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        The Hajj: Journey to Mecca

        In this lesson, students learn about the activities involved during the Hajj, the pilgrimage that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and their historic and spiritual importance to Muslims.

        Lesson Summary


        The annual Hajj or pilgrimage of Islam brings millions of Muslims to Mecca, located on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. All Muslims, both men and women, who are financially and physically able, are expected to attend the Hajj at least once in their lives. The pilgrimage consists of several ceremonies meant to symbolize the essential concepts of Islam and commemorate the trials of prophet Abraham and his family. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and an essential part of a Muslim’s faith and practice. This week-long event occurs two months and ten days after Ramadan ends, during the Muslim month of Dhul-Hijjah.

        In this lesson, students compare and contrast some of their cultural events with the Hajj. They will also learn of the activities involved during the pilgrimage and their historic and spiritual importance to Muslims.



        • Reflect on the importance of rituals in familiar events enjoyed by themselves and with their families;
        • Understand that many of the same activities and motivations associated with these events are enjoyed by Muslims who attend the Hajj;
        • Understand where the Hajj takes place in Mecca and that people travel from all parts of the world to attend;
        • Understand the specific ritual activities of the Hajj, their historic relevance, and importance to Islam;
        • Appreciate the diversity of other groups’ religious and cultural traditions;
        • Understand the importance of attending the Hajj and its spiritual impact from an American Muslim's point of view;
        • Identify ways in which other religious and traditional practices are similar to one's own.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        Three 45-minute class periods

        Media Resources


        For the teacher:

        • Board and/or chart paper
        • Overhead projector, if available
        • Ideally, a screen on which to project the Web-based video segments
        • Handouts of Web resources if computers are not available in the classroom

        For students:

        Web Sites

        • "Islam: Empire of Faith"
          A companion piece to the PBS documentary of the same name, this site offers detailed segments on faith, culture, innovation, and profiles of prominent figures in Islam. The site also features an interactive timeline and educational resources.
        • The Islam Project
          This multimedia website is aimed at schools, communities, and individuals who want a clearer understanding of Islam. The project comprises two PBS documentaries -- Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet and Frontline's "Muslims" -- along with a strong community engagement campaign and educational materials.

        Before The Lesson

        Prior to teaching the lesson, review all of the Web sites and video segments used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students. Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload them to an online bookmarking utility such as

        Download, print, and copy all of the student organizers listed above for each student in your classroom.

        Prerequisite: Before beginning this lesson, be sure to do the Introductory Activity from the Religion and the First Amendment lesson with your class.

        The Lesson

        Part I: Introductory Activity

          1. Before class begins, write the following terms on the board to one side:
            • Summer camp
            • Visiting relatives during the holidays
            • Large sporting events
            • Religious celebrations
            • Family reunions
            • Historical holidays
            • Concerts


          1. Write three headings in a row: "Who goes and why?," "Why travel?," and "Experiences shared?"


          1. Have students pair up for the discussion. Ask two students to be recorders of information on the front board. Then ask the students (including the recorders) the following questions in sequence, providing some time for each pair to discuss the question independently:
            • Who attends these events and why?
            • Why do people have to travel to these events?
            • What types of experiences do the attendees share at these events?


          1. Have the recorders alternate summarizing students' answers on the front board under the appropriate question headings. Then have student pairs discuss the question, "What do people gain from attending these events?" Randomly go around the room to get some answers.


          1. Introduce this lesson by asking students if they know the meaning of the term pilgrimage. Explain to them that a pilgrimage is a journey made to some place with the purpose of honoring or paying respect to the place or someone held in great affection. Usually pilgrimages are taken to places of religious importance, like the birth places of holy people or places where they once lived.


          1. Ask students if they are familiar with any religious pilgrimages. After getting few responses, tell students that they are going to learn about the pilgrimage of Islam called the Hajj.


          1. Place on the overhead (if you have one) and distribute copies of the Student Organizer 1: Pilgrimage to the Hajj handout.


          1. Ask students what country is represented on the map. Ask them to identify the cardinal direction each "pilgrim" is taking to reach Mecca and write these directions on their map next to the pilgrim.


        1. Ask students to keep the handout, as they will be using it again several times during this lesson.

        Part II: Learning Activity 2: Background on the Hajj

          1. Open this activity by introducing the concept of rituals. Ask students "What is a ritual?" and "What purposes do they serve?" If necessary, to help them to better understand, write a definition of the term ritual on the board: an established method of procedure that is faithfully followed to support the celebration or memory of an historical event or idea. Mention that rituals may contain ceremony, religious devotion and practices, and some form of the arts (music, visual or dance).


          1. Next, have students review the list of events from the first activity. Ask them to identify which events have rituals and what they are? Ask them what purposes these rituals serve?


          1. Then distribute the Student Organizer 2: Background on the Hajj: The 5 Pillars of Islam handout. Have them go to the Web site and answer the questions on the student organizer. Alternately, the information can be downloaded and printed as a handout. (This part of the activity can be done as a homework assignment.) Have students work in pairs to answer the questions.


        1. Debrief the activity with the following questions:
          • What function do these rituals have in honoring the religion or the event?
          • How do they help perpetuate the religion or the event for future generations?
          • What can people learn about others by observing rituals like these?
          • How can sharing cultural traditions help overcome stereotypes and misconceptions about another's culture?

        Part III: Learning Activity 3: Watching the Video

          1. Explain to students that they will watch three segments which present one man's experience making the pilgrimage.


          1. Have students take out the map from the first activity. Tell them to locate the pilgrim in New Jersey. Tell them the person they are about to meet in the three segments made the pilgrimage from New Jersey to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.


          1. Have the class watch the first two videos, Hajj - Part I QuickTime Video and Hajj - Part II QuickTime VR Video


          1. Distribute the Student Organizer 3: Video Viewing Guide handout and the transcripts for the first two segments.


          1. Divide students into pairs to review the first two transcript segments.


          1. After students have completed the questions, hold a general class discussion to review their answers.


        1. Then show students the third segment, Hajj - Part III QuickTime Video. After the video, re-group students into larger groups of four to five. Distribute the transcripts from the third segment and have students discuss the associated questions on the Viewing Guide. After the groups have finished their discussions call on each group's spokesperson to present the group's responses.

        Part IV: Culminating Activity

          1. Instruct students to select one of the events presented in the first activity (or they can select one of their own) to create a presentation.


          1. Once they have selected an event explain that they can choose to create an information poster, a painting or illustration, a poem, or a play. This can be an in-class or homework assignment.


          1. Explain to students they will make a two to three minute presentation on their creation to the class. The presentation should also explain why they chose the event and the decisions they made in creating the presentation. The finished works can be displayed around the classroom.


        1. After each student has presented ask the class what they learned about rituals and personal experiences like the hajj. What similarities did they see in the events they experienced and the one of Abdul Alim Mubarak? What was different? Ask students if their views or feelings about these events changed. If so, how? If not, why not? Have any of their views towards religious, cultural and/or spiritual diversity changed? You can have them write their thoughts down or open the question up for discussion.


        Invite people who have taken religious pilgrimages to the holy land to come and speak to the class. Check with your school or district on any established policies for bringing guest speakers into the classroom. Contact local colleges or universities for recommendations on guest speakers. Prepare students with questions they develop from their experiences in this lesson. 


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