History of Haj: Hajj started with Ibraheem (Peace be upon him) who left his legacy both in the Hanifiyah, the pristine religion of Islam and in Hajj. The legacy of Ibraheem (A) was his millah, way, of true submission to Allah. He was the first one who used the word "Islam". He named anyone holding to the same faith as him a Muslim meaning the one that surrenders and submits to the will of the Creator, Allah. We read in Surat al-Hajj, "And strive in His cause as you ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the way of your father Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation); that the Messenger may be a witness for you, and you are witnesses for mankind! So establish regular Prayer, give regular Charity, and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector, the best to protect and the Best to help!" (22:78) His submission and total surrender to the Will of Allah is related to his establishment of Hajj. Even if Ibraheem (A) did not remain in Makkah to the end of his life, he laid the foundations of the Ka'bah in the middle of Makkah valley as well as the principles of Tawheed, genuine monotheism, in the heart of his son Ismaeel (A). The latter was also a prophet and a messenger of Allah, who kept the promise to preserve and guard Ka'bah as well as the Islamic faith. Later on, one of his descendents through Kedar - the second son of Ishmael as prophesied in Genesis 25:13 and a few other places - Muhammad (S), who was also a Hanif, rejected the idolatry and paganism brought to Makkah and called to the same faith as his forefathers Ibraheem (A) Ismaeel (A). He was chosen by Allah to be the last Messenger sent as Mercy to the world. He restored that legacy, Islam, and preserved the Ka'bah from the alien beliefs and practices. He reminded people of the religion of Ibraheem (S) and its tenets and called everyone to the religion of Ibraaheem (Peace be upon him). The building of the Ka'bah was by Ibraaheem and his son Ismaeel (Peace be upon them). This house was named "Ka'bah" after its cubic shape. It is the center point for Muslims all over the world. When a Muslim wants to pray, he, or she, must face Qiblah - the direction towards Makkah. Hajj also cannot be performed except in Makkah and its vicinity. The al-Masjid al-Haraam, holy mosque, was the first mosque built in the world. It is today the most visited place on earth and that is why it is called al-Bayt al-'ateeq meaning the ancient house. One prayer in this mosque equals one hundred thousands prayers elsewhere as stated in a few authentic hadiths.

Importance of Haj

Hajj - The Fifth Pillar of Islam Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam. It is obligatory for every Muslim to perform Hajj once in his, or her, lifetime unless there is no financial or physical ability. Allah (swt) has said, "Say: "Allah spoke the Truth: follow the religion of Abraham, the sane in faith; he was not of the Pagans." The first House (of worship) appointed for people was that at Bakkah; full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings. In it are Signs manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty people owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures." (2:96-97) "And complete Hajj and 'Umrah in the service of Allah" (2:196) "For Hajj are the months well-known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj and whatever good you do, (be sure) Allah knows it. And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, O you that are wise!" (2:198)

When Ibraaheem (A) finished the construction of Ka'bah, he called people to Hajj and prayed to Allah to bless Makkah and its vicinity and to make people come visit it until the Day of Judgement though it was remote and in the desert. "Remember Abraham said: "O my Lord! Make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols. "O my Lord! They have indeed led astray many among mankind; he then who follows my (way) is of me, and he that disobeys me, but You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among people with love towards them, and feed them with Fruits: so that they may give thanks." (14:35-7) Allah (swt) always relates the story of Hajj and Ibraheem to Tawheed and Islam, which is the way of Ibraheem, Muhammad, and all the prophets (Peace be upon them). "Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety. And take the Station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in Prayer). And remember Abraham said: "My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its People with fruits' such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yes), and such as reject Faith, for a while will I grant them their Pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire, an evil destination (indeed)!" And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. "Our Lord! Make of us Muslims bowing to Your Will); and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Your (Will); and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. "Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Your Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them: for You are the Exalted in Might, the Most Wise." And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly? Him We chose and rendered pure in this world: and he will be in the Hereafter in the ranks of the Righteous. Behold! His Lord said to him: "Bow (your will to Me):" he said: "I bow (my will) to the Lord and Cherisher of the Universe." And this was the Legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; "O my sons! Allah has chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the state of submission (to Allah)" (2:125-32) And talking about the first call to Hajj, Allah (swt) says,
"Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among people; they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways. That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days Appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House. Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honors the sacred rites of Allah, for him it is good in the sight of his Lord" (22:26-30) As we see here, Hajj was practiced before Prophet Muhammad (S) came, but the latter removed the false worshipped idols and ended all pagan beliefs and practices, which had changed gradually the way of Ibraheem and Ismaeel (A) as well as the Ka'bah's sanctity. Many rituals were innovated by people over time, but Prophet Muhammad (S) showed his companions with every detail how to perform the best pilgrimage. He (S) said, "O people! Learn from me the way how to perform your Hajj rituals for I do not know if I will be able to make Hajj next year or not." [Muslim, An-Nassaa'i, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad]. Hajj: A station of Commemorations: When we perform Hajj, we should relate the rituals to our forefathers and ancestors in faith: Ibraheem, Ismaeel, Haajar, and Muhammad (S) as well as the first generations of Muslims. In Hajj, we commemorate them as well as their sacrifice, sincerity, dedication and patience, which constitute the main elements of their legacy. We should not perform Hajj only physically, but spiritually as well. We should try to understand the meaning of every thing we do and see what lessons we can draw. The following points are some reflections on the pillars of Hajj and some other rituals: - In the state of Ihram we wear for a couple of days a seamless garment, which is exactly like a shroud. It is a symbol of total renunciation of worldly life in order to get purified and to raise the soul to a high spiritual level of consciousness of Allah and the Eternal life. It makes the pilgrim humble, equal to others, and helpless as if it is the Day of resurrection. The restrictions of the state of Ihraam are very rigorous in terms of the way the pilgrim behaves with others, with himself, and with Allah and also in terms of using regular worldly things such as putting perfume, cutting one's hair…etc. This makes Hajj a school of discipline, taqwah and self-control. A school, which can produce righteous, decent, honest and hardworking people as the five daily prayers and the fasting of Ramadan and the pillars of Islam do.

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