New book shows 300 illustrations of the Hajj pilgrimage over the centuries

'Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage' published by Assouline shows historical artworks and artefacts

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To mark this year's Hajj, a new coffee-table book has been released, filled with glossy pages of artworks and artefacts connected to the world's largest religious pilgrimage.

Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage, by luxury publisher Assouline, recounts the importance of the journey to Islam's holiest city. As one of the five pillars of Islam, the pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia must be undertaken by any Muslim able to complete it

The book explores many of the priceless artefacts of The Khalili Collections, gathered by British-Iranian scholar Nasser David Khalili over a 50-year period. Comprising more than 28,000 pieces of Islamic art and covering more than 1,400 years of history, it remains the largest and most comprehensive collection in private hands to date.

The book has been written by Qaisra M Khan, formerly of the British Museum and now a curator for The Khalili Collections, and is filled with insights into the Islamic principles and rituals of Hajj, and offers a glimpse of many of its sacred manuscripts.

The Kiswah of Maqam Ibrahim being carried through Cairo, with King Farouk in attendance, in 1939. Photo: The Khalili Collections

More than 5,000 pieces of the collection are brought to light in this book, including one-off copies of the Quran, illustrated manuscripts, scientific instruments, textiles and rare books. There are even illustrations of Makkah, including one watercolour dated 1845, which shows the whole city as it was at the time.

The book also includes some of the earliest-known photographs of the Hajj, including one taken of pilgrims circling the Kaaba in 1880.

As a show of the global influence of Islam, the book includes such varied artworks as 19th-century Kashmiri drawings depicting the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah, and a drawing of pilgrim boats en route to the holy city as captured in a 19th-century Chinese scroll. There is even a 1939 photograph taken in Cairo showing the Kiswah of the Maqam Ibrahim, in the presence of Egypt's King Farouk.

With the Hajj largely kept shielded from non-Muslim eyes, Khan takes pains to provide a glimpse into this ancient and meaningful pilgrimage, and explain its spiritual and cultural significance to those who may never experience it first-hand.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 9:24 AM