Linguistically, Hajj means, 'He prepared, or betook himself, to or towards a person… or towards an object of reverence, veneration, respect or honor.” [E.W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Cambridge, England: The Islamic Text Society, 1984), vol: 1, p. 513] In the Sharee'ah, Hajj means a specific journey to Makkah during the designated month of Dhul-Hijjah, for the performance of Hajj as an act of worship to Allah: “The Hajj is (in) the well-known month (i.e. 10th month, 11th month and the first ten days of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar). So whosoever intends to perform Hajj therein by assuming Ihram, then he should not have sexual relations (with his wife), nor commit sins, nor dispute unjustly during the Hajj. And whatever you do, (be sure) Allah knows it.” [Soorah al-Baqarah (2): 197]
Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam:
Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhum) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Islam is built upon five (pillars): testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is the Messenger of Allah, establishing regular prayer, paying Zakaat, Hajj and fasting Ramadan.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim] According to the majority of the scholars Hajj was legislated in the ninth year of Hijrah (Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Medina), meaning the year of the Delegations (al-Wufood), in which the verse of Soorah Imran (3): 97: “Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah for those who can afford the journey” was revealed.
Hajj is an obligation once in a lifetime:
Abu Hurayrah (radhi allahu anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) gave a sermon (Khutbah) and said: “O people, Allah has enjoined Hajj upon you so perform Hajj.” A man asked: “Is it every year, O Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam)?”
He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) remained silent until the man had said it three times, then he responded saying: “If I had said yes, (then) it would have become an obligation (once every year) and you would not have been able to do it.” Then he said: “Do not push me to tell you more than what I have left you with, for those who came before you were destroyed because they asked too many questions and argued with their Prophets. If I command you to do a thing, do as much of it as you can, and if I forbid you to do something, then avoid it.” [Saheeh Muslim no: 1337]
Hajj is a symbol of submission to Allah and Muslim Unity: Every year more than two million Muslims, from 70 different countries, travel to Makkah and Medina with the purpose of undertaking the great obligation of Hajj. It is an exemplary example of equality and unity when the pilgrims gather together for Hajj. Muslims who belong to different nations, cultures, social and economical status are all dressed in two pieces of unsown cloth. All perform the same rites. There is no difference of rich and poor, all stand in front of their Lord in submission and humility.
Hajj provides a unique opportunity for Muslims to meet each other, understand each other, increase in love, get closer, improve and resolve relationships. It is from the blessings of Allah during Hajj that one is in continuous opportunity to gain good deeds by treating one's Muslim brethren in the best way. And aid the poor and needy, which is also from the means of achieving great rewards from Allah.
The Purpose of Hajj: Allah says: “And (remember) when We showed Ibraheem u the site of the House (saying): 'Associate not anything with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand up (for prayer), and those who bow and make prostration (in prayer).” [Soorah al-Hajj (22): 26-27]
This verse signifies the purpose of Hajj, it being, the worship of Allah. Allah, the Exalted ordered Ibraheem (alaihis-salaam) to build the Kaa'ba and call people to circumambulate it, and stand up (for prayer), bow down and make prostration (in prayer) to Allah (alone). Therefore, one who performs Hajj is required to sincerely worship Allah and associate none as partners with Him; seek His help, forgiveness and Taqwa.
Virtues of Hajj: A number of Ahaadeeth speak about the virtues of Hajj. Once, the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was asked: 'What is the best deed?' He stated: ‘Belief in Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).’ 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 preformed correctly and accepted by Allah.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim no: 83]
He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) 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 Paradise.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
Furthermore, for women, their Jihad is Hajj, when the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was asked, whether or not women are required to take part in Jihad. He replied: “Yes, upon them is Jihad which does not contain fighting: Hajj and Umrah.” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee Irwa al-Ghaleel fi-Takhreej Ahadeeth Manar al-Sabeel, vol: 4, p.151]
Also, Ibn Umar (radhi allahu anhum) reported the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) saying: “The one who fights for the sake of Allah and the pilgrim who goes for Hajj or 'Umrah are all guests of Allah. He called them and they responded; they ask of Him and He will give them.” [(Hasan) by Shaikh al-Albanee in Silsilat al-Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah no: 1820. Ibn Majah, no: 2893]
Benefits of Hajj: Allah said (to Ibraheem alaihis-salaam): “And proclaim to mankind the Hajj….that they may witness things that are of benefit to them….” [Soorah al-Hajj (22): 28] Hajj has both, worldly benefits and benefits of the Hereafter .
Worldly benefits include trade, business and other commercial benefits, since Allah says: “There is not sin on you if you seek the Bounty of your Lord (during the pilgrimage by trading, etc.).” [Soorah Baqarah (2): 198]
The benefit of the Hereafter, which every sincere Muslim yearns for, are forgiveness of sins and a guaranteed place in Paradise. In other words, Hajj is a purification of the soul from sins and a means to gain the Mercy of Allah. Abdullah Ibn Mas'ood (radhi allahu anhu) related from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) “Keep on doing Hajj and 'Umrah, for they eliminate poverty and sin just as the bellows eliminate impurities from iron and gold and silver.” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee in Silsilah Ahaadeeth as-Saheehah no: 1200. At-Tirmidhee, no: 810, an-Nasa'ee, no: 2631]
Also, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam): “He who makes Hajj for Allah and does not indulge in sex or obscene speech or commit acts of disobedience will return (from it) as pure as the day on which his mother bore him.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
As can be seen from the above Ahaadeeth, the benefits of Hajj are conditional and the conditions are abandoning sins and performing the Hajj according to the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Take from me your rites of pilgrimage.” [Saheeh Muslim]
Fulfillment of these conditions will yield a Mabroor Hajj, regarding which Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The reward of a Mabroor Hajj (sinless Hajj) is nothing short of Jannah.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim]
The Effects of Hajj on the Pilgrim:
The Hajj, which is graced by Allah's acceptance, has a lasting and observable effect on the pilgrim. Hajj is the perfection of one's faith, since it has in it all the qualities of the other forms of worship. Hajj combines both the physical and monetary aspects of worship in Islam, such as Salaat (prayer), which the pilgrim offers in the Kaa'ba, the House of Allah.
Hajj encourages spending of material wealth for the sake of Allah, which is the chief characteristic of Zakaat. By spending from his wealth to perform the Hajj, the pilgrim cleanses from his heart the greed deposited by love of this world. Hajj builds generosity and develops in the individual a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of Allah.
When a pilgrim sets out for Hajj, he disassociates himself from his homes and dear ones to please Allah; he suffers hardship and self-restraint, which is from the essences of fasting and Itikaaf.
The Haji (pilgrim) is trained to completely forget the material comforts and glamour's of the worldly life, he avoid the use of oil, scent, perfume, etc., wearing only two pieces of unsown cloth, does not cut hairs and nails, he keeps himself busy day and night worshiping Allah and carrying out the rites of Hajj. In short, he abandons all his desires and submits to Allah with Ikhlas (sincerity), Ittiba (obedience) and humbleness, calling out to His Lord: “Here I am before You, My Lord, as a slave of You…”
The days of Hajj are those spent in obedience to Allah and His Messenger, and the Haji is given the important lesson that: “Take from me your rites (the rituals of Hajj)” [Saheeh Muslim] This practice of obedience to Allah and His Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) increase him in faith and righteousness. It further encourages and motivates him to work out the same rule of following the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) in all aspects of his life.
The physical demands of the various rites of Hajj far surpass those of prayer and fasting, thus enhancing in the patient pilgrim the self-control, obedience and humility required for his every day acts of Eebadah, this being the ultimate aim and purpose of the Muslim's life.
Thus, Hajj develops in man the spiritual and moral goals of the various forms of worship in Islam. A deep spiritual transformation takes place within the individual, resulting in the reformation of his or her life according to Islamic ideals. If such a transformation does not take place, then there can be no doubt that his Hajj merely removed the obligation of Hajj without earning for him the higher spiritual rewards for which the Hajj was designed and ordained.
Pre-conditions of Hajj:
Certain conditions have to be fulfilled before Hajj becomes compulsory upon an individual. These can be enumerated as follows: (a) Islam, (b) soundness of mind, (c) puberty and (d) capability
Hajj is not meant to be a hardship. It is a great act of worship which people must do their best to perform but only if it is feasible for them. Allah says: “Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses." [Soorah Imran (3): 97]
In general, the feasibility includes having the physical health, financial well-being and sufficient provision needed to undertake the Hajj. Hajj is not obligatory on the indigent who does not posses adequate money to feed his children during his absence and to make the journey to Makkah. If he has to borrow money then it is recommended that such an individual stays at home until he is financially able. Muslims with physical disabilities are not obliged to make Hajj unless they can pay others to carry them.
Hajj is not obligatory even if the journey to Makkah exposes the Haji's (pilgrim's) life to risk. In addition, woman should have a mahram, since she is not allowed to travel alone without a Mahram. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “A woman may not travel except if a Mahram is with her.” [Saheeh al-Bukharee and Saheeh Muslim] Thus, a woman who cannot find a mahram to accompany her is not obliged to make Hajj.
Hajj at one's first opportunity:
Unfortunately, many people delay-making Hajj until the latter part of their lives, they should be reminded the Hadeeth of Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam): “Hurry to perform Hajj (the obligatory one), as none of you knows what may happen to him.” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee in Saheeh al-Jamee vol: 1, no: 569]
Some scholars hold the opinion that the obligation of the Hajj is immediate; therefore, it must be carried out, as soon as all the (above-mentioned) conditions of Hajj are fulfilled. One who delays the performance of Hajj, even though he has the means to perform it, until he dies, is an evildoer and he has left himself open to the punishment and displeasure of Allah in the Hereafter. It is also narrated that Umar Ibn Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) once said: 'I considered sending some men to those lands to see who had the means but did not perform Hajj. They should have the Jizya applied to them, as they are not Muslims, they are not Muslims.” [Sa'eed Ibn Mansur and al-Bayhaqe. Al-Haitimi declared it Saheeh, al-Haitami, al-Zawajir vol: 1, p. 198]
Some say that the Hajj may be delayed because the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) delayed it up till the 10 AH - but the reason for his delaying the obligation of Hajj could be because he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) wanted to purify the House of Allah from the idols and Mushrikeen or because he was kept busy with the delegations who came one after another to declare their Islam. [See al-Sharah al-Mumti' by Shaikh Ibn 'Uthaymeen, vol: 7, pp. 17-18]
Many scholars are of the opinion that it is acceptable to delay going for Hajj until a more convenient time. But it is important that one does not delay it unnecessarily because Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Hurry to perform Hajj, as none of you knows what may happen to him.” [(Saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee in Saheeh al-Jamee vol: 1, no: 569] Thus, if you have the means and the support, then you are able; unless there is any other excuse, such as sickness, old age, and disability. In these cases you are excused and can assign and pay someone else to make the Hajj on your behalf. This is part of Islam's easiness.