Beyond the Rituals: The origin of Hajj and importance of every act performed in it
As a sign of complete submission and total surrender, a woman and her infant son were left alone without any food and water in the deserts of Mecca by the Prophet Ibrahim (RA), as ordered by Allah. Hajar (RA) desperately ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water for her son but found none. As she returned back hopeless, she saw the baby, Ismail, scratching his foot on earth and a fountain of water flowing from that place. Subsequently, on orders from Allah, Ibrahim (RA) built Ka'bah at the place of the fountain.
Following the construction of Ka'bah, Ibrahim (RA) used to visit Ka'bah every year. At the time of Prophet (PBUH), Hajj was made compulsory for the Muslims to perform once in their lifetime. The overarching aim of the Hajj is to strengthen one's faith and purify him or her of sins. Allah mentions the benefits of Hajj as:
“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 has bestowed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.” (Quran 22:28)
Significance of Hajj rituals
The performance of Hajj is not meant to be an arbitrary exercise - the rituals of Hajj are meant to be performed in the exact manner as they are prescribed. Allah says in Surah Baqarah:
“And perform properly (i.e. all the ceremonies according to the ways of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Hajj and Umrah for Allah” (Quran 2:196)
The rites of Hajj were laid down in current form by the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and these rituals signify the sacrifices and the complete submission to Allah, that Ibrahim (RA) made. Thereafter, every act performed in Hajj, from performing Tawaaf and Saa’i to stoning the wall of Satan, is the reminder of the faith one should have in Allah, as shown by Ibrahim (RA).
In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah, the Prophet (PBUH) also mentioned the significance of Hajj and the importance of the rituals performed in Hajj:
“Allah's Apostle was asked, ‘What is the best deed?’ He replied, ‘To believe in Allah and His Apostle (Muhammad)’. The questioner then asked, ‘What is the next (in goodness)?’ He replied, ‘To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause.’ The questioner again asked, ‘What is the next (in goodness)?’ He replied, ‘To perform Hajj (Pilgrim age to Mecca) 'Mubrur, (which is accepted by Allah and is performed with the intention of seeking Allah's pleasure only and not to show off and without committing a sin and in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet).” (Bukhari 2:25)
These verses and Hadith clearly signify the importance of Hajj and the rituals performed in it.
Significance and Saa’i
Saa’i signifies the journey of Hajar (RA) who in search of water for her infant commemorates Allah. Allah made her journey an integral part of Hajj and mentioned this in Quran saying:
“Verily! As-Safa and Al-Marwah (two mountains in Makkah) are of the Symbols of Allah. So, it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or Umrah (pilgrimage) of the House (the Kabah at Makkah) to perform the going (Tawaf) between them (As-Safa and Al-Marwah). And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allah is All-Recognizer, All-Knower” (Quran 2:158).
A day spent in Arafat
The pilgrims stay in Arafat from Dawn until Sunset on 9th Dhul Hijjah. It is the place where Prophet (PBUH) gave His last sermon and a person’s Hajj is considered invalid if he or she does not spend the day in Arafat. This day signifies the unity and remembrance of God in a Muslim’s life.
Significance of Stoning the Satan (Ramy al-Jamarat)
The pilgrims throw stones on Satan in Mina. This act signifies the three times when Satan tried to lure Prophet Ibrahim (RA) away from following Allah’s order and to resist Satan, Ibrahim (RA) threw stones at him.
Significance of Eid Al-Adha
It is the day when Muslims slaughter an animal, generally a sheep, a goat or a camel, remembering the sacrifice of Ibrahim (RA). Ibrahim (RA) intended to slaughter His son Ismail (RA) on Allah’s orders, but Allah replaced Ismail with a sheep just when Ibrahim was about to go ahead with the sacrifice: this submissive act of faith by Ibrahim (RA) as an integral part of Hajj as it signifies trust and total surrender to the will of the Almighty.
Besides this tribute to faith by Ibrahim, the offering of an animal is meant to feed poor and needy on this Holy occasion. Allah mentioned this aspect of offering as:
“The animal offerings are among the rites decreed by God for your own good. You shall mention God's name on them while they are standing in line. Once they are offered for sacrifice, you shall eat therefrom and feed the poor and the needy. This is why we subdued them for you, that you may show your appreciation” (Quran 22:36).
Allah meant for this Holy occasion to be a reason to remember Him and declare your faith in the Lord Almighty. Allah intended it to be in a certain way, showcasing the significance of Islamic traditions and the history of sacrifices made in His name. Besides that, this manifestation of Hajj is meant to be an empowering event in a Muslim’s life, thereafter, it is needed to be performed in a manner prescribed by Allah as each act is historically significant and meaningful.
Credit: Omam Khalid