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Guests of GodPilgrimage and Politics in the Islamic World$
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Robert R. Bianchi

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195171075

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195171071.001.0001

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What Does the Hajj Mean?

What Does the Hajj Mean?

(p.23) 2 What Does the Hajj Mean?
Guests of God

Robert R. Bianchi (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Modernist Islamic thinkers see the hajj as a treasure house of fluid symbols carrying infinite meanings everyone is free to interpret and reinterpret as they choose. In their view, “reading” the hajj’s inner meanings is similar to reading any sacred text, including the Qur’an–every mortal mind can grasp a fraction of God’s message, but no human authority, no matter how learned and esteemed, can monopolize the discussion or claim the final word. Three writers have produced widely influential reinterpretations portraying the hajj as a powerful agent of social and political reform–Muhammad Iqbal of India, ‘Ali Shari‘ati of Iran, and Mohammed Arkoun of Algeria. Iqbal’s revivalism, Shari‘ati’s rebelliousness, and Arkoun’s humanism have merged into a modernist stream of hajj interpretation that enjoys mass audiences in dozens of languages and nations. Their views are constantly discussed and debated by a cosmopolitan hajj community that is increasingly youthful, female, educated, urban, and non-Middle Eastern.

Keywords:   Muhammad Iqbal, ‘Ali Shari‘ati, Mohammed Arkoun, symbols, meanings, interpretations, revivalism, rebelliousness, humanism, Qur’an

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