Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam that is needed by every Muslim at least once in their lifetime if they can afford to perform Hajj and are physically fit to do so. It is the pilgrimage to Makkah and its surroundings. Every year, millions of Muslims head to Saudi Arabia to fulfill their duty of Hajj.
Hajj takes place at the same time every year –between the 8th and 12th of Dhul Hijjah. The Quran says in Surah al-Hajj to call people to perform the Hajj:
“Proclaim to men the pilgrimage: they will come to thee on foot and every lean camel, coming from every remote path.”
The rituals of Hajj are straightforward and standard. However, Muslims need to walk long distances. For example, on average, some days may require Muslims to travel as long as 15 km to complete the rituals of Hajj.
Moreover, the hot climate and the crowd do make Hajj physically demanding. However, millions of Muslims worldwide still gather annually for Hajj, and millions wish to perform the pilgrimage.
This is also because of the significance the journey of Hajj holds in Islam. Hajj in Islam is traced back to the time of Prophet Abraham. Moreover, Hajj is also seen as a chance for Muslims to ask their Lord for forgiveness, wipe their sins, and start their slate clean.
Quran also mentions the importance of Hajj in the following verse:
“Surely the first House ˹of worship˺ established for humanity is the one at Bakkah—a blessed sanctuary and a guide for ˹all˺ people.In it are clear signs and the standing-place of Abraham. Whoever enters it should be safe. Pilgrimage to this House is an obligation by Allah upon whoever is able among the people.1 And whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is not in need of ˹any of His˺ creation.”(Surah Al-Imran, 96-97)
In the verse mentioned above, Hajj has been described as a duty that a Muslim owes Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Moreover, if one is financially and physically capable of performing Hajj but refuses to do so, has been referred to as a disbeliever in Islam.
Another verse in the Quran says:
“Complete the pilgrimage and minor pilgrimage for Allah” – (Al Baqrah, chapter 2, verse 196)
The verse mentioned above describes Hajj as a service towards Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) that every Muslim must fulfill.There are also Hadith by the Prophet (ﷺ) about the performance of Hajj.The Prophet (ﷺ) 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.”– Sahih al-Bukhari
Hajj has been given such significance in Islam that every Muslim who performs Hajj is purified from all his sins – almost as if he had never committed any. Moreover, Hajj also purifies one’s soul. It helps rebuild the foundation of honesty, integrity, and morality in a human being.
Islamic Law and Hajj for Women
Hajj is obligatory for men and women, which is why many Muslim women also participate in the ritual.
Hazrat Aisha (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا) narrated:
(That she said), “O Allah’s Apostle! We consider Jihad as the best deed. Should we not fight for Allah’s Cause?” He said, “The best Jihad (for women) is Hajj-Mabrur (i.e. Hajj, which is done according to the Prophet’s tradition and is accepted by Allah).”
This verse highlights how Hajj has been referred to as Jihad for women, and every woman capable of doing so should also perform the ritual.
Regarding Islamic law regarding women’s participation in Hajj, the option usually varies. Most scholars believe that a woman is not permitted to travel for Hajj alone and must have a mahram.
This law has been derived from the reporting of Al-Bukhari:
Ibn Abbas narrated:
‘’The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “A woman should not travel except with a Dhu-Mahram (her husband or a man with whom that woman cannot marry at all according to the Islamic Jurisprudence), and no man may visit her except in the presence of a Dhu-Mahram.” A man got up and said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! I intend to go to such and such an army and my wife wants to perform Hajj.” The Prophet (ﷺ) said (to him), “Go along with her (to Hajj)..’’ – Sahih al-Bukhari 1862
Another narration reads:
‘’it is not permissible for a woman who believes in Allah and the Last Day to travel for one day and night except with a Mahram.”–Sahih al-Bukhari 1088
Scholars believe forbidding women from traveling alone is due to safety concerns. A woman may also be unable to defend herself against anyone with evil intentions. For example, a thief or anyone else may not have pure intentions for the woman.
However, jurists and scholars, after researching the topic have also concluded that women who are unable to perform Umrah or Hajj without a mahram may be able to do as long as they are in a group of people they can fully trust and if the journey is presumed to be safe. Even the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia granted permission to women to perform Hajj and Umrah alone without the presence of a mahram.
Muslim women also find themselves in many dilemmas today. For example, one of the most queries in the minds of Muslim women, especially younger adults, is whether to prioritize Hajj or marriage. This depends on several scenarios. For example. If you have financial resources for Hajj (enough money for travel, staying, car, etc.), it should be done as soon as possible as it is best not to delay it.
However, if you do not have a mahram with you, such as a father or a brother, it is best to choose to marry first and then perform Hajj with your husband. Moreover, if there is a situation in which a person is concerned for her chastity and has difficulty holding her desires, then in that scenario, you should choose to get married first.
Another common query Muslim women face is the obligation of Hajj for a newly widowed woman. Although this scenario is complicated and sorrowful, scholars have widely discussed the topic to help women facing such a dilemma.
Firstly, a woman whose husband has passed away is obligated to observe iddah under all circumstances as the Quran says:
“As for those of you who die and leave widows behind, let them observe a waiting period of four months and ten days. When they have reached the end of this period, then you1 are not accountable for what they decide for themselves in a reasonable manner. And Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” – Al Baqrah (2:234)
So, for a woman whose husband has passed away, it is not permissible to leave her house unless necessary.
If a woman has not performed Hajj and her husband passes away, she is not obligated to perform Hajj unless her iddah period is over. Even if that includes her missing Hajj, as Hajj can be performed another time, there is no alternative to the iddah period for women.
Moreover, if a woman is traveling toward the Hajj and her husband passes away, she mustreturn if she hasn’t traveled a long distance. However, she can continue the journey if she isn’t close to her home. It is usually believed that a woman should returnif she has not worn her Ihraam.
Women also wonder about the Islamic ruling on menstruating women during Hajj. Although in today’s modern world, women can use contraceptive pills to delay their period (and it is permissible to do so after consulting with their doctor), if it is not something they feel comfortable with, they can still carry on with the Hajj rituals with certain exceptions.
Al-Qashim naratted that Aisha (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا)said ‘’we set out with the sole intention of performing Hajj and when we reached Sarif, (a place six miles from Mecca) I got my menses. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) came to me while I was weeping. He said ‘What is the matter with you? Have you got your menses?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is a thing which Allah has ordained for the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do with the exception of the Tawaf (Circumambulation) round the Ka`ba.” `Aisha added, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) sacrificed cows on behalf of his wives.”(Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
So, a woman is permitted to stand on Mount Arafah, run between As-Safah and Al-Marwah, throw pebbles, and do dhikr. However, she is forbidden from offering salah, tawaf, staying in a mosque, and touching the Quran until her period is over and she can perform ghusl (purification bath).
Another common query that plagues the mind of Muslim women is regarding the husband’s permission for Hajj and whether they can perform Hajj without their husbands permitting them to do so.
Although there is no verse in the Quran or Hadith related to this specific query, scholars such as Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq have given their opinion on the topic. In this book Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Sheikh Sayyed Sabiq has said that a woman should ask her husband’s permission before going to Hajj. However, if he refuses to grant her permission for Hajj, she can and should still proceed with her duty to perform Hajj.
This is because Hajj is a pillar of Islam and a mode of worship. Therefore, a husband does not have the right to refuse her wife from worshipping Allah(سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).
A similar query commonly arises concerning Hajj and sexual intercourse. In this case, one must know that sexual intercourse is forbidden for Muslims during Hajj and Umrah until the three acts of worship have been completed (throwing pebbles, sacrificing an animal in the way of Allah, and shortening or trimming one’s hair).
However, if one knowingly has sexual intercourse with his wife in his Ihraam and before his stay at the al-Haraam, the Hajj is corrupted. However, it should be completed and retaken the following year. If intercourse has been done, this amendment is one camel followed by the spouses staying separate from each other until Hajj has been completed.
Muslim women also commonly wonder if they can get someone to perform Hajj on their behalf. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) has allowed this under two specific conditions:
- If Hajj was due on a Muslim and he passed away before getting the chance to perform it. In this case, the inheritors of the Muslims can authorize someone else to perform the Hajj on the deceased’s behalf and also undertake responsibility for the expenses of the Hajj (from the money/assets inherited from the deceased).
- Suppose a Muslim suffers from an illness that renders him unable to perform Hajj or is too old to travel. In that case, he can authorize someone to perform Hajj on his/her behalf by bearing all expenses and paying the authorized person sum of money.
Preparing for Hajj: A Guide for Women
If you’re headed to perform Hajj this year, here’s an overview of the stages of the blessed journey so you can better prepare yourself mentally:
- The very first stage is to enter the Ihram when you cross the outer boundaries of Makkah. At this stage, you will put on loose-fit clothing and will be forbidden from engaging in sexual acts, and will be required to refrain from showing anger.
- Then, you will set out to Mina. This can be done either by foot, bus, or car. However, if the weather is extremely hot, we recommend taking buses or going by car. Here, you will spend your time praying and remembering Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى).
- Next is the day of Arafat – considered one of the most important days of Hajj. You will spend your day here observing prayer.
- After the sunset, you will need to travel again to Muzdalifah. Here, you will spend your night under the stars collecting pebbles for tomorrow’s rites before leaving again for tomorrow’s rights.
- Next is the day of yawm-ul Hajj – a long day when Eid-ul-Adha is celebrated worldwide. You will start the day in Muzdalifah and return to Mina before dawn. Once in Mina, you will throw seven pebbles at the Jamarat to stone the Shaytan. After this, you will carry out the sacrifice by slaughtering a sheep, goat, cow, or camel in the way of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). This is also the day when men shave or trim their hair. You can also remove your Ihram. Many Muslims then head to Makkah to perform Tawaf and sa’ee. This is done by circling the Kabah seven times and walking seven times between the Safa and Marwa hills. After this, you will head to Mina.
- On your final days in Mina, you will stone the Shaytan again by throwing seven pebbles at each pillar. The next two to three days are spent in Mina until you can return to Makkah to perform the final Tawaf.
- Before heading back to their homes, many prefer to visit Madinah. However, this is not part of the pilgrimage.
If you’re headed to Hajj, mentally and physically prepare yourself. Start by purifying your intentions and remember that you’re performing this blessed duty solely for the pleasure of Allah. You must repent for your sins and be prepared for a fresh start.
You can also prepare yourself for Hajj physically by making sure you have an active lifestyle at least one month before your journey. You can do this by exercising for 30 minutes at the gym or within your home or by brisk walking 30 minutes every day and gradually increasing the time.
Moreover, since Hajj is performed in an extremely warm climate which can be harsh on the human body, adopt healthy habits at least a month before performing Hajj by ensuring you stay hydrated. Drink fruit juices, and add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Also, consider taking multivitamins after consulting with your doctor.
When it comes to packing, take any loose clothing that covers all parts of your body apart from the face and hands. Any color is permissible. However, generally, women wear black or white Ihram such as abayas or hijabs. Also, wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers, joggers, or comfortable slippers, as you must walk for long distances non-stop.
Other essential items you can carry with you include:
- Essential documents (passport, identity card) and their copies
- Essential medicines for pain, fever allergies, stomach problems, antibiotics, or any other medicines you take regularly
- Waist or any other small bag
- Ihram belt
- Reusable water bottles
- Healthy snacks (protein bars, dates, candies)
- Power bank
- Prayer mat (travel size)
Conclusion – Women and Hajj: Understanding the Obligations and Responsibilities
Hajj is an obligatory duty for both men and women. Like men, it is also encouraged for men to participate in Hajj as it is an important pillar of Islam. It is preferable to perform Hajj with your mahram. However, if you cannot do so, you can also perform it without a mahram, as today’s world is safe and more secure for women who wish to travel alone.
Be optimistic and surround yourself with good companions during Hajj that you will be able to chat with and, foremost, will be comfortable with.