Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars. Unlike other religious obligations, it is required to be performed once in a lifetime, though it can be done multiple times if one wishes. It is compulsory for every adult man and woman who has sufficient financial resources and is physically fit to do so.

Hajj is a unique and very special activity in Islam. While most of the religious obligations and worship are repeatedly performed daily, Hajj can only be done on a fixed date only once a year. More importantly, one has to travel to Ka’aba, situated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the performance of Hajj. Every year, more than two million Muslims gather at Ka’aba from all over the world in Dhul Hajj, the last month in the Islamic Calendar to perform this special worship. It starts on the 8th and ends on the 13th of Dhul Hajj. During this period, one has to undertake a series of rituals in a sequence at specific times of the day and locations in and around the holy city of Mecca.

Historical Background of Hajj

Hajj in its current form was introduced by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ when he physically performed it in the year 10 AH (632 CE). It was the first and only Hajj performed by the Prophet. However, Hajj was practiced by the ancient Arabs before the Islamic era, though it was done differently.

The history of Hajj dates back to the era of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ. At that time, the current day’s Mecca was an uninhabited place. On the Command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, Prophet Ibrahim brought his wife Hajira and son Ismail to this place and left them alone with very few resources. Soon, the resources were exhausted, and the infant Ismail was in dire need of water. The mother desperately ran between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water, but there was nothing for her. When she returned, the young Ismail was scratching his heels on the ground, and a fountain suddenly arose there, which we know as Zamzam today. Allah Almighty liked the desperate running between the hills of Safa and Marwa, making it an essential part of Hajj and Umrah.

Sometimes later, Prophet Ibrahim returned to Mecca and, as Ordered by Allah, started building the Ka’aba with his son Ismail. The Archangel Gabriel brought the Black Stone (Hajr e Aswad) from the heavens and installed it in the Ka’aba. Once the building was completed, they invited people to come and perform the Hajj. Since then, the Hajj has remained in practice in one way or another by the people of Arab.

Quranic Reference

The story of building the Ka’aba is narrated in verses 124 to 127 of Surah Al-Baqarah:

Translation

Remember, when his Lord tried Abraham by a number of commands which he fulfilled, God said to him: “I will make you a leader among men.” And when Abraham asked: “From my progeny too?” the Lord said: “My pledge does not include transgressors.”

Remember, We made the House (of Ka’bah) a place of congregation and safe retreat, and said: “Make the spot where Abraham stood the place of worship;” and enjoined upon Abraham and Ishmael to keep Our House immaculate for those who shall walk around it and stay in it for contemplation and prayer, and for bowing in adoration.

And when Abraham said: “O Lord, make this a city of peace, and give those of its citizens who believe in God and the Last Day fruits for food,” He answered: “To those will I also give a little who believe not, for a time, then drag them to Hell, a dreadful destination!”

And when Abraham was raising the plinth of the House with Ishmael, (he prayed): “Accept this from us, O Lord, for You hear and know everything;

Hajj in the Islamic Era

Before the Islamic era, the Ka’aba was filled with different Idols, and traditionally, the pagans of Mecca worshiped them. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, along with his companions, managed to destroy all these idols in the year 8 AH (630 CE) and cleanse the building. Later, he performed his first and only Hajj along with his companions in the year 10 AH (632 CE). Since then, Hajj has become one of the five pillars of Islam.

Importance of Hajj for Muslims

Hajj is one of Islam’s five essentials and is very important for Muslims. The Quran and Hadith make many references to it, signifying its importance.

Reference from Quran

In the 96th and 97th Verse of Surah Al-e-Imran, narrated as under:

Translation

The first House of God to be set up for men was at Bakkah the blessed, a guidance for the people of the world.

It contains clear signs, and the spot where Abraham had stood. And anyone who enters it will find security. And whosoever can afford should visit the House on a pilgrimage as duty to God. Whosoever denies, should remember that God is independent of the peoples of the world.

Reference from Hadith

Hadith number 8 of Sahih Al-Bukhari narrates the importance of Hajj as one of Islam’s five pillars:

Translation – Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (.2 To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly.3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity) .4. To perform Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca)5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.

Apart from being one of the five essentials of Islam, the Hajj is important for Muslims in various other ways. Some of them are summarized here.

It Clears all the Previous Sins

Hajj, being a unique worship, clears all the previous sins of a person, provided he does it purely in the way of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. This is also narrated in the Hadith number 1521 of Sahih Al-Bukhari:

Translation – Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, “Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew.”

So, the foremost importance of Hajj is evidenced by the above-quoted Hadith.

Hajj Purifies the Soul

Once a Muslim performs the Hajj purely to please Allahسُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, his previous sins are abolished. This purifies his soul, and he is motivated to refrain from repeating wrongdoings. He is also motivated to follow the righteous path and do good deeds. His conscience and senses are polished. His heart and soul get cleansed and purified. Now, he must keep himself on the right path by avoiding sins and following the true Muslim life. It plays a vital role in building a good Muslim civilization.

Role of Hajj in Character Building

Hajj is quite a difficult task involving traveling, walking, and adjusting to a different environment. These hardships and difficulties build a sense of patience and cooperation with fellow Muslims. When incorporated into one’s behavior, all these factors play an important role in developing a strong positive character that helps build a pure Islamic society.

Hajj as the Reward of Jihad for Women

Jihad is also an important part of Islamic teachings. It is an act of fighting against the evil in the name of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once said the best Jihad for women is to perform Hajj. Hadith 1520 of Sahih Al-Bukhari narrates as under:

Translation – Narrated `Aisha: (the mother of the faithful believers) I said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! We consider Jihad as the best deed.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best Jihad (for women) is Hajj Mabrur.

Hajj Guarantees a Place in Paradise

The rewards of Hajj and Umrah are countless. One of the top rewards associated with Hajj is that a person performing Hajj purely to please Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى is a guarantee of getting a place in Paradise, as narrated in Hadith 1773 of Sahih Al-Bukhari:

Translation – Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “(The performance of) `Umrah is an expiation for the sins committed (between it and the previous one). And the reward of Hajj Mabrur (the one accepted by Allah) is nothing except Paradise.”

Hajj Brings Civilizations Closer

One of the Hajj’s social benefits is that it brings people from different societies, cultures, and civilizations together in one place, in one dress (Ihram), and in the same state. Irrespective of anyone’s financial status, all the pilgrims get together in similar circumstances and conditions to perform the Hajj. That builds a sense of equality, hope, purity, cooperation, and unity, which can go a long way in building a true Islamic society.

Conclusion

Hajj is a compulsory religious ceremony in Islam. It differs from other regular worship that must be performed repeatedly daily, as it can be performed only once a year. At the same time, it is compulsory only once in a lifetime. Additionally, those not financially or physically capable of traveling to Ka’aba are exempted from it.

The performance of Hajj is very important for Muslims in so many ways. Apart from being a part of the five essentials of Islam, it is also important for spiritual benefits for Muslims. Among many other benefits of a place in paradise, if we refrain from repeating the wrong acts and follow the true Islamic way of life.