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The Sharī‘ah of Worship Rituals
The Religion of Islam
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


The objective of Islam is purification of the soul. Attainment of excellence in this purification relies on a person’s relationship of servitude with the Almighty. The stronger this relationship, the greater a person is able to achieve purification both in his concepts and in his deeds. Love, fear, sincerity, faithfulness and gratitude as an acknowledgement of His innumerable favors and blessings are the inner manifestations of this relationship. In the life of a person, this relationship manifests in the form of the following three: worship, obedience and support. In the religion of the Prophets, worship rituals are prescribed to serve as a reminder for this relationship. Prayer, zakāh, ‘umrah and animal sacrifice are worship, the rituals of Fasting and i‘tikāf are a symbolic expression for obedience, while the ritual of hajj is a symbolic expression for offering support and help for the cause of Allah.

1. The Prayer

The most important worship ritual of Islam is the prayer. A little deliberation shows that the essence of religion is comprehension of God and, with emotions of fear and love, an expression of humility and meekness before Him. The most prominent expression of this essence is worship. Invoking and glorifying Him, praising and thanking Him and kneeling and prostrating before Him are the practical manifestations of worship. The prayer is nothing but an expression of these manifestations and, with graceful poise, combines all of them.

The prayer occupies extra-ordinary importance in religion. The status monotheism occupies in beliefs is exactly the same as the prayer occupies in deeds. It has been made mandatory to ingrain the remembrance of God in a person. It is evident from the Qur’ān that the prayer is the foremost consequence of the comprehension of Allah which one gets after being reminded by His revelations and, as a result of this comprehension, of the emotions of love and gratitude that appear for the Almighty or should appear in a person. It is the pillar of Islam and is among the requisites for a person to be called a Muslim both in this world and in the Hereafter. It is a means to remain steadfast on Islam, a vehicle for countering hardships and wipes out sins. It is the identity of true preaching, a means of perseverance on the truth and the nature of every object of this universe and real life. When the comprehension of God, His remembrance and memory and the feeling of His nearness reaches their pinnacle, it becomes the prayer. All the sages of the world are unanimous that real life is the life of the soul and this life is nothing but the remembrance of God, His cognizance and the sense of nearness to Him. Only the prayer can furnish and afford such a life to man.

i. History of the Prayer

The history of the prayer is as old as religion itself. The concept of prayer is present in every religion and its rituals and timings are also identifiable in these religions. The hymns sung by the Hindus, the chants of the Zoroastrians, the invocations of the Christians and the psalms of the Jews are all its remnants. The Qur’ān has informed us that all the Prophets of God have directed their followers to offer it. It also occupies the most prominent position in the religion of the Prophet Abraham (sws) which the Prophet Muhammad (sws) revived in Arabia. When the Qur’ān directed people to pray, it was nothing unknown to them. They were fully aware of its pre-requistes and etiquette, rituals and utterances. Consequently, it was not required that the Qur’ān mention its details. Just as it used to be offered as a practice of Abraham’s religion, the Prophet (sws) at the behest of the Qur’ān promulgated it with certain changes among his followers and they are offering it generation after generation in the same manner.

ii. Pre-Requisites of the Prayer

Following are the pre-requisites of the prayer:

a. A person must not be in a state of inebriation.

c. A woman should not be in the state of menstruation or puerperal discharge.

d. A person must have done the ceremonial ablution (wudū) and in case of janābah1 or menstruation or puerperal discharge must have taken the ceremonial bath.

e. In case of being on a journey or being sick or in case of non-availability of water, a person can offer the tayammum (dry ablution) if it becomes difficult for him to do the ceremonial ablution and the ceremonial bath.

f. A person must face the qiblah.

The method of doing wudū is that first the face shall be washed and then hands up to the elbows shall be washed and after that the whole of the head shall be wiped and after that the feet shall be washed.

Once wudū is done, it remains intact as long as something which terminates it is not encountered. Consequently, the directive of wudū is for the state in which it no longer remains intact except if a person does wudū in spite of being in the state of wudū for the sake of freshness.

Following are the things which terminate wudū.

a. urination,

b. defecation,

c. passing the wind whether with sound or without it, and

d. pre-seminal discharge and pre-ovular discharge.

If, in the case of a journey, sickness or unavailability of water, wudū and the ceremonial bath become difficult, the Almighty has allowed the believers to do tayammum (dry ablution). It is done in the following way: hands should be rubbed on a clean surface and wiped over the face and hands. It suffices for all type of impurities. It can thus be done both after things that terminate the wudū and after having sexual intercourse with the wife in place of the ceremonial bath. Moreover, in case of being on a journey or being sick, tayammum can be done even if water is available.

Tayammum, no doubt, does not clean a person; however, a little deliberation shows that it serves as a reminder of the real means of achieving cleanliness and as such has special importance. The temperament of the sharī‘ah is that if a directive cannot be followed in its original form or it becomes very difficult to follow it, then lesser forms should be adopted to serve as its reminder. One big benefit of this is that once circumstances return to normal, one becomes inclined to follow the directive in its original form.

iii. Practices of the Prayer

Following are the practices of the prayer which are laid down in the sharī‘ah:

The prayer should begin with raf‘ al-yadayn (raising high both hands);

qiyām (standing upright) should ensue;

it should be followed by the rukū‘ (kneeling down);

qawmah (standing up after the rukū‘) should then be done;

two consecutive prostrations should then follow;

in the second and last rak‘at of each prayer, a person should do qa‘dah (to sit with legs folded backwards);

when a person intends to end the prayer, he can do so by first turning his face to the right and then to the left during this qa‘dah.

iv. Utterances of the Prayer

Following are the various utterances of the prayer:

The prayer shall begin by saying اللهُ أكْبَر (God is the greatest);

Then Sūrah Fātihah shall be recited during the qiyām, after which, according to one’s convenience, a portion from the rest of the Qur’ān shall be recited;

While going into the rukū‘, اللهُ أكْبَر shall be pronounced;

While rising from the rukū‘, سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ (God heard him who expressed his gratitude to Him) shall be uttered;

While going for the prostrations and rising from them, اللهُ أكْبَر shall be pronounced;

While rising from the qa‘dah for the qiyām, اللهُ أكْبَر shall once again be pronounced;

At the end of the prayer, السَّلاُمُ عَلَيكُمْ وَ رَحْمَتُ اللهِ (peace and blessings of God be on you) shall be said while facing towards the right and then the left;

اللهُ أكْبَر , سَمِعَ اللهُ لِمَنْ حَمِدَهُ and السَّلاُمُ عَلَيكُمْ وَ رَحْمَتُ اللهِ shall always be said loudly. In the first two rak‘āt of the maghrib and ‘ishā prayers, and in both rak‘āt of the fajr, Friday and ‘īd prayers, the recital shall be loud. The recital shall always be silent in the third rak‘at of the maghrib and in the third and fourth of the ‘ishā prayer. In the zuhr and ‘asr prayers, the recital shall be silent in all their four rak‘āt.

These are the utterances prescribed by the sharī‘ah for the prayer. They are in Arabic, and besides these, a person can express any utterance in his own language which state the sovereignty of the Almighty, gratitude towards Him or is a supplication.

v. Prayer Timings

It is incumbent upon the Muslims to pray five times a day. The time of each prayer is as follows:

fajr, zuhr, ‘asr, maghrib and ‘ishā.

When the whiteness of the dawn emerges from the darkness of the night, then this is fajr.

When the sun starts to descend from midday, then this is zuhr.

When the sun descends below the line of sight, then this is ‘asr.

The time of sunset is maghrib.

When the redness of dusk disappears, this is ‘ishā.

The time of fajr remains till sunrise, the time of zuhr remains till ‘asr begins, the time of ‘asr remains till maghrib, the time of maghrib remains till ‘ishā and the time of ‘ishā remains till midnight. The times of sunrise and sunset are prohibited for praying since the sun used to be worshiped at these times. These timings have remained the same during the era of other Prophets as well.

vi. Rak‘āt of the Prayer

The rak‘āt of the prayer which have been fixed by the sharī‘ah are:

fajr: two
zuhr: four
‘asr: four
maghrib: three
‘ishā: four

These are the obligatory rak‘āt of each of these prayers, leaving which a person would be held accountable on the Day of Judgement. Thus, they must necessarily be offered except in cases when qasr has been permitted. All other rak‘āt apart from them are optional; they earn great reward for a person but will not hold him accountable on the Day of Judgement if he does not offer them.

vii. Concession in the Prayer

If the time of the prayer arrives in dangerous, disturbing, or disorderly circumstances, the Almighty has allowed a person to pray while on foot or riding in whatever way possible. In these circumstances, it is evident that there shall be no congregational prayer, facing the qiblah shall not be necessary, and, in some situations, it shall not be possible to offer the prayer according to the prescribed method.

If such a situation arises during a journey, the Qur’ān has further said that people can shorten the prayer. In religious parlance, this is called qasr. The sunnah established by the Prophet (sws) in this regard is that the four rak‘āt prayer shall be shortened to two. No reduction shall be made in two and three rak‘āt prayers. Consequently, the fajr and the maghrib prayers were offered in full in such circumstances. The reason is that while the former already has two rak‘āt, the latter is considered as the witr of daytime, and this status of the maghrib prayer cannot be changed.

From this concession granted in the prayer, concession has also been deduced in the times it is offered. Consequently, in such journeys the zuhr and the ‘asr prayers can be combined and the maghrib and the ‘ishā can also be combined and offered together.

viii. The Congregational Prayer

Although the prayer can be offered alone, it is desirable that it be offered in congregation and if possible in a place of worship. For this very purpose, the Prophet (sws) built a mosque as soon as he reached Madīnah and with this the practice of building mosques in all localities and settlements of Muslims was initiated. Praying in a mosque and showing diligence in praying in congregation is a highly rewarding practice earning the blessings of the Almighty. Though women are exempted from this, men should not deprive themselves of this without any valid reason.

Following is the prescribed way of offering the congregational prayer.

a. Before this prayer, the adhān shall be called out so that people are able to join the prayer after hearing this call. The words which the Prophet (sws) has prescribed for the adhān are:

اللهُ اَكْبَر،ُ اَشْهَدُ اَنْ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ ، اَشْهَدُ اَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ اللهِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الصَّلوةِ ، حَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ ، اللهُ اَكْبَرُ ؛ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاَّ اللهَُ

God is the greatest; I bear witness that there is no god besides Him; I bear witness that Muhammad is God’s messenger; Come towards the prayer; come towards salvation; God is the greatest; there is no god besides Him.

b. If there is only one follower, he will stand adjacent to the imām on his right side and if there are many followers they shall stand behind him and he shall stand in the centre ahead of them.

c. The iqāmah shall be called before the prayer begins. All the words of the adhān shall be uttered in it; however, afterحَيَّ عَلَى الْفَلَاحِ the words قَدْ قَامَتْ الَّصلَاة (the prayer is ready to be offered) shall be said by the person who says the iqāmah.

d. The words of the adhān can be repeated more than once for the purpose they are said.

e. The words of the iqāmah also can similarly be repeated if there is a need.

ix. Rectifying Mistakes in the Prayer

In case a person makes a mistake or thinks that he has made a mistake in the utterances and practices of the prayer, the amendment prescribed as a sunnah is that if amends can be made for the mistake, then they should be made and two prostrations should be offered before ending the prayer, and if making amends is not possible, then only the prostrations should be offered.

x. The Friday Prayer

On Fridays, it has been made incumbent upon Muslims to pray in congregation at the time of the zuhr prayer and in place of it. Following is the way prescribed for it:

a. There are two rak‘āt of this prayer.

b. In contrast with the zuhr prayer, the recital shall not be silent in both its rak‘āt.

c. The takbīr shall be said before the prayer.

d. Before the prayer, the imām shall deliver two sermons to remind and urge people about various teachings of Islam. He shall deliver these sermons while standing. The imām shall sit for a short while after he ends the first sermon and shall then stand up to deliver the second one.

e. The adhān for the prayer shall be recited when the imām reaches the place where he is to deliver the sermon.

f. As soon as the adhān is said, it is incumbent upon all Muslim men to leave all their involvements and come to the mosque if they have no excuse.

g. The sermon shall be delivered and the prayer shall be led by the rulers of the Muslims and this prayer shall only be offered at places which have been specified by them or where a representative of theirs is present to lead the prayer.

xi. The Id Prayer

On the days of ‘īd al-adhā and ‘īd al-fitr, it is essential for the Muslims that they arrange a collective prayer like that of the Friday prayer. It should be offered between the time of sunrise and the sun’s descent. Following is the prescribed way in which it should be offered:

a. This prayer shall consist of two rak‘āt.

b. In both rak‘āt, the Qur’ān shall be recited loudly.

c. While standing in qiyām some additional takbīrs shall be recited.

d. Neither will there be any adhān for the prayer nor takbīr.

e. After the prayer, the imām shall deliver two sermons to remind and urge people regarding the basic message of Islam. Both these sermons shall be delivered with the imām standing. He shall sit for a while in between the two.

f. Like the Friday prayer, this prayer too shall be led and its sermon delivered by the rulers of the Muslims and their representatives and it shall be offered only at those places which have been specified by them, where either they or their representatives are present to lead the prayer.

xii. The Funeral Prayer

In the religion of the prophets, the prayer for a deceased is held obligatory.

Once the dead body of the deceased is bathed and enshrouded, this prayer shall be offered in the following manner:

People shall stand in rows behind the imām while placing the dead body between themselves and the qiblah.

The prayer shall begin by saying the takbīr and by raising hands.

Like the ‘īd prayer, some additional takbīrs shall be said in this prayer.

The prayer shall end after the salām is said while a person is standing once the takbīrs and the supplications have been offered.

This refers to the minimum obligatory worship related to the prayer. However, the Qur’ān says that he who did some virtuous act out of his own desire, God will accept it. Similarly, it is stated in the Qur’ān that help should be sought from perseverance and from the prayer in times of hardship. Consequently, while complying with these directives, Muslims, besides offering the obligatory prayers, show diligence and vigilance in offering optional prayers. The details of such optional prayers which the Prophet (sws) offered or urged others to offer can be looked up in various Hadīth narratives.

2. The Zakāh

After salāh (the prayer), zakāh is the second important worship ritual in Islam. Among the various mannerisms which man has generally adopted to worship deities, one is to present before them a part of their wealth, livestock and produce. In the religion of the prophets, this is the essence of zakāh, and on this very basis, it is has been regarded as a ritual of worship. Names like sadaqah, niyādh, bhīnt and nadhr are also used for it. Consequently, the Qur’ān has used the word sadaqah for it in various verses, and has explained that it should be paid with humility. The general custom about it is that once it has been presented, it is taken from the place of worship and given to its custodians so that they are able to serve the needs of the worshippers from this money. This practice has now been discontinued. In its place, Muslims have been directed to give this money to their rulers so that the needs of the state can be met; however, this change does not affect the essence of zakāh. It is reserved for the Almighty and when His servants pay it, the decision for accepting it also comes from Him.

i. History of Zakāh

The history of zakāh is the same as that of the prayer. It is evident from the Qur’ān that like the prayer its directive always existed in the sharī‘ah of the Prophets. When the Almighty asked the Muslims to pay it, it was not something unknown to them. All the followers of the religion of Abraham (sws) were fully aware of it. Thus it was a pre-existing sunnah which the Prophet (sws), with necessary reformations, gave currency among the Muslims at the behest of the Almighty.

ii. Objective of Zakāh

The objective of zakāh can be determined from its very name. The root of the word zakāh in Arabic has two meanings: “purity” and “growth”. It thus means the wealth given in the way of Allah to obtain purity of heart. It is evident from this that the objective of zakāh is the same as that of the whole of Islam. It cleanses the soul from the stains that can soil it because of love for wealth, infuses blessings in the wealth and is instrumental in increasing the purity of the human soul. Zakāh is the minimum financial obligation on a person of spending his wealth in the way of God. A Muslim must fulfil it at all costs; thus it does not win what spending in the way of God beyond it wins; however, merely paying zakāh is enough to attach a person’s heart with the Almighty and greatly does away with indifference to the Almighty which so often comes in a person because of love for this world and its resources.

iii. Sharī‘ah of Zakāh

The sharī‘ah of zakāh can be stated as follows:

a. Nothing except the means and tools of trade, business and production, personal items of daily use and a fixed quantity called nisāb are exempt from zakāh. It shall be collected annually on wealth of all sorts, livestock of all types and produce of all forms of every Muslim citizen who is liable to it.

b. Following are its rates:

(i) Wealth: 2 ½ % annually

(ii) Produce: (i) 5 %: on all items which are produced primarily by the interaction of both labor and capital, (ii) 10 % on items which are produced such that the basic factor in producing them is either labor or capital and (iii) 20 % in items which are produced neither as a result of capital nor labor but actually are a gift of God.

(iii) Livestock


– From 5 to 24 (camels): one she-goat on every five camels

– From 25 to 35: one one-year old she-camel or in its absence, one two-year old camel

– From 36 to 45: one two-year old she-camel

– From 46 to 60: one three-year old she-camel

– From 61 to 75: one four-year old she-camel

– From 76 to 90: two two-year old she-camels

– From 91 to 120: two three-year old she-camels

– Over 120: one two-year old she-camel on every forty camels and one three-year old on every fifty camels

(b) COWS

– one one-year old calf on every thirty cows and one two-year old calf on every forty cows


– From 40 to 120: one she-goat

– From 121 to 200: two she-goats

– From 201 to 300: three she-goats

– Over 300: one she-goat on every hundred goats


c. The heads in which zakāh can be spent are stated in the Qur’ān thus:

(i) The poor and the needy.

(ii) The salaries of all employees of the state.

(iii) All political expenditures in the interest of Islam and the Muslims.

(iv) For liberation from slavery of all kinds.

(v) For helping people who are suffering economic losses, or are burdened with a fine or a loan.

(vi) For serving Islam and for the welfare of the citizens.

(vii) For helping travellers and for the construction of roads, bridges and rest houses for these travellers.

d. One form of zakāh is the sadqah of fitr. It is the food of a person that he consumes in a day and is obligatory on every person whether young or old, and is given at the end of Ramadān before the ‘īd prayer is offered.

3. The Fast

After the prayer and zakāh, the fast is the next important worship ritual of Islam. In the Arabic language, the word used for it is صَوْم (sawm), which literally means “to abstain from something” and “to give up something”. As a term of the Islamic sharī‘ah, it refers to the state of a person in which he is required to abstain from eating and drinking and from marital relations with certain limits and conditions. A person expresses himself through deeds and practices; hence when his emotions of worship for the Almighty relate to his deeds and practices then these emotions, besides manifesting in worshipping Him, also manifest in obeying His commands. Fasts are a symbolic expression of this obedience. While fasting, a person, at the behest of His Lord, gives up things which are originally allowed to him to win His pleasure; he thus becomes an embodiment of obedience and through his practice acknowledges the fact that there is nothing greater than the command of God. So if the Almighty forbids him things perfectly allowed by innate guidance, then it is only befitting for a person who is the servant of his Creator to obey Him without any hesitation whatsoever.

A little deliberation reveals that this state of a person in which he experiences and acknowledges the power, magnificence and exaltedness of the Almighty is also a true expression of gratitude from him. On this very basis, the Qur’ān says that the fast glorifies the Almighty and is a means through which gratitude can be shown to Him: The Qur’ān says that for this very purpose the month of Ramadān was set apart because in this month the Qur’ān was revealed as a guide for human intellect having clear arguments to distinguish right from wrong so that people could glorify God and express their gratitude to Him.

The excellence a person can attain in this ritual of worship is that while fasting he imposes certain other restrictions on himself and confines himself to a mosque for a few days to worship the Almighty as much as he can. In religious terminology, this is called اِعْتِكَاف (i‘tikāf). Though this worship ritual is not incumbent upon the believers like the fasts of Ramadān, it occupies great importance viz-a-viz purification of the soul. The cherished state which arises by combining the prayer and the fast with recitals of the Qur’ān and the feeling of being solely devoted to the Almighty having no one around helps achieve the objective of the fast in the very best way.

i. History of the Fast

Like the prayer, the fast is also an ancient ritual of worship. The Qur’ān says that fasting has been made obligatory for the Muslims, just as it was made so for earlier peoples. Consequently, this is a reality that as a ritual of worship which trains and disciplines the soul, it has existed in various forms in all religions.

ii. Objective of the fast

The objective of the fast as delineated by the Qur’ān is that people adopt the taqwā of God. In the terminology of the Qur’ān, taqwā  means that a person should spend his life within the limits set by Allah and should keep fearing Him from the depth of his heart that if ever he crosses these limits, there will be no one except God to save him from its punishment.

iii. Sharī‘ah of the Fast

Following is the sharī‘ah of the fast:

a. The fast is abstention from eating and drinking and from having sexual intercourse with the wife with the intention that a person is going to fast.

b. This abstention is from fajr to nightfall; hence eating and drinking and having sexual intercourse with the wife during the night is permitted.

c. The month of Ramadān has been fixed for fasting; hence it is obligatory for every person who is present in this month to fast.

d. If owing to sickness, travel or any other compelling reason a person is not able to keep all the fasts of Ramadān, it is incumbent upon him to make up for this by keeping in other months an equal number of the fasts missed.

e. Fasting during the menstrual and puerperal cycles is forbidden. However, the fasts missed as a result must be kept later.

f. The pinnacle of the fast is the i‘tikāf. If a person is given this opportunity by God, he should seclude himself from the world for as many days as he can in a mosque to worship the Almighty and he should not leave the mosque except because of some compelling human need.

g. During i‘tikāf, a person is permitted to eat and drink during the night but he cannot have sexual intercourse with his wife. This has been prohibited by the Almighty.

4. Hajj and ‘Umrah

In the religion of Abraham (sws), these two rituals are the pinnacle of worship. Their history begins with the proclamation made by Abraham (sws) after building the House of God that people should come here to ceremonially devote themselves and revive their commitment to the belief of tawhīd.

This is the highest position a person can attain in his zeal for worshiping the Almighty: he is ready to offer his life and wealth for Him when he is called for this. Hajj and ‘umrah are symbolic manifestations of this offering. Both are an embodiment of the same reality. The only difference is that the latter is compact and the former more comprehensive in which the objective for which life and wealth are offered becomes very evident.

The Almighty has informed us that Satan has declared war on the scheme according to which He has created Adam in this world since the very first day. Consequently, his servants are now at war with their foremost enemy till the Day of Judgement. This is the very test on which this world has been made and our future depends on success or failure in it. It is for this war that we dedicate our life and devote our wealth. This war against Iblīs has been symbolized in the ritual of hajj. The manner in which this symbolization has been done is as follows:

At the behest of Allah, His servants take time out from the pleasures and involvements of life and leave aside their goods and possessions.

They then proceed to the battlefield with the words لَبَّيْك لَبَّيْك and just like warriors encamp in a valley.

The next day they reach an open field seeking the forgiveness of the Almighty, praying and beseeching Him to grant them success in this war and listening to the sermon of the imām.

Giving due consideration to the symbolism of waging war against Iblīs, they shorten and combine their prayers and then after a short stay on the way back reach their camps.

Afterwards they fling stones on Satan and symbolically offer themselves to God by sacrificing animals. They then shave their heads and to offer the rounds of vows come to the real place of worship and sacrifice.

Then they return to their camps again and in the next two or three days fling stones on Satan in the manner they had done earlier.

Viewed thus, the ihrām worn in hajj and ‘umrah symbolizes the fact that a believer has withdrawn from the amusement, attractions and involvements of this world and like a monk wearing two unstitched robes, bare-headed and to some extent bare-footed too has resolved to reach the presence of the Almighty.

The talbiyah is the answer to the call made by Abraham (sws) while standing on a rock after he had re-built the House of God. This call has now reached the nooks and corners of this world and the servants of God while acknowledging His favours and affirming belief in His tawhīd respond to it by reciting out these enchanting words: اَللّهُمَّ لَبَّيْك  لَبَّيْك.

The rounds of tawāf’ are the rounds of vow. This is an ancient tradition of the Abrahamic religion. According to this tradition, animals which were to be sacrificed or devoted to the place of worship were made to walk to and fro in front of it or in front of the altar.

The istilām of the hajar-i aswad symbolizes the revival of the pledge. In it, a person while symbolizing this stone to be the hand of the Almighty, places his own hand in His and in accordance with the ancient tradition about covenant and pledges by kissing it revives his pledge with the Almighty that after accepting Islam he has surrendered his life and wealth to Him in return for Paradise.

The sa‘ī is in fact the tawāf of the place where Ishmael (sws) was offered for sacrifice. Abraham (sws) while standing on the hill of Safā had observed this place of sacrifice and then to fulfill the command of Allah had briskly walked towards the hill of marwah. Consequently, the tawāf of Safā and Marwah are the rounds of vow which are first made before the Ka‘bah and then on the place of worship.

‘Arafāt is a surrogate for the Ka‘bah where the warriors gather to battle against Satan, seeking forgiveness for their sins and praying to God to grant them success in this war.

Muzdalifah is the place where the army stops and spends the night and the warriors once again pray and beseech the Lord when they get up in the morning on their way to the battlefield.

The ramī symbolizes cursing Iblīs and waging war against him. This ritual is undertaken with the determination that a believer would not be happy with anything less than the defeat of Iblīs. It is known that this eternal enemy of man is persistent in implanting evil suggestions in the minds of people. However, if resistance is offered in return, his onslaught decreases gradually. Doing the ramī for three days first at the bigger Jamarāt and then at the smaller ones symbolizes this very resistance.

Animal sacrifice symbolizes that one is willing to sacrifice one’s life for the Almighty and shaving the head symbolizes that the sacrifice has been presented and a person with the mark of obedience and eternal servitude to the Almighty can now return to his home.

It is evident from the foregoing details, how grand and exceptional the ritual of hajj is. It has been made incumbent once in the life of a Muslim who has the capacity to undertake it.

i. Objective of Hajj and Umrah

The objective of hajj and umrah is the same as its essence and reality viz. acknowledgement of the blessings of the Almighty, affirmation of His tawhīd and a reminder of the fact that after embracing Islam we have devoted and dedicated ourselves to Him. It is these things whose comprehension and cognizance are called the benefits (manāfi‘) of the places of hajj. This objective is very nicely depicted in the utterances which have been specified for this ritual. It is evident that these expressions have been selected so that this objective is highlighted and fully implanted in the minds. Hence after wearing the ihrām, these words flow from every person’s mouth:

لَبَّيْكَ  اللَّهُمَّ لبيك  لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الحَمْدَ وَ النِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَ المُلْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ 

I am in your presence; O Lord I am in Your presence; I am in Your presence; no one is Your partner; I am in Your presence. Gratitude is for You and all blessings are Yours and sovereignty is for You only and no one is Your partner.

ii. Days of Hajj and Umrah

No time has been fixed for ‘umrah. It can be offered throughout the year whenever people want. However, the days of hajj have been fixed from 8th to 13th Dhū al-Hajj and it can be offered in these days only.

iii. Methodology of Hajj and ‘Umrah

The methodology which has been fixed for hajj and ‘umrah by the sharī‘ah is as follows:

a. ‘Umrah

First the ihrām should be put on with the intention of doing ‘umrah: Those coming from outside Makkah should put on the ihrām from their respective mīqāt; locals whether they are Makkans or are temporarily staying in Makkah should put it on from some nearby place located outside the limits of the Haram. And those who live outside the limits of Haram but are located within the mīqāt their mīqāt is their place of residence. They can put the ihrām from their homes and begin reciting the talbiyah.

The recital of the talbiyah should continue till a pilgrim reaches the Baytullāh.

Once he arrives there, he should offer the tawāf of the Baytullāh.

Then the sa‘ī should be offered between the Safā’ and the Marwah.2

If the animals of hadī accompany a pilgrim, they should then be sacrificed.

After sacrifice, men should shave their heads or have a hair cut and women should cut a small tuft from the end of their hair and then take off their ihrām.

The ihrām is a religious term. It signifies that pilgrims will not indulge in lewd talk; they will not use any adornments and not even use any perfume; they will not cut their nails nor shave or cut any body hair; they will not even remove any dirt or filth from them so much so they will not even kill any lice of their body; they will not hunt preys nor wear stitched cloth; they will expose their heads, faces and the upper part of their feet; they will wear one sheet as loin cloth and enfold another around themselves.

Women, however, can wear stitched clothes and even cover their heads and feet. They are only required to expose their hands and faces.

Certain places have been appointed before the limits of Haram begin which can only be crossed in a state of ihrām by those who want to offer hajj and ‘umrah. In religious terminology, they are called mīqāt and are five in number. For those coming from Madīnah, the mīqāt is Dhū al-Hulayfah, for those coming from Yemen, it is Yalamlam, for those coming from Syria and Egypt, it is Juhfah, for those coming from Najd, it is Qaran and for those arriving from the East, it is Dhātu ‘Irq.

The talbiyah implies the constant recital of these words:

لَبَّيْكَ  اللَّهُمَّ لبيك  لَبَّيْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ إِنَّ الحَمْدَ وَ النِّعْمَةَ لَكَ وَ المُلْكَ لَا شَرِيْكَ لَكَ

It begins right after putting on the ihrām and continues till a pilgrim reaches the Baytullāh. This is the only recital which the Almighty has fixed for hajj and ‘umrah.

The tawāf refers to the seven rounds which are made around the Baytullāh in a state of cleanliness. Each of these rounds begins with the hajar-i aswad3 and ends with it and the istilām of the hajar-i aswad is done at the beginning of each round. It means kissing the hajar-i aswad or touching it with the hands and then kissing the hands. If the place is crowded, a pilgrim can just raise his hands in its direction or even point a stick or something similar towards it.

The sa‘ī refers to the tawāf of the Safā and Marwah. This also consists of seven rounds which begin with Safā. A complete round extends from Safā to Marwah. The last round ends on Marwah.

Like animal sacrifice, the sa‘ī between the Safā and Marwah is optional. It is not an essential part of the ‘umrah.

The hadī refers to the animals which have been specifically reserved to be sacrificed in the Haram. In order to make them distinct from other animals their bodies are marked and collars are tied around their necks.

b. Hajj

Like the ‘umrah, the hajj too begins with the ihrām. Consequently, the first thing that a pilgrim must do is to put on the ihrām with the intention of offering hajj. Those coming from outside Makkah should put on the ihrām from their respective mīqāt; locals whether they are Makkans or are temporarily staying in Makkah or live outside the limits of the Haram but are located within the mīqāt should put it on at their place of residence. This is their mīqāt. They can put the ihrām from their homes and begin reciting the talbiyah.

Pilgrims should go to Minā on the eighth of Dhū al-Hajj and reside there.

They should go to ‘Arafāt on the ninth of Dhū al-Hajj. At ‘Arafāt, the imām will deliver the sermon before the zuhr prayer and the prayers of zuhr and ‘asr shall be offered by combining and shortening them.

After the prayer, pilgrims should celebrate the glory of their Lord and express their gratitude to Him, declare His exaltedness and oneness and invoke and beseech Him as much as they can.

They should set off for Muzdalifah after sunset.

After arriving at Muzdalifah, the pilgrims should offer the prayers of maghrib and ‘ishā by combining and shortening them.

The night must be spent in the field of Muzdalifah.

After the fajr prayer, the pilgrims for some time should celebrate the glory of their Lord and express their gratitude to Him, express His exaltedness and oneness and invoke and beseech Him – just as they did at ‘Arafāt.

Then they should leave for Minā and once they reach the Jamrāh ‘Uqabah they should stop reciting the talbiyah and pelt this Jamrah with seven stones.

If the pilgrims have brought forth the hadī or if it has become incumbent upon them to sacrifice animals which have been devoted or which are a means of atonement, then these should be sacrificed.

After sacrifice, men should shave their heads or have a hair cut and women should cut a small tuft from the end of their hair and then take off their ihrām.

After that, the pilgrims should set off for the Baytullāh and offer the tawāf.

With this, all restrictions which the ihrām entails shall be lifted. After that, if a pilgrim wants, he can offer the sa‘ī of the Safā and the Marwah – though this is optional.

Then they should go back to Minā and stay there for two or three days and then everyday pelt first the first Jamrah, then the middle one and then the last one with seven stones each.

Ever since the times of Abraham (sws), these are the rites (manāsik) of hajj and ‘umrah. The Qur’ān has made no change in them; it has only explained certain issues which arose – issues about which there was no clear directive given previously.

The first of them is that showing reverence to whatever has been declared sacred by the Almighty regarding hajj and ‘umrah is a requirement of faith. This should be expressed and followed at all costs. If some other group violates this sanctity, Muslims too have the right to retaliate on equal footings. The reason is that keeping intact the sanctities ordained by the Almighty is a two way practice. One member of the pact cannot just maintain it on its own.

The second issue is that in spite of the permission for war, Muslims cannot take any initiative in violating the sanctities. These are the sanctities ordained by God and taking the initiative in violating them is a grave sin. In no circumstances should this happen.

The third issue is that the prohibition of hunting while a pilgrim is wearing the ihrām is only for animals of the land. Hunting sea animals or eating sea animals which have been hunted by others is allowed. However, this permission does not mean that people wrongfully benefit from it. The prey hunted on land is prohibited in all circumstances. So if a person deliberately commits such a sin, he must atone for it.

There are three ways for this atonement:

A similar household quadruped animal to that which has been hunted should be sent to the Baytullāh for sacrifice.

If this is not possible then the price of such an animal should be calculated and the amount spent to feed the poor.

If even this is not possible then a person should fast; the number of these fasts should be equivalent to the number of poor a person has become liable to feed.

As far as the decision is concerned regarding the type of animal to be sacrificed in return, or if this is not possible then the determination of the price of such an animal or the number of poor which should be fed or the number of fasts which should be kept, shall be made by two trustworthy Muslims so that no chance remains for the sinner to succumb to a wrong judgement.

The fourth issue is that if the pilgrims are not able to reach the Sacred House and are stranded somewhere they can sacrifice a camel, cow or a goat and after shaving their heads they can take off their ihrām. This will complete their hajj and ‘umrah. However, this much should remain clear that whether the sacrifice is offered on such compelling occasions or in Makkah or Minā, shaving the head is not permissible before it. The only exception to this is if a person is sick or he has some ailment in his head and he is forced to shave his head before animal sacrifice. The Qur’ān has allowed the pilgrims to do so in such circumstances but they should atone for this in the form of keeping fasts, or spending in the way of God or sacrificing an animal(s). The amounts of these acts of atonement are left to their own discretion.

The fifth issue is that if those who have come from outside want to combine the hajj with the ‘umrah in one journey, they can do so. The way to do this is that they should first take off the ihrām after offering the ‘umrah. Then they should again put it on the eighth of Dhū al-Hajj and then offer hajj. This is a mere concession which the Almighty has provided the pilgrims to save themselves of the bother of two journeys. Thus they will atone for benefiting from this lenience. There are two ways for this:

They should offer the sacrifice of whatever animal is available to them from a camel, cow or goat.

If this is not possible, then they should fast for ten days: three during their hajj stay and seven when they return.

It is evident from the above explanation that what is pleasing in the sight of God is that one should make separate journeys for hajj and ‘umrah. Thus the Qur’ān has clarified that this lenience is not for those whose houses are near the Sacred Mosque.

The sixth issue is that pilgrims can return from Minā on the 12th of Dhū al-Hajj and can also stay on till the 13th. The Almighty has said that both cases will incur no sin. The reason for this is that the extent of stay does not hold real significance; what does hold real significance is whether the time of stay however much it be was spent in the remembrance of God or not.

5. Animal Sacrifice

In all ancient religions of the world, the ritual of animal sacrifice has remained a great means of attaining the nearness of the Almighty. Its essence is the same as that of the zakāh, but it should not be regarded as analogous to wealth; it is essentially a vow of pledging one’s life and is fulfilled by the animal we sacrifice on behalf of our life.

i. History of Animal Sacrifice

The history of sacrifice begins with Adam (sws). According to the Qur’ān, when two of his sons, Abel and Cain, presented their offerings to the Almighty, one of them was accepted and the other was not. It is explicitly mentioned in the Bible that Abel on this occasion had offered the sacrifice of some first born of his flock of goats and sheep.

This practice quite evidently must have continued later also. Consequently, there exist signs and remnants in all ancient religions which corroborate this fact. However, the way this worship ritual has increased in its importance, grandeur and scope after the sacrifice of Abraham (sws), it has become unprecedented. When he was asked to sacrifice an animal in place of his son, the Almighty said that He ransomed Ishmael (sws) by sacrificing an animal. This meant that the sacrifice offered by Abraham (sws) had been accepted and in order to commemorate this incident the ritual of sacrifice was instituted as a great tradition to be carried out generation after generation. It is this optional worship of sacrifice which we offer with fervour and enthusiasm on the occasions of hajj and ‘umrah and on ‘i%d of al-adhā.

ii. Objective of Animal Sacrifice

The objective of sacrifice is to express gratitude to the Almighty. When we offer our life symbolically to the Almighty by offering the sacrifice of an animal, we are in fact expressing our gratitude on the guidance of submission which was expressed by Abraham (sws) by sacrificing his only son. On this occasion, the words uttered to declare the exaltedness and oneness of the Almighty are done so for this very objective.

Viewed thus, animal sacrifice is the pinnacle of worship. When we make an animal stand or bow down in the direction of the Baytullāh and also direct our own face towards the House of God and present the sacrificed animal as an offering to God by saying: بِسْمِ اللهِ وَ اللهُ اَكْبَرْ, we are actually offering our ownselves to God.

iii. The Sharī‘ah of Animal Sacrifice

The sharī‘ah regarding animal sacrifice can be stated thus:

a. All four legged animals which are cattle can be sacrificed.

b. Sacrificial animals should not be flawed and should be of appropriate age.

c. The time of animal sacrifice begins after offering the ‘īd prayer on the 10th of Dhū al-Hajj (yawm al-nahr).

d. The days fixed for animal sacrifice are the same as have been appointed for the stay at Minā once the pilgrims return from Muzdalifah. In religious parlance, they are called “the days of tashrīq”. Besides animal sacrifice in these days, the Sunnah has been instituted that takbīrs should be declared at the end of each congregational prayer. Being an absolute directive, the words of the takbīr have not been fixed.

5. The meat of sacrificial animals can also be eaten without any hesitation by those who have had them slaughtered and can also be used to feed others.








1. A state that a person is in after sexual intercourse, or a seminal/ ovular discharge.

2. These are two hillocks situated very near the Baytullāh. The incident of Ishmael’s sacrifice took place at Marwah.

3. This is a stone from the ancient construction of the Baytullāh which has been implanted in it as a symbol of revival of the pledge with the Almighty.

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