The Autobiography of Malcolm X

by Malcolm X, Alex Haley
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Chapter 17 Summary: Mecca

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Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 516

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Wallace Muhammad: Elijah Muhammad’s son and Malcolm’s friend

Dr. Mahmoud Youssef Shawarbi: a Muslim lecturer, writer, professor, United Nations advisor, and close advisor to Prince Faisal, who helps Malcolm make his pilgrimage to Mecca

Prince Faisal: the ruler of Saudi Arabia

Abd ir-Rahman Azzam: author of The Eternal Message of Muhammad, who lives in Jedda

Muhammad Shawarbi: son of Dr. Shawarbi; a student at Cairo University

Dr. Omar Azzam: son of Mr. Azzam, and a Swiss-trained engineer who lives in Jedda

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Latest answer posted April 7, 2010, 12:37 pm (UTC)

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Muhammad, the Mutawaf: a young man who serves as a guide to Malcolm on his pilgrimage to Mecca

Hussein Amiri, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem: a Muslim leader

Sheikh Muhammad Harkon: judge of the Muslim High Court


Malcolm makes plans for his pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca. On his way to Mecca, his plane stops in Frankfurt, Germany and Cairo, Egypt. There, he goes sightseeing, meeting very friendly and hospitable people.

Upon his arrival in Jedda, an ancient seaport town in Saudi Arabia, Malcolm is temporarily delayed at the airport. He learns that, prior to his pilgrimage, he must first appear before “the Muslim high court which examined all possibly non-authentic converts to the Islamic religion seeking to enter Mecca.”

Bewildered and unable to communicate with the Arabic-speaking people he meets at the airport, Malcolm contacts Dr. Assam. Dr. Assam and his family provide him with food and lodging. The high court approves Malcolm’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

Along his pilgrimage, Malcolm encounters thousands of people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. He is amazed by the true sense of “brotherhood” practiced by all of these people, “irrespective of color.” Consequently, Malcolm writes letters to his relatives and friends back in the United States, to share his new-found spirit of unity and brotherhood.


Malcolm’s final spiritual journey takes place in this chapter. When he arrives in Jedda he is lonely and bewildered; he is unable to speak the language and is unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of the Muslim people. The metaphor he uses to describe his feelings in this situation suggests, symbolically, the imminent "birth" of his new ideology. He says, “I never had felt more alone, and helpless, since I was a baby.”

Throughout the chapter, the reader is deeply moved by Malcolm’s passion as he describes the people and situations he encounters. When he is being driven to Mecca, for example, he says, “I was beyond astonishment.... I was, all at once, thrilled, important, humble, and thankful.”

Upon the completion of his pilgrimage, Malcolm dramatically announces his changing ideology and renounces his black separatist beliefs. He gains a new insight into the true religion of Islam, describing the “color blindness of the Muslim world’s religious and ... human society.” In a letter explaining his new ideas, Malcolm expresses his feelings about Mecca’s “spirit of true brotherhood.” He writes, “I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.” He concludes, “All praise is due to Allah,” and signs his letter with his new, Arabic name, “El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.”

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Chapter 16 Summary: Out


Chapter 18 Summary: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz