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  The Pilgrimage - El Hajj

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Hajj – The Pilgrimage

The pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia constitutes the fifth and last of the acts of worship prescribed by Islam. The Quran says:

"Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah-those who can afford the journey." (3:97)

To make the meaning of this verse clear, it is necessary to read the whole verse:

"Certainly the first House appointed for men is at Makkah, the Blessed and a Guidance for all nations. In it are signs evident-whoever enters it attains security. Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey." (3:96, 97)

The literal meaning of the word Haj is the will and desire to visit, but in the terminology of the Shariah, it means the will to visit the Holy Ka'aba which was the first structure built by Hazrat Adam for the worship of Allah. Then, above 4,500 years ago, Hazrat Ibrahim and Hazrat Ismail, at the command of Allah, rebuilt it. The story of the rebuilding of the Ka'aba thus related in the Holy Quran as follows:

"And remember, Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundation of the house (saying) 'O Lord, accept it from us – Our Lord, make us those who submit to Thee and of our descendants a people who submit to Thee and show us our rites and forgive us'." (2:128)

From the words of this prayer, the purpose for which the Ka'aba was built, becomes clear and we come to know that its completion was ordained at the hands of the children of Hazrat Ismail who settled at this spot and from them, the Holy Prophet was raised for the perfection of this purpose.

Pilgrimage to the Sacred House is not an obligation. It is compulsory only on those who are sound of mind, adults and having the provisions of travel once in a lifetime. All those persons who fulfill these obligations and yet abstain from performing Hajj give a lie to their being Muslims. A Hadis of the Holy Prophet states:

"If a person is not hampered by any disease, real necessities or a tyrannical ruler and yet does not perform Haj, his death and the death of a Jew or a Christian are the same."

Hajj constitutes a form of worship with the entire being of a Muslim, with his mind, body and soul, with his time, money and the sacrifice of all comforts of life to assume for a few days, the condition of the pilgrim totally at Allah's disposal.

Haj is the only pillar among the fundamental pillars of Islam which requires both physical and financial sacrifices. Prayer and fasting are only physical worships and nothing is spent in their performance. Zakat is only financial worship; in it no physical labour is required. But in performing Haj both physical and financial sacrifices are required.

The rites of Haj centre on complete submission and devotion to Allah. At the same time, they serve as an example of total submission and obedience of Prophet Ibrahim, especially his willingness to sacrifice what he loves most in the world, his son Ismail, at Allah's Command.

Pilgrims come for Haj from all parts of the globe. As they approach Makkah, they enter into the state of Ihram, which means divesting oneself of all marks of status to assume the humble dress and conditions of a pilgrim devoted wholly to Allah. The pilgrims are to abstain from marital relations, quarrelling or from using bad language. They are also prohibited to harm any living thing in the boundry of Makkah.

Haj is one of the fundamental religious institutions of Islam. It is the greatest of all acts of worship; it is in fact, the culmination of worship. It is an exhibition of brotherhood, equality, punctuality and discipline. It affords an opportunity to Muslims from various countries of the world to become acquainted with one another and of discussing common problems facing the Muslim community.

According to Abu Hurairah, the Holy Prophet said that anyone who visits the House of Allah, does not indulge in foul language and avoids the disobedience of Allah, will become as pure and free from sins as a child.

At another place, the Holy Prophet said:

"Haj which is free from sins and defects is rewarded with Paradise."

The importance of Haj has been well described by Imam Abu Hanifa who said that Haj is the greatest of all worship, Ibaadat, enjoined in Islam. Its chief importance lies in the fact that it strengthens ones' faith in Islam.


Method of Hajj

Haj is an annual congregational worship which is performed in the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar, that is Zil-Haj. The main stages of Haj are as follows:

1. Ihram:

The pilgrim puts on the Ihram, two white sheets of unsewn cloth. One sheet is used for covering the lower portion of the body (from the navel downwards) and the other is to be used for covering the upper portion of the body. The head remains uncovered.

The Ihram for women is their everyday ordinary clothes. It is compulsory for women to cover their heads, but no cloth should touch their faces.

Before putting on the Ihram, the intending pilgrim should first take a full bath, rubbing the body to remove all dust and dirt. He may now put on the Ihram, and cover his head with some unsewn piece of cloth and offer two Raka'ata of Nafal prayers with the intention of putting on the Ihram.

Immediately afterwards, he should remove the cloth from his head and with his face towards the Ka'aba, make the niyat of offering the Haj. After this, he should recite the Talbiah (Talbiyah) in a loud voice:

Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik. Labbaik, La Shareek Laka, Labbaik. Innal Hamdah, Wan Nematah, Laka wal Mulk, La Shareek Laka

"Here I am at Thy service, O Allah! Here I am at Thy service. There is no partner with Thee. Here I am at Thy service. All praise and all blessings and favours belong to Thee, and all sovereignty is Thine. Thou hast no partner."

The pilgrim has now formally entered the state or condition of Ihram and is subject to all prohibitions and restrictions of Ihram which are as follows:

  1. Wearing sewn clothes (by males).
  2. Wearing of shoes which cover the raised bone of the feet.
  3. Putting on a bandage on the head or face.
  4. Covering the head or face. Women are required to cover their heads only.
  5. Shaving, cutting or trimming of hair.
  6. Cutting of nails.
  7. Using perfumed hair-oil or any other kind of perfume.
  8. Using abusive or foul language, or quarrelling.

The following are the undesirable acts of Ihram:

  1. Rubbing the body for removing dirt or dust.
  2. Using perfumed soap for washing the body or face. Bathing with water is permitted.
  3. Combing the hair, or passing the fingers through the hair or scratching the head, as these acts may cause the hair to fall, or may kill the lice in the hair.
  4. Smelling a perfume or some sweet-smelling grass.
  5. Using a pin or needle for holding the sheets of the Ihram.
  6. Using spices in food.

The following are the permitted acts of Ihram:

  1. Use of tooth brush or miswak.
  2. Harmful insects may be killed.
  3. Halal animals, but not hunted, may be eaten.
  4. The use of blanket for covering the body, but not head or face is allowed.

Ihram is the first and foremost Farz of Haj and Umrah. It is a declaration of one's intention or niyat to perform Haj or Umrah. The putting on of Ihram is the visible indication or symbol of the pilgrim's renouncing all the vanities of the world to devote himself to the worship of Allah. Ihram is a time of forbearance and patience. It symbolizes purity, renunciation and the equality and brotherhood of all believers.

2. On Entering the Haram:

The pilgrim now enters the Haram, the sacred area around Makkah. Ka'aba, the holiest and most sacred spot on the surface of the earth is in Makkah and there are strict rules for the reservation of its sanctity. For this purpose, several circles have been drawn around the Ka'aba. The first and innermost circle is called Masjid-e-Haram. The second circle is called Makkah Mukaramma, the city of Makkah, forbidden to non-Muslims, within which living things are protected from violence. It is a place of peace and security. If anyone seeks an asylum in Makkah, he cannot be captured or killed; the hunting and killing of any bird or animal is prohibited, even the cutting of its trees is forbidden.

Haram: The third circle is called Haram, the boundries of which were fixed by Allah's command first by Adam and then by Ibrahim. The Holy Prophet got pillars erected to indicate the boundries of Haram.

Mawaqit: The fourth circle is called Mawaqit. These are the places beyond which no one proceeding to Makkah for Haj, Umra or any other purpose can advance without putting on the Ihram, otherwise he shall have to offer a sacrifice as penalty.

Ka'aba or the House of Allah, according to old tradition, was constructed on the face of the earth by the angels nearly two thousand years before the creation of Adam. When Adam was sent down on earth, the angels indicated to him the exact location where this House had been constructed by them and Adam built the Ka'aba. The House of Allah disappeared on account of the Flood during Hazrat Noah's time. It was then reconstructed by Ibrahim and his son Ismail. At one place in the Holy Quran, Allah has called it 'My House' and at another place He has called himself as Rabb of this House. There are twenty-four gates through which this House many be entered, but it is best for the pilrim to enter through the Bab-ea-Salam.

Mounted in silver and set in te shouth-eastern corner of the Ka'aba is the sacred Black Stone, Hajr-e-Aswad received by Hazrat Ismail from the angel Jibrael during the re-building of the Ancient House. According to the tradition, this stone was milky white; it has become black because of the sins of people. This holy stone was touched and kissed by Hazrat Ibrahim and by the Holy Prophet. Its kissing is symbolic of pure love of Allah and our resolve to obey Him in all matters.

Standing apart from the Ka'aba but within the area which encompasses the ancient House are:

  1. Well of Zam Zam: This well is in the south-eastern side of Masjid-e-Haram. The spring that feeds this well sprang up from under the feet of Ismail, when his mother Hajra, was searching for water for her infant son between the Safa and Marwa hills. From that time till the present day, millions of people have drunk the water of this well.
  2. Maqam-e-Ibrahim: The place of Ibrahim. This is a stone on which Hazrat Ibrahim stood while constructing the Ka'aba.
  3. Hatim: This is a small piece of land, between Rukn-e-Shami, the corner facing Syria and Rukhn-e-Yamani, the south-western corner of the Ka’aba but was not included in the covered enclosure. The offering of prayers in the Hatim is held to be like offering prayers inside the Ka'aba.

3. Tawaf:

The pilgrim enters the Great Mosque and walks seven times around the Ka'aba. This is called Tawaf. Each of the seven circuits is called Shaut. Traditionally, Tawaf is begun by touching or kissing the Black Stone.

There are several kinds of Tawaf:

  1. Tawaf-e-Ziyarat also called Tawaf-e-Ifadah or Tawaf-e-Rukn: It is a Rukn or obligatory component of Haj and must be performed between the dawn of 10th and 12th of Zil-Haj.
  2. Tawaf-e-Qadum: It is Sunnat and is performed on entering Masjid-d-Haram.
  3. Tawaf-e-Umra: It is obligatory or Farz for those performing Umra.
  4. Tawaf-e-Nafl: Any Tawaf, other than the preceding four categories is called Tawaf-e-Nafl. There is no restriction as to the time or number of such Tawaf, but they must be performed after Wuzu and Niyat and in the prescribed manner.

After completing the seven circuits, the pilgrim goes to the Al-Multazim or the place of Holfing. This is the portion of the wall of Ka'aba which is between its door and Hajr-e-Aswad.

4. Sayi:

Te pilgrim then perfoms the Sayi which is running seven-time between the Safa and Marwah hills. These two hills are close to the well of Zam Zam. Safa is to the south-east, from which the Sayi is commenced and Marwa is to the nortg-east where Sayi ends. It is between these two hills that Hazrat Hajra, wife of Hazrat Ibrahim, ran several times in search of water for her infant son, Ismail. It is in memory of this that Sayi is performed. This ritual expresses respect for maternal love and gratitude to Allah, who made the sacred spring of Zam Zam appear for Hazrat Hajra's relief.

The commandment about Sayi is contained in the Quran:

"Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the symbold of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the season or at other times, should compass them around."

The pilgrim should first climb on the Safa hill. It is not necessary to climb the hill fully. He should climb to such a height only as would afford a view of the Ka'aba. After descending from Safa, the pilgrim should move towards Marwa and thereafter, walk briskly between the two hills.

5. Journey to Mina:

After the Sayi, on the morning of 8th Zil-Haj, the pilgrim journeys to Mina, a plain which lies between Arafat and Makkah, about four miles east of Makkah. The pathway into this plain passes through a hill called Aqabah which is famous in the history of Islam as the place where the Holy Prophet took the two pledges from the Ansars of Madina. The pilgrims must reach this place before noon, so that the Zuhr prayers may be performed there. On the way to Mina and in Mina, the pilgrim should combine to recite Talbiah, Durud and Kalma Tauhid,

It is desirable to offer the Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha prayers of the 8th ZilHaj and the Fajr prayers of the 9th Zil-Haj in Mina.

6. Waquf-e-Arafat:

On the next day, i.e. on the 9th of Zil-Haj which is called Yaum-e-Arafat, the pilgrim should leave Mina after the Fajr prayers and move on to the plain of Arafat.

This plain is situated at a distance of nine miles from Makkah and about six miles from Mina. According to tradition, it was in this plain that Adam and his wife were re-united after years of wanderings. It was in this plain that the Holy Prophet delivered his Khutba Hajjat-ul-Wida and where he received the final revelation about the completion of Islam:

"This day have I perfected your religion, completed My favour upon you and have chosen Islam as your religion."

The stay in the plain of Arafat is called Waquf-e-Arafat. The best form of Waquf, deserving the highest spiritual reward is to remain standing, facing the Qibla, while reciting Talbiah, Istighfar, Kalma Tauhid and praying to Allah, The assembly at Arafat is the most important part of the Haj, without which Haj would be incomplete. The stay at Arafat is the supreme experience of Haj.

The Zuhr and Asr prayers on the 9th of Zil-Haj to be offered together in this plain.

7. Journey to Muzdalifah:

Immediately after subset, without offering Maghrib prayers, the pilgrim should leave Arafat for Muzdalifah, a plain between Mina and Arafat about six miles from Makkah and three miles from Mina. In the Holy Quran, this place is called the Sacred Monument and the Muslims are especially asked to remember Allah at this place:

"Then when you hasten from Arafat remember Allah near the Holy Monument."

It is at Muzdalifah that the Maghrib and Isha prayers are offered together at one time. The whole night at Muzdalifah is to be spent in prayer and remembrance of Allah. After saying the Fajr prayer on the 10th Zil-Haj before sunrise, the pilgrim should leave for Mina. Pebbles for throwing at the devil (Shaitan) are picked up from here.

8. Rami of Jamarat-ul-Uqba:

The pilgrim now proceeds to Mina just before day-break. Here he spends three nights stoning the three stone pillars called Jamarat. That which is nearest to Makkah is called Jamarat-ul-Uqba, the second which is near the mosque of Mina is called Jamarat-ul-Wusta. At a little distance from this place is the Jamarat-alSughra or the smallest Jamarat.

It is reported that Satan (shaitan) tried to deceive and mislet Hazrat Ibrahim at these three places and Hazrat Ibrahim stoned the devil. It is in memory of this that the symbolic ceremony of stoning the devil (shaitan) which is called Rami is helf at Mina. It is to show that we reject the devil and obey no one but Allah.

On the 10th of Zil-Haj, the pilgrim must cast seven of the forty-nine-pebbles collected at Muzdalifah at Jamarat-ul-Uqba only. The approved method of doing Rami is to stand about five or six feet from the stone pillar, hold the pebble with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and throw each pebble, one after the other and while doing so, the following is to be recited:

"In the Name of Allah, the Beneficial, the Merciful. Allah is Great."

The pebbles should fall as close to the pillar as possible. Immediately after the Rami, on the 10th, the Talbiyah is to be stopped.

9. Sacrifice:

Returning from the site of Jamarat-ul-Uqba, the pilgrims offer a sacrifice in memory of Hazrat Ibrahim who was willing to sacrifice his son Hazrat Ismail at the Command of Allah. This sacrifice is also part of worldwide celebration which unites Muslims everywhere in the common rite of Eid-ul-Azha. Both the sacrifice and the throwing of stones are only outward acts. The real thing is the spirit of piety and submission to Allah which these acts express.

After the sacrifice, the male pilgrim should shave his head. The female pilgrim may clip a lock of hair only. Now the pilgrim is no longer in Ihram and the robes can be put off. The pilgrim may now cut nails, take a bath and wear ordinary clothes. However the prohibitions of Tawaf are not yet lifted.

10. Tawaf-e-Ziyarat:

The pilgrim should now try to reach Makkah as quickly as possible for the Tawaf-e-Ziyarat which is the second most important item of Haj, the first being Waquf-e-Arafat. If Tawaf Ziyarat is not performed, the Haj shall be void. If Tawaf-e-Ziyarat is performed after the 12th of Zil-Haj of the year in which the Haj is performed, sacrifice shall have to be offered as penalty.

After Tawaf Ziyarat, the pilgrim should return to Mina to pass the night there.

11. Rami in 11th and 12th: On 11th and 12th of Zil-Haj the prescribed time for Rami is after declining of the sum before the Maghrib. On both these days, the seven pebbles shall have to be thrown, one after the other, in the prescribed manner, at each of the three stone pillars in this order:

  1. Jamarat-ul-Sughra, which is the first of the three pillars while proceeding from Mina to Makkah;
  2. Jamrat-ul-Wusta, which comes next; and
  3. Jamarat-ul-Uqba which comes last.

12. Tawaf-e-Wida:

The pilgrim should leave Mina for Makkah where he should perform Tawaf-e-Wida. This Tawaf must be performed as quickly as possible as its completion releases the pilgrim from all prohibitions associated with Ihram.

Before his departure from Makkah, the pilgrim should go to Al-Multazim, offer two Raka'at prayers at Maqam-e-Ibrahim, kiss the Black Stone and drink water from the Zam Zam.

This marks the completion of Haj.

Faraiz or Obligatory Acts of Haj:

  1. Putting on the Ihram and making the niyat of Haj and reciting the Talbiah.
  2. Waquf-e-Arafat i.e. staying in the plain of Arafat between the decilining of the sun on the 9th of Zil-Haj upto the dawn of the 10th Zil-Haj.
  3. Tawaf-e-Ziyarat on the 10th, 11th or 12th of Zil-Haj after the shaving of the head or the shortening of the hair.

These three obligatory duties are to be performed in the prescribed order and in the prescribed manner. If any of these three faraiz is left out, there can be no Haj and the mistake cannot be set right by sacrifice.

Secondary Imperatives or Wajibat of Haj:

  1. Stay at Muzdalifah,
  2. Sayi between Safa and Marwah,
  3. Stoning the devil,
  4. Sacrifice,
  5. Getting the head shaven (males) or the hair shortened (females),
  6. Tawaf-e-Wida.

If any of these items is left out, the Haj shall not become void; but the pilgrim shall have to pay the penalty either in the form of sacrifice or sadaqah.

Sunnats of Haj:

  1. Tawaf-e-Qadum;
  2. Spending the night of the 9th Zil-Haj in Mina;
  3. Leaving Mina after sunrise on the 9th for Arafat;
  4. Leaving Arafat after the departure of Imam;
  5. Staying the night at Muzdalifah on the return from Arafat;
  6. Taking a bath in Arafat.

If any of these sunnats cannot be performed, there is no penalty.


The word Umra is usually translated as minor pilgrimage and it is commonly translated as Haj-e-Asghar. Although many acts of worship performed in Umra are the same as those performed during Haj, there are certain fundamental differences between the two. While Haj is obligatory, Umra is not. Haj can only be performed in the prescribed dates, but no date or time has been fixed for Umra. There is no Waquf-e-Arafat, no Waquf-e-Muzdalifah, no stoning of the devil, no combining of prayers, no Tawaf-e-Qudum, no Tawaf-e-Wida and no sacrifice of animals in Umra.

The putting on the Ihram is an essential condition also for Umra. Tawaf, Sayi, shaving of the head or shortening of the hair are components or Arkan of Umra.

In Umra, the Talbiah is stopped while starting the Tawaf. It is undesirable to perform Umra between the 9th and the 13th of Zil-Haj.


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