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History of Haj
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 24 - 11 - 2008

HAJ literally means ‘to set out for a place'. Islamically however it refers to the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Makkah with the intention of performing certain religious rites in accordance with the method prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Haj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (peace be upon him) and he was the one who was entrusted by Allah to build the Ka'ba – the House of Allah – along with his son Ismai'el (Ishmael) at Makkah. Allah described the Ka'ba and its building as follows:
“And (remember) when We showed Ibrahim the site of the (Sacred) House (saying): Associate not anything (in worship) with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it (i.e. perform Tawaf), and those who stand up for prayer, and those who bow down and make prostration (in prayer etc.).”
(Qur'an, 22:26)
After building the Ka'ba, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) performed Haj himself, and after his death, this practice was continued by his son.
However, gradually with the passage of time, both the form and the goal of the Haj rites were changed. Idolatry spread throughout Arabia, the Ka'ba lost its purity and idols were placed inside it. Its walls became covered with poems and paintings, including one of Jesus and his mother Maryam and eventually over 360 idols came to be placed around the Ka'ba.
During the Haj period itself, the atmosphere around the sacred precincts of the Ka'ba was like a circus. Men and women would go round the Ka'ba naked, arguing that they should present themselves before Allah in the same condition in which they were born. Their prayer became devoid of all sincere remembrance of Allah and was instead reduced to a series of hand clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. Even the Talbiyah was distorted by them.
In the Talbiyah – ‘Here I am O Allah, (in response to Your call), here I am. Here I am, You have no partner, here I am. Verily all praise, grace and sovereignty belong to You. You have no partner.' – they added the following: ‘No one is Your partner except one who is permitted by you. You are his Master and the Master of what he possesses.'
Sacrifices were also made in the name of God. However, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured onto the walls of the Ka'ba and the flesh was hung from pillars around the Ka'ba, in the belief that Allah demanded the flesh and blood of these animals.
Singing, drinking, adultery and other acts of immorality was rife amongst the pilgrims and the poetry competitions, which were held, were a major part of the whole Haj event.
In these competitions, poets would praise the bravery and stature of their own tribesmen and tell exaggerated tales of the cowardice and miserliness of other tribes. Competitions in generosity were also staged where the chief of each tribe would set up huge cauldrons and feed the pilgrims, only so that they could become well–known for their extreme generosity.
Thus the people had totally abandoned the teachings of their forefather and leader Ibrahim (peace be upon him). The House that he had made pure for the worship of Allah alone, had been totally desecrated by the pagans and the rites which he had established were completely distorted by them.
This sad state of affairs continued for long period, after which the time came for the supplication of Ibrahim to be answered:
“Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book (this Qur'an) and the Al-Hikmah (full knowledge of the Islamic laws and jurisprudence or wisdom or Prophethood, etc.) and sanctify them. Verily you are the All–Mighty, the All–Wise.” (Qur'an, 2:129)
Sure enough, a man by the name of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdullah (peace be upon him) was born in the very city where Ibrahim (peace be upon him) had made this supplication centuries earlier. For 23 years, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spread the message of Tawhid (true monotheism) – the same message that Ibrahim and all other Prophets came with – and established the law of Allah upon the land.
He expended every effort into making the word of Allah supreme and the victory of the Truth over falsehood culminated in the smashing of the idols inside the Ka'ba which once again became the universal centre for the worshippers of the one True God.
Not only did the Prophet rid the Ka'ba of all its impurities, but he also reinstated all the rites of Haj which were established by Allah's Permission, in the time of Ibrahim (peace be upon him).
Specific injunctions in the Qur'an were revealed in order to eliminate all the false rites which had corrupted Haj in the pre–Islamic period. All indecent and shameful acts were strictly banned with Allah's statement:
“...So whosoever intends to perform Haj therein by assuming Ihram), then he should not have sexual relations (with his wife), nor commit sin, nor dispute unjustly during the Haj...”
(Qur'an, 2:197)
Competitions among poets in the exaltations of their forefathers and their tribesmen's' achievements were all stopped. Instead, Allah told them:
“And when you have completed your Manasik (rites of Haj) then remember Allah as you remember your forefathers or with a far more remembrance.”
(Qur'an, 2:200)
Competitions in generosity were also prohibited. Of course, the feeding of the poor pilgrims was still encouraged as this was done in the past but Allah commanded that the slaughtering of the animals which was done for this purpose should be done for seeking the good pleasure of Allah rather than to earn fame and the praise of the people. He said:
“So mention the Name of Allah over them when they are drawn up in lines (for sacrifice). Then, when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat thereof, and feed the beggar who does not ask (men), and the beggar who asks (men).” (Qur'an, 22:36)
As for the deplorable practice of spattering blood of the sacrificed animals on the walls of the Ka'ba and hanging their flesh on altars, Allah clearly informed them that:
“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allâh, but it is piety from you that reaches Him.” (Qur'an, 22:37)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) also put a stop to the practice of circling the Ka'ba in a state of nudity and the argument that the pagans put forward to justify this ritual was sharply rebutted in Allah's question:
“Say: “Who has forbidden the adoration with clothes given by Allah, which He has produced for his slaves...” (Qur'an, 7:32)
Another custom which was prohibited through the Qur'an was that of setting off for Haj without taking any provisions for the journey. In the pre–Islamic period, some people who claimed to be mutawakkiloon (those having complete trust in Allah) would travel to perform Haj begging for food during the whole journey.
They considered this form of behaviour a sign of piety and an indication of how much faith they had in Allah. However Allah told mankind that to have sufficient provisions for the journey was one of the preconditions for performing Haj. He said:
“And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is At–Taqwa (piety, righteousness, etc.).” (Qur'an, 2:197)
In this way, all the pre–Islamic practices, which were based on ignorance, were abolished and Haj was once again made a model of piety, fear of Allah, purity, simplicity and austerity. Now, when the pilgrims reached the Ka'ba, they no longer found the carnivals and the frolic and frivolity that had once occupied the minds of the pilgrims there before.
Now, there was the remembrance of Allah at every step and every action and every sacrifice was devoted to Him alone. It was this kind of Haj that was worthy of the reward of paradise, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The reward for an accepted Haj is nothing less than paradise.”(Bukhari)
– Ad-Dawah IlaAllah magazine (vol. 1 issue 4), also published by TROID, Canada. __

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