Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is an act of worship which not only involves the heart but also requires physical and financial ability and must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so once in his lifetime. As the Qur’an states, “Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to Allah by people who are able to undertake it. Those who reject this [should know that] Allah has no need of anyone.” (Soorat Aal-‛Imraan, 3:97)
The Importance and Virtues of Makkah and the Sacred Mosque
The Sacred Mosque (Al-Masjid Al-Haraam) is located in Makkah, a city on the western side of the Arabian Peninsula, and has numerous virtues including the following:
- It houses the Ka‛bah
The door of the Ka‛bah, lavishly inscribed with quotations from the Holy Qur’an
The Ka‛bah is a cube-shaped building located at the centre of the Sacred Mosque in Makkah.
It is the direction towards which Muslims turn in prayer as well as during some other acts of worship which Allah ﷻ commands them to do.
It was built by Prophet Abraham ﷺ and his son Ishmael ﷺ following Allah’s command to do so, and was rebuilt several times throughout history.
As the Qur’an states, “And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka‛bah), [they prayed:] ‘Our Lord, accept this from us, for You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.’” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:127)
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself took part in laying the Black Stone in its proper place along with the various Makkan tribes when they rebuilt the Ka‛bah.
- It was the first mosque ever built on earth
Abu Dharr , one of the Prophet’s noble companions, once asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Messenger of Allah, which mosque was built first on earth?” “The Sacred Mosque [in Makkah], he replied. Abu Dharr again asked, “Which was next?” “Al-Aqsaa Mosque [in Jerusalem],” he replied. “How long was the period between them?” Abu Dharr further enquired, “Forty years,” the Prophet ﷺ replied. “Wherever you may be and the prayer time becomes due,” he continued, “offer the prayer there, for virtue lies in offering the prayers at their due times.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 3186, Saheeh Muslim: 520)
- The reward for offering prayers in it is multiplied many times over
The Prophet ﷺ said, “One prayer in this mosque of mine [in Madeenah] is better than a thousand prayers in any other, except the Sacred Mosque [in Makkah], and one prayer in the Sacred Mosque is better than one hundred thousand prayers anywhere else.” (Sunan Ibn Maajah: 1406; Musnad Ahmad: 14694)
- Allah ﷻ and His Messenger ﷺ have declared it sacred
As the Qur’an states, “I have been ordered to worship the Lord of this city which He has declared sacred; everything belongs to Him; and I have been ordered to be one of the Muslims.” (Soorat An-Naml, 27:91)
This verse makes it plain that Allah has declared Makkah a sanctuary and has thus forbidden people from committing injustices or shedding blood in it, chasing its game or cutting down its trees or grass.
The Prophet ﷺ once observed, “Allah, not the people, has made Makkah a sanctuary; therefore, any person who believes in Allah and the Last Day should neither shed blood in it nor cut down its trees.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 104; Saheeh Muslim: 1354)
- It is the dearest of all lands to Allah ﷻ and His Messenger ﷺ
One of the Prophet’s companions once said, “I saw Allah’s Messenger ﷺ sitting on his camel in the Al-Hazwarah market, addressing Makkah thus, “By Allah, you are the best and the dearest of all lands of Allah to Him. Had I not been driven out of you, I would have never left you.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 3925; An-Nasaa’ee’s As-Sunan Al-Kubraa: 4252)
- Allah ﷻ has made pilgrimage to the Sacred House obligatory upon all those who are able to do so
Abraham ﷺ proclaimed pilgrimage to the people and they came to perform it from distant places. According to a Prophetic tradition, all the prophets performed hajj to the Sacred House. Regarding Allah’s command to Abraham ﷺ in this respect, the Qur’an states, “Announce hajj to mankind. They will come to you on foot and on every sort of lean animal, coming by every distant road.” (Soorat Al-Hajj, 22:27)
The Meaning of Hajj
Hajj is the religious journey undertaken to the Sacred Mosque in Makkah and some of the surrounding are as with the intention of performing the pilgrimage rituals. This journey involves a series of activities taught by the Prophet , which include, among other things, assuming the condition of ritual purity (ihraam), walking seven times around the Ka‛bah, walking seven times between the hills of As-Safaa and Al-Marwah, staying in the Plain of ‛Arafah and throwing pebbles at the stone pillars in Mina.
Indeed, hajj provides pilgrims with huge benefits, including, among other things, declaration of the oneness of Allah, immense forgiveness, getting to know one another and learning the rulings of Islam.
The hajj rites are usually performed between the eighth and thirteenth of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.
Who must perform it?
> Walking around the Ka‛bah (tawaaf ) seven times is one of the ‘pillars’ of hajj and ‛umrah.
For a Muslim to perform hajj, he has to be legally accountable for his actions (mukallaf) and able to do so. Legal accountability (takleef) means he has to be mature and sane.
What does ability mean?
Ability here involves the ability to undertake the journey to the Sacred Mosque through legitimate means and to perform the hajj rites without undergoing unusually strenuous hardships and without risking personal safety and property. This also means that the expenses the pilgrim requires for hajj must be in excess of his needs and the needs of his dependents.
The Ability to Perform Hajj: Different Circumstances
- he ability to perform hajj in person: This ability allows a Muslim to undertake the journey to the Sacred House without undergoing unusually strenuous hardships while having sufficient means to do so. He must, in this case, perform it in person.
- The financial ability to authorise someone else to perform hajj on one’s behalf: This applies to a Muslim who is unable to perform hajj in person due to illness or old age but who has the means to authorise someone else to perform it on his behalf. He must, in this case, offer the proxy the necessary expenses to perform it on his behalf.
- Lack of ability to perform hajj in person or by proxy: A person who cannot possibly do so is exempt from performing hajj altogether. To illustrate, a person who does not have expenses in excess of his needs and the needs of his dependents with which he can perform hajj does not have to perform it at all.money in order to perform it. However, he must perform it as soon as he becomes physically and financially able to do so.
A Woman Needs a Mahram as a Companion to Perform Hajj
For a woman to perform hajj, she has to be with her husband or any of her male relatives whom she is not permitted to marry because of their close blood relationship (mahram), such as her father, grandfather, sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews and uncles. (See page 207)
However, if a woman performs hajj without a mahram in such a way that she is not exposed to any danger whatsoever, her hajj is valid and would certainly suffice.
Virtues of Hajj
A person who intends to perform hajj or ‛umrah must learn about the Islamic rulings relating to them.
Performing hajj has numerous virtues including the following:
- It is one of the best deeds in the sight of Allah. The Prophet ﷺ was once asked, “What is the best deed?” He replied, “Belief in Allah and His Messenger.” He was then asked, “What next?” “Fighting in the way of Allah,” he replied. He was further asked, “What next?’ He replied, “Hajj that is preformed correctly and is accepted by Allah.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1447; Saheeh Muslim: 83)
- It is a season of great forgiveness. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever performs the pilgrimage for Allah’s sake, avoids intimate relations [with his wife], does not fight with anyone nor abuse anyone, he will return home free from sins like the day his mother gave birth to him.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 1449; Saheeh Muslim: 1350)
- It provides a great opportunity to be saved from the hellfire. The Prophet ﷺ said, “There is no day on which Allah frees people from the Fire as He does on the Day of ‛Arafah.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1348)
- The reward for it is Paradise, as evidenced by the saying of the Prophet ﷺ: “There is no reward for a hajj that is preformed correctly and is accepted by Allah except Paradise.” (Saheeh Muslim: 1349)
However, these and other merits will be enjoyed only by those who perform it solely for the sake of Allah and follow in the footsteps of the Prophet ﷺ.
The Ultimate Goals of Hajj
Hajj has numerous goals and objectives. After instructing pilgrims about what to do regarding the sacrificial animal they have to slaughter to seek closeness to Allah, Allah ﷻ states, “Their flesh and blood do does not reach Allah: it is your piety that reaches Him.” (Soorat Al-Hajj, 22:37) The prophet ﷺ also said in this connection, “Going round the Ka‛bah, running between the hills of As-Safaa and Al-Marwah and the stoning of the pillars are only meant for the remembrance of Allah.” (Sunan Abu Daawood: 1888)
These goals and objectives include the following:
- A demonstration of total submission and humility to Allah
This is realised when pilgrims forsake all forms of luxury and adornment and wear simple seamless garments before assuming the condition of ritual purity (ihraam), showing their total need and dependence on their Lord and ridding themselves of all worldly concerns and pursuits that may otherwise distract them from demonstrating total devotion to Him, which is bound to invite His mercy and forgiveness. This demonstration of total submission becomes all the more vivid on the Day of ‛Arafah when they stand before their Lord, in a state of awe and reverence, giving thanks to Him for His countless blessings and seeking His forgiveness for their slips and failings.
- A demonstration of gratefulness to Allah
Gratefulness to Allah for performing hajj is shown for both the money and good health Allah ﷻ has provided, which are amongst the greatest worldly blessings Allah has bestowed on man. When a Muslim performs hajj, he actually demonstrates gratefulness to Allah for these two blessings by undergoing great physical hardships and spending his money to seek closeness to Allah, in total obedience to Him. Showing gratefulness is a duty that is not only established and affirmed by reasoning but also ordained by divine law.
- A wholesome demonstration of the universality of Islam
Muslims from the four corners of the world gather in the holy land in response to the call of Allah. They get to know one another, and the barriers of гасе, colour, language and social class аге set aside in this fraternity of faith that unites all Muslims in the largest, annual human gathering in which they help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness.
- It is a reminder of the Day of Judgement
Hajj reminds those who perform it, of the Day of Resurrection when all human beings will stand equal before Allah for the final judgement. When pilgrims stand in the plain of ‛Arafah, after assuming the state of ritual purity (ihraam) by replacing their ordinary clothes with simple garments and expressing their readiness to serve Allah, and perceive the countless multitudes of pilgrims, all dressed in what looks like shrouds, this will open their eyes to what they will go through after death and will prompt them to strive harder in preparation for the hereafter.
- It is a demonstration of true worship of Allah alone
This is realised through the pilgrims’ recitation of the talbiyah: Labbayk-Allaahumma labbayk, labbayka laa shareeka laka labbayk, innal-hamda wanni‛mata laka wal-mulk, laa shareeka lak (Here I am at Your service O Allah, here I am. Here I am at Your service. You have no partners. Yours alone is all praise and all bounty, and Yours alone is the sovereignty. You have no partners.” Describing talbiyah the one of the Prophet’s companions once referred to them as words of “pure monotheism”. (Saheeh Muslim: 1218) Indeed, pure monotheism is apparent in all the hajj rites, words and deeds without exception.
Muslims are required to perform ‛umrah once in their lifetime if they are able to do so.
Umrah, or minor pilgrimage (hajj being the major pilgrimage), is an act of worship which consists of ritual practices that are confined to the Sacred Mosque area only, namely entering the sacred state of purity (ihraam), walking seven times round the Ka‛bah, walking seven times between the hills of As-Safaa and Al-Marwah, and then having one’s head shaved off or one’s hair cut short
The Islamic ruling regarding ‛umrah: It is obligatory for those who can afford it once in their lifetime and it is recommended to perform it again and again.
Its time: It may be undertaken anytime throughout the year, but performing it during the month of Ramadaan has a special merit, as the Prophet ﷺ states, “Performing ‛umrah during the month of Ramadaan is equal to performing hajj (pilgrimage) in merit and excellence.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 3186; Saheeh Muslim: 520)