaking of devotion for Muslims; it is a global annual event that included political, social, economic, and intellectual aspects throughout world history.
The study of Hajj history in the pre-modern and modern eras unravel important mundane human ties and networks of mobility that go beyond its primary religious meanings for millions of Muslim believers around the globe.
In other words, throughout history the Hajj traffic routes and itineraries regularly created new religious, political, social, and cultural contact zones between Muslim regions on the one hand, and with the geographical boundaries of other parts of the world on the other. Since medieval Islamic history, the Hajj had accelerated sea trade as thousands of pilgrims and merchant-pilgrims made their way to Mecca and Medina by sea, stopping at coastal towns where they often traded goods. European connections to the Hajj have a lengthy history of centuries before the influx of Muslim migration to the West after World War ii.
During the colonial age in particular, European and Ottoman empires brought the Hajj under surveillance primarily for political reasons, for economic interests in the control of steamships and for the fear of the growth of pan-Islamic networks. Another important motive for the European scrutiny of Hajj was their anxiety for the spread of epidemic diseases in their colonies after the pilgrims’ return.
The present volume focuses on the political perceptions of the Hajj, its global religious appeal to Muslims, and the European struggle for influence and supremacy in the Muslim world in the age of pre-colonial and colonial empires.
By the term “empire,” we follow in this volume Jonathan Hart’s particular reference to “those western European nations who, beginning with Portugal, began in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to expand offshore and later overseas.