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The next pillar of Islam mentioned in this narration of this hadith is making the pilgrimage to the House of Allah, or the Kaaba. Linguistically, hajj means, “He repaired, or betook himself, to, or towards a person... or towards an object of reverence, veneration, respect or honour.” In Islamic Law, it means a particular journey at a particular time to a particular place for the purpose of worshipping Allah. In other words, it is the journeying to Makkah during the months designated for the performance of Hajj as an act of worship for the sake of Allah.
The performance of Hajj is an obligation upon every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This can be clearly proven from the Quran and Sunnah. However, it is much more than an obligation. It is one of the foundations or pillars of Islam itself.
The reward for the performance of the Hajj is great.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
“Whoever performs the Hajj for the sake of Allah and does not commit any lewdness or sins returns like the day in which his mother gave him birth,”
that is, without any sins.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said,
“One Umrah until the next Umrah is an expiation for what is between them. And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Pa-radise.”
Another hadith reads:
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was asked,
“What is the best deed?” He stated, “Belief in Allah and His Messenger.” He was then asked, “What next?” He said, “Jihad in the way of Allah.” He was again asked, “What next?” He replied, “The Hajj which is performed correctly and accepted by Allah.”
Furthermore, Hajj is equivalent to Jihad for women and people who are not capable of Jihad. In one hadith, the Prophet was asked whether or not women are required to take part in Jihad. He answered, “Yes, upon them is the Jihad which does not contain fighting: Hajj and Umrah.”
Hajj has numerous benefits to it. Besides those mentioned in the hadith, one can note that it is a place for Muslims from all around the world to come and worship Allah together. This is an excellent opportunity for Muslims to meet each other, understand each other and get closer to each other. Furthermore, all differences between them are swept away as they all dress in a similar fashion and perform the same rituals. The poor, the rich and all others are all standing in the same manner in front of Allah.
Siddiqi describes the significance of Hajj in the following manner,
It is rightly said that it [the Hajj] is the perfection of faith since it com-bines in itself all the distinctive qualities of other obligatory acts. It represents the quality of salat [prayer] since a pilgrim offers prayers in the Kaba, the House of the Lord. It encourages spending of material wealth for the sake of the Lord, the chief characteristic of Zakat. When a pilgrim sets out for Hajj, he dissociates himself from his hearth and home, from his dear and near ones to please the Lord. He suffers privation and undertakes the hardship of journey— the lessons we learn from fasting and itikaf. In Hajj one is trained to be completely forgetful of the material comforts and pomp and show of worldly life. One has to sleep on stony ground , circumambulate the Kaba, run between Safa and Marwa and spend his night and day wearing only two pieces of unsewn cloth. He is required to avoid the use of oil or scent or any other perfume. He is not even allowed to get his hair cut or trim his beard. In short, he is commanded to abandon everything for the sake of Allah and submit himself before his Lord, the ultimate aim of the life of a Muslim. In fact, physical pilgrimage is a prelude to spiritual pilgrimage to God, when man would bid goodbye to everything of the world and present himself before Him as His humble servant saying: “Here I am before Thee, my Lord, as a slave of Thine.”
Hajj is obligatory once in a lifetime upon anyone who has the means to perform it.
Allah says in the Quran,
“And Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses. And whoever disbelieves, then Allah stands not in need of any of the worlds”
Similarly, when responding to the question of Gabriel, the Prophet (peace be upon him) also specifically pointed out that Hajj is obligatory upon the one who has the means to perform it.
Scholars differ as to exactly how this condition is to be met. In general, though, it shows that Hajj is not meant to be a hardship. It is a great act of worship that people should do their best to perform but only if it is feasible for them. In general, this feasibility includes having the physical health, financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the Hajj. Some scholars also add that the journey should not be so treacherous that the pilgrim’s life is put at risk. In addition, women must have a mahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow them to travel in “trustworthy” groups made up of men and women.
If one does not meet these conditions, one is not obliged to perform the Hajj. He must wait until he has the ability to perform it. When he does have the ability to perform it, there is a difference of opinion over whether he must perform it immediately at that time or if he may delay it until a future year. That is the next topic of discussion.
There is a difference of opinion over whether or not the performance of Hajj may be delayed. That is, suppose there is a person who has not fulfilled the obligation of Hajj and he has the means and ability to make Hajj this year. If he decides to delay its performance until some later year, is he considered sinful or not? Is it permissible for him to delay it or must he perform it the first time that he has the opportunity to perform it?
Malik, Abu Hanifa, Ahmad and some Shafi’is state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity. Otherwise, one is being sinful. Evidence for this position includes:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “If anyone breaks [a bone] or becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform the Hajj the following year.” The deduction from this hadith is that if one can perform the Hajj whenever he wishes, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would not have explicitly mentioned that the person should perform the Hajj in the following year.
Another hadith states, “Hurry to perform the Hajj, that is, the obli-gatory one, as none of you knows what may happen to him.”
It is also narrated that Umar ibn al-Khattab once said, “I considered sending men to those lands to see who had the means but did not perform the Hajj. They should have the jizya applied to them as they are not Muslims, they are not Muslims.”
One of the strongest pieces of evidence presented for saying that one is allowed to delay his performance of Hajj, even though he has the ability to perform it, is the fact that Hajj was made obligatory in the 6th year after the Hijrah and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) himself did not perform the Hajj until the tenth year. However, Al-Shaukaani has offered the following response to this argument,
[First,] there is a difference of opinion concerning when Hajj became an obligation. One of the opinions is that it became obligatory in the 10th year. Hence, there was no delay [on the part of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)]. If it is accepted that it was obligatory before the 10th year, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) delayed his performance because of his dislike to perform the Hajj in the company of the polytheists, as they would perform the Hajj and circumambulate the Kaaba in the nude. When Allah purified the House of those people, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made Hajj. Hence, he delayed his Hajj due to an excuse. [That is acceptable,] the dispute is only concerning one who delays his Hajj without any valid excuse.
The one who denies the obligation of the Hajj is a disbeliever. The per-son who intentionally delays his performance of Hajj, although he had the means, until he dies is an evildoer. He has left himself open to the punishment and displeasure of Allah in the Hereafter.
The actual rites of the Hajj are many and various. Pilgrims come from all over the world. They are required to wear specific clothing. They perform different rites on specified days. On the ninth of the Islamic month of Dhu-l-Hijjah, for example, they gather on the mount of Arafah and pray to Allah, beseeching His forgiveness and mercy.
By the grace and mercy of Allah, there are many organizations today that arrange the pilgrimage for Muslims from all over the world. Some of these organizations specialize in taking Muslim converts to the pilgrimage. The author prays that every new Muslim will be able to perform this blessed event in the company of learned Muslims who can guide them and instruct them along the way.
Obviously, there are many details concerning the ritual acts of worship that fall beyond the scope of this work. By the grace of Allah, numerous works are now available in English that provide those details for non-Arabic speakers. Specifically, this author would recommend the following works:
The Concise Presentation of the Fiqh of the Sunnah and the Noble Book by Abdul Adheem ibn Badawi (published by the International Islamic Publishing House in Riyadh) is a good, brief introduction to all fields of Islamic law.
Minhaj al-Muslim by Abu Bakr al-Jazairi (published in two volumes by Darussalam in Riyadh) covers most of the basics of all parts of the law.
Fiqh al-Sunnah by al-Sayyid Sabiq—this five-volume work may be a bit heavy and detailed for the new Muslim. However, over time, it should become a reference well worth looking into.
There are also a number of important works concerning specific ritual acts. Al-Albaani’s The Prophet’s Prayer Described is the most detailed description of the prayer in English. Mamdouh Muhammad’s The Hajj from A to Z and The Salat from A to Z are also quite popular.