Hajj literally means 'to set out
for a place'. Islamically however it refers to the annual pilgrimage that
Muslims make to Makkah with the intention of performing certain religious rites
in accordance with the method prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad .
Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah
in the time of the Prophet lbrahim [Abraham] and he was the one
who was entrusted by Allah to build the Kaba - the House of Allah - along
with his son Ismail [Ishmael] at Makkah. Allah described the Kaba and its
building as follows:
"And remember when
We showed Ibrahim the site of the [Sacred] House [saying]: Associate not
anything [in worship with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate
it [i.e. perform tawaaf] and those who stand up for prayer and those who bow
down and make prostration [in prayer etc.]."
[Surah Al-Hajj 22:26]
After building the Kaba, Prophet Ibrahim would
come to Makkah to perform Hajj every year, and after his death, this practice
was continued by his son. However, gradually with the passage of time, both the
form and the goal of the Hajj rites were changed. As idolatry spread throughout
Arabia, the Kaba lost its purity and idols were placed inside it. Its walls
became covered with poems and paintings, including one of Jesus and his mother
Maryam and eventually over 360 idols came to be placed around the Kaba.
During the Hajj period itself, the atmosphere
around the sacred precincts of the Kaba was like a circus. Men and women would
go round the Kaba naked, arguing that they should present themselves before Allah
in the same condition they were born. Their prayer became devoid of all
sincere remembrance of Allah and was instead reduced to a series of hand
clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. Even the talbiah
was distorted by them with the following additions: 'No one is Your partner
except one who is permitted by you. You are his Master and the Master of what he
Sacrifices were also made in the name of God.
However, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured onto the walls of the Kaba
and the flesh was hung from pillars around the Kaba, in the belief that Allah demanded the flesh and blood of these animals.
Singing, drinking, adultery and other acts of
immorality was rife amongst the pilgrims and the poetry competitions, which were
held, were a major part of the whole Hajj event. In these competitions, poets
would praise the bravery and splendor of their own tribesmen and tell
exaggerated tales of the cowardice and miserliness of other tribes. Competitions
in generosity were also staged where the chief of each tribe would set up huge
cauldrons and feed the pilgrims, only so that they could become well-known for
their extreme generosity.
Thus the people had totally abandoned the
teachings of their forefather and leader Prophet Ibrahim. The House that he had
made pure for the worship of Allah alone, had been totally desecrated by the
pagans and the rites which he had established were completely distorted by them.
This sad state of affairs continued for nearly two and a half thousand years.
But then after this long period, the time came for the supplication of Prophet Ibrahim
to be answered:
"Our Lord! Send
amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them your aayaat
(verses) and instruct them in the book and the Wisdom and sanctify them.
Verily you are the 'Azeezul-Hakeem [the All-Mighty, the All-Wise]."
[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:129]
Sure enough, a man by the name of Muhammad ibn
was born in the very city that Prophet Ibrahim had made this
supplication centuries earlier. For twenty-three years, Prophet Muhammad
spread the message of Tawheed [true monotheism] - the same message that Prophet Ibrahim
and all the other Prophets came with - and established the law of Allah upon the land. He expended every effort into making the word of
Allah supreme and his victory over falsehood culminated in the smashing of the idols
inside the Kaba which once again became the universal center for the
worshippers of the one True God.
Not only did the Prophet rid the Kaba of all
its impurities, but he also reinstated all the rites of Hajj which were
established by Allah's Permission, in the time of Prophet Ibrahim. Specific
injunctions in the Quran were revealed in order to eliminate all the false
rites which had become rampant in the pre-Islamic period. All indecent and
shameful acts were strictly banned in Allah's statement:
"There is to be no
lewdness nor wrangles during Hajj."
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:197]
Competitions among poets in the exaltations of
their forefathers and their tribesmen's achievements were all stopped. Instead, Allah
"And when you have
completed your rites [of Hajj] then remember Allah as you remember your
forefathers; nay with a more vigorous remembrance."
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:200]
Competitions in generosity were also
prohibited. Of course, the feeding of the poor pilgrims was still encouraged as
this was done during the time of Prophet Ibrahim but Allah commanded that the
slaughtering of the animals which was done for this purpose should be done
seeking the pleasure of Allah rather than fame and the praise of the people. He
"So mention the
name of Allah over these animals when they are drawn up in lines. Then, when
they are drawn on their sides [after the slaughter], eat thereof and feed the
beggar who does not ask, and the beggar who asks."
[Surah al-Hajj 22:36]
As for the deplorable practice of spattering
blood of the sacrificed animals on the walls of the Kaba and hanging their
flesh on alters, then Allah clearly informed them that:
"It is neither
their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is Taqwaa (piety) from
you that reaches Him."
[Surah al-Hajj 22:37]
also put a stop to the
practice of circling the Kaba in a state of nudity and the argument that the
pagans put forward to justify this ritual was sharply rebutted in Allah's
"Say: Who has
forbidden the adornment [i.e. clothes] given by Allah which He has produced
for His Slaves?"
[Surah al-A'raaf 7:32]
Another custom which was prohibited through the
Quran was that of setting off for Hajj without taking any provisions for the
journey. In the pre-Islamic period, some people who claimed to be mutawakkiloon
(those having complete trust in Allah) would travel to perform Hajj begging for food
through the whole journey. They considered this form of behavior a sign of piety
and an indication of how much faith they had in Allah. However Allah told
mankind that to have sufficient provisions for the journey was one of the
preconditions for making Hajj. He said:
"And take a
provision [with you] for the journey, but the best provision is at-Taqwaa
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:197]
In this way, all the pre-Islamic practices,
which were based on ignorance, were abolished and Hajj was once more made a
model of piety, fear of Allah, purity, simplicity and austerity. Now, when the
pilgrims reach the Kaba, they no longer find the carnivals and the frolic
and frivolity that had once occupied the minds of the pilgrims there before.
Now, there is the remembrance of Allah at every step and every action and
every sacrifice was devoted to Him alone. It was this kind of Hajj that was
worthy of the reward of paradise, as the Prophet
reward for an accepted Hajj is nothing less than paradise."
May Allah grant us all the ability to visit
His House and perform the Hajj in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad .
1 Labbaik Allahumma
labbaik... (Here I am present, O' God, I am present...) This is the chant
which the pilgrims say when they are traveling for pilgrimage.
Source: Invitation to Islam,
Issue 1, May 1997