Guests of God: Pilgrimage and Politics in the Islamic World / Edition 1

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Each year, more than two million pilgrims from over 100 countries converge on the holy city of Mecca to reenact the ritual dramas that Muslims have been performing for centuries. Making the hajj is one of the most important duties in the life of a Muslim. The pilgrimage-and its impact on international politics-is enormous and growing every year, yet Westerners know virtually nothing about it. What is the hajj and what does it mean? Who are the hajjis? What do they do and say in Mecca and how do they interpret their experiences? Who runs the hajj and what are their political objectives? How does the hajj encourage international cooperation among Muslims and can it also promote harmony between Islam and the West? In Guests of God, Robert R. Bianchi seeks to answer these and many other questions. While it is first and foremost a religious festival, he shows, the hajj is also very much a political event. The Muslim world's leading multinational organization, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has established the first international regime explicitly devoted to pilgrimage. Every large Muslim nation has developed a comprehensive hajj policy and a powerful bureaucracy to enforce it. Yet, Bianchi argues, no authority- secular or religious, national or international-can really control the hajj. Pilgrims believe that they are entitled to travel freely to Mecca as "Guests of God"-not as guests of any nation or organization that might wish to restrict or profit from their efforts to fulfill a fundamental religious obligation. Drawing on his personal experience as a pilgrim and a wealth of data gathered over the course of ten years of research, Bianchi has produced a fascinating look at the hajj filled with personal, candid stories from political and religious leaders and hajjis from all walks of life. A wide-ranging study of Islam, politics, and power, Guests of God is the most complete picture of the hajj available anywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Readable, informative, and often funny, this book is appropriate for undergraduate courses in religion, politics, and international affairs; policy makers and journalists seeking understanding of the Hajj's central role in both religious and political life in the Muslim world; and general readers curious about Islam and its most important ritual." —The Historian

"Intersting and wide-ranging."—The Times Literary Supplement

"...a remarkable book that delivers more than its title even begins to suggest."—CHOICE

"...a work of great learning and of astute political and social analysis, written in a direct and jargon-free style that is a joy to achievement remarkable for its learning, its sophistication, its acuity and its sheer lucidity."—F.E. Peters, Middle East and Islamic Studies, New York University

"Guests of God, the fruit of a personal pilgrimage in 1989 (do not miss the pages recounting that) and more than a decade of research throughout the Muslim world, is a beautifully wrought study that tells much about the hajj and more."—Foreign Affairs

"This is a masterful study of the Hajj, one of the greatest human experiences of our time, in historical, social scientific and legal perspectives, ranging from global thematic issues to detailed case studies. Bianchi combines fascinating narrative, accessible prose, and wealth of information with sophisticated analysis, insightful scholarship, and clarity of presentation. A highly instructive and inspiring contribution to possibilities of international peaceful cooperation at the present creative moment in human history."—Abdullahi An-Na'im, author of Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law

"Robert Bianchi describes the Hajj as 'magical'. Guests of God is no less so. Melding social science analysis, history, public policy, Islamic studies, personal narrative, and travelogue Bianchi takes his readers on a Hajj of their own. From Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Malaysia, Turkey, Nigeria, and elsewhere Bianchi reveals the mechanics, the politics, and the spiritual dimensions of perhaps the world's greatest regularized movement of people. Relying on brilliant scholarship, elegant writing, and rare insight this book is truly a colossal achievement."—Jerrold D. Green, Director of International Programs and Development and Director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy, RAND

"Robert Bianchi's Guests of God is a unique and masterful treatment of the politicization of the hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, and its global significance. Based on extensive field research and data, this is a definitive and critical study, must-reading for those who wish to understand the continuing role of the hajj from Nigeria to Indonesia in Muslim belief, politics and international relations." —John L. Esposito, author of Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam

Foreign Affairs
A career CIA analyst and the author of Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America, "Anonymous" was granted permission to publish both books provided he was not named (though he has since been identified). In a somewhat repetitive style-with too many words wasted lining up other specialists for praise or condemnation rather than setting out his own case-he makes the following arguments. Bin Laden is not a madman but a rational strategist who says what he believes and acts on it. He is well regarded throughout the Muslim world. Al Qaeda hates us not for who we are but for where we are. So, too, does most of the Muslim world. The United States' propping up of unpopular Middle Eastern regimes and unflagging support for Israel weakens its hand in the region. Washington should have struck against al Qaeda in Afghanistan immediately after September 11 and should have finished the job there rather than turning to Iraq. These arguments might seem to lead to a prescription for a fine-tuned U.S. strategy of isolating al Qaeda and weakening its appeal to the Muslim masses by changing U.S. policies and building coalitions with Middle Eastern and other states. But not for Anonymous: this is war, he writes, and "we must kill many thousands of these fighters." Exactly how to engage in such a war (as opposed to a persistent police action) against tiny, mobile pockets of fighters spread all over the world and connected via the Internet is not clear.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195171075
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert R. Bianchi is an international lawyer and a consultant to numerous government agencies and international organizations. He earned his Ph.D. and J.D. at the University of Chicago and has taught political science at the American University in Cairo, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago. He is the author of Interest Groups and Political Development in Turkey (1984) and Unruly Corporatism: Associational Life in Twentieth-Century Egypt (1989). He made the hajj in 1989.

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Table of Contents

1 What is the hajj and how does anyone survive it? 7
2 What does the hajj mean? 23
3 Pilgrimage and power 37
4 The growth of the hajj : global and regional trends 49
5 Pakistan : "Why would our hajjis vote against us?" 77
6 Malaysia : the broken piggy bank 113
7 Turkey : the belated quest for religious tolerance 141
8 Indonesia : greening the Pancasila state 175
9 Nigeria : "One nation, under God" 211
10 The West is not alone : the hajj in world politics and law 253
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