Since most of Indonesians embraced Islam as a religion between seventh and thirteenth century, ships from Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Java, Sumatra reached Jeddah, bringing hajj pilgrims across the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. Starting in the middle of twentieth century, the hajj pilgrims have since been able to travel to Mecca by airplane, benefitting from the advancement of transportation technology. Many archives, manuscripts, books, and newspapers have constantly recorded such pilgrimage activities, highlighting their importance to Indonesians in the past until today.

The National Library of Indonesia has deposited the bulk of its collection relating to Indonesian and Southeast Asian history and culture. Division of Rare Monograf and Periodical (Klasika), The Centre of Library Information Service and Management of Nusantara Manuscript, National Library of Indonesia deposits various collections such as rare books, maps, photographs and paintings, rare magazines and newspapers, and audio visuals. The collections contain information of Indonesian hajj pilgrims in colonial and postcolonial period.

On June 15, 2022, Raden Intan State Islamic University of Lampung and National Library of Indonesia held an online seminar regarding hajj pilgrims’ history entitled “Hajj Across History: Archivist, Librarian and Historian’s Perspective”. The webinar invited speakers from both institutions, namely, Wahyu Iryana (historian and lecturer), Yeri Nurita (librarian) and Frial Ramadhan Supratman (librarian), attracting many audiences from various backgrounds such as lecturers, students, librarians, journalists etc. The webinar was supported by Zoom application and was live streamed on the YouTube channel and the WBS Radio of the National Library of Indonesia.

At the webinar, the speakers presented hajj pilgrims through history and library science perspectives. Yeri Nurita, as a librarian and Coordinator of Division of Rare Monograf and Periodical (Klasika), presented the National Library’s collection regarding Indonesian hajj pilgrims, showing several rare books written by Indonesian intellectual and bureaucrat regarding their experiences of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. She showed a rare book written by Indonesian intellectual and ulama Buya Hamka entitled Mandi Tjahaja Di Tanah Sutji. Written in Bahasa Indonesia, the book was published in 1951 by Usaha Penerbitan Gapura, Jakarta. The book also contains interesting photographs, such as the photograph of Kopindo (Committee of Indonesian Defender) in Mecca.

The picture of Buya Hamka’s book entitled Mandi Tjahaja Ditanah Sutci and an article from Al-Wivac newspaper on 1 September 1925 (Collection of National Library of Indonesia)

From the lens of a librarian, Frial Ramadhan Supratman talked about hajj pilgrims in the rare newspapers’ collection. There are many rare newspapers containing valuable information regarding hajj pilgrims, such as Oetoesan Hindia, Aljaum, Adil, Kaoem Moeda, Haluan etc. The newspapers are written in Bahasa Indonesia and published in several Indonesian regions. Frial presented that several data can be obtained from the newspapers such as quantitative data of hajj pilgrims, the names of ships and ports that served hajj pilgrims, and opinion and experience of hajj pilgrims regarding the conditions in the Holy Land. On 29 October 1933, Adil newspaper, for example, contains information regarding ships, namely, “Paisender”, “Kota Baroe” and “Tajandoen”, that brought hajj pilgrims from Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi to Mecca.

Subsequently, historian Wahyu Iryana presented hajj pilgrims from the historical point of view. As a historian, Wahyu overviewed Indonesian hajj pilgrims history from early modern era until today. He explained how Islamic sultanates in Indonesian archipelago in the past interacted with Middle East through hajj pilgrimage activities. In addition, Wahyu also explained the meaning of hajj pilgrimage for Muslims through a religion point of view.

Written by Frial Ramadhan Supratman, Librarian, Centre of Library Information Service and Management of Nusantara Manuscript, National Library of Indonesia.