KAPAL HAJI – SINGAPORE AND THE HAJJ JOURNEY
In the time before long-distance air travel,
the journey to the hajj from Southeast Asia was by sea. In
the days of “steamships” Muslim pilgrims were
away from home for months; further back in time to sailing
ships they might be away for well over a year.
The journey was slow and the connections
could be uncertain. For many years the ships could be seriously
overcrowded and – in the nineteenth century –
often unseaworthy. Conditions on board could be very testing;
downright uncomfortable. But, like so many of the journeys
of “ordinary” people throughout history, those
who travelled left no records.
How do we get a feel for this journey? How
was it made? What did it “cost” those who made
Through maps, images, and anecdotes –
from those who served on the ships, and from some who sailed
– Kapal Haji: Singapore and the Hajj Journey by Sea
paints a picture of how these journeys were established and
how they were run.
Kapal Haji was published in September 2019.
For a preview of a few pages click here.
Why this book?
Looking at his own neighbourhood and community,
the Liverpool poet, Brian Patten wrote:
There was so much
I ought to have recorded,
So many lives that have vanished –
Families, neighbours; people whose pockets
Were worn thin by hope. They were
The loose change history spent without caring.
Now they have become the air I breathe,
Not to have marked their passing seems such a betrayal.
From The Betrayal, Brian
This book is prompted by the feeling that many
“lives that have vanished” should be remembered.
Reviews / Comments
In the era prior
to the take-off of commercial jet air travel, Hajj pilgrims
from the Nusantara region travelled to the Holy Land by ship.
This sensitively-researched book traces the seaborne journeys
of pilgrims who travelled via Singapore during the century
and a half up to the 1970s. Anthony Green and Mohd Raman Daud
focus not on colonial maritime infrastructure nor on the spiritual
force of ritual practice at Mecca, but on fleshing out human
experiences associated with shipping to, through and from
Singapore to the port of Jeddah. In addition to mapping social
lives, interactions and hardships that are a world apart from
how the Hajj pilgrimage is performed by Southeast Asians in
the twenty-first century, Kapal Haji is a sensitively-researched
contribution to work on Singapore’s connected and cosmopolitan
Professor of Geography, and Director, Asia Research Institute,
National University of Singapore
I think it is a really
empirically rich book, a well-illustrated and heartfelt documentation
of what is for many an emotionally charged experience as much
as it was also a logistically fascinating enterprise. There
are even wonderful snippets on religious architectural landmarks
in the Hejaz that have since then been destroyed. Many of
the images have also been analysed for content and information
has been gleaned directly from these visual sources. There
is a lot for the reader to respond to.
Imran bin Tajudeen Ph.D.,
Senior Research Fellow, Dept of Architecture, School of
Design and Environment, National University of Singapore.