Hajj is undeniably the greatest journey a Muslim will take on his life. A journey of sacrifice, self-discovery, and above all a journey of servitude and obedience to God Almighty.
And in case you’re wondering where it all began, it all begins in the time of the Prophet Ibrahim.
In his older years, Ibrahim was commanded by Allah to take his wife Hajar and his new-born son Ismaeel to live in the barren desert plains of Makkah. A land which was, by all means, inhospitable, only to leave them with nothing more than some dates and a flask of water.
As Ibrahim begins to leave, his wife Hajar emotionally cries out “To where are you going? To whom will you leave us?” She frantically repeats this again and again until she asks آلله أمرك بهذا؟
“Has Allah commanded you to do this?” To which Ibrahim replies yes.
Being a noblewoman of God, she replies, إذًا لا يضيعنا, if that is the case then Allah will not let us down.
Shortly after their dates and water are used up, Hajar began to search for help. She leaves her baby behind and proceeds to ascend the mountain of Safa. She looks far and wide but to her disappointment sees no one in sight. She races back down to check on her child and then continues her search, this time ascending the Mountain of Marwah. She traverses back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwah. Until one narration states that Angel Gabriel descends and with the tip of his wing hits the ground and out sprouts the well of ZamZam.
With water being the source of life, this event served as the beginning of what was to become the city of Makkah. This miraculous event is encapsulated in the Saee, or running between Safa and Marwa that Muslims perform in the days of Hajj.
A few years later, Ibrahim returned to reunite with his beloved wife and son Ismaeel. Shortly after his arrival, Ibrahim witnessed a dream, whereby God revealed to him that he was to sacrifice his son. Of course, this is an extreme test and a trying one, yet both Ibrahim and his son Ismaeel comply willingly. Ibrahim takes his son up to a mountain and places his son blindfolded on a rock.
Yet, just as Ibrahim was about to make the sacrifice, God commands the knife not to cut and explains to Ibrahim that he has passed the test. A sheep is brought in exchange for the sacrifice and this would then go on to form the basis of the sacrificial animal slaughter Muslims perform at the end of Hajj.
A few years pass and once Ismaeel reaches his youth, Allah commands Ibrahim alongside his son to build the Kaabah. The house of God on Earth. Upon the completion of this monumental task, Allah commands Ibrahim to call the people to perform the pilgrimage of Hajj. Bear in mind that this is still in the middle of the desert, and the city of Makkah is still extremely small. Yet once again, in sheer obedience to God, Ibrahim fulfills and calls the people.
وَأَذِّن فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوكَ رِجَالًا وَعَلَىٰ كُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِينَ مِن كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيقٍ
“And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.”
Today, that very call has been answered, and the fruits of Ibrahim’s sincerity and obedience to God can be seen in full effect. Every year millions upon millions of people travel from all corners of the world to visit the House of God to walk in the footsteps of Ibrahim.
Yet the story doesn’t end there. For it is while Ibrahim is on his own pilgrimage that he is approached by Satan. Satan being the open sworn enemy to humanity tries to corrupt his pilgrimage. However, in defiance to Satan, Ibrahim pelts him with stones and overcomes him. This event has been embodied in the Rami or the pelting ponent of Hajj, whereby Muslims symbolically cast away Satan by pelting these same areas with stones.
These important key events in the life of Ibrahim went on to become the Manasik or rituals of Hajj. In one way or another, we can see that Hajj in fact is a celebration of the life of Ibrahim and an embodiment of his path.
Allah commands the believers in the Quran in more than one occasion to follow the path of Ibrahim, فَاتَّبِعُوا مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ.
And just like that come every year for Hajj, Muslims once again walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest men to ever live, Ibrahim.
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Ibrahim, his family, and the noble Messenger Muhammad ﷺ.