Pilgrimage to a shrine or a place of significant spiritual or cultural meaning brings with it the promise of feeling ourselves to be part of something much bigger than our family, our immediate community of friends and colleagues, or even fellow worshippers. Pilgrimage offers a somehow reassuring sense of our own insignificance: a speck of dust in an infinite universe of time and space; and an equally reassuring sense of belonging to the human race.
On making the Hajj, Malcolm X wrote
“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood [….] for the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colours. [..] There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”
His experiences in Mecca turned Malcolm X away from the path of violence and to a more measured view of humanity, although his new found moderation was ultimately to cost him his life.