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The Hadj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca Paperback – September 2, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (September 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135862
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135865
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #814,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an engaging and instructive account of his experiences as a Muslim pilgrim to Mecca, California freelance writer, editor and publisher Wolfe lifts the veil for Western readers on this ancient and sacred duty of Islam, simultaneously presenting a lively and sympathetic picture of Muslims. Wolfe, a self-described "mongrel" son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father, says he wanted not to "trade in" his culture in his recent conversion to Islam, but to find "access to new meanings" and "an escape route from the isolating terms of a materialistic culture." He explores new meanings through readings in translation of Islamic literature, religion and history, but most of all in discussions with other men, especially the wise, folksy and enthusiastic Mostopha, with whom he spends Ramadan. (Not surprisingly, the only woman of note in the book is Mostopha's wife Qadisha who, it seems, is always cooking.) The pilgrimage itself is palpably detailed with its intense heat, ardor, bonding, visits to holy sites, multitude of prayers, rules, illnesses and kindnesses, all shared by the more than a million pilgrims who crowd this awesome holy ritual.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A rare firsthand account, by an American writer and recent Muslim convert, of a journey to the geographical heart of ``the least understood of the world's great religions.'' Wolfe postpones his trip to Mecca until the second half of his narrative, preceding it with a colorful but meandering description of his sojourn in Morocco. There, he wanders through noisy bazaars, sleeps on sheepskins, chats with Moroccan friends about politics and faith, watches a Sufi group chant and sway, visits Paul Bowles, dons a djellaba for daily Islamic prayers, and gradually comes to feel more at home in that exotic culture. But all this is padding, if skillfully stitched together. Readers will sigh with relief when Wolfe's plane finally touches down in Jiddah and he emerges into the blistering heat of a Saudi summer. Here, again, Wolfe insists on detailing countless conversations with friends and companions, but he also describes--as vividly as any writer before him--the swelter and crush of millions of pilgrims jostling past the Kaaba (the great cubical stone in the center of Mecca's great mosque) or wending their way to the valley of Arafat. Everyone wears the pilgrim's white terry-cloth robes; personal identity is submerged; all eyes are on Allah. While in Mecca, not all is religion--Wolfe mediates an automobile deal, reads Lord Jim, meets pilgrims from around the world--but everything remains subordinate to the author's being at the core of ``the final, matured expression of an original religion reaching back to Adam.'' Brief forays into Islamic theology and history help explain things--with some cheerleading--for untutored readers. Notable, in these muted polemical digressions, is Wolfe's decision to ignore the most common criticisms of Islam, for its views on violence and on women. Too cluttered, and blemished by sly jibes at Judaism and Christianity, but still memorable as travelogue and Islamic apologetic. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Michael Wolfe was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, educated at Wesleyan University (Classics, 1968), and lives in Northern California. He is the author of eleven books of poetry, fiction, and travel. He has been a fellow at Bread Loaf Writers Conference and a guest at the MacDowell Colony. He held the Amy Lowell Traveling Poets Scholarship for three years while living in North and West Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s he owned and ran a bookstore and a book bindery and edited and published Tombouctou Books, Bolinas, CA, including titles by Paul Bowles, Mohammed Mrabet, Larbi Layachi, Jim Carroll, Dale Herd, Steve Emerson, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lucia Berlin, Bill Berkson, Duncan McNaughton, Clark Coolidge, and many others.

In 1990, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca and subsequently wrote two books on the subject.

He is currently Co-Executive Producer and President of Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit media company that produces documentary films for television.

For more information see Wikipedia and Who's Who in America, 60th Education.
Authors Guild website: www.michaelwolfe.net

Publication History

Cut These Words into My Stone: Ancient Greek Epitaphs in Translations. 160 pages, Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2013.
Greek to Me. Verse. Blue Press. 2012
Paradise: Reading Notes. Verse. Blue Press, 2010.
Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim their Faith. Essays. 120 pages, Rodale Press, 2003.
One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage. Travel. 620 pages, Grove Press, 1997.
The Hadj: An American's Pilgrimage to Mecca. Travel. 331 pages, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1993.
Invisible Weapons. Stories. 177 pages, Creative Arts, 1986.
In Morocco. Travel writing, Sombre Reptiles, Berkeley Ca, 1980
No, You Wore Red. Verse, Tombouctou, Bolinas CA, 1980
How Love Gets Around. Verse, Soft Press, Vancouver, B.C., 1976
World Your Own. Verse, Calliope Press, Vermont, 1974

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mohja Kahf on June 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Oh dear, for just one instant a Muslim writer forgot to key his writing to allaying Western concerns about Islam and addressing Western stereotypes, for their noble concerns must frame our every endeavor, so he rightly gets rapped on the hand by the Kirkus Review included above by Amazon:

"Notable, in these muted polemical digressions, is Wolfe's decision to ignore the most common criticisms of Islam, for its views on violence and on women."

'Noted?' Can you imagine a Catholic writer's account of a journey to Rome or a Jewish writer's journey to Jerusalem or a Protestant Christian writer's journey to Bethlehem being taken to task for not addressing their religion's 'views on violence and on women?' Yet each of these religions has problems with violence and women's rights as least as pressing as Islam's.

Wolfe does what he set out to do. Ably.

Up yours, Kirkus Reviews.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
As a recent convert to Islam, I can only imagine what it would feel like to stand in the Great Mosque in Mecca with the hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims. Wolfe had this opportunity, but unfortunately, he did not sufficiently express his religious/spiritual impressions in the book. His writing style was a bit too objective and detached. It appeared that he carried the initial uneasyness he felt in Morocco (i.e. when he was afraid to enter the mosque) throughout the entire trip. However, I do applaud the honesty with which he described his religious upbringing and why he decided to become a Muslim.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
A very good account of one of the most important journeys in a Muslim's life. I picked up this hoping it would be a good guide for Muslim converts if not a guide for Hadj. It was neither. Although Wolfe does take a genuine interest in the Arab culture and the religion of Islam, he fails to take the opportunity to enlighten his readers on clearly, one of the world's most misunderstood religion. He does not talk about how to prepare, how to perform, why they do it and what to watch for at the Pilgrimage. Wolfe dwells instead on his personal observations of his tour of Morocco, Mecca and Medina; the book is a personal trip diary. The author has obviously started out by studying a lot into Islam, however, it seems he received his inspirations from unusual sources. He quotes liberally from Frost, Twain and Washington Irving throughout the book but rarely goes into the traditions of the Prophet of Islam. He even sumarizes the entire autobigraphy of the Prophet in 3 paragraphs. Wolfe's admiration for Mohammed (Peace be upon him) is very evident, however; scattered through the book amidst car deals and accounts of his shopping cart are revealing reasons on why he became a Muslim. A short list of the Prophet's words favorite sayings, towards the end, is as refreshing as the cool ZamZam waters of Mecca.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Tynyshov on November 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
In this book Michael Wolfe, an American convert to Islam has described his personal Hadj to Makkah beautifully. The pilgrimage to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, that is a principal religious obligation of adult Muslims. He has described the Hadj in steps, ritual by ritual and by giving their meanings, as well as his own thoughts, ideas, emotions..etc at that point in time.
His journey starts from Morocco, where he went before Hadj, to gain some knowledge and to live in the Islamic environment. He has given a lot of information about Moroccon people, their life, culture and relationship with each other. He gives a lot of information about Muslim people and their culture in general, such as Brotherhood in Islam for example. Where ever he went he was accepted as one of the family member - a brother. This he says was one of the beautiful things that Islam has gives to people and which is specific to Muslims only, which Malcolm X has noticed too when he made his own Hadj.
I bought this book because I wanted to know, a Westerner's opinion on Islamic topics such as Hadj, from Western perspective.
I must say this book was a wonderful read for me, and I am sure it will be the same for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. M. on December 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
Michael Wolfe has outdone himself in the writing of "The Hadj".

He takes you to the streets of Marrakech, Mecca and Medina. The writing style is exquisite. He really gives you insight on what to expect while on the Hadj.

I actually felt like I was there, on his journey; so descriptive and such a detailed accounting of his surroundings.

I finsihed the book in less than a week and each time I put it down, I could not wait to pick it up and start reading again.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to everyone!! A real treat!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "kamelyta" on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Micheal Wolfe is indeed a storyteller. This book is interesting yet educational. This is good for everyone interested in travel and Islam. This is simply excellent!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pristine on March 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
On the strength of a travelogue alone, I would give Wolfe's book a 4 star. It has all the ingredients of a piece written by a well-read traveler: historical contexts, quotations from predecessors who have traveled the same path, descriptive passages concerning both landscape and human figures, and most importantly, a show of restraint by withholding ethnocentric judgments that fly all too easily when cultures collide.

The Hadj is a good primer for stateside readers whose only education about Islam consists of shouting pundits on fair and balanced news stations. It shows that there is a majority of Muslims who are not concerned with violence and are not preoccupied throughout the day with terrorist thoughts.

The problem begins when readers approach the book expecting either a political angle or a spiritual angle. We don't expect a travel journal about London to delve into a detailed commentary about imperialistic regimes achieved through naval superiority, so why should the author of the Hadj need to impose Western concepts of egalitarian societies onto his observations? I found that as long as I read the Hadj as nothing but a travelogue, it was quite satisfying.

Every person has their reasons for embarking on a spiritual journey, so I won't question Wolfe's true reasons. I will confess that at the opening of the book, when I read these lines "I was looking for a framework I could live with, a vocabulary of spiritual concepts applicable to the life I was living now. I did not want to 'trade in' my culture. I wanted access to new meanings," and later on, "The more I learned about Islam, the more it appeared to conform to what I was looking for"; I almost put down the book and stopped right there.
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