“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.” (Surah Aal-i-Imran: Verse 97)
Allah Almighty has prescribed a variety of acts of worship to humanity to test them as to who are the best people in deeds and righteousness. These varieties of worship are the five pillars of Islam among which prayer is a physical worship as it requires bodily movement; Zakat is purely a financial worship; fasting is a physical worship but it mainly require Muslims to refrain from certain things. However, Hajj is a worship that is both financial and physical as it is obligatory only on those Muslims who are physically and financially sound enough to go to Makkah for performing Hajj. Since it involves travel and more exertion than other forms of worships, Allah Almighty has enjoined it only once in a lifetime on capable Muslims.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Muslims converge in the sacred city of Makkah to perform Hajj. Islam and the directives within the Holy Quran as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) transformed Hajj into a duty incumbent on every Muslim once in a lifetime if he is financially, physically and economically able to perform it. The Hajj has both a spiritual and a “worldly” dimension to it and like all other pillars of Islam, it is also endowed with numerous benefits on individual as well as collective life of Muslims in political, social, civic, economic and other realms. Many verses of the Holy Quran have been revealed in connection with rules of Hajj. The books of Hadith are also filled with traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on the same topic.
The lexical meaning of the word Hajj is “to set out towards a definite objective” or “heading for a specific destination”. It also means “to continuously strive to reach one’s goal”. However, in Islamic terminology, it implies “to set out for the Kaaba, the sacred House, in order to perform the rituals of the pilgrimage (Hajj).” It is an annual event, taking place during the month of Dhul-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic Calendar.
Hajj was made obligatory for Muslims in 9AH, the year of the Delegations (al-Wufood) and a verse containing the order for making Hajj incumbent on Muslims was revealed – Verse 97 Chapter Aal-e-Imran.
However, scholars differ in this regard, as some believe it was decreed in the fifth year of the Hijrah calendar on account of which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) headed for Makkah in the sixth year in order to perform the Hajj rites but he (PBUH) and his companions (RA) were prevented from entering Makkah at a place called Hudaybiyyah.
Differences between Hajj and Umrah
Hajj and Umrah differ from each other in some respects. In the first instance, Hajj can only be performed at the fixed time. Conversely, Umrah may be performed at any time of the year and unlike Hajj, it takes place only in Makkah itself. Secondly, the going to Arafat and the assembling there on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah is an essential part of Hajj while it is dispensed with in the case of Umrah as Tawaf and Sa’ee are the only functions of importance in Umrah. It is also worthy of note that the sacrifice of an animal on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah as the concluding act is essential to Hajj but not so in the case of Umrah.
Types of Hajj
There are three types or methods of performing Hajj. The type you choose will depend on whether you are a resident of Makkah or you wish to perform Umrah along with Hajj or you wish to offer an animal for sacrifice. All these methods fulfil all the Islamic requirements for Hajj. The pilgrim should intend one of the three types before (s)he enters in a state of Ihram (consecration).
1. Hajj al-Tamattu (An Interrupted Pilgrimage)
This is the kind of Hajj combined with Umrah with two separate intentions. The person performing this kind of Hajj is referred to as a Mutamatti (a person enjoying pleasure of life) because he is enjoying the forbidden things of Ihram between the services of Hajj and Umrah.
2. Hajj al-Qiran (Umrah and Hajj with one Intention)
This is the kind of Hajj combined with Umrah without the person performing it coming out of Ihram. In other words, both Umrah and Hajj are being performed simultaneously. The pilgrim thus enters into Ihram with intention for both Umrah and Hajj. The person who chooses to perform this kind of Hajj is called a Qarin.
This is the performance of Hajj alone without Umrah during the months of Hajj, the same year. The pilgrim enters into the state of Ihram with intention for Hajj alone. Whosoever has chosen to perform this type of Hajj is called a Mufrid.
1. Pleasing Allah Almighty
The act of Hajj is amongst the best deeds one can perform when pleasing Almighty Allah. This is known from the saying of the Prophet (PBUH) when his companions (RA) asked him about the absolute best deed in the eyes of Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) replied, “Belief in Allah and His Messenger.” Then he (PBUH) was asked: “What else?” He (PBUH) said, “Striving and struggling for the sake of Allah” Then he (PBUH) was asked: “What else?” He said, “A Hajj, which is free from vice – accepted and complete.”
[Bukhari & Muslim]
2. Forgiveness of Sins
The one who performs Hajj, in its proper and complete form, has all one’s past sins forgiven from Allah and one return home as a newborn comes into this world; sinless. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever performs Hajj to this house – Kaaba – and does not commit any obscenity and wrongdoing, he, or she, will come out as the day he, or she, was born – pure and free from sins.”
[Bukhari & Muslim]
3. Reward of Paradise
The reward for completing a Hajj and having it accepted is nothing less than Paradise itself. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “An Umrah is a means of expiation of sins committed between it and the next and a Mabroor Hajj – complete and accepted – has no reward for it but Jannah.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
4. Hajj purifies the soul illuminating the mind with the sparks of Iman (Faith).
5. Hajj strengthens one’s belief and brings one closer to Allah.
6. Hajj, as a travel, familiarizes man with patience, discomfort and teaches him discipline and abidance by orders.
1. Unity of Ummah
Although Hajj is a pure and profound devotion and worship, it is the most effective tool to forge a global solidarity amongst Muslims in their social, economic and cultural affairs. Thus, the pilgrimage unites the Muslims of the world into one international fraternity.
2. A Stable Social Order
As millions of people, dressed in the same way, flock to the holy lands of Makkah, the social conventions of class are destroyed. Everyone bows before the same iconic structure, rich and poor, young and old, white and black. This very process reminds the believer of not only his humble origins, but also of his humble end. Hajj, thus, is practice for a new social order based on humility resulting in equality and justice.
Equality is another important message of Hajj. During the pilgrimage, there is no difference of race, geography and gender. Hajj is obligatory for both males and females, who perform it together. However, in many Muslim societies, the gender gap is quite evident in different spheres of life such as education, health, politics and development. Hence, Muslims need to learn from the message of Hajj in order to overcome different forms of inequality in their respective societies.
In sum, Hajj forwards a significant message to transform different aspects of individual and communal lives. It is important to understand that Hajj is not just an event to perform rituals; rather, it demands a proactive approach to bring about changes in one’s spiritual and social life by promoting the universal message of inner and outer peace, brotherhood and equality.