Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Duke of Kent Visits British Museum Hajj Exhibition

Duke of Kent visits the Hajj Exhibition
An Absolutely Extraordinary Exhibits

Dr. Mozammel Haque

His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, visited the Hajj Exhibition at the British Museum, on Monday, the 5th of March, 2012. He was received and welcomed along with other guests by His Excellency, Faisal bin Abdurrahman bin Muammar, Supervisor General of the King Abdulaziz Public Library, Riyadh, to the exhibition, “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam”.

Last Monday’s event was one of the events during this exhibition: Hajj: A Journey to the Heart of Islam, organised by King Abdulaziz Public Library of Riyadh, the aim of which is, of course, to bring some guests, the VIP people to the exhibition which is very important. Again it’s a chance and opportunity to introduce more knowledge about Hajj, Makkah and Madinah.

At the reception organised by the King Abdulaziz Public Library at the British Museum, Mr. Neil Macgregor, the Director of the British Museum expressed his thanks to the King Abdul Aziz Public Library Riyadh. He said, “We are extremely keen to present to the public the experience of Hajj, the one which the non-Muslims are not to be a party but to experience which are captured in exhibits.”

There was excellent response from the public. Within the few weeks since the exhibition has been opened already 60,000 visitors came and visited with the enthusiastic interests, said the Director of the British Museum.

Welcoming the guests and Duke of Kent, HE Faisal said, “Saudi Arabia is proud to host the largest annual gathering for peace and love among humans to perform the ritual of the Hajj and to get closer to God on the plains of Blessed Makkah and the holy places.”

He also mentioned about initiative of King Abdullah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques who initiated important initiative of interfaith dialogue three years ago for the followers of different religions and cultures to come closer to each other.

Dr. Faisal said this exhibition make visitors observe the civilization, tolerance, and culture of Islam and gives them an opportunity to know the significance of the Hajj and its contribution to mutual knowledge and understanding, brotherhood and affection among Muslims of various races, cultures and nations.”

“We share a lot of things with other religions,” said Dr. Faisal and added, “600 million Muslims pray five times a day facing the Qibla and in their prayers they ask God for peace and love for the Muslims and the non-Muslims in Europe and the people throughout the world and also to teach the new generation of the Message of Islam.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, MP from Spelthorne
The reception at the Hajj Exhibition was visited by many Members of Parliament besides the community leaders and dignitaries. I had the opportunity to interview some of them. Conservative Party Member of Parliament from Spelthorne, South West London, Kwasi Kwarteng, MP, observed, “This Hajj Exhibition is very well presented, very clearly presented. The most interesting information to mention is some of the artefacts astonishing, the Mahmal and the great silk objects, the ceramics, beautiful writings and calligraphy. It is very impressive. I think it will promote much deeper appreciation of Islam among people who are not familiar with Islamic culture and Muslim religion.”

Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall
Another Member of Parliament from the Conservative Party for South East Cornwall, Sheryll Murray, MP, observed, “I think this exhibition is fascinating and I think it is a good thing that non-Muslim like myself can come and see it. It sets out very clearly and I feel very very privileged to have had the experience and I think it will create much better understanding for people like me and I think it is just really really a good thing for relations between the different religions. I think it is superb.”

Rehman Chishti, MP, for Gillingham and Rainham
Another Conservative Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham, Rehman Chishti, MP, observed, “It is a truly fascinating experience to be here today to see the first hand the values and the virtues of the Hajj, the importance of the Hajj, what it means to a Muslim and the history and the journey they set out for so many centuries. I think the Saudi government and the Saudi Embassy and everyone has done a great job by bringing that experience into London so people of all different faiths and all different backgrounds can experience this fascinating journey which of course it is.”

BBC journalist, James Robbins
I met BBC journalist, James Robbins, who has been a diplomatic correspondent for the BBC since January 1998 and is currently based in London. I enquired his experience and comment on the Hajj Exhibition. Mr. Robbins said, “It is an extraordinary exhibition to me because it has told me a huge amount about Hajj which I don’t know and some of the basic things but I did not know the complexity of Hajj.”

He also said, “It reminded me, I suppose, of the facts that so many Muslims make this incredible journey had done for centuries. I mean behind this there is an explanation how earlier pilgrims used to walk about the whole of Africa and I think from the west of Africa which they can carry travelling and sailing boats across towards the holy places and I think that’s remarkable.”

Mr. Robbins also observed, “The exhibition also told me about the tolerance between religions. There is very interesting map to an Englishman like me which Queen Mary Tudor, a Roman Catholic, had made in 1555, the middle of the 16th century, which actually shows, Madinah Makkah which actually representation of the most of the holy places but showing the cathedral because I was born Christian like her would have understood holy places. But what I found really interesting nations in the atlas from 1555 this was where it was written in the book where Saracens went on pilgrimage rather it explained as Christians would go to Rome.”

Mr. Robbins also observed, “I suppose more than anything what it actually reminds me anyway is of the commonness, the co-existence, and the shared heritage of the Abrahamic faiths. Abrahim is absolutely central to the Christian faith Christianity, to Judaism and to Islam and there are subtle variations what the different Abrahamic faiths believe. But the central truth and the central underlying moralities are very similar. I think for me that is the most interesting experience but also just sheer beauty in the exhibits. It is very striking that how much care individual human beings have taken over centuries to make great works of arts. They have in all religions; people dwell in great works of arts in Christianity as in Islam.”

Mr. Scott Young, diabetic charity fundraiser
Mr. Scott Young, Diabetic Charity Fundraiser, said, “I think it is absolutely extraordinary exhibit. Looking at pieces like this you can see the devotion and spiritual commitment of people to create wonderful piece of art because of their faith even though there is no monetary reward, there is not even a reward of fame; there is only the reward of being a peace with your God your Allah and that’s very impressive to me today.”

HRH Prince Salman bin Mohammed bin Nawaf
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Mohammed bin Nawaf said, “I just wanted to emphasize the importance of such an event for the understanding of people and their religion, particularly Islam. Exhibition like this is very important because we have seen that many many people have been coming in and seeing the Hajj Exhibition. They want to come and want to see what makes three million people, even more, to come to the Hajj. The answer for that is simply its faith, its imaan, the belief in the Qur’an al-Kareem, belief in the Kitab Allah, the belief in religion and also the belief in the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). All these together bring them to the Hajj.”

Kiswa of Ka’aba
HRH Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent also visited and watched the demonstration of the preparation of Kiswa, the cloth that covers the Ka’aba. The Kiswa was first introduced during the pre-Islamic era.

When Makkah was taken by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims first decided to leave the Kiswa as it was but later on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) draped the Ka’aba with a white Yemeni Cloth. From the very early time, during the Ummayyads, Abbasids and Osmania period, Muslim Caliphs and Sultans who reigned the Islamic world used to send their gift of Kiswa and during these whole period, Kiswa went through so many changes, from cotton to silk, white to black, new kiswa every year instead of “Accumulation Kiswa” (putting new one on the older one).

The colour of Kiswa kept changing during the reigns of different Caliphs and rulers. During the Abbasid period, Caliphs Al-Mamun and Al-Nasir covered the Ka’aba three times a year, each time with a different colour, white, red and green and later on, they switched to black and it remains so till today.

The founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz al-Saud, for the first time established a factory in Makkah for manufacturing the Kiswa of the Ka’aba in 1926. It took more than 100 craftsmen the whole year to weave the cloth on ancient handlooms and to embroider it in magnificent calligraphy. A new Kiswa is made every year by Saudis who work at the factory. The Holy Makkah is given a new Kiswa or covering annually on the 9th day of Zil-Hijja. The kiswa is wrapped around the Ka’aba and fixed to the ground with copper rings.

The black Kiswa is made with 670 kg of pure silk, and 150 kg of gold and silver thread that is used for sewing the Qur’anic verses. It is 658 square meters in size and consists of 47 pieces, each 14 meters long and 95 cm wide. It costs about SR16.8 million ($4.5 million).

Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan
In an interview with me, Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan, the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London told me, “Covering the Ka’aba actually started during the pre-Islamic period, before Islam. Some Arabs thought it needs to be covered because this building is holy; but the coverage changed into cotton, then they changed it into white cotton and then they changed it again in centuries with black because black actually looks better.”

“It used to come from Egypt, sometimes from Syria. It was one of the many presents sent with money from Egypt, Syria, sometimes from Yemen and Morocco to be presented to the poor people in Makkah and Madinah. It was only during the period of King Abdul Aziz who changed this system” said Dr. Dubayan and added, “King Abdul-Aziz started to establish factory for the Kiswa of Ka’aba in Makkah. Every year it has to change. They use cotton, black silk and dye the silk with black colour and after that they of course embroidered that with gold and silk.”

1 comment:

Amy Alex said...

Muslims all over the world want to visit the museum of Makkah in which the sculptures of Muhammad S.A.W.W and his companions if you have plan i recommend cheap umrah packages which allow you to stay there for 10 to 30 days on which you can explore Makkah and Madina's whole places.