Harvard haj study examines Mecca’s effect on Muslims

May 1, 2008

The Kaaba as seen from the first floor of the Grand Mosque sanctuary, 20 Dec 2007Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has just published a study called “Estimating the Impact of the Haj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam’s Global Gathering.” The pilgrimage is often described as the highpoint of a Muslim’s religious life. Media reporting usually stresses the experiences of the people taking part in it. But what is the longer-term effect of participating in such a massive and moving pilgrimage? This study, based on data from over 1,600 applicants to Pakistan’s haj visa allocation lottery in 2006, had some interesting conclusions:

Our findings show that … the Haj has quite a remarkable effect in shaping the views of Pakistani pilgrims. It induces a shift from localized beliefs and practices towards global Islamic practice, increases tolerance, and leads to more favorable attitudes toward women. We find no evidence that by raising cohesion within the Muslim community, the Haj threatens non-Muslims. On the contrary, the Haj makes pilgrims more peacefully inclined, and increased tolerance extends to adherents of other religions.

The evidence suggests that these changes are more a result of exposure to and interaction with Hajis from around the world, rather than religious instruction or a changed social role of pilgrims upon return.

Click here to download the PDF of the whole study.

(hat tip to The God Blog)


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I always knew that most Muslims were peaceful.

Posted by Peaceful Dreams | Report as abusive

It’s all about how one interprets the religious texts. “The evidence suggests that these changes are more a result of exposure to and interaction with Hajis from around the world, rather than religious instruction or a changed social role of pilgrims upon return.” I wonder why these changes occur here rather than ‘at home’? Could it be because those preaching ‘at home’ are so arrogantly ignorant of what is happening in the real world. Thank goodness Muslims going to the Haj see more mature and open-minded attitudes and hopefully learn from them. Isn’t this what the Westerners (infidels) as whole, have previously gone through and many are still going through, ie: changing attitudes towards women and increased tolerance/understanding of other religions? But of course there will always be some men (and women)everywhere, that just don’t have and never will have the capacity for such change. We can only hope the favourable attitudes and the affect on the pilgrims in the Haj continue.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

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Posted by Yasmin Alibi-Brain and the anti-panderers « The Daily Terror | Report as abusive

Simple question — why are non-muslims not allowed into Mecca & Medina?

Simple answer — so much for the ‘tolerance’ of the global gathering.

Posted by Man | Report as abusive

I think that the Harvard study might be somewhat incorrect or incomplete. I have some friends from South Asia who have been to the Haj. I have found that they generally become more fundamentalist and generally begin to dissociate themselves from the larger (non-Muslim) community. In addition, I find that the Haj reinforces the belief that women’s place is at home. After returning from the Haj, one of my neighbors forced his daughter to leave her studies at college and to stop her part-time job at the grocery store. Like her mother, she almost never leaves the home now. Thus the Haj probably has different effects on different people and I think further studies might address that.

Posted by barry | Report as abusive

And one quick Google later and hmm??
Perhaps the writer of this blog should have declared the possible interests and source of funding (see below) of the likely authors behind the study.

It is clear where the Arab – oil money is going – once it fattens up the West’s higher learning institutions – it than seeks to produce studies – which promote the Islamic religion favourably – above its violent and largely repressive reality we can read about daily in any news outlet. Just like a real study – that would have emerged from Harvard – through their vast wealth resources – the Arabs can turn long established western universities into – for the most part – hand puppets – for their Islamic and Islamist agendas. Their aim is world domination – but – right now they have an image problem – Harvard – it seems has been recruited to solve that problem.

According to the Study
When you go on the Pre-Islamic Hajj – to encircle the Pre-Islamic Kaaba – now central Idol to all Muslims – you should emerge treating women better (less misogamist) and more respecting of other Muslim beliefs (or was that of non-Muslim beliefs).

Then surely we must question why it is that at the home of the Kaaba – these negative aspects of Islamic belief still exist – according to a recent HRW report women in Arabia suffer more than most women – under the Saudi regime. And the Saudi government just voted against – (i.e. defeated) a measure that would have meant they could no longer defame the religions of others – by 77-33.

The Source of the Study’s Funding?

The Dubai Initiative

“‘Mohammed Bin Rashid Fellowship

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government was established to provide full support (tuition, fees, living stipend) to students with financial need from Arab countries. The Fellowship will be awarded through a competitive, merit based process to Master degree admitted applicants.””

Posted by Rose | Report as abusive

Regarding the comment sent why are non-Muslims not allowed in Mecca and Madinah?, its just the fact that Islam claims that its a religion that is far more superior than others, in that sense the officials don’t allow non-Muslims to enter, also no church or temple can be constructed in the entire country, as the country runs on Shariah and doesn’t accept any other religion other than Islam.
In a lay man’s term, e.g. in order to enter U.S or any country a person needs to fulfill the requirement before getting the visa like so to enter Mecca or Madinah…you have to confess and accept Islam.

Posted by Malik Syed | Report as abusive

I find in interviewing a few who have made their Haj that the effect is as the author of the study states in terms of practical effect which changes one’s life. People go to Mecca and some are recieved in the Haj by Qtub or Mufti and they go into rooms and discuss their reasons for Haj. If the seeker is clear in stateing their reasons they are taken back into the way outside to make the ir pilgrimage complete and to accept the answers to their prayers in faith. It is often that many new friends of African, Asian or Muslims are European Whites who are liberal or more so than most Muslims. The mixing of the people leads to peace between them more so than not and as such is healing of animosities past, rebuilding of hope in cooperation between religins and transformative in the sense that Haj turns you from seeker to finder if you faith is strong enough to recieve such gifts.

Posted by jerrygates7 | Report as abusive

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