Hajji (sometimes spelled Hadji, Haji, Alhaji, Al hage, Al hag or El-Hajj) is an honorific title given to a Muslim person who has successfully completed the Hajj to Mecca, as well as a derogatory term used by American military personnel towards Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners in general. In its traditional context, it is often used to refer to an elder, since it can take time to accumulate the wealth to fund the travel. The title is placed before a person's name (for instance, Saif Gani becomes Hajji Saif Gani). It is derived from the Arabic ḥājj, which is the active participle of the verb ḥajja 'to make the pilgrimage [to Mecca]'. The alternative form ḥajjī is derived from the name of the Hajj with the adjectival suffix -ī, and this was the form adopted by non-Arabic languages. In some areas, the title has been handed down the generations, and has become a family name. Such usage can be seen, for example, in the Bosniak surname Hadžiosmanović, which means 'son of Hajji Osman'.
In other languages
Arabic: حاج ḥājj or حجّي ḥajjī, Egyptian Arabic: ḥagg pronounced [ħæɡ]; Persian and Pashto: حاجی; Greek: Χατζής; Albanian: Haxhi; Bulgarian: Хаджия; Bosnian: Hadžija; Belarusian: haberythr; Kurdish: Hecî; Serbian: Хаџи, Hadži; Turkish: Hacı; Hausa: Alhaji; Romanian: hagiu. All mean "pilgrim".
In Arab countries, ḥājj and ḥājjah (pronunciation varying based on the form of Arabic spoken) is a common respectful manner of addressing any older person, regardless of whether or not the person in question has actually performed the pilgrimage.
The term is also used in the Balkan Christian countries that were once under Ottoman domination (Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia and Romania) for a Christian who had traveled to Jerusalem and the Holy Lands.
In Cyprus, where for centuries Christians and Muslims intermixed freely and Jerusalem is conveniently local, the title became so prevalent as to be permanently integrated into some Greek Christian family names, such as Hajiioannou, regardless of any lack of qualification.
Hajji, Haji or Hodgie is more recently used as a derogatory term by American military personnel as a comprehensive term for Iraqis, Arabs, Afghans, or Middle Eastern and South Asian people in general. It is comparable to the term "gook," used by U.S military personnel during the Vietnam War.
According to Marines of 2nd MLG's 8th ESB and attached Marines (MACG-48 and other Reserve units) who were present at the time "Hajji" came into use at several Camps (Viper, Commando, and Fox) during the March 2003 preparations for Operation Iraq Freedom, the use of "Hajji" began as a point of common interest between Arabic-speaking drivers hired locally to drive supply convoys and the Marine guards assigned to these convoys. Despite the language barriers and the emotional intensity of this situation, some drivers and guards were able to communicate that they were fans of John Wayne's films. Applying John Wayne's famous lines such as, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway!" and "Get off your butt and join the Marines!" to their difficult situation, eventually John Wayne's characteristic way of saying "pilgrim" in English was imitated, just substituting "hajji" in Arabic. Since the convoys stopped at most camps, this informal greeting was quickly picked up by the Marines and the Arabic-speaking contractors all over Kuwait. It was only after the Marines were sent back to Iraq in 2004 (OIF2) that some Army personnel began to accuse their Marine replacements of racism, a behavior especially prevalent at important bases like al-Asad Air Station where the Marines discovered Army misconduct (e.g. the base's laundry had been a working brothel, and personnel had stolen civilian vehicles). Army personnel continued spreading this accusation without context to other duty stations, with the result that the word "Hajji" was considered offensive by most American personnel by 2005 (OIF3).
- Malise Ruthven (1997). Islam: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-19-285389-9.
- "Guide to going to Mecca". BBC. Retrieved December 8, 2008.
- "Jerusalem and Ancient Temples (in Greek)". apologitis.com. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
- "Learning to 'embrace the suck' in Iraq" - http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/28/opinion/op-bay28
- Slang from Operation Iraqi Freedom http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq-slang.htm
- Herbert, Bob (May 2, 2005). "From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'". The New York Times.