Big Zuu Goes To Mecca

Big Zuu Goes To Mecca

TV chef and rapper Big Zuu visits Mecca, the holiest city in Islam, for the first time in the new documentary Big Zuu Goes To Mecca, which will air on Sunday 14 April at 9pm on iPlayer and BBC Two.

Zuu is best known for his skills in the kitchen and on the mic. With a mum from Sierra Leone and a dad from Lebanon, he’s got Islam in his heritage on both sides of his family.

But as a young man born and raised in London, sticking to strict interpretations of the rules hasn’t always been easy. Like many in our increasingly diverse communities, Zuu grew up blending the traditions of multiple cultures. And while he may not have been raised praying five times a day, devotion to his faith has always been a huge part of Zuu’s identity.

He thought long and hard about making this pilgrimage, at the heart of his mission is a desire to connect more deeply with his faith. But he has a lot to learn before he leaves.

Interview with Big Zuu

What did you learn from making the documentary and going to Mecca?

I definitely learned being in front of the Kaaba, the House of God, in the Grand Mosque, is something you really need to experience to understand the beauty of Islam.

Walking around the Kaaba with my friends, the feeling in my heart was just pure, pure bliss. Words cannot describe how happy I felt at that time, I felt so pure. I felt so relieved of everything. I felt so connected to so many different people and it was just such a beautiful moment.

When you pray in a congregation, when you pray with a lot of people, when you perform a religious act with a such a big group of people, that energy you feel is real. There's nothing that can tell me it's not. It was overwhelming, it just felt so good.

What can we expect from the documentary?

Big Zuu Goes To Mecca is a documentary where I learn about my faith and perform a pilgrimage in Islam which is called Umrah during the holy month of Ramadan. It was really emotional, I learned a lot about myself and it was something that I feel like I needed in life. I feel so lucky to go on this process and I'm very happy it's been documented and that people can watch it.

Why did you decide to do the documentary?

I decided to do the documentary for a combination of things. It was at a time in my life where my relationship with my faith was very up and down. So I think exploring that was something I wanted to be able to do. You really see me change over the course of the documentary and that was a real life change, I still carry that with me to this day. I'm very lucky that that such a poignant moment in my life was able to be captured I hope it will inspire others. 

How much do you think your faith has changed since your pilgrimage?

There's definitely been a big change in terms of my spirituality since the pilgrimage. I think it made me become closer to God. Sometimes with the parameters of religion, you don't understand it until you go through it. I didn't grow up following all the rules of Islam, I didn't follow every single strict regimen that you were supposed to do. So going through the steps required to perform Umrah and the discipline it gave me, that is what I loved the most about it. 


Your mum is from Sierra Leone and your dad is from Lebanon. Did growing up with parents who have two different cultures affect how you look at faith?

My dad comes from a very religious background, whereas I’ve been raised with my mum being more spiritual, more into faith than religion ­– so I've kind of been raised with both spectrums. My mum always raised me to be God fearing, whereas my dad is more strict on what it means to be a good Muslim. They both really had an impact on where I’m at now ­– I think I have a little blend of both.

What were some of the challenges of performing Umrah?

Cutting my hair was definitely the number one challenge in my mind. What it taught me was that vanity is such a real thing because I cared so much about my Ihram (the spiritual clothing worn on pilgrimage) and cutting my hair. Those are the two things I should care about the least. I'm so used to focusing on my image and how I look. I'm a humble person, but I like to look nice. So in that moment I was thinking “Is my towel going to fall down?”, “Is my head going to look mad when I cut my hair?” All of these things were going through my mind and when I got there and those are the most minor things.

My hair is my power. Especially as a black man, your hair is your power, and I had to let go of that identity and realise that I'm doing this for a higher purpose. I'm cutting my hair to show that I am one with everyone. We're all the same.

Why do you think this documentary is important?

We need to have different perspectives on religion in society. Especially in the public eye or in broadcasting, I feel like sometimes, when you think of Islam, you think of a Sheikh in religious clothing who is very humble. And that definitely represents a part of Islam, but it comes in different shapes and sizes, different people, different ideologies, there are so many different sides to it. I feel like it's good to have that representation.

With my being in the music and entertainment world, you might not associate Islam with me. And I think what was good about doing this documentary is that people might be able to look at me in a different light. 

What do you hope people will take away from a documentary?

I hope what people take away from the documentary is that there is no true form of what it is to be religious, it’s just about who you are and what you care about. From the outside looking in, you wouldn't think I was a religious guy, but I performed one the most religious things you could do in Islam. You’re never too many steps away from being able to be good within your faith, you just have to have that intention. And I'm very lucky through my job that I was able to go to this experience of Umrah. Everyone is religious in their own way, it's just about how you express that.


Picture: L-R: Big Zuu’s friend Tubsey, local guide Nadim Dagher and Big Zuu (Image: BBC/acme tv)

Interview supplied by BBC



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