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Hajj (Pilgrimage)
Tariq Haashmi


Hajj occupies a very important position in the various forms of Islamic worship. The Holy Prophet (sws) once, answering a question about Islam, placed it among the basics of Islam. He defined Islam in the following words:

الْإِسْلَامُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَتُقِيمَ الصَّلَاةَ وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ وَتَصُومَ رَمَضَانَ وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنْ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا (مسلم: رقم ٨)

Islam means that you openly state that there is no god except Allah, and Muhammad (sws) is the Messenger of Allah; establish the prayer, pay Zakāh; fast during the month of Ramadān and perform Hajj of the House of Allah if you are able to afford journey to it. (Muslim: No. 8)

According to another narrative, the Prophet (sws) acknowledged it as one of the pillars of Islam:

بُنِيَ الْإِسْلَامُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ وَالْحَجِّ وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ (بخاري : رقم ٧)

Islam is based on five fundamentals; to proclaim that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad (sws) is the Messenger of Allah, and to establish the prayer, and pay Zakāh, to do pilgrimage of the House [of God] and to fast during Ramadān. (Bukhārī: No. 7)

Abū Hurayrh (rta) narrates:

أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ سُئِلَ أَيُّ الْعَمَلِ أَفْضَلُ فَقَالَ إِيمَانٌ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ قِيلَ ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ قِيلَ ثُمَّ مَاذَا قَالَ حَجٌّ مَبْرُورٌ (بخاري : رقم٢٥)

The prophet was once asked: ‘Which deed is the most superior?’ He replied: ‘Belief in God and His Messengers’. ‘After that?’, he was asked. ‘Jihād in His way’, was the answer. It was then asked: ‘After that’. He replied: ‘the Hajj performed with all its requirements’. (Bukhārī: No. 25)

At another place, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

مَنْ حَجَّ لِلَّهِ فَلَمْ يَرْفُثْ وَلَمْ يَفْسُقْ رَجَعَ كَيَوْمِ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ (بخاري : رقم ١٤٢١)

One who performs Hajj in His way and doesn’t speak obscene language, and doesn’t commit sins, will come back [purified] as he was at the time of his birth. (Bukhārī: No. 1421)

At yet another place, he said:

الْعُمْرَةُ إِلَى الْعُمْرَةِ كَفَّارَةٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَالْحَجُّ الْمَبْرُورُ لَيْسَ لَهُ جَزَاءٌ إِلَّا الْجَنَّةُ (مسلم: رقم ١٣٤٩)

A minor Hajj after the other stands for the atonement for the sins committed in between. Hajj performed with all its requirements is rewarded with Paradise. (Muslim: No. 1349)

The importance of Hajj is also manifest in the Hadīth in which the Prophet (sws) warned those people who do not perform Hajj, even when they do not have any obstacle in their way. Abū Amāmāh narrates:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَنْ لَمْ يَمْنَعْهُ عَنْ الْحَجِّ حَاجَةٌ ظَاهِرَةٌ أَوْ سُلْطَانٌ جَائِرٌ أَوْ مَرَضٌ حَابِسٌ فَمَاتَ وَلَمْ يَحُجَّ فَلْيَمُتْ إِنْ شَاءَ يَهُودِيًّا وَإِنْ شَاءَ نَصْرَانِيًّا (دارمي: رقم ١٧٩٢)

The Holy Prophet said: ‘If a man unhindered by a compelling necessity, or a tyrant ruler, or a disabling disease dies without performing Hajj, God doesn’t care if he dies the death of a Jew or a Christian’. (Dārmī: No. 1792)

Hajj, in fact, is an Abrahamic worship which the Prophet (sws) introduced and promulgated among his progeny and directed it to keep it in practice. We find the pagan Arabs who, in spite of having forgotten most of the teachings of the Abrahamic religion, practice this throughout their history and regard Hajj a great duty. They indeed regarded it a great religious service. With the passage of time like the other teachings of religion, they lost the true form of this worship and excluded many of its rituals and introduced some new practices that they deemed appropriate. The Qur’ān re-established this Abrahamic worship in its original form and said:

وَللَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ الله غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ (٩٧:٣)

And whosoever can afford should visit the House on pilgrimage as duty to God. Whosoever denies should remember that God is above heed of the world. (3:97)

Like all other directives of Islam, the basic aim of Hajj is to cleanse and purify the soul. A little deliberation shows that human beings have their relation with God on four bases.

The first is ‘Dhikr’ (remembrance). It means to enliven one’s heart by remembering Allah.

The second is fidelity. It means keeping the oath of obeying God made on the day of the congregation of souls before Him and adapting our selves according to His will. The Qur’ān refers to this fidelity as ‘Birr’ (obedience).

The third is piety and fear of God. The Qur’ān also refers to this as ‘Khashiyyat’ (fear), ‘Ikhbāt’ (humility) and ‘Qunūt’ (obedience). This means that a man should fear God’s wrath and His disapproval and struggle to save himself from the consequences faced by those who invited God’s wrath.

The fourth is love. It urges a person to help in the cause of God, makes him ready to protect the honour of the religion and induces him to even sacrifice his life if need be.

Salāh (the prayer) is enjoined to establish and reinforce the first basis: ‘Dhikr’ (remembrance). That is why a Muslim appears before his Lord in all the significant hours of the day. He refreshes his relationship with God. ‘Zakah’ (alms-tax) is aimed to cement the second basis: ‘Birr’ (fidelity). A believer spends his wealth in the way of Allah and wants to please Him at the cost of his most precious possessions. Fasts are observed for a month every year to inculcate the attribute of ‘Taqwā’ (piety) in individuals. Besides these, there are voluntary fasts as well. The Prophet (sws) himself observed many fasts at different times during the year and urged the Muslims to fast. Fasting trains a person in forbearance and abstention and this is the basis of ‘Taqwā’ (piety). The true manifestation of love is Jihād. This is the instance when a believer is ready to strive for the cause of the religion of his Lord and is not reluctant to sacrifice his life.

Hajj includes all these kinds of worships encompassing their true spirit. The House of Allah is the center of our prayers. It is the first mosque built for this purpose. God says:

وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَنْ طَهِّرَا بَيْتِي لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ (١٢٥:٢)

We covenanted with Abraham and Ismael that they should sanctify My house for those who circumambulate it, or use it as a retreat, or bow and prostrate themselves [therein in prayer]. (2:125)

The Ka‘bah is the place we visit for Hajj. Circumambulation is actually a form of prayer that is specific to the House of God. Hence it is very suited to serve the provision of remembrance of Allah. Zakāh is the worship in which we spend in the way of Allah. One spends in the way of Allah when he expends money on travel and other related expense during Hajj. The common man even meets the Hajj expenses by cutting through his daily expenditure. This shows that his will to spend in the way of Allah is more profound. Fasts enhance piety in man. It is a kind of worship that requires a man to give up all his worldly longings for Allah. This element is also found in Hajj. A man arranges for the needs of Hajj abandoning other important works and needs and leaves his matters and sets for the home of Allah. Similarly, the spirit of Jihād is that one gives up the life of sins in the way of God. While on Hajj, one who leaves his home sets out on a journey like a mujāhid facing all the difficulties.

If we have a look at the rites of Hajj, it becomes clear that each has an underlying spirit and philosophy which if appreciated make all these rites very meaningful. A mention is now made regarding the underlying spirit of some of the rites that are undertaken during Hajj.

Wearing Ihrām means that we have disconnected ourselves from the world. The un-stitched clothing shows that we have left the life of comfort of this world and attired ourselves in the apparel of the dead. Our tongues utter the following words that express our love for God and our gratitude for His bounties:

لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ وَالنِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ لَا شَرِيكَ لَكَ

Here I am at Your service, O Allah! Here I am at Your service. None is your partner. Here I am at Your service. All praise and all blessings and favors belong to You, and all sovereignty is Yours. You have no partner.

Worth mentioning is the point that that the sense of gratitude occupies the vital position among all the aspects of our relationship with God.

Wearing Ihrām has the same spirit as fasting for Allah. Carnal relationship is prohibited in both. The Qur’ān says:

الْحَجُّ أَشْهُرٌ مَعْلُومَاتٌ فَمَنْ فَرَضَ فِيهِنَّ الْحَجَّ فَلَا رَفَثَ وَلَا فُسُوقَ وَلَا جِدَالَ فِي الْحَجِّ وَمَا تَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ يَعْلَمْهُ اللَّهُ وَتَزَوَّدُوا فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُونِي يَاأُوْلِي الْأَلْبَابِ (١٩٧:٢)

Pilgrimage is in the appointed months. He that intends to perform it in those months must abstain from sexual intercourse, obscene language, and acrimonious disputes while on pilgrimage. Allah is aware of whatever good you do. Provide yourself well: the best provision is piety. Fear Me, then, you that are endowed with understanding. (2:197)

Disobeying Allah, indulgence in sex and in quarrel are the means Satan can use successfully to betray man. He urges men to commit these acts. A pilgrim in Ihrām feels the same way as a person who is fasting. So he has to refrain from sexual relationship (with his spouse), from eating, from drinking and from sins. Thus Ihrām too keeps a man filled with the sense that he is on Hajj.

The Hajr-i-Aswad (the black stone) has been called Allah’s hand. A believer commences the circumambulation of the House of God by kissing or raising his hand towards it. Placing a hand over another’s or kissing it symbolizes a covenant. A pilgrim starts with the name of God and declares ‘God is great’. Following that, he renews his covenant with God in these words:

الّلهُمَّ إيْماناً بِكَ وَتصْديقاً بِكِتابِكَ وَاِتِّبَاعاً ِلُسنِّةِ نَبِيِّكَ (بيهقي: رقم ٩٠٣٤)

Here I am at Your service, O Allah, to believe in You, to bear witness to Your book, and to obey Your messenger. (Bayhaqī: No. 9034)

The Sa‘ī symbolizes support and help for the cause of Islam. Abraham (sws) set the greatest example in this regard. He took his son to the altar and walked him between Safā and Mārwah. This very act of his became a part of Hajj in the shape of Sa‘ī.

Shaving off hair from the head is an ancient symbol of becoming a slave and when a pilgrim shaves his head, he declares himself to be the slave of his Lord.

The stay in ‘Arafāt symbolizes standing before Allah. The Holy Prophet (sws) stood here from the afternoon prayer till sunset facing the west and praying continuously. During this time a believer recalls his sins, and repents.

The stay in Muzdalifah is although short, but the journey from ‘Arafāt to Muzdalifah and to Minā symbolizes the march and travel of Jihād. One stops at a place and then heads for one’s destiny. During the journey, the prayers are also shortened because of its resemblance to Jihād.

Throwing stones at the Jamarāt symbolizes war and aggression against the enemies of Allah.

Sacrificing one’s life is the extreme form of Jihād, which is represented in slaughtering animals during Hajj. A believer who slaughters an animal for the sake of God actually expresses the sentiments that he is willingly to offer his own life for the cause of God.


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