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SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER: The Hajj

Prophet’s Mosque, Medina.
Courtesy of Shakeb Ahmed/Anisa Mehdi
Prophet’s Mosque, Medina.

Airs Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Join host Bruce Feiler on an unprecedented journey to the world’s most meaningful landscapes and rigorous religious pilgrimages. Feiler and contemporary sojourners journey to sacred sites cherished by billions and visited annually by hundreds of millions of pilgrims. Each episode follows a modern-day pilgrim on a private spiritual journey. The six-part series, SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER, presents a comprehensive picture of the practice of pilgrimage in its varied expressions around the globe, over thousands of years. KPBS will broadcast two consecutive episodes on Tuesdays, December 16, 23 and 30 beginning at 8 p.m. each night: "Lourdes" (Dec. 16), "Shikoku" (Dec. 16), "Jerusalem" (Dec. 23), "The Hajj" (Dec. 23), "Kumbh Mela" (Dec. 30) and "Osun-Osogbo" (Dec. 30).

What is a Pilgrimage?

Read about the six stages that characterize every pilgrimage.

Meet the Pilgrims

Explore pilgrim profiles featured in the series SACRED JOURNEYS WITH BRUCE FEILER.

Anisa Mehdi led a group of American pilgrims to the Hajj.
Courtesy of Shakeb Ahmed/Anisa Mehdi
Anisa Mehdi led a group of American pilgrims to the Hajj.
Pilgrims performing rituals at the Hajj.
Courtesy of Shakeb Ahmed/Anisa Mehdi
Pilgrims performing rituals at the Hajj.

"The Hajj" airs Tuesday, December 23 at 9 p.m. - “The Hajj is the iconic pilgrimage on Earth,” says host Bruce Feiler, as millions of pilgrims gather in the valleys outside the city of Mecca in today’s Saudi Arabia to take part in the annual five-day pilgrimage every Muslim hopes to complete at least once. Since non-Muslims aren’t permitted in Mecca, Bruce’s surrogate is Anisa Mehdi, a veteran reporter of the Hajj, with whom Bruce will Skype at regular intervals. Anisa joins a group of Muslim pilgrims from Boston who begin their journey in Medina, the second of Islam’s holy cities.

As the pilgrims visit sites in Medina associated with the life of the Prophet Muhammad, Bruce enlists the help of a historian and an eminent American Muslim scholar to explore the origins of the religion and its iconic pilgrimage. In 622CE Muhammad fled his birthplace of Mecca after persecution by its pagan rulers who objected to him preaching a new monotheism. Muhammad and a small group of followers settled in Medina. Within ten years Islam was the dominant religion of Arabia and Muhammad returned to Mecca in triumph to clear idols from the holy sites and teach his followers the different stages of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Boston pilgrims follow Muhammad’s path from Medina to Mecca, beginning their Hajj by circling the Ka’aba, the ancient shrine at the center of Mecca’s Great Mosque. Muslims believe the Ka’aba was first built by Abraham, patriarch of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

Stripping themselves of worldly possessions for the duration of the Hajj, the pilgrims enact the rituals laid out by Muhammad, experiencing exhaustion, injury and elation as they seek forgiveness and inner peace. They leave with a new sense of connection to humanity, and to the one-and-a-half billion people that make up the worldwide community of Muslims.

Bruce Feiler is on Facebook, and you can follow @BruceFeiler on Twitter. Episodes from this series will be available for online viewing through mid-January 2015.

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