There’s nothing sacred about first-person narration in religion writing, but Ambah’s series stands out for her willingness to use herself — an ordinary person with ordinary responses — as one small reflection of the hajj. There’s no especially pretty prose here, nor will someone well-versed in Islam learn anything new about the hajj. But the series is honest journalism. What makes it really remarkable, in fact, is its very ordinariness, Ambah’s — and her editors’ — willingness to devote a significant amount of space to exploring one variety of religious experience without sensationalism or even a peg.
Faiza Saleh Ambah of The Christian Science Monitor concluded her five-part series on making the hajj yesterday. An hour after the last ritual, she writes, “squeezed in the back of the car returning to Jeddah, everyone around me is sleeping. But I am too scared to nod off. I have become very comfortable in this sanctified world of the past five days. I’ve been free of worries about money, how I look, jealousy, and envy. I don’t want to expose my self to the real world again.”