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Expectations, Impact and Return

Status and Community Expectations

Haji Nanna Takeaway

East London business evidently owned by someone who has performed Hajj, 2014.

Returning pilgrims bear the new, honorific titles of "Hajji" (men) and "Hajja" (women).  Expected to be more pious and enlightened, they have often been given special respect in Muslim communities".

However, in Britain today Hajj-going has become quite commonplace.  Some elders think that it has become too easy as compared to the past.  Nevertheless, the impact of performing the pilgrimage upon individuals' religiosity and lifestyle can still be a matter of public scrutiny.

Once you’ve come back from Hajj they don’t expect you to be in the mosque for five times daily prayers and constantly devoting your life towards prayer and ritual. I think there’s an expectation that, well, it’s up to the individual in terms of how they go on from here, whether they go more into spirituality and practice of Islam or whether they stick to their normal habits.

Hajji 2006, Midlands.

Spiritual Impact

Magnetism Sculpture

Magnetism, Ahmed Mater, 2011. British Museum.

Many pilgrims do affirm that the most significant thing they brought back from Hajj is a unique and potentially life-changing experience.  They speak of "spiritual uplift" as well as feeling positive mentally and emotionally.  They pray that such inspiration will remain an ongoing source of spiritual connection and motivation.

Yet, such intense personal and spiritual experiences are not easy to maintain.  Some pilgrims initially experience a real sense of loss when returning home.  Many gradually slip back into a pattern of everyday spiritual ups and downs.

Not one of us can know whether or not his Hajj accepted or not but I will tell you something by which you can somehow feel your Hajj is accepted, is that you will be better than before Hajj, you will be another person, you will start fulfilling your duties, your religion duties, you will start preserving your prayer.

Hajj Guide, London.

The Desire to Return

Main with Ka'ba picture

Pilgrim at home standing beside a picture of Makkah, Leeds, 2011.

Pilgrims "revisit" the Holy Places in their memories, senses and dreams.  However, they are unanimous, too, in their desire to return one day for Hajj or Umrah.  Some counsel that Hajj should be performed only once in a lifetime especially when so many other Muslims have to wait years for their opportunity.

Nevertheless, the Holy Places undoubtedly exercise a strong hold over the religious imaginations and identities of British Muslims of all ages.  There is a magnetic pull towards what can be viewed as a spiritual homeland.  Pilgrims insist that Hajj is a journey unlike any other!

J30When you go for Hajj you do feel like there is a first step of getting closer to Allah. When I come back I want to stay in that state.

Hajja 1997, London.