Reem Nazir Oil on Canvas 2010
Over two million Muslims will begin the Hajj this evening. One of the Five Pillars of Islam, the Pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the most important events of a person’s life. It is required of all that are physically and financially able the make the journey at least once.
The highlight for many is the Tawaf, the circling of the Kaaba. The group of thousands together walk seven times around the structure. This harmonious circumambulation symbolizes the unity of the people as one in worship of the One God.
The large cube-like structure in the middle is the Kaaba, the most sacred Islamic site. When Muslims around the world stop to pray, it is toward the Kaaba they are kneeling. Part of the granite structure is the Station of Ibrahim. It’s said that the impression of Abraham’s feet are there from where he stood during the construction.
There are many different theories and legends about the Black Stone that is located on the Kaaba. Some believe the angel Gabriel gave it to Ismael, son of Abraham, to put on the temple. There are amazing stories ranging from it being a meteorite to the remains of the angel from the Garden of Eden turned to stone when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Touching or kissing the Black Stone is an important aspect of the Hajj, as the Prophet Mohammed ﷺ kissed it when he saw it.
The large fabric that is draped over the Kaaba is the Kiswah. It’s a beautiful embroidered piece made of silk and stitched with gold. It is draped only one day a year during the Hajj and a new cloth is created each year.
This painting by Reem Nazir shows the Kiswah being lowered as the pilgrims walk around the base. I love how it shows it mid-process, with the lowering ropes visible, as well as the back side of the fabric. She shows a surprising amount of detail in the embroidery, as well as the small objects hanging in the foreground.
Reem Nazir is a Saudi Arabian born artist, but has lived and worked around the world. She paints a wide range of subjects from landscape to portrait to still life, all of which are known for their bold color and heavy, layered palette knife work. Without a doubt, my favorites come from her series entitled Hajj Journey Through the Ages, which includes 43 paintings. These works were based on historical photographs and first hand accounts from Hajjees.
To learn more about this series and the artist, please check out this interview: Reem Nazir
The Tawaf is just one segment of the Hajj. Please learn more about the journey. Sending peace and love to those making the journey this week.