Just as the name suggests, Zulhijjah, meaning the month of pilgrimage, is the concluding month of the Islamic calendar where pilgrims from all over the world would flock together, leaving behind their daily commitments, standing side by side in unity and humbly submitting in awe before His divine commands to perform the Hajj.
Like the sunset gracefully ending the day, a worshipper observing the Hajj would have concluded the year beautifully after performing all the five integral acts of worship (rukun) in Islam that was set throughout the Islamic year calendar, i.e. the daily Solat and Syahadah (testimony of faith), the obligatory Fast in the month of Ramadan and the annual pay of Zakat.
These five rukun, also known as pillars of Islam are mentioned in a hadith by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w:
بُنِيَ الإسْلَامُ علَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أنْ لا إلَهَ إلَّا اللَّهُ وأنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسولُ اللَّهِ، وإقَامِ الصَّلَاةِ، وإيتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، والحَجِّ، وصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ
“Islam is built upon five: to testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, to establish prayer, to give Zakat, to perform Hajj, and to fast the month of Ramadan.”
Each of these acts of worship is unique, such that it bears distinct significance and rewards. Unlike the other four rukun, Hajj is made obligatory at least once in a person’s lifetime. The Quran tells us that Hajj is not made responsible for everyone but only for those who can observe it depending on their respective conditions and financial capacity. Allah s.w.t. says in Surah Ali-’Imran:
وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ حِجُّ ٱلْبَيْتِ مَنِ ٱسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلًا
“Pilgrimage to this House is an obligation by Allah upon whoever is able among the people.”
(Surah Ali-’Imran, 3:97)
With so many people around the world, it's not a surprise that Hajj quotas are developed to ensure safe passage to as many people as possible. On the downside, however, not everyone will be able to perform it. But fret not, the individual will not be made responsible due to the absence of means to perform the Hajj, as mentioned above.
Muslims who are not performing the Hajj that year can also be a part of the overall pilgrim experience by increasing their good deeds through prayers, fasting and charity. The first 10 days of Zulhijjah are a blessed period for all Muslims. As emphasised by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
ما العَمَلُ في أيَّامٍ أفْضَلَ منها في هذه، قالوا: ولا الجِهادُ؟ قالَ: ولا الجِهادُ، إلَّا رَجُلٌ خَرَجَ يُخاطِرُ بنَفْسِه ومالِه، فلَمْ يَرْجِعْ بشَيءٍ
“No good deeds done on other days are superior to those done on these (first ten days of Zulhijjah)." Then, some companions of the Prophet said, "Not even Jihad?" He replied, "Not even Jihad, except that of a man who risks himself and his property (for Allah's sake) and does not bring anything back.”
The preparation for Hajj should not only be in the minds of those who are called up to be included in the yearly quota. It should be an intention for every Muslim. An ideal for the hopeful. May Allah s.w.t. grant us all the means to perform Hajj one day, ameen.
So what kinds of preparations are needed to perform the Hajj?
1. Maintain Your Health: To be an abled Muslim, we should take care of our overall well-being. This includes both our mental and physical health. Ensure the food we eat adds nutritional value to ourselves and not just for the sake of our appetite.
Take care of our mental health by spending beneficial time with our families and friends, avoid spending too much time on social media, and seek professional help if in need. Mental health is not a taboo issue nor is it something to be taken lightly of.
2. Manage Your Savings: There are various models and ways we can find out how to manage our finances. Our religion discourages us from having poor wealth management systems. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. who led a simple life, emphasised the dangers of wasting our wealth. In a hadith, the Prophet said:
لاَ يُحِبُّ الله إِضَاعَةَ الْمَالِ وَكَثْرَةَ السُّؤَالِ ولاَ قِيلَ ولاَ قَالَ
“Allah does not like for you to waste wealth, nor ask many unnecessary questions, nor spread gossip.”
3. Make Sincere Repentance: In many scholarly works about Hajj, our scholars would remind us of the importance of repentance. Before making our trip to the holy lands and performing our duties, we should first try our best to seek Allah’s forgiveness, mend our ways and correct what is needed. This involves apologising to people who we have wronged and returning their rights.
The objective of Hajj is to seek Allah’s pleasure, and repentance is the first step in threading that path.
Read: Repentance in Islam
Furthermore, it can also be said that repentance is also a means to open the doors of provision (rizq). Allah s.w.t. himself says in the Quran:
وَيَـٰقَوْمِ ٱسْتَغْفِرُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ ثُمَّ تُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ يُرْسِلِ ٱلسَّمَآءَ عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا وَيَزِدْكُمْ قُوَّةً إِلَىٰ قُوَّتِكُمْ وَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا۟ مُجْرِمِينَ
“And O my people! Seek your Lord’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance. He will shower you with rain in abundance, and add strength to your strength. So do not turn away, persisting in wickedness.”
(Surah Hud, 11:52)
Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
وَأَذِّن فِى ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَىٰ كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ. لِّيَشْهَدُوا۟ مَنَـٰفِعَ لَهُمْ وَيَذْكُرُوا۟ ٱسْمَ ٱللَّهِ فِىٓ أَيَّامٍ مَّعْلُومَـٰتٍ عَلَىٰ مَا رَزَقَهُم مِّن بَهِيمَةِ ٱلْأَنْعَـٰمِ ۖ فَكُلُوا۟ مِنْهَا وَأَطْعِمُوا۟ ٱلْبَآئِسَ ٱلْفَقِيرَ
“Call people to the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel from every distant path. so they may obtain the benefits (in-store) for them, and pronounce the Name of Allah on appointed days over the sacrificial animals He has provided for them. So eat from their meat and feed the desperately poor.”
(Surah Al-Hajj, 22:27-28)
In these two verses, Allah s.w.t. promises for the pilgrims to experience benefits in performing the Hajj. But what are these benefits?
The scholar of Tafsir, Ibn ‘Asyur clarified the fact that the benefits are not particularly mentioned tells us the abundance and greatness of it. In other words, it is not limited to any specific benefits.
Ibn ‘Abbas r.a. explains that the benefits of Hajj involve both this world and the Hereafter.
Hajj is indeed a physically demanding act of worship, which also involves steps that some of us may not be able to rationalise yet, such as walking back and forth during the sa’i or throwing stones during the jamarat. In truth, there are significances and benefits in each of these steps, which we will discuss later in this article.
The Quranic verse mentioned above promises Muslims, who go out of the comfort of their residence just to earnestly seek Allah’s pleasure in performing the Hajj, to witness these ‘benefits’, even if they may not be able to see it now.
Here are some rewards of Hajj as mentioned by Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
The Purity of a Newborn Child
مَنْ حَجَّ هَذَا الْبَيْتَ فَلَمْ يَرْفُثْ وَلَمْ يَفْسُقْ رَجَعَ كَمَا وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ
“Whoever performs Hajj to this house without having intimate relations or committing sin, then he will return pure of sin like the day he was born from his mother.”
الْعُمْرَةُ إِلَى الْعُمْرَةِ كَفَّارَةٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَالْحَجُّ الْمَبْرُورُ لَيْسَ لَهُ جَزَاءٌ إِلَّا الْجَنَّةُ
“From one ‘Umrah to another ‘Umrah is the expiation of sins committed between them, and the accepted Hajj has no reward other than Paradise.”
It is clear that Hajj is an obligation for the abled Muslim. Beyond it being an obligatory act of worship, Hajj can also be seen as a school or process to cultivate the overall well-being of the individual, particularly in the person’s ethical and spiritual development.
All the steps and ritual acts of Hajj are, in fact, a kind of regimen or practice to cultivate discipline and a strong sense of obedience to fulfil Allah’s commands.
For example, one of the objectives of repeating the talbiyah throughout the Hajj is to invoke the feeling of humility and servanthood. One can even imagine the magnitude of the talbiyah being proclaimed by millions at the same place with their hearts united together for the same objective.
Ihram is to enter into a sacred state of ritual consecration for the entire journey of Hajj. Those who have entered the state of Ihram are no longer in their default state. Many things that are permissible in Islam are not permitted in this sacred state, such as wearing perfumes, cutting our hair and nails, wearing our normal t-shirts, cutting off trees, slaughtering animals for food, entering into a marriage or having intimacy with our spouses, just to name a few.
Like fasting, these are permissible things that the self (nafs) needs or inclines to but are left aside for the entire Hajj period solely for Allah s.w.t, and nothing else. This is a true embodiment of submission to the Divine.
Arafah is the name of a hill or a mountain as commonly referred to (jabal 'arafat). According to Ibn ‘Asyur, Arafah refers to the plains of the entire area, which are enclosed by hills. Allah s.w.t. mentions this location in the Quran:
لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَن تَبْتَغُوا۟ فَضْلًا مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۚ فَإِذَآ أَفَضْتُم مِّنْ عَرَفَـٰتٍ فَٱذْكُرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ عِندَ ٱلْمَشْعَرِ ٱلْحَرَامِ ۖ وَٱذْكُرُوهُ كَمَا هَدَىٰكُمْ وَإِن كُنتُم مِّن قَبْلِهِۦ لَمِنَ ٱلضَّآلِّينَ
“There is no blame on you for seeking the bounty of your Lord (during this journey). When you return from Arafah, praise Allah near the sacred place (Muzdalifah), and praise Him for having guided you, for surely before this (guidance) you were astray.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:198)
Pilgrims spend the day in Arafah on the ninth of Zulhijjah to make invocations to Allah s.w.t. as much as possible. Although only pilgrims will be present on the plains of Arafah, this merit is also achievable for non-pilgrims as well. In a hadith, our Prophet s.a.w. said:
خَيْرُ الدُّعَاءِ دُعَاءُ يَوْمِ عَرَفَةَ
“The best supplication is that which is made on the day of Arafah.”
The day of Arafah is the pinnacle of Hajj and the best 10 days of the year in our Islamic calendar. We often talk about the nobility of laylatul qadr as the best of all nights and yet, we often overlook the significance of the best day of the year, the day of Arafah.
Arafah was also said to be the place where humanity once met and professed to Allah of his Divinity. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said in a hadith:
أَخَذَ اللهُ الْمِيثَاقَ مِنْ ظَهْرِ آدَمَ بِنَعْمَانَ يَعْنِي عَرَفَةَ فَأَخْرَجَ مِنْ صُلْبِهِ كُلَّ ذُرِّيَّةٍ ذَرَأَهَا فَنَثَرَهُمْ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ كَالذَّرِّ ثُمَّ كَلَّمَهُمْ قِبَلًا قَالَ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ
“Allah took the covenant from the loins of Adam at Arafah, bringing forth from his backbone every seed that he would sow. He scattered them before him, and then He spoke to them as they stood before Him, saying: Am I not your Lord? They said: Of course, we bear witness. Lest you say on the Day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this.”
In this regard, Arafah is a place where the servant meets the Creator, recollecting the covenant they once made with Allah s.w.t. and trying their best to fulfil it.
There are various other opinions on the etymology of Arafah. Imam Ibn Kathir narrates the views of scholars, some tracing back to Ali Ibn Abi Talib r.a:
“Allah sends Jibril a.s. to Ibrahim, where the angel showed the Prophet how to perform the Hajj. When they arrived at Arafah, Ibrahim said, ‘I know (‘araftu) this place’. He had been there before. And so the place was called Arafah”
The ritual act of pelting stone pebbles (ramyul-jamarat) can be derived from the story of Prophet Ibrahim a.s. who had just been revealed in his dream to slaughter his son. Even if it was a revelation, it was indeed a great sacrifice for him. Furthermore, according to some scholars such as Imam Ibn Kathir, Prophet Ibrahim was childless until the age of 86. He had waited so long for the opportunity to have a child.
On his way to meet his son, he was confronted by the devil at Jamaratul-'Aqabah, who tried to confuse him and abandon the revelation he was set upon. The Angel Jibril a.s. informed him to throw the stone pebbles at the devil. Prophet Ibrahim threw seven pebbles until the devil disappeared.
After Jamaratul-Aqabah, Prophet Ibrahim continued to walk and the same thing happened again at Jamaratul-Wusto and finally at Jamaratul-Sughra, where the devil finally disappears for good.
Even in such a situation that Prophet Ibrahim a.s. had to go through, he remained patient and resolute to fulfil Allah’s commands. In the end, Allah s.w.t. describes the entire episode as a test that Prophet Ibrahim has indeed successfully passed it.
Allah s.w.t. continues to praise Prophet Ibrahim a.s. in the following verses.
The act of tawaf or circumambulating around the sacred house, the Ka’bah, seven times is one of the integral (rukun) steps of Hajj. In such a state, the tawaf carries the worshipper to the angelic experience of worship, likening to the Angels who are constantly worshipping and circumambulating at the lowest heavens, also known as Al-Baytil-Ma’mur (the realm of the Angels), where most of their kind resides in.
Just as the Ka’bah remains in the centre of the entire ritual, it prompts us that Allah s.w.t. is at the centre of our lives. In other words, our daily commitments, struggles, experience, joy, ambitions, and matters that are beyond our control, all revolve around Him. And thus, the tawaf motivates our mind, heart and body to align with the flow.
The sunnah of istilam during tawaf reminds us of our covenant with Allah s.w.t. when we pledged our servanthood and proclaimed Him to be our one and only God. With every round of istilam, the heart strengthens the resolution to fulfil the covenant. It was narrated that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said in a hadith:
مَن فاوض الحجر الأسود فكأنما يُفاوض يد الرحمن
“Whoever honours the black stone, it is as if he is honouring the Hand of the Merciful (Allah sw.t.)”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
Sa’i is the act of going back and forth seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah. This ritual act can be traced back to the story of Sayyidatina Hajar a.s. who displayed fortitude and hope in seeking water for her son.
Even when she was alone in the middle of the desert with no one else to support her and her child, she knew that ultimately Allah s.w.t. will protect and guide her. Thus, Hajar a.s. offered her best effort in whatever circumstances she was in. As a result, Allah s.w.t. granted Hajar a.s. and her young son a well-sourced water, the Zamzam.
This ritual act reminds us of the importance of having the qualities of fortitude and hope in seeking Allah’s pleasure. Just like how Hajar a.s. was running back and forth in desperation to look for the water, the servant’s state of being in need (iftiqar) for Allah in their lives is especially important. Allah s.w.t. loves the servant who seeks Him. The Quran reminds us:
فَفِرُّوٓا۟ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ
“So flee to Allah!”
(Surah Adh-Dhariyat, 51:50)
Every pilgrim performing the Hajj would know more of its magnitude. When even some permissible things are not permitted in the sacred state of Ihram, it prompts the person to be even more vigilant against transgressions throughout the whole journey of Hajj.
Through these steps (manasik) involving not just the required movements but also the overall experience of witnessing sacred places such as Makkah, Mina, Arafah, and Muzdalifah, it allows the pilgrim to absorb the lessons and significance even better.
Perhaps through this momentous journey, we’ll be able to learn more about ourselves, discover spiritual enlightenment and know Allah s.w.t. better.
May Allah s.w.t. grant ease, facilitation and acceptance for the pilgrims and may Allah grant us to perform the Hajj one day. Ameen
 Tafsir Ibn Kathir
 As-Sayyid Muhammad ‘Alawi Al-Maliki, Hajj: Its Virtues and Rulings, King Fahad National Library, Makkah Al-Mukarramah
 لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ، لَبَّيْكَ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَكَ لَبَّيْكَ، إِنَّ الْحَمْدَ، وَالنِّعْمَةَ، لَكَ وَالْمُلْكَ، لاَ شَرِيكَ لَكَ
“I am at Your service, O our Lord, I am at Your service, I am at Your service, there is no god but Allah, I am at Your service. All praises, favours, and sovereignty belong to you, there is no associate with You.”
 Tafsir Ibn Kathir
 Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets (Qasasul-Anbiya’), Al-Hayah Bookstore, Beirut, Lebanon, 1988, (pg. 158)
 The first and biggest of the three pillars signifying the point or direction for the pebbles to be thrown at.
 Placing the hands on the black stone and kiss it if one is able to get near it, or alternatively gesturing the black stone from afar