The Spirit and Rites of Hajj

The Spirit of Hajj

The Ka‘bah is Allah’s House, and it is Allah who decrees who can visit His House. Hajj is an invitation from Allah, and the pilgrim is the guest and Allah is the supreme host. Every year, millions seek to undertake the journey, but only a few actually undertake the journey (around 2-3 million a year).

Hajj is a unique form of worship. It is physically dynamic and spiritually motivating. It brings all the other pillars under the same shade, and is a communal means of achieving taqwa. It is a spiritual journey, a journey of the body and the mind, and a journey that takes one back in time and place.

The Rites of Hajj and their Spiritual Significance

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Intention and Ihram

The intention must be sincere and for the sole purpose for the sake of Allah’s worship. Ihram for men comprise of two pieces of unsewn cloths, used as upper and lower garments. For woman, it must be simple clothing that covers her from head to toe, except for the face and the hands. The footwear should be sandals that contain no stitching on them. Ihram is usually donned at Miqat.


The significance of clothing oneself in two pieces of cloths (ihram), lies in the fact that it mimics the shroud in which we will be shrouded after our death. Thus, ihram is a physical barrier that reflects a separation of the material world from the spiritual world. Ihram is donned after fully purifying oneself, and cutting nails, shaving the private parts, shaving the head, or cutting the hair. The bodily purification consists of ghusl and wudu. This is all then followed by the sunnah prayer. This whole process of preparation reminds us of the inevitability journey of death and the preparation for the burial.

The uniformity of ihram causes all the pilgrims to look alike, eliminating any worldly differences, and teaches equality in birth (born naked) and death (shrouded in just two pieces of cloth).

Once in ihram, the pilgrim must strictly avoid all the prohibitions. On leaving the Miqat, one must recite the talbyiah, concentrating on the meaning of talbyiah for spiritual purification (it is a part of the oath). As we recite talbiya, “Labbaik Allahumma labbaik, labbaik la sharika laka labbaik. Innal hamda wan-ni’mata laka wal mulk, la sharika laka,” we declare our readiness to Allah’s service with our wealth and our life, denounce shirk (polytheism), praise Him, and announce His sovereignty.

As we approach the Sacred Precinct of Masjid al-Haram, the very first glimpse of the Sacred House of the Ka‘bah places us in awe, fills our heart with a sense of fulfillment and reverence, and causes our eyes to fill with tears of joy. It is hard to take our eyes away from its sight.



Concerning the history of tawaf, some reports teach that it in Makkah our forefather Adam longed to return to paradise and be in the presence of Allah. To console his loneliness, Allah commanded him to perform tawaf around the space of the current Ka‘bah, which Adam did. This caused him to feel complete again.

Other texts teach that Nuh, Ibrahim, and many of the Prophets before them, all performed tawaf around Allah’s Sacred House, and their spiritual energy and legacy fills the air. In performing tawaf, the pilgrims walk in the footsteps of the Messenger of Allah and his noble Companions.

Upon reaching Masjid al-Haram, the pilgrim offers two units of prayer, and then begins the Tawaf. He begins at the starting place, which is marked by a green light nowadays, after declaring Allahu Akbar. It circumambulates around the Ka‘bah seven times counterclockwise. It is necessary for the pilgrims to be in ihram while performing the tawaf, and the men should bare their right shoulder. As for the non-pilgrims, ihram is not necessary for them while performing the tawaf.

In doing the tawaf, we emulate the tawaf of the angels around al-Bait al-Ma‘mur, which is Allah’s House in the seventh heaven where seventy thousand angels perform tawaf every day, never to return to it. This is also reflects the endless number of angels. Thus, during tawaf, we spiritually connect ourselves with the angels that go around al-Bait al-Ma‘mur.

“By the Frequented House (Bait al-Ma‘mur).” [Surah al-Tur, 52:4]

Tawaf is a worship, and so it must be performed while in the state of physical purity.

“Then let them complete their prescribed duties, fulfil their vows, and circumambulate the Ancient House.”  [Surah al-Hajj, 22:29]

The structure of Ka‘bah should also remind us of the joint efforts of Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Isma‘il in raising the foundation and walls of the House.

“When Ibrahim was raising the foundations of the House along with Isma‘il, [supplicating], ‘Our Lord, accept this from us. You are indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.’” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:127]

This was the legacy of Ibrahim and Isma‘il, a symbol of hard work and devotion, and supplication for the acceptance of their service. All good efforts need to be followed with supplication for the acceptance of those deeds. Anas ibn Malik has said, “Supplication is the essence of worship.” [al-Tirmidhi no. 3371]

Tawaf or circumambulation is a rotation, which conforms to the universal law of rotation and is a model of Allah’s universal plan of obedience and worship. In the physical world, objects rotate around a central mass of gravitational attraction, while in tawaf, we are spiritually attracted by the House, and submit to the Divine Rule.

“The sun and the moon are upon their stages. The stars and the trees prostrate.” [Surah al-Rahman, 55:5-6]

The Maqam Ibrahim

The Maqam is where Ibrahim stood while raising the walls of the Ka‘bah, while being assisted by his son Isma‘il. It is located near the Ka‘bah and is included in the tawaf.


“In it are clear signs. It is the Station of Ibrahim.” [Surah Al-Imran, 3:97]

Today, the sacred stone is preserved within a golden cage, a few feet away from the wall of Ka‘bah, to open the prayer area as well as to facilitate the tawaf.

After completing the tawaf, the pilgrim offers two units of prayer in the space behind the Maqam.

“We made the House a resort for the people and a sanctuary, saying, “Take the Maqam al-Ibrahim as a place of worship.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:125]

The Well of Zamzam

The well of Zamzam is about thirty-eight cubits away from the Ka‘bah. The mouth of Zamzam stands where Isma’il was laid down by his mother, Hagar, when she was searching for help. Zamzam water is now supplied throughout the mosque.


The Well of Zamzam was the symbolical reward for Hagar for her dependency on Allah, and for her effort to save a life. She never lost hope in Allah. She knew within her heart that Allah would not forsake her. Whoever depends upon Allah, then he will never be forsaken by Him. Whoever place his trust in Allah, then Allah will feed him from means that he did not anticipate.

“Whoever places his trust in Allah, He will suffice for him.” [Surah al-Talaq, 65:3]

Drinking Zamzam water is from the sunnah. It is refreshing and can act as a cure for minor ailments. The Prophet said,

“Zamzam water is the best water on the face of the earth. In it is food for nourishment and healing for illness.”

It cures illness when it is drunk with full sincerity and trust.

The heart of the Prophet was cleansed two times by Jibril with Zamzam water. Once as a child while he was playing with other kids, and then in the night of al-Isra wa al-Mi’raj.

The Prophet drank Zamzam water while standing, to show the permissibility to drink while standing. [See al-Nasa’i no. 2965] The supplication for drinking Zamzam water is, “Allahumma inni asaluka rizqan wasi’ah, ‘ilman nafi’a, wa shifa min kulli da’i (I beseech You, O Allah, bestow on me generous sustenance, beneficial knowledge, and cure from all ailments).”


The brisk walking of sa’y is the distance between the hills of al-Safa and al-Marwa. It starts at al-Safa and, after seven lapses, ends at al-Marwa. The pilgrim walks briskly, and then jogs briskly between the two milestones. Today, the mounts have been modified to make them easy for people of all ages to climb. It has also been turned into multiple levels to better accommodate the number of people.

It is performed in commemoration of what was taken by Hagar. It depicts the desperation of a mother who was all alone looking for help to save the life of her son. Both of them were thirsty and weak because of a lack of water.

Sa’y is one of the fundamental rituals of Hajj, and al-Safa and al-Marwa symbolize Allah’s designated signs. It symbolizes a mother’s desperation, hope, and complete dependence on Allah.

“Safa and Marwah are among the symbols of Allah. So, whoever performs Ḥajj or ‘Umrah to the House, there is no sin on him if he walks between them. Whoever does good on his own accord, then He is the All-Recognizing, the All-Knowing.” [Surah al-Baqarah, 2:158]

The 8th of Dhul-Hijjah is also called the Day of Tarwiyah, and it is spent in Mina. It is the day of mental and emotional preparation for the great journey to Arafah the next day.

Mount Arafah and the Valley of Arafah

The Prophet said,

“Arafah is Hajj” (Ahmad)

Meaning, if Hajj is not observed in its proper place and time, then there is no Hajj. It takes place on the second day of the Hajj, which is the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah.

The Arabic word Arafah means to recognize. It may be called al-Arafah because this is where Adam and Hawwah met on earth after being sent down from Paradise. It is also called the Hill of Mercy because Allah, out of His mercy, accepted their supplication for forgiveness.

This is the mount from where the Prophet delivered his historical Final Sermon, and received the testimony of the people that he had delivered the message of tawhid to the people. Allah acknowledged his service by revealing,

“This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My blessing upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [Surah al-Maida, 5:3]

The Day of Arafah is considered as the day of Hajj, because it is the designated day of worship for prayer, recitation of Qur’an, and remembrance of Allah through tahlil, tahmid, and takbir. The dhuhr prayer is delayed and the ‘asr prayer is prayed earlier. Both prayers are shortened and prayed with a separate iqama.

This day is the height of worship. Starting from the time before noon until sunset, pilgrims begin to gather on the plain of ‘Arafah, standing with faith before Allah, facing the Qibla, and supplicating with outstretched arms and palms facing up, begging Him for His mercy and forgiveness.

‘Arafah is the station of purification outside of the Haram where one stands and seeks forgiveness for all that he has committed throughout his life. We beg and implore Allah to make us worthy of entering into His Haram, visiting His House, and being in His presence.

Fasting on the Day of Arafah

It is not permissible for pilgrims to fast on the Day of Arafa.

“Abu Hurayrah related that Allah’s Messenger prohibited fasting on the Day of Arafah at Arafah.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)

It was narrated that Qatadah bin Nu’man said,

“I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, ‘Whoever fasts on the Day of Arafah will have his sins and the sins of the previous and following year forgiven.’” (Sunan Ibn Majah)


Muzdalifa is a valley between Arafah and Mina. It is a flat open area between mina and Arafat, in the province of Makkah. At one end it has the Valley of Muhassar, and at the other end, lays the Mountains of Ma’zamayn:

The Hujjaj leave ‘Arafah after sunset for Mujdalifa, pray Maghrib and Isha, together, but with separate Adhan and Iqamas (Isha being shortened to two Rakas). They spend the night of 10th of Dhul-Hijja or greater part of it in Mujdalifa. Time in Mujdalifa is spent in rest and sleep. When Fajr is due, he prays Fajr, and proceed towards the Sacred Monument, Mash’aril Haram, and repeat “La Ilaha Illa-Allah, Allahu Akbar, and supplicate as he wishes:

“It is no crime in you, if you seek the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when you pour down from mount Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the sacred Monument and celebrate His praises, as He has directed you, even though, before this, you went astray.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:198)

The pilgrim leaves Mujdalifa at the dawn, and goes to Mina. Before going to Mina, the pilgrim collects the pebbles for throwing during Ramy, in Mina.

Mina and Jamarat:

This is the 10th day of Dhul-Hajj. The pilgrims return to Mina from Mujdalifa. The valley of Mina (Muna) is about three miles from Makkah. It is the valley where IbrahimAS took Isma’il for sacrifice.

It is also the valley where the pillars are erected for throwing stones. There are three pillars: Kubra (Jamarat-al-Aqaba), Wusta, and Sugra, respectively representing the “Was-was” or whispering of Saitan to Ibrahim, Hagar, and Isma’il. The whispering was against sacrificing Isma’il for the sake of AllahSWT.

Immediately after coming to Mina, pilgrim proceeds to throw stone at the Jamarat-al-Aqaba (the biggest pillar), then make the sacrifice, (or designate someone to do it on their behalf), then cut hair/shave head, and take off the Ihram. Tawaful Ifada is wajib, and it must be done between the morning of the 10th and before the sunset of the 12th of Dhul-Hujja. That completes the rites of Hajj.

Days of Tashriq

The 11th, 12th, and 13th of the month are called the days of Tashriq. These days are spent in Mina to complete Ramy (throwing of stone), for relaxation, and for celebration through prayer, sharing food, and exchange of knowledge through khawatir and lectures. Usually, the Hujjaj live in tents in Mina:

The Hujjaj can leave anyone of these days, but staying in Mina is encouraged. Before leaving, the Hajji must make the final Tawaf. In between, during the days of Tashriq, the Hujjaj are encouraged to make additional Tawaf:

“And remember Allah during the appointed Days. But whosoever hasten to leave in two days, there is no sin on him, and whosoever stays on, there is no sin on him, if his aim is to do good and obey Allah, and no that you will surely be gathered unto Him.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:203)

The Farewell Tawaf (Tawaf- al-Wada) is an obligatory part of Hajj, except for local residents and menstruating women. After the Farewell Tawaf, the pilgrim should be getting ready to leave the Holy city.

Hajj Mabrur

An accepted Hajj is called Hajj Mabrur. For Hajj Mabrur, there are strict guidelines in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Holy ProphetSAAW:

  • Staying away from relationship, bad language, and quarrel. Take the best of provisions, and the provision of provision is Taqwa”. (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:197)

The Holy ProphetSAAW said: “Whoever perform Hajj and does not have sexual relations (with his wife), nor commits sin, nor dispute unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Ryad-us-Saliheen, Hadith number 1274, narrated Abu Hurairah]

  • Be a “Mukhbith” (humble): believe in Monotheism, total submission to Allah’s Command, love for Allah so that when the word “Allah” is mentioned, the heart fills up with love and fear, show patient perseverance over any afflictions, keep up regular prayer, and spend in charity:

“…And your Ilah (God) is One Ilah (Allah), so you must submit to Him Alone (in Islam). And (O MuhammadSAAW, give glad tidings to the Mukhbitun (humble), whose hearts are filled with fear when Allah is mentioned, and As-Sabirun (one who patiently bear whatever may befall), who perform As-Salat, and who spend (in Allah’s cause) out of what We have provided them. (Surah Al-Hajj, 22:34-35)

  • Honor the Sacred Rites of AllahSWT: “And let them complete their prescribed duties (Ihram, Tawaf, Sa’ye, stay at Arafat, Muzdalifa, and Mina, Ramy of Jamarat, Slaughtering of Hady, etc., and whoever honor the sacred things of Allah, then that is better for him with his Lord. The cattle are lawful to you, except those mentioned to you…” (Surah Al-Hajj, 22:29-30)
  • Honor the designated Symbols, the Sha’air: the stations of Hajj, and the animals of sacrifice: “And the Budn (cow, oxen or camal), We have made them for you, as among the Symbols of Allah, wherein you have much good…” (Surah Al-Hajj, 22:36)
  • Be a “Muhsin” who does Ihsan (excellent deeds): “It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches Him. Thus, We have made them subject to you that you may magnify Allah for His Guidance to you. And give glad tidings to the Muhsinun.” (Surah Al-Hajj, 22:37)

The Holy ProphetSAAW said:

“Al-‘Umratu ilal-‘Umrati kaffaratul-lima binahuma, wal-Hajjul Mabrur laisa lahu jazaau illal-Jannah”: “One ‘Umrah to the next ‘Umrah, is an expiation of sins (minor) (committed) in between, and the reward for the Hajjul Mabrur is nothing but Jannah (Paradise).” [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1773, Book 26, Hadith 1, Narrated Abu HurairahRA]

Of all the best deeds, Hajj Mabrur comes after Tauhid and jihad* [Al Bukhari and Muslim, Ryad-us-Saliheen, Hadith number 1273, Narrated Abu Hurairah]

*The best Jihad for women is Hajj Mabrur [Al Bukhari, Riyad-us-Saliheen, Hadith number 1276, narrated AishahRA]

“Hajjun Mabrur, Sa’yan mashkur, Wa Zamba maghfur.”

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Mohammed Siraj Uddin

Mohammed S. Uddin graduated from medical school in 1968 and completed his training in internal medicine and gastroenterology in New York. He taught in medical school and practiced gastroenterology for nearly four decades. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He is a fellow of the Americal College of Gastroenterology and the American College of Physicians.Full BIO

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