What Is Hajj?
Each year, millions of Muslims from all across the world perform Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage and the fifth pillar of Islam. Hajj takes place in Makkah, in modern day Saudi Arabia, during the holy month of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month in the Islamic calendar.
Hajj is a spiritual duty and a pillar of Islam, meaning that Hajj must be performed by every Muslim at least once in their lifetime, so long as they are financially, physically, and emotionally able to do so. Going more than once during your lifetime is permitted whilst sincerely seeking Allah’s (SWT) (which means ‘The Most Glorified, The Most High) pleasure.
Allah (SWT) says to the Muslims in the Qur’an: And [due] to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House – for whoever is able to find thereto a way. But whoever disbelieves – then indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds. Qur’an | 3:97
For anyone preparing to perform Hajj, it’s an incredibly exciting time, but also a time of great spiritual importance – the first time going can be a once in a lifetime experience for a Muslim.
The Hajj is a test of patience and temperament – a spiritual, emotional, and physical challenge. However, it offers Muslims the opportunity to refresh our spiritual selves, to cleanse us of our sins and to draw closer to Allah (SWT).
As the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene speech or do any evil deed, will go back (free of sin) as his mother bore him.” Hadith | Bukhari and Muslim
Hajj takes place each year between the 8th and 12th of Dhul Hijjah. Muslims use the lunar calendar, so the corresponding Gregorian date will vary year to year. This year, Hajj begins in the evening of Thursday 7th July and ends in the evening of 12th July 2022.
The Story Of Hajj
While Hajj is something that was taught to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), its origin actually dates back to the teachings of another of Islam’s beloved Prophets, Ibrahim (AS) (which means upon him be peace), thousands of years before.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) began the Hajj in 628 CE during the month of Dhul Hijjah, and is the same Hajj that Muslims perform today. However, Dhul Hijjah was also a sacred month for the pagan Arabs in pre-Islamic Arabia. During this month, fighting was forbidden for the Arabs, and they also made pilgrimage to the Kaa’ba – the cubic like structure in Masjid al-Haram, that at the time was being used to house the Arabs’ pagan idols.
It is known today by Muslims as Baitullah, or ‘the House of God’. It plays an important part in the rites of Hajj but is ultimately a mosque and not something that Muslims worship.
In fact, the Kaa’ba was built by Ibrahim (AS), or Prophet Abraham, thousands of years earlier by the command of Allah (SWT) – it is because of Ibrahim (AS) that Muslims perform Hajj.
Hajar, Isma’il (AS) And The Well Of Zamzam
Ibrahim (AS) or Khalilullah (the friend of Allah) as he is referred to, is considered to be one of the greatest of Allah’s (SWT) creations. His reflective nature and the soundness of his heart brought him to the revelation of one God, Allah (SWT) – Ibrahim’s (AS) story of prophethood is well documented in the Islamic tradition.
During his prophethood, Ibrahim (AS) encountered several trials that serve as reminders and lessons to mankind regarding devotion to Allah (SWT), sacrifice, faith, as well as other crucial tenets of Islam. These trials include the test of Ibrahim’s (AS) willingness to sacrifice his son Ishaq (AS) for the sake of Allah (SWT), and the test of leaving his wife Hajar and son Isma’il (AS) alone in the desert of Makkah – it is this test that provides the basis for Hajj.
By the instruction of Allah (SWT), Ibrahim (AS) was to leave Hajar and Isma’il (AS) in the ancient desert of Makkah. The little food and water that they had soon ran out, and Isma’il (AS), an infant at the time, was crying of thirst. Hajar, desperately in search of water, ran between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwah in the hope of spotting someone who may be able to help.
Hajar returned to find Isma’il (AS) striking and scraping the ground with his leg in distress, when suddenly a spring burst forth from the barren desert. By the command of Allah (SWT), a source of water from deep within the earth (that is still in use today), provided Hajar and Isma’il (AS) with water – this is known as the well of Zam Zam.
The water source provided a means of trade for Hajar, with passing nomads exchanging food and other provisions for water. The site became prosperous for Hajar and her son, and when Ibrahim (AS) was commanded to return to them in the desert, he was amazed to see the miracles that had unfolded for them, and the fruits of his faith in Allah (SWT).
The Construction Of The Kaa’ba
It was at the site of the well of Zam Zam that Ibrahim (AS) was commanded to build the Kaa’ba. Ibrahim (AS) and his son Isma’il (AS) worked together to build a small stone structure called the Kaa’bah. It was built to mark a space for the sacred gathering of Muslims – all those who believed in the one God, Allah (SWT).
The Inception of Hajj (The Sacred Pilgrimage)
As time elapsed, the site of the miracle well of ZamZam and the Kaa’bah would provide the means for Makkah to become a thriving and prosperous settlement. Ibrahim (AS) returned to the site each year to offer his pilgrimage to Allah (SWT), and years later, when Isma’il (AS) was given his prophethood, he continued the tradition – the inception of the Hajj.
However, during the thousands of years that would pass, the site that was built to commemorate the lessons of Ibrahim’s (AS) trial, the miracle of Allah (SWT) and most importantly the belief in one God, was taken over by pagan Arabs and the worship of idols and spirits. This now thriving and prosperous settlement grew into a city for trade and the worship of pagan Gods – of which the Kaa’ba would eventually house.
Thousands of years later, a man named Muhammad, born into the high-status Quraysh tribe of Makkah, would be given revelation and prophethood. The last of Allah’s (SWT) messengers, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), established Islam in the land for mankind – with this came the commandment to restore the Kaa’ba to its original purpose and resume Hajj.
The first Hajj was performed in In 632 CE, by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), re-establishing the traditions started by the Prophet Ibrahim (AS).
Hajj As We Know It Today
Today, over 2.5 million Muslims of every race, class, and culture around the world travel to Makkah each year in Dhul Hijjah, to stand equal before Allah (SWT) and fulfil the rites of Hajj.
Some people save up money their entire lives to be able to perform Hajj, while others are able to fulfil it more than once. Regardless of whether you’ve yet been able to attend or not, the month of Dhul Hijjah holds countless blessings for Muslims around the world! During the month of Dhul Hijjah, Muslims can even achieve a similar reward to that of going to Hajj by seeking special reward during this holy month. Find out more about the benefits of Dhul Hijjah here.
Who Is Eligible To Perform Hajj?
Hajj forms one of the five pillars of Islam. As such, all Muslims must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
The Five Pillars Of Islam:
Profession of Faith (Shahada). The belief and declaration that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God”
However, there are still certain conditions that need to be met in order to perform Hajj:
Firstly, only Muslim adults (whether male or female) are required to perform Hajj. This means that while children may go to Hajj, it is not required of them.
Secondly, the very weak, sick, elderly, or otherwise physically incapable Muslims are exempt from having to perform the pilgrimage.
Thirdly, the Muslim must be financially able to perform Hajj. This means that a person in debt is not obliged to perform Hajj until he has cleared his debt – and must have the intention of doing so as a priority. However, if one is in debt, they may still perform Hajj as long as:
The creditor permits it
The debtor has time to pay off the debt
Hajj does not affect their ability to pay off the debt
A Step-By-Step Guide To Performing Hajj
SubhanAllah, each and every year, around 25,000 Muslims from the UK travel to the holy cities of Makkah to perform Hajj, in unity with Muslims from all over the globe.
So, if you’re one of these pilgrims heading off to Saudi Arabia to fulfil this sacred pillar, read on! We’ve put together this handy step-by-step Hajj guide to help you through this blessed journey!
The 19 Steps Of Hajj At A Glance
Preparation and Intention
Enter state of Ihram
Safa and Marwa
Clip/Shave Hair (Umrah ends)
Resting and Praying
Enter state of Ihram
Arrive at Mina
Day of ‘Arafah
Muzdalifah (under the night sky)
Rami (stoning of the devil)
Shaving of the Head
Rami (stoning of the devil)
Spend night at Mina
Rami (stoning of the devil)
Farewell Tawaf al-WidaSource: https://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/islamic-resources/hajj-in-islam/hajj-guide/