What Is Hajj?

Each year, millions of Muslims from all across the world perform Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage and the fifth pillar of Islam.

Hajj takes place in Makkah, in modern day Saudi Arabia, during the holy month of Dhul Hijjah, the 12th month in the Islamic calendar.

Hajj is a spiritual duty and a pillar of Islam, meaning that Hajj must be performed by every Muslim at least once in their lifetime, so long as they are financially, physically, and emotionally able to do so.

Allah (SWT) says to the Muslims in the Qur’an:

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. Qur’an | 3:97

For anyone preparing to perform Hajj, it’s an incredibly exciting time, but also a time of great spiritual importance – the first time going can be a once in a lifetime experience for a Muslim.

As the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not utter any obscene speech or do any evil deed, will go back (free of sin) as his mother bore him.” Hadith | Bukhari and Muslim

Hajj takes place each year between the 8th and 12th of Dhul Hijjah. Muslims use the lunar calendar, so the corresponding Gregorian date will vary year to year.

The Story Of Hajj

While Hajj is something that was taught to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), its origin actually dates back to the teachings of another of Islam’s beloved Prophets, Ibrahim (AS) (which means upon him be peace), thousands of years before.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) began the Hajj in 628 CE during the month of Dhul Hijjah, and is the same Hajj that Muslims perform today.

It is known today by Muslims as Baitullah, or ‘the House of God’. It plays an important part in the rites of Hajj but is ultimately a mosque and not something that Muslims worship.

In fact, the Kaa’ba was built by Ibrahim (AS), or Prophet Abraham, thousands of years earlier by the command of Allah (SWT) – it is because of Ibrahim (AS) that Muslims perform Hajj.

Hajar, Isma’il (AS) And The Well Of Zamzam

Ibrahim (AS) or Khalilullah (the friend of Allah) as he is referred to, is considered to be one of the greatest of Allah’s (SWT) creations. His reflective nature and the soundness of his heart brought him to the revelation of one God, Allah (SWT) – Ibrahim’s (AS) story of prophethood is well documented in the Islamic tradition.

During his prophethood, Ibrahim (AS) encountered several trials that serve as reminders and lessons to mankind regarding devotion to Allah (SWT), sacrifice, faith, as well as other crucial tenets of Islam. These trials include the test of Ibrahim’s (AS) willingness to sacrifice his son and the test of leaving his wife Hajar and son Isma’il (AS) alone in the desert of Makkah – it is this test that provides the basis for Hajj.

By the instruction of Allah (SWT), Ibrahim (AS) was to leave Hajar and Isma’il (AS) in the ancient desert of Makkah. The little food and water that they had soon ran out, and Isma’il (AS), an infant at the time, was crying of thirst. Hajar, desperately in search of water, ran between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwah in the hope of spotting someone who may be able to help.

Hajar returned to find Isma’il (AS) striking and scraping the ground with his leg in distress, when suddenly a spring burst forth from the barren desert. By the command of Allah (SWT), a source of water from deep within the earth (that is still in use today), provided Hajar and Isma’il (AS) with water – this is known as the well of Zam Zam.

The water source provided a means of trade for Hajar, with passing nomads exchanging food and other provisions for water. The site became prosperous for Hajar and her son, and when Ibrahim (AS) was commanded to return to them in the desert, he was amazed to see the miracles that had unfolded for them, and the fruits of his faith in Allah (SWT).

The Construction Of The Kaa’ba

It was at the site of the well of Zam Zam that Ibrahim (AS) was commanded to build the Kaa’ba.

Ibrahim (AS) and his son Isma’il (AS) worked together to build a small stone structure called the Kaa’bah. It was built to mark a space for the sacred gathering of Muslims – all those who believed in the one God, Allah (SWT).

The Inception of Hajj (The Sacred Pilgrimage)

As time elapsed, the site of the miracle well of ZamZam and the Kaa’bah would provide the means for Makkah to become a thriving and prosperous settlement. Ibrahim (AS) returned to the site each year to offer his pilgrimage to Allah (SWT), and years later, when Isma’il (AS) was given his prophethood, he continued the tradition – the inception of the Hajj.

However, during the thousands of years that would pass, the site that was built to commemorate the lessons of Ibrahim’s (AS) trial, the miracle of Allah (SWT) and most importantly the belief in one God, was taken over by pagan Arabs and the worship of idols and spirits. This now thriving and prosperous settlement grew into a city for trade and the worship of pagan Gods – of which the Kaa’ba would eventually house.

Thousands of years later, a man named Muhammad, born into the high-status Quraysh tribe of Makkah, would be given revelation and prophethood. The last of Allah’s (SWT) messengers, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), established Islam in the land for mankind – with this came the commandment to restore the Kaa’ba to its original purpose and resume Hajj.

The first Hajj was performed in In 632 CE, by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), re-establishing the traditions started by the Prophet Ibrahim (AS).

Hajj As We Know It Today

Today, over 2.5 million Muslims of every race, class, and culture around the world travel to Makkah each year in Dhul Hijjah, to stand equal before Allah (SWT) and fulfil the rites of Hajj.

people gathering inside Mecca
people gathering inside Mecca
Kaaba praying ground
Kaaba praying ground