Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is fard ‘ain (an individual obligation) upon all Muslims, males and females. Its conditions are:

– Sanity.
– Maturity.
– Freedom.
– Capability [financial and physical].

The obligation of hajj is based on the Qur`an, sunnah, and consensus.

The Qur`an

God the Almighty says,

Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God,—Those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures. [Al-Imran, 97]

The sunnah

There are numerous hadiths on hajj among which is the following:

Abu Huraira (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet gave a sermon and said, “O people! God has made hajj obligatory upon you, so perform it.” A man asked, “O Messenger of God! Are we to perform it every year?” The Prophet remained silent. When the man repeated his question three times, the Prophet said, “If I say yes, it would become obligatory and you will not be able to perform it.”

The consensus of Muslims

There is a consensus among Muslims on the following:

– Hajj is obligatory.
– It is one of the five pillars of Islam.
– It is one of the matters of religion known by necessity.
– A person who refutes it is considered an unbeliever.

Scholars have differed on whether the time for performing hajj is extendable or whether it becomes obligatory as soon as a person is able to undertake it. The majority of scholars have maintained the latter opinion while Shafi’i scholars and Imam Muhammed Ibn al-Hasan (from among the Hanafis) maintained the former.

When was hajj prescribed?

There is a scholarly difference of opinion over when hajj was prescribed. According to the dominant position, it was prescribed in the year six A.H.

It is established in the Shari’ah that the performance of hajj is obligatory only once in a lifetime since the Prophet performed it only once. This is the pilgrimage known as hijjat al-wada’ [the Farewell Pilgrimage].
The wisdom behind prescribing hajj and ‘umrah

A person will never truly know his Lord except by renouncing worldly and sensual pleasures and by exercising restraint with respect to actions of body, speech and mind, as well as by devoting himself entirely to the worship of God. To achieve this, the monks of previous creeds withdrew from their societies, seeking intimacy with God. They renounced the pleasures of this world for the sake of God and obliged upon themselves difficulties, in the hope of success in the Hereafter. God praised them in His book and said,

Among these are men devoted to learning, and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. [Al-Ma`ida, 82]

So when people were [once again] drawn to their desires and ceased to devote themselves to the worship of God, Prophet Muhammed was sent to revive the path to the Hereafter and renew the way of the prophets and their conduct. God prescribed hajj as a journey wherein people devote themselves to Him, Most High. This journey also includes self-refinement and discipline. It was narrated that a man asked the permission of God’s Messenger to travel and he replied, “Verily, the travel of my community is to strive in the path of God.”

Hajj is a kind of jihad; the Prophet said, “’Umrah and hajj are the jihad for the old, the young, the weak and women.” It was also narrated that the Prophet said, “Hajj is jihad and ‘umrah is a voluntary act.” A man once approached the Prophet and said, “I want to make jihad for the sake of God.” The Prophet replied, “Shall I guide you to a kind of jihad that will cause you no harm?” “Yes,” the man replied. The Prophet said, “Perform hajj.”

God has bestowed His blessings upon this community by prescribing hajj as a kind of monasticism. He has honored the Ka’bah by linking it to Himself, calling it the House of God, making it a destination for His worship, and awarding it reverence by consecrating the area around it. He, likewise, made ‘Arafat an overflowing stream pouring into His basin, the Sacred Precinct. God confirmed the sanctity of this location by prohibiting hunting its animals and cutting down its trees. Hajj is comparable to seeking court with a monarch; people come to it from every deep mountain pass and distant places, all disheveled and covered in dust, humbling themselves before the Lord of the Ka’bah seeking to declare their humility, servitude and loyalty to their Lord, all acknowledging His transcendence beyond place and location, accentuating their worship and perfecting their submissiveness.

For this reason, God prescribed certain actions, the meanings of which minds cannot fathom, such as the rites of stoning and traversing as-Safa and al-Marwa several times. Such actions demonstrate the ultimate submission to the commands of God. Other great wisdoms behind the legislation of hajj and ‘umrah include:

1-Rectifying hearts

The journey of hajj and ‘umrah instills in a pilgrim’s heart the meaning of seeking refuge in God and the pleasure of attaining Divine propinquity. God Almighty says,

Therefore, flee to unto God. [Az-Zariyat, 50]

Although the meaning is spiritual, it has physical manifestations: a pilgrim leaves behind his house, family, adornments, property, abandons desires, spends money, exerts great efforts and endures the hardships of travel and life away from home to visit the Sacred House of God of which God says,

Whoever enters it attains security. [Al-‘Imran, 97]

A pilgrim flees to the House of God aspiring salvation in this world and in the Hereafter from his sins and shortcomings. He seeks a chance to turn over a new leaf, hoping that God may admit him among those who have gained His pleasure,

On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. [Al-Ahqaf, 13]

2-History and civilization

Visiting the Sacred House of God asserts the bond between Muslims and their civilization, history and traversing the path of God’s prophets and messengers as stated in the Qur`anic verse,

Those were the (Prophets) who received God’s guidance. Follow the guidance they received. [Al-An’am, 90]

The honored Ka’bah is the first house established to guide people to monotheism and the worship of God. God the Almighty says,

… and again circumambulate the Ancient House. [Al-Hajj, 29]

The prophets were the ones whom God sent to guide people to His worship and they traveled to the places that God made pure and sacred. God says,

And we covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il that they should sanctify My House for those who Compass it around, or use it as a retreat, or bow or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). [Al-Baqarah, 125]

Traveling to visit the Sacred House consolidates the ties between man and the prophets, especially Prophet Muhammad, the seal of prophets, may God have mercy upon him and upon them all.
It was narrated that the Messenger of God passed by al-Azraq valley and asked, “What valley is this?” They [the Companions] said, “This is al-Azraq Valley.” He said, “It is as if I can see Moses descending the mountain pass and raising his voice in talbiyah(supplication).” The Prophet then passed by a mountain pass called Harsha and asked, “What mountain pass is this?” They [the Companions] said, “It is Harsha.” He said, “It is as if I can see Yunus [Jonah], the son of Matta, riding a red camel and wearing a woolen cloak, the reins of his camel made from fibers of date-palm, passing through this valley and chanting the talbiyah.”

It was also narrated that the Prophet said, “There passed by the rock at Al-Rawha` seventy prophets, all barefooted and clad in woolen garments, heading for the Ancient House (the Ka’bah) and among them was God’s Prophet, Moses (peace be upon him).”

3-Brotherhood and peace

The blessed journey of hajj asserts the unity of Muslims, who assemble at the same time and place to worship one God and direct themselves towards one qiblah. For people from all corners of the globe, the Sacred House represents a greater homeland that affords them security; in Mecca, “the mother of all cities” as God called it, all barriers created by race, countries, languages, color and cultures are removed. There is no difference between rich and poor—all are equal in their need of God the Almighty. This scene of a civilized conference of different peoples is confirmed in the words of God Who says,

Verily, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore worship Me (and no other). [Al-Anbiya`, 92]

At this place and during this time, peace is not restricted to humans but extends to animals, plants and inanimate objects. Ibn ‘Abbas (may God be pleased with them both) narrated that the Prophet said, “Verily, God has made Mecca a sanctuary. [Fighting in it] was not made lawful for anyone before me nor will it be for anyone after me. It was made lawful to me for a few hours of a day. It is unlawful to cut its grass and trees, chase its game or pick up lost items in it except by those who publicly announce having found them.’ Al-‘Abbas said, ‘O Messenger of God! Except for al-idhkhir (a kind of grass) [for it is used] by our goldsmiths and for our graves.’ The Prophet replied, ‘Except for al-Idhkhir.”

4-Administrating the earth

The command, urging Muslims to go for hajj and ‘umrah, includes an explicit call to seek lawful means of provision. This is attained by working and participating in production, economic development and serving one’s community. It is known that the journey of hajj is expensive, and therefore, a Muslim needs to provide for himself during this time as well as for his dependants until he returns. Islamic law urges anyone who seeks success in the Hereafter and aspires to attain the great reward of hajj and ‘umrah, to seek lawful means of livelihood and administer his resources so as to benefit people. It also urges him to be sincere and perfect his work. In this manner, a Muslim can save for the expenses of the journey of hajj and ‘umrah; his success in the world is thereby the means to his success in the Hereafter. In addition, he benefits the poor and the impoverished through the meat of his sacrifice which he distributes at the end of hajj. God the Almighty refers to this meaning in the following verse,

That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of God, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. [Al-Hajj, 28]

5-Courage and sacrifice

God Almighty says,

And proclaim the pilgrimage among people: they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of swift mount lean (on account of journeys) through deep and distant mountain highways. [Al-Hajj, 27]

A Muslim who leaves his country and sets for the Sacred House is a resolute person who proves his readiness to sacrifice his life in response to the call of His Lord. In the past, the journey of hajj was full of hardships and dangers which were often fatal; in spite of this, Muslims never ceased to visit the Sacred House. Their longing to travel to this blessed place and their eagerness to obey and worship their Lord were sufficient reasons to breed courage in their hearts and sacrifice their lives. Those who do not fear danger and are ready to sacrifice themselves for a noble goal are able to make fateful decisions and establish great civilizations when the means are available.

6-Hajj is the act of worship of a lifetime

God legislated different levels of social interaction in the various acts as worship. Fasting is an individual act of worship, prayer a collective act of worship that is performed at the level of a person’s neighborhood, zakat involves an entire city or village, while hajj is a global act of worship.

Hajj completes and encompasses the essence of the five pillars of Islam. It includes a declaration of the oneness of God which is the first statement of the testimony of faith (the talbiyah); following the footsteps of the Prophet in performing the rites of hajj and therefore, acknowledging his message—i.e. the second part of the testimony of faith; tawaf (circumambulation); du’a`(supplication) which is the essence of prayer; giving out money and food in charity, which is the core of zakat; and self control and refraining from immorality, transgression and dispute which represent the essence of fasting. Hajj, which includes hardships and dangers undertaken to glorify God the Almighty and declare His Oneness, is compared to jihad for the sake of God. It is indeed a great act of worship.

Owing to the tolerant nature of Islam, and its distinguishing characteristic of lifting hardship, God prescribed hajj once in a life time for those who are capable of undertaking it. Hajj represents the perfect example of worshipping God, submitting to His commands, exerting all efforts to obey Him and attaining Divine propinquity by all possible means. For this reason, its reward is the pinnacle of all rewards as attested to in the words of the Messenger of God who said: “The reward for an accepted hajj is nothing short of Paradise.”

(دار الإفتاء المصرية –