“making pilgrimage to the House”
The Prophet (s) stated that Islam is built on five pillars, and Hajj or pilgrimage to the House of Allah (swt) in Makkah, is listed as the fourth pillar of Islam in this hadith, which you can find listed in full here. The performance of Hajj is an obligation on every Muslim who has the means to perform it. This has been clearly established in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and as we can see from this hadith, it is of such importance that it forms one of the foundation or pillars of the religion of Islam.
The ritual of pilgrimage to Makkah stretches back thousands of years to the time of the Prophet Abraham or, in Arabic, Ibrahim. Prophet Ibrahim (as) was ordered by Allah to leave his wife Hajar, and his infant son Ismail alone in the desert, in the valley where Makkah now stands. While Ibrahim (as) was gone, the baby became thirsty, and Hajar ran back and forth between two hills, now known as Safa and Marwah, seven times searching for water for her son. The baby cried and hit the ground with his foot (some narrations say that the angel Jibreel (Gabriel) scraped his foot or the tip of his wing along the ground), and water miraculously sprang forth. This source of water is called the Well of Zamzam and is now located next to the Kabbah. The Kabbah, or House of Allah, was built later by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, as a place for the worship of Allah alone.
Muslims emulate this journey in their annual Hajj pilgrimage, which occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar. When the Prophet Muhammad (s) led his followers from Medina to Makkah to make this pilgrimage, it was the first Hajj to be performed by Muslims alone, and the only Hajj ever performed by the Prophet (s). He cleansed the Kabbah, destroyed all the idols that had been worshipped there, and re-ordained the building as the house of Allah.
The Hajj pilgrimage, now performed by more than 3 million Muslims every year, sees people from all over the world come together to worship Allah. The rich and the poor have their differences removed as they dress in the same manner and perform the same rituals. People must undertake a long journey and suffer hardship in the search of their ultimate goal. It is a physical as well as spiritual pilgrimage and believers must practice sincerity, and patience and love for their fellow Muslims. They must forget their material comforts and the lure of the material world and concentrate on only Allah (swt) and His worship and their relationship with Him (swt). Spiritually, the Hajj can provide an individual with a complete cleansing of the soul, as the Prophet (s) 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 birth to him [without any sins].” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
Successfully completed with the right intention, the Hajj can also provide the ultimate reward, as the Prophet (s) stated,
“And the Hajj that is accepted by Allah and performed properly has no reward other than Paradise.” (Recorded in Bukhari and Muslim)
We can see the reward, so why aren’t more of us rushing to perform the Hajj? A culture has grown in which people delay the performance of Hajj until their old age, hoping to be purified of their sins close to the time of their death. Yet, we don’t know when the angel of death will come. We can see that Hajj is obligatory upon us if we ‘have the means’, so what does this entail? And if we ‘have the means’ but we delay performing Hajj, does this make us sinful?
In general ‘the means’ are considered to include physical health, financial well-being and the provisions needed to undertake the journey. In addition, women should have a mahram [male relative or husband] to travel with them as they are not allowed to travel alone, although some scholars allow for the lone woman to travel in a ‘trustworthy’ group made up of men and women. If one does not meet these conditions, one is not obliged to perform Hajj.
If we have the means, is there any excuse not to be making immediate plans to perform the Hajj? Can it be delayed?
Some scholars including Imam Malik, Abu Hanifah, Ahmad and some Shafi’ees state that one must perform Hajj at its first feasible opportunity. As soon as you have the means and ability you should make arrangements to go and you are sinful if you do not. The evidence for this position includes the hadith:
“If anyone breaks [a bone] or becomes lame, he comes out of the sacred state and he must perform Hajj the following year.” (Recorded in Ahmad)
The deduction here being that the Prophet (s) didn’t say they could perform Hajj at any time in the future, but rather the next time they were able.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence to indicate that it is permissible to delay the Hajj is that Hajj was made obligatory on the 6th year after Hijrah to Madinah, but the Prophet (s) didn’t perform his Hajj until the 10th year, four years later. Some scholars have stated that the reason for his (s) delay could have been because the Kabbah was still filled with idols and frequented by polytheists who would worship while naked, so the Prophet (s) waited until Allah (swt) purified the House of these people before performing Hajj. Therefore the delay was due to an acceptable excuse and may not provide evidence for those who have no acceptable excuse.
I have laid out these evidences in detail because I imagine that there are many of us who actually have ‘the means’ both physically and financially, but are choosing not to perform this obligatory act at this time in our lives. We should look into the state of our own affairs and ask ourselves whether we should be striving to make an arrangement to perform the Hajj if we have not already done so. And Allah knows best.