Futuh Al-Haramayn : a pilgrim’s guide to Hajj | National Museum New Delhi

Each year, millions of muslims from around the world, gather together to undertake the holy journey, “Hajj”. Hajj is also the fifth pillar of Islam, and apart from its religious significance, it has played an integral role in cultural and commercial exchange. In the collection of the National Museum New Delhi, is a 16th century manuscript, Futuh Al-Haramayn is a pilgrim’s guide to Hajj.

#DidYouKnow : MughalEmperor Humayun's first wife, Bega Begum was fondly called "Hajji Begum" after she became the first woman from the Empire to undertake the journey all by herself! #TheseMughalWomen Share on X

WHAT IS THE Futuh Al-Haramayn ?

One of the oldest existing examples of an illustrated Lonely Planet guidebook to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the Futuh Al-Haramayn is a fascinating manuscript. It was written by Muhi al-Din Lari and is dedicated to the Gujarat ruler Mahmud Shah III. The manuscript dates back to 1548.

A CLOSER LOOK at Futuh Al-Haramayn

The manuscript, written in Persian, instructs pilgrims on the rituals of Hajj, and provides details about the monuments / places of interest in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina that they can visit.

This leaf could also indicate the details of ‘Tawaf’ (the first ritual of Hajj). Tawaf, meaning circumambulation requires pilgrims to walk anti-clockwise around the Ka’aba (the black cube structure) seven times.

Futuh Al-Haramayn pilgrims guide to Hajj

Another leaf illustrates the plains of the Mount Arafat (Mount of Mercy), which must be visited on the 2nd day of Hajj:

Futuh Al-Haramayn pilgrims guide to Hajj
On the top left, you can spot the Mount Arafat.
Futuh Al-Haramayn pilgrims guide to Hajj

Other sites and illustrations include the Jannat al-Mu’alla – the cemetry where (once upon a time) the tombs of Prophet Muhammad’s mother, wife, grandfather and ancestors were located.

Futuh Al-Haramayn pilgrims guide to Hajj

The Anis-al-Hajjaj (The Pilgrim’s Companion) is another travelogue of the same genre. It was written Safi ibn Vali – & belongs to the collection at CSMVS Mumbai.

Vai’s journey to Hajj was sponsored by the Mughal princess Zeb-un-nissa (daughter of Aurangzeb), who was a patron of many literary works of the time.

Futuh Al-Haramayn pilgrims guide to Hajj
a leaf depicting the port of Surat, from where pilgrims departed for their journey | Image : CSMVS Mumbai

According to the museum:

This illustration depicts Surat port in a conventional style, it had a special jetty for ships travelling to the Haj known as the Makka Ovaro, which still exists. The artist seems familiar with the harbour and its surroundings. The fort on the Tapti riverbank was a central hub of activity from 1500-1700 CE, till Bombay harbour was developed. Three masted ships with stylised balloon-like sails are anchored here with life boats. Hajjis are lined up on the upper deck. The stern seems to have special cabins. The composition, draughtsmanship, use of colours and the costumes of this artwork display an affinity with the Deccani painting style.

Many existing versions of the Futuh Al-Haramayn, and the Anis Al-Hajjaj in museums around the world, indicate that such illustrated guides were common and quite popular.

In case you’re wondering about the Rituals of Hajj, take a look at this interesting graphic we found:

 guide to Hajj

The final days of Hajj coincide with the ‘festival of sacrifice’ called Eid al-Adha.

Also Read: Understanding Islam through the collection of the David Museum, Copenhagen

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