MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA — As Shahidah Sharif, an African-American Muslim, joined millions of fellow pilgrims from around the world on the hajj this year, she felt a renewed connection. To her own “blackness,” she says, but also to humanity as a whole.
“When the human family becomes more important than just myself and my needs, nothing can get in the way of building relationships,” she told The Associated Press in Mecca. “It doesn’t matter if we have different faiths, different races, different nationalities, I can find something in common with you.”
For American black Muslims, this year brought a significant landmark, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s death. A year before his assassination, Malcolm X underwent a transformative experience on the hajj, seeing the potential for racial co-existence after witnessing, as he wrote, pilgrims “of all colors displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe could never exist between a white and a non-white.”
This year’s hajj, which ended Saturday, came at a time when the debate over race in the United States is at its most heated in decades, with the Black Lives Matters movement arising after the deaths of a number of black men at the hands of police were captured on camera and seen widely by the public.