The purpose of this essay is to explore how Muslims in the Malay world fulfil the requirements of the hajj, as well as the Malay personal experience of the hajj. The significance of the Hajj in Islam can be considered best by exploring the symbolism of its rituals, the administration of those rituals, and their political and personal implications for both the Muslim individual and wider community. To each pilgrim, the hajj represents a time of heightened self-awareness, a reflection of one’s values and an enduring commitment to Allah. For these reasons, it is clear that the Hajj represents “much more than its theology alone” (Turner 1978: 106).
For a Muslim pilgrim of the Malay world, the Hajj is also experienced within the context of the kerajaan and Malay royalty, and simultaneously “subsumed beneath the doctrines of Malay nationalism” (Matheson & Milner 1984: 37). It is also experienced within a context of traditional Sufi, and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs which once dominated the Malay world. Further, through the requisite rituals of the ihram, tawaf, and s’ay, for example, Malay Muslims are able to gain a sense of spiritual elevation and significance during their Pilgrimage. With this in mind, my essay aims to explore the specific characteristics of Islam in the Malay world through examining the requisite rituals within the hajj. It will address the arrival of Islam in the Malay world, as well as how historical, political, social and cultural significance is drawn from the hajj experience.
How is the hajj fulfilled?
To fully understand the spirituality that is felt throughout the general pilgrim experience, it is important to first explore the ritual aspects. Rituals are complex process, which are ultimately designed to accomplish a fundamental change in the way the pilgrim feels and thinks about themselves, their society, and their role within society. There are certain rules, a sense of obligation, and high levels of emotion involved in the ritual process (Bowen 2005). Thus, the ritual acts upheld during the hajj represent an external aspect and outer expression of Islamic faith.
In order to carry out the pilgrimage rituals, the pilgrim must be in a state of ‘Ihram’, which is a unique state of ritual purity. This is achieved through donning the traditional white habit, which distinguishes pilgrims from all others but permits no distinction from one another. Donning the ihram garment and subsequently uttering the cry of the Talbiyya, “at Your service, O Lord; at Your service” are the first of the formal rituals mandated in the hajj. Through putting on this garb, the pilgrim enters into a state of peace and self-denial whereby they must refrain from luxuries and gratification of the senses (Kamal, 1961). Quoting Ghazali, a famous Muslim historian, Peters states “as for donning the ihram and uttering the Talbiyya from the Haram boundaries onwards, let him understand that it signifies answering the summons of God”...