Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam which involves a spiritual pilgrimage to Makkah by Muslims observed at least once in a lifetime.
“And proclaim to the people the hajj (pilgrimage); they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass”-Surah Al-hajj verse 27.
“…And (due) to Allah from the people is a pilgrimage to the House-for whoever is able to find thereto a way….” Surah Aal Imran Verse 97.
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, the other four being testifying that there’s none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Prophet Muhammad is his messenger, establishing salat, giving the zakat and fasting during the month of Ramadan.
The origin of hajj dates back to the time of Prophet Ibrahim approximately around 2000BC. Prophet Ibrahim was instructed to move his wife Hajar and her young son Ismail to the desert around Makkah. He also raised the foundations of the Ka’abah (Quran 2: 127) and made the first call to hajj at a time when Makkah was a desert with no inhabitants (Quran 22: 27).
Most of the rites of hajj mirror the acts of Prophet Ibrahim and his second wife Hajar. For instance, slaughtering the animal is in honor of Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of an animal after he was instructed to sacrificed his son and he passed Allah’s test. Also, the pacing (sa’y) between safah and marwa is in honour of Hajar’s frantic pacing between the monuments in her desperate search for food for her young son.
The Prophet Muhammad SAW also performed the pilgrimage, his only pilgrimage, his farewell pilgrimage in 632 CE. And the Muslims follow in his footsteps every year to this day just as he instructed in the hadith in sahih Muslim (‘take from me your hajj rites’)
The Four Pillars of Hajj
The mandator activities carried out during Hajj can be summarized under these four pillars:
Standing at Arafah
Sa’y between Safah and Marwa
The actual hajj starts a day to arafah on the 8th of Zhul-hijjah and ends on 12th or 13th of Zhul-hijjah.
Hajj is a spiritual journey. A pilgrim is expected to reflect as he performs the acts. Hajj makes an individual look at life through a different lens. And one of the most fulfilling rewards is attainment of paradise.
The Prophet SAW said that there’s no other reward for an accepted hajj except Jannah. In addition, an accepted hajj gives a person expiation for his sins and a person becomes like the day he was born. As hajj involves tasking physical acts, hajj has health benefits. Also, hajj fosters unity of the ummah as pilgrims from all parts of the world come to the same place to perform the hajj.
The gathering on the day of Arafah is unarguably one of the largest gathering of humans of diverse origins and it happens yearly. Every year, about 2 million muslims go for hajj. It is one of the most fulfilling experiences a muslim can have. Ultimately, performing hajj is expected to make us better muslims and every muslim is required to perform hajj at least once in his lifetime (for those with the means).