Book: Central Asian Pilgrims and Hajj Routes

Alexandre Papas, Thomas Welsford, Thierry Zarcone (eds), Central Asian Pilgrims. Hajj Routes and Pious Visits between Central Asia and the Hijaz, Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 308, Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 2011.

“Striving to fulfil one of the five pillars of Islam, Central Asian believers covered considerable distances to reach Mecca. This book is the story of their endeavours and their successes. Based on the proceedings of an international conference held in Tashkent, the collection brings together ten essays on hajj pilgrims and networks, each written by a leading scholar in the field of Islamic and Central Asian studies and drawing upon new material and sophisticated theoretical approaches.

The volume covers a long period of history, from the sixteenth century to the present, and a wide territory ranging from Western China to Arabia, passing via Russia, Uzbekistan, India, Iran, and the Red Sea.

Contributions are arranged within four sections. In view of the high piety and the religious passion of Central Asian Sufis, and of Naqshbandis in particular, the first section of the book, ›Sufis on Hajj‹, examines the history and the theory of Sufi pilgrimage between Turkestan and the Haramayn. Besides mystics, »common« pilgrims from various backgrounds undertook and still undertake the long journey: in the second section, ›The Hajj Trajectories‹, three case studies – relating to Turkestanis in the 16th and 17th centuries, Volga-Ural Muslims in the late 19th century, and Tatars in the early 20th century – illustrate their itineraries, travel conditions, and their activities during the journey. Contributions to the third section, ›Books of Hajj‹, accord particular attention to events in the 19th century, when a range of new opportunities for Central Asian hajjis allowed the proliferation of new kinds of travelogues inspired by Reformist ideas. Finally, the papers in the fourth section, ›From Hajj to Pious Visits‹, remind us that, despite this Jadid influence and the development of hajj thanks to modern transportation, secondary pilgrimages – i.e. pious visits to shrines – are still extremely popular, functioning either as a substitute for hajj or as an addition thereto.”


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