As millions of Muslims around the world prepare to go on the Hajj, for Kansas City imam Bilal Hazziez the memories of performing the pilgrimage in 2012 remain strong, particularly as this year’s Hajj approaches. Hazziez, the resident imam of Al-Inshirah Islamic Center, describes going on the Hajj as life changing, saying that before he went, he believed in God but once there, he went from believing to actually knowing God. The experience of being one among millions of pilgrims from all walks of life, from the richest to the poorest, all dressed in white, all performing the same rituals, particularly touched him. “We are one single brotherhood, one single sisterhood,” says Hazziez, “You get that and you see that on the Hajj.”
Imam Hazziez went on the Hajj with his wife, Shahidah, and the two decided to document their journey in a video blog. The imam says at first it was a way to record his own emotions and save them for his children. Later, he realized that the blog could give everyone an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the experience, what it was like, for example, to see the Kaaba for the first time or to feel the sublime and peaceful atmosphere of Medina and visit the Prophet’s mosque. He thought by sharing his journey other Muslims who had not been on the Hajj might be encouraged to go.
A new public television documentary hopes that Muslims performing this year’s Hajj will be equally inspired to document their experiences. Taking a unique approach to filming this major religious event, the movie SACRED, a project of New York’s WLIW, is asking pilgrims traveling to Mecca to record and share their own video of the pilgrimage and its many rituals. The project is the first to use crowd-sourcing as a way of documenting religious and spiritual practice and people can submit footage they’ve shot with a video camera or even their phones.
SACRED will be a comprehensive film open to all who would like to contribute. It is not limited to American Muslims and anyone, whether they are performing the Hajj for the first time or are returning to Mecca, is encouraged to send in video. The filmmakers want to include as many diverse perspectives as possible. This project will allow Muslims to share their experiences and show fellow believers and those outside their faith the meaning of the Hajj and its importance in Islam. The SACRED producers believe those performing the Hajj are in the best position to give voice to what is truly sacred about this pillar of Islam. With this inclusive production model, the producers hope to create a personal and up-close view of sacred events, to capture what traditional filmmaking may miss. In the case of the Hajj, the film aims to go beyond the often seen images of millions gathering in Mecca to explore the individual spiritual moments that make this a life-transforming journey.
SACRED, which will document one year of religious and spiritual experience from June 2013 through June 2014, will include other Muslim holidays and rituals in addition to the Hajj. In July, the filmmakers captured observance of Ramadan around the globe, shooting on location in Istanbul, Cairo and South Africa. The film also hopes to make use of crowd-sourced footage of Ramadan observances and Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, which individuals can still submit. A selection of footage from the 365-day filming period will be edited together into a 90-minute film which will be offered to public television audiences across the United States. Contributors whose footage is selected will receive onscreen recognition.
Although the filmmakers are interested in major religious events like the Hajj, people are encouraged to submit any footage of an event they consider sacred, whether that’s a rite of passage, a daily ritual or a family tradition. As one of SACRED’s executive producers, William F. Baker explains, “The mission of SACRED is to promote peaceful coexistence by exposing the world to the beauty, uplifting power and thematic common ground of all religions and forms of spiritual expression.”
If you’re interested in filming and sharing your footage from the Hajj and other events, please visit: http://sacredthemovie.org/contributors/.
Source: WLIW New York – Julie Mashack