11.5 Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

11.5 Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

The Arabic word Hajj is also its own root i.e. is not derived from any other word. It means to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. A derived word, Hajja, means to argue against each other, to debate or to reason. The word Hajj appears in the Qur’an ten times and every time the command is directed to all mankind and not to Muslims alone. The fact that Hajj is addressed to mankind implies among other things, that the ultimate aim of the Almighty is to unite human beings, and this will only be possible when deen, the way of life beneficial to mankind, is established. The word Hajjaindicates a greater and a more comprehensive purpose for Hajj than what is implied by the procedural part. This greater purpose is outlined at the end in section 11.5.2.

At present, the Hajj, as performed, consists basically of prayer and associated rituals, all of which we perform meticulously. The Qur’an gives brief indications but no details of what the rituals should consist of. In contrast, the Hadith gives us exacting details, and as a result of following these slavishly we have lost the main meaning of Hajj. There is a huge volume of Hadith literature on Hajj (which may or may not be true) and it is by following this that we have ceased striving to extract the true point from Hajj. The result of all this is the loss of significance of Hajj. Muslims have come to regard the Hajj as a system, to be followed meticulously, and a way to wipe out all past sins. This is perhaps one of the reasons why people who can afford to perform the Hajj frequently. As far as the ritual part is concerned the details are not drawn from revelation but come under the domain of subsidiary laws (see section 13.5). This forces us to acknowledge the issue about whether one performs the Hajj in the simple way given in the Qur’an or in a more complicated way as given by the Hadith literature. One must also remember that the ritual part has been going on for the last 1400 years, and that there was no Hadith literature to guide people during the first few hundred years of this period, and so whatever form of practice that existed during that period must have been continued. The verses which give the fundamentals of Hajj are listed below. They are followed by a brief outline of the Hajj procedure, with references to the verses listed. Finally, the real implication of Hajj is discussed.

(3: 96, 97) Lo! The first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca (Makka), a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples; Wherein are plain memorials (of Allah’s guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever entereth it is safe. And Pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind for him who is able to undertake it. As for him who disbelieveth, (let him know that) lo! Allah is Independent of (all) creatures.

(22:27-29) And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine; that they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath bestowed on them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate. Then let them make an end to their unkemptness (self-denial) and let them fulfil the vows which they (may) have made, and let them go (once again) around the ancient House.

(2:125) And when We made the House (at Mecca) a resort for mankind and a sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ismael (saying): Purify my House for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).

(2:158) Lo! (the mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwah are among the indications of Allah. It is therefore no sin for him who is on pilgrimage to the House (of God) or visiteth it, to go around them. And he who doeth good of his own accord, lo! Allah is Responsive, Aware.

(2:196) Perform the pilgrimage and the visit (to Makka) for Allah. And if you are prevented, then send such gifts as can be obtained with ease, and shave not your heads until the gifts have reached their destination. And whoever among you is sick or hath an ailment of the head must pay a ransom of fasting or almsgiving or any other act of worship. And if you are in safety, then whosoever contenteth himself with the visit for the pilgrimage (shall give) such gifts as can be had with ease. And whosoever cannot find (such gifts), then a fast of three days while on the pilgrimage, and of seven when ye have returned; that is, ten in all. That is for him whose folk are not present at the Inviolable Place of Worship. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is severe in punishment.

(2:197) The pilgrimage is (in) the well-known months, and whoever is minded to perform the pilgrimage therein (let him remember that) there is (to be) no lewdness nor abuse nor angry conversation on the pilgrimage. And whatsoever good you do Allah knoweth it. So make provision for yourselves (Hereafter); for the best provision is to ward off evil. Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding.

(2:198, 199) It is no sin for you that ye seek the bounty of your Lord. But, when ye press on in the multitude from ‘Arafat, remember Allah by the sacred monument. Remember Him as He hath guided you, although before ye were of those astray. Then hasten onward from the place whence the multitude hasteneth onward, and ask forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

(2:200-202) And when you have completed your devotions, then remember Allah as you remember your fathers or with a more lively remembrance. But of mankind is he who saith: “Our Lord! Give unto us in the world,” and he hath no portion in the Hereafter. And of them (also) is he who saith: “Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and guard us from the doom of Fire”. For them there is in store a goodly portion out of that which they have earned. Allah is swift in reckoning.

(2:203) Remember Allah through the appointed days. Then whoso hasten (his departure) by two days, it is no sin for him, and whoso delay, it is no sin for him; that is for him who wards off (evil). Be careful of your duty to Allah, and know that unto Him you will be gathered.

(5:1) O ye who believe! Fulfil your undertakings. The beast of cattle is made lawful unto you (for food) except that which is announced unto you (herein), game being unlawful when ye are on the pilgrimage. Lo! Allah ordaineth that which pleaseth Him.

(5:96) To hunt and to eat the fish of the sea is made lawful for you, a provision for you and for seafarers; but to hunt on land is forbidden you so long as ye are on the pilgrimage. Be mindful of your duty to Allah, unto Whom you will be gathered.

(22:34) And for every nation We have appointed a ritual, that they may mention the name of Allah over the beast of the cattle that He has given them for food; and your God is one God, therefore surrender unto Him. And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the good.

(22:36, 37) And the camels! We have appointed them among the ceremonies of Allah. Therein you have much good. So mention the name of Allah over them when they are drawn up in lines. Then when their flanks fall (dead), eat thereof and feed the beggar and the suppliant. Thus have We made them subject unto you, that haply you may give thanks. Their flesh and their blood reach not Allah, but the devotion from you reaches Him. Thus have We made them subject unto you that you may magnify Allah that He has guided you. And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the good.

11.5.1 Hajj procedure

Hajj and Umrah are ordained for those who can afford it (3:97). Hajj is observed during a few days of the month of Zul-Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Umrah can be described as a shortened version of Hajj and can be observed any time.

The Hajj as practiced now begins with a bath or shower, followed by a state of sanctity called Ihraam where the man wears two white seamless sheets of cloth and the woman a modest dress. Throughout Hajj, the Pilgrim needs to abstain from sexual intercourse, avoid shaving and cutting of hair and the use of bad language (2:197). On arrival at the Mosque (Kaba) the pilgrim, (man or woman) walks round the Kaba seven times, while glorifying and praising Allah (2:125, 22:29). The usual utterance is: “Labbayka Allahumma Labayk” (O Allah I have responded to You). “Labbayka Laa Shareeka Laka Labbayk” (I have responded to You, and I proclaim that there is no other God beside You; I have responded to You). The next step, is to go round the two small hills nearby called As-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times (2:158). However, the present construction by the Saudis does not allow this; one can only walk between the hills. This completes the Umrah portion of the Pilgrimage. The pilgrim then goes to Arafat, which is a very big field, to spend a day of prayer, meditation and glorification of Allah (2:198) from dawn to sunset. After sunset, the pilgrim goes to Muzdalifah where the night prayer is observed. From Muzdalifah, the pilgrim goes to Mina to spend two or three days (2:203). 21 pebbles are picked up for the symbolic stoning of Satan (Devil) at Mina. Also at Mina the customary practice of sacrificing an animal is supposed to commemorate the incident when Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael. The pilgrim then returns to Mecca and observes a farewell rotation of the Kaba seven times. This completes the traditional Hajj.

Note: The reason for the sacrifice of an animal is found in the Hadith literature which assumes, like the Biblical story, that Isaac was redeemed through the sacrifice of a lamb. For Qur’anic references on this see section 7.5. The Qur’an nowhere mentions Abraham sacrificing a lamb. According to the Qur’an, the sacrifice of animals should only be for food (22: 28, 34 and 36) since a tremendous number of people have to be fed during this period. In verse 2:196, Allah says that if at any time you are prevented from going there you should send whatever you can as a gift (hadiya) to be used by those who have assembled there. The slaughter of millions of animals throughout the world at this time to commemorate an incident which did not really take place, has no basis in the Qur’anic revelation. Instead of a blood sacrifice, Ishmael was redeemed by Allah imposing on Abraham and him a far greater duty: that of building and purifying the House of Allah for mankind, and of working for the cause of Allah (see section 7.5). Also, as quoted in verse 22:37, Allah says categorically that the blood and the meat of animals slaughtered do not reach Him. Moreover the Qur’an does not require the sacrifice of animals throughout the world in that specific period. It simply allows for the slaughter of animals in the place of Hajj for the purpose of food, including the feeding of the poor. Again, it seems that the Muslims are more interested in what the Hadiths have to say than the guidance given in the Qur’an.

11.5.2 The real significance of Hajj

The real significance of Hajj becomes more obvious as we consider the meaning of the word Hajja which is derived from the root word Hajj. The meaning of this word, as stated before, is: to debate, to argue, or to consult. If this is the key to the meaning of the Muslim Pilgrimage, the question is: how can this be achieved? We know that the annual Pilgrimage draws Muslims together from the whole of the Islamic world. It is, therefore, an ideal opportunity to strengthen the unity and understanding of mankind and to create fellowship in the world. This can be achieved by using the week before the Hajj or the week after the Hajj, (and if necessary over a longer period) for consultation, discussion and examination of schemes and projects which are thought to be beneficial. The period of the Pilgrimage could, within a matter of years, become an effective instrument for the promotion of knowledge and co-operation between peoples, with the ultimate object of implementing the structure of the deen in everyday life (see chapter 16: The Islamic State). By practising what the Qur’an teaches, the deen will permeate the entire world community and thus fulfil the basic requirement of Hajj which is meant for the whole of mankind.


  1. Sahih Al-Bukhari – Volumes 1 to 9, Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. Published by Kitab Bhaban, New Delhi, India.
  2. Sahih Muslim – Translated by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi. Volume 1. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers and Booksellers, 7 Aibak Road (New Anarkali) Lahore – 7 (Pakistan).
  3. Ramadan — A Time for Change: Lecture by David Stokes. Section 11.4.iii summarised from lecture notes.