What is the importance of hajj and umrah in islam?
Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is a financial and physical act of worship that every Muslim who fulfills the appropriate conditions, must carry out once in their lifetime.
Hajj lexically means to visit the sacred locations and places. In Islamic legal terminology, the term hajj means entering the state of ihram, performing waqfa (ritual standing / staying) in the Plain of Arafat, performing sa’y (ritual walking between the Hills of Safa and Marwa, getting the hair shaved or trimmed, circumambulating around the Ka’bah (tawaf al-ifada) and doing all these actions in the given order.
The word umrah lexically means “visiting”. In Islamic legal terminology, it means to intend to go to the Ka’bah in order to perform certain acts of worship, such as circumambulate around it and to perform sa’y between the Hills of Safa and Marwa.
a. The place of Hajj and Umrah in our Religion
Hajj was made obligatory in the ninth year of Hijra. The obligation of hajj is based on the Qur’an, Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) and the consensus (ijma) of the Muslim scholars.
Allah Almighty states the following in the Qur’an:
“In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.”
The performance of Hajj and umrah have been made obligatory once in a lifetime upon Muslims who have fulfilled certain conditions. Regarding the obligatory nature of these acts of worship, Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an,
“And complete the Hajj or ‘umrah in the service of Allah….”
Our Prophet (pbuh) has many sayings concerning this topic. One of these sayings is: “O people! Hajj was rendered fard for you; perform hajj.“
Our Prophet (pbuh) made clear that hajj is one of the pillars of lslam in the following hadith: “Islam has been built upon five things – on testifying that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salat; on giving the zakat; on Hajj to the House (if the person has the means to go); and on fasting during Ramadan”
Regarding the merits of umrah, there are several sayings of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) such as, “(The performance of) umrah is an expiation for the sins committed (between it and the previous one)”, “When it is Ramadan, perform umrah, for umrah during it (Ramadan) is equivalent to Hajj” and “ Perform Hajj and ‘Umrah consecutively, for they remove poverty and sin as the bellows removes impurity from iron, gold and silver.”
Hajj and umrah are acts of worship that every Muslim who fulfills the required conditions must perform. It is not permissible for the believers to send someone else to perform the hajj on behalf of them if they do not have a valid excuse. However, if they are not in a state to go to hajj, then they may send someone else as their representative.
A woman upon whom the hajj is obligatory must go to hajj when she has one of her very close male relatives with her or if she is accompanied with a group of trustworthy Muslim women. Her husband cannot prevent her from going to hajj. However, the woman to whom hajj is not fard but who just wants to perform a nafilah hajj cannot go if her husband does not give her permission.
b. The Wisdom and Benefits of Hajj and Umrah
Hajj allows us to battle against and stone the enemy within ourselves that we call nafs and also our hateful tendencies. It enables us to stop discriminating people according to their statuses and helps us take refuge in Allah.
An accepted Hajj is a means for a person to enter Paradise. Allah’s Messenger states that: “The reward of Hajj Mabrur (an accepted hajj) is nothing but Paradise!”
It is possible to see this importance of hajj in a hadith that was related from Abu Huraira:
“The Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) was once asked: “What is the best deed?” He replied: “To have faith in Allah and His Messenger.” The enquirer asked: “What next?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “To strive in the cause of Allah (jihad).” “What is the next best thing?” He replied: “Hajj Mabrur (a faultless Hajj that is free of sin and is graced with Divine acceptance and pleasure).”
In order to be able to perform a mabrur hajj, these five conditions must be observed:
- To have the most sincere intention when going to hajj, in other words, to go there only for the sake of Allah. Pilgrims should act like they are actually going to visit Allah, not to focus on anything but Him.
- To go to hajj with clean, lawfully earned (tayyib) money.
- To carry out the duties one has due to being a servant to Allah. If they have debts to Allah, such as prayers and fasting, they must make a definite decision to make them up and should start this immediately.
- To stay away from useless and hateful words, intentions and actions, fights, and debates (rafas, fusuk, jidal),
- To complete hajj in accordance with its other external and internal (zahir and batin) requirements. Repenting for the mistakes during hajj, turning towards Allah with invocations and asking His forgiveness, to make the most of hajj with good deeds, are in a way a promise made to Allah the Almighty that this state will continue after finishing the performance of hajj.
A hajj that is performed by following its rules for the sake of Allah is a means for Muslims to purify themselves from sins. Thus, our Prophet stated: “Whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah and during this time stays away from evil words and opposing Allah, they will return home from hajj like a newborn that is purified of sins.”
Hajj establishes a fellowship of faith by bringing Muslims together. It is a way for Muslims from different countries all around the world to meet and to solve each other’s difficulties and problems.
Due to the fact that millions of Muslims have come from many different countries for hajj and that they are all acting together at the same time, this is in a way a show of strength to the enemies.
The clothes of ihram that are worn during hajj lead the person to think about death. Everyone wearing the same clothes during hajj, no matter what their social stature is, and the crowd at Arafat during the time of ritual standing (waqfa), reminds people of the Day of Judgment.
The state of ihram leads the believers to explore their inner world. It teaches a person to remain patient under any circumstances and conditions, because it is necessary to not get upset against fellow Muslims. The difficulties and deprivations faced during the time of the journey and hajj teach believers the value of blessings of Allah and to be grateful to Allah for them. The prohibitions of the state of ihram teach a person to be more compassionate towards animals, plants and needy people and contribute to establishing a delicate spiritual climate.
Hajj is a very delicate ibadah because many things, which are permissible under normal circumstances, are declared forbidden during hajj. This is why the person should be prepared spiritually for the journey of hajj. Also, the moment the pilgrims make intention for hajj, Satan will trail along after them. This is why the first weapon that the pilgrims must strap on is “sabr (patience)”. This is because hajj is an act of worship that is not like other ibadahs. It may appear easy from the outside, however, it is one of the hardest ibadahs. This is why the phrase: “O Allah! Make it easy for me!…” is included in the sentence of intention.
c. Wisdom related to the Obligations (Manasik) of Hajj and Umrah
Hajj and umrah allows the pilgrims to experience an environment that is similar to judgement day (mahshar). It is an ibadah that helps the person learn the truth of the statement “Die before you die!’’.
Hajj takes place in a blessed and magnificent atmosphere where Muslims from all over the world gather and meet. The sacred places where hajj is carried out are full of divine signs.
Mecca is the place where ideas of nation, color, nationality, and clothing are all removed and forgotten and where the truth that all Muslims are one nation becomes clearer.
Medina al-Munawwara, is the blessed city in which our Prophet, who was sent to the world as mercy, and His beautiful Companions lived. To breathe the air that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) breathed gives Muslims a spiritual excitement. Visiting Masjid Nabawi, our Prophet’s grave, and the graves of the martyrs reminds people of the Age of Happiness (Asr al-Saadah). It strengthens the love for the Prophet in the believers’ hearts, and it will make the believers hold on to the Sunnah more tightly.
The Ka’bah is the direction towards which the believers turn in prayer and it is the act of worship that Allah wanted to implement with his command “But prostrate yourself, and draw near (unto Allah)!” (al-Alaq, 96: 19).
Hajar al-Aswad is the blessed stone that is greeted and kissed during the circumambulation around the Ka’bah. It is the stone where the Muslims promise to serve and be loyal to Allah.
Arafat reminds people about rising from the grave on Judgment Day (qiyamah) and the hastened gathering of people in groups on that Day. All human beings will wait for forgiveness in the presence of Allah in a helpless, needy and hopeful state. Hearts and eyes will become wet with tears of repentance, sincere duas and prayers will rise to Allah. Clean slates will be opened from the books of their lives and the promise of obedience during the rest of their lives will be given to Allah.
Muzdalifa remolds the heart with Allah’s greatness, power, magnificent sovereignty and divine manifestations, it is the place where all worldly and earthly things are left behind.
Mina is the place where the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail put their trust in Allah.
Stoning the Devil is the place where Devil is damned and where the heart is freed from all blindness and misgivings and directed towards Allah. The way to carry out this action is to stone first the Satan inside us.
Hills of Safa and Marwa are the places where we remember our Mother Hajar who looked for water, and where we run to our Lord and take refuge in Him with the feeling that we are helpless creatures.
Qurban is a wind of mercy and wisdom that reminds us to keep ourselves from indulging in wealth, life, wants and desires of the nafs and completely submit ourselves to Allah. We realize this by living by the exemplary submission of the Prophet Ismail.
 Âl Imran, 3: 97.
 Al-Baqara, 2: 196.
 Muslim, Kitab al-Hajj, IV, 224.
 Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Iman, I, 19-20.
 Al-Bukhari, Umrah, 1; Muslim, Hajj, 437
 Al-Nasai, Siyam, 6
 Al-Tirmidhi, Hajj, 2: al-Nasai, Hajj, 6
 Al-Bukhari, Umrah, 1
 Al-Bukhari, Jihad l; Hajj, 4, 34, 102; Umrah, 1; Muslim, Iman,135,140; al-Tirmidhi, Mawaqit, 13, Hajj, 6,14, 88; al-Darimi, manasik, 8, salat, 24, 135
 Al-Bukhari, Hajj 4; al-Nasai, Hajj, 4
Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications