Right n. 12: The Right of the Pilgrimage

حق الحج

وَأَمَّا حَقُّ الحَجّ أَنْ تَعْلَمَ أَنّه وِفادةٌ إلى رَبّكَ، و فِرارٌ إليه من ذُنوبكَ وفيهِ قبولُ تَوبتِكَ وقَضاءُ الفَرضِ الَّذي أوجَبَه الله عَليك

And the right of pilgrimage1 is that you should know that it is an arrival at the threshold of your Lord and a flight to Him from your sins; and through it your repentance is accepted and you perform an obligation made incumbent upon you by God.

The Arabic word ‘Hajj’ used for pilgrimage really means goal or intention. It is used in its other forms to mean road since a road helps us reach where we intend to go. The reason these ceremonies are altogether called pilgrimage or ‘Hajj’ is that once you start, you intend to visit the House of God.

Ka’ba: the First House

The Holy Qur’an says:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

فِيهِ آيَاتٌ بَيِّـنَاتٌ مَّقَامُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمَن دَخَلَهُ كَانَ آمِنًا وَلِلّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ الله غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ

“The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka2: 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 men owe to God, - those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures.” [The Holy Qur’an, Al-i-Imran 3:96-97]

This house is the first stronghold of the Unity of God. It is the oldest house of worship on the Earth. There were no centers to worship God before it. We can conclude from the various existing documents on history and Islam that this house was built by Adam . Later it was damaged by a tornado at the time of Noah . The Prophet Abraham reconstructed it as we read in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:

رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ

"O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House…” [The Holy Qur’an, Ibrahim 14:37]

This verse implies that there were some remains of the Ka’ba when Abraham and his offspring and wife3 arrived at Mecca. Also, consider the following verse:

وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

“And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.”[The Holy Qur’an, al-Baqarah 2:127]

This verse shows that the foundations of the Ka’ba existed, and all that Abraham and Isma’il did was to build the House. We can conclude the same thing from the writings of the Commander of the Faithful :

أَلا تَرَوْنَ أَنّ اللهَ سُبحانهُ اخْتبَرَ الأوّليِنَ مِن لَدُنْ آدَمَ صَلواتُ اللهِ عَليهِ إلى الآخِرينَ مِن هذا العالمِ بِأحْجارٍ لا تَضُرّ ولا تَنفَعُ ولا تُبصِرُ ولا تَسمَعُ فَجَعلها بَيتَهُ الحَرامَ … ثمّ أَمَر آدَمَ عليهِ السلامُ ووِلدَهُ أن يُثْنوا أَعطافَهُم نحْوَهُ.

“Do you not see that God the Praised One tested the earlier ones from Adam onwards till the later ones in this world, by expecting them to respect stones that neither harm nor benefit, and neither see nor hear – He made them into His Sacred House. God established it to be the place to honor Him…. Then God ordered Adam and his children to turn towards it.”4

Therefore, from the above verses and sermon we can conclude that the Ka’ba was built by Adam , destroyed by the tornadoes at the time of Noah and reconstructed by Abraham .

Ka’ba’s Privileges

It is clear that the Ka’ba was the first House of Worship as the above verse said. Now let us consider its privileges. At first, it is blessed both spiritually and economically. Its spiritual attractions especially during the pilgrimage season are clear for everyone. Let us first consider it from an economical view. Mecca is located on dry land and from a natural point of view, it is not at all a suitable place to live in. However, Mecca has always been one of the developed towns good for living in, ready for business, and traveling to.

Secondly, the Ka’ba is considered a source of guidance for all the people of the world even for those who worshipped idols. There are many clear signs of the Unity of God and worshipping Him in this House. Its surviving the many attacks by the enemies who intended to destroy it throughout history is in itself one such clear sign. Each one of the following is a great reminder of lasting memories: Zamzam,5 Safa and Marwa,6 Rokn, Hatim, Hajar ul-Aswad7 and Hijr Isma’il.

Each of the four sides of the House is called Rukn. Hatim is the name of the space between Hajar ul-Aswad and the door of the Ka’ba. Hijr Isma’il is an especial place that is constructed like an arch on the northwest side of the Ka’ba. Of these clear signs, the Station of Abraham8 is specifically stated in the above verse since it is the place where Abraham stood to construct the Ka’ba, perform the pilgrimage ceremonies or invite the people to perform these great ceremonies. Fourthly, it is a secure house.

After building the Ka’ba, Abraham said: “O God! Please establish this town as a secure one.” God accepted the prayer of Abraham and established Mecca as a secure town. Religious laws also consider Mecca so secure that no fighting or war is allowed there. Even animals are secure in Mecca, and no one should bother them. There is a heavy fine established for hunting in the Masjid Al-Haram (the Ka’ba).

Pilgrimage is a Divine Duty

Each Muslim who has attained the required conditions must go on the pilgrimage once. If he has not done so when he is alive, someone else should be hired to do so on his behalf when he dies. The jurisprudents have stated the following conditions for going on the pilgrimage:

1) Physical readiness.

2) Financial readiness.

3) Open road access to the Ka’ba.

Again, consider the following verse:

وَلِلّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلا

Pilgrimage to the Holy House is a duty men owe to God, - those who can afford the journey...” [The Holy Qur’an, Al-i-Imran 3:96-97]

In this verse, the pilgrimage to the House of God is considered a duty for those who can afford the journey. We can also conclude that this pilgrimage is not limited to Muslims. Rather it is incumbent upon all the people to go there. This is similar to the expression that

الكُفّارُ مُكَلّفونَ بِالفُروعِ كَما أنَّهُم مُكَلّفونَ بِالأصُولِ.

“The pagans are duty-bound to perform the branches (of religion) as they are bound to abide by the principles.”

Therefore, this verse includes all the people. However, the condition for it to be accepted is to accept Islam. Otherwise, the act will lose its true value.9

The Baseless Words of Ibn Abi’l-Awja

Ibn Abi’l-Awja` was a vulgar pagan whom scholars used to avoid. One day he was watching the pilgrims with some of his friends in the Al-Haram Mosque one day. Imam Sadiq was sitting in a corner of the mosque and his followers came to ask him questions. Ibn Abi’l-Awja`’s friends told him that it was a good time for him to argue with Imam Sadiq . He agreed with them, went to the place where Imam Sadiq was sitting and said: “O father of Abdullah! It is a fact that such meetings are secure ones. Whoever has some mucous in his chest can cough it up.10 Will you let me ask a question?” The Imam granted him permission to do so. He was so rude that he dared to say:

الى كمْ تدُوسونَ هذا البَيدرَ وتلوذُونَ بهذا الحَجرِ وتعبُدونَ هذا البيتَ المرفوعَ بالطّوبِ والمدَرِ وتُهروِلونَ حولَهُ هروَلَةَ البعيرِ إذا نفرَ؟ مَن فكّر في هذا وقدّرَ علِمَ أنهُ فِعْلُ غيرِ حكيمٍ ولا ذي نظرٍ. فقُل فأنتَ رأسُ هذا الأمرِ وسَنامُهُ وأبوكَ أُسُّهُ ونِظامُهُ.

“For how long will you trample on this threshing ground and seek refuge in this rock and worship this house made of bricks and clay, and trot around it like unruly camels? Whoever ponders over this and considers it will know that it is an act of one devoid of wisdom or insight. Therefore speak, for you are the leader of this affair and its best one, and your father was its foundation and its criterion.”

These words implied his inner wickedness and his purely material outlook. The Imam replied:

إِنّ مَن أضلّهُ اللهُ وأعمى قلبَهُ استَوخمَ الحقَّ ولم يستعذِبْهُ وصارَ الشَيطانُ وليَّهُ وربَّهُ ويورِدُهُ مناهِلَ الهَلَكَةِ ولا يُصدِرُهُ.

“He whom God leads astray and whose heart He blinds, finds the truth to be indigestible and disagreeable. Satan becomes his friend and his master and leads him towards the source of total loss from which there is no return.”

The Imam then said that God had established this House as a means by which He shall test men. God has assigned men to visit this House to measure their degree of sincerity of their worshipping Him and submission to Him. This House is the Station of the Prophets. It is the point towards which those who pray turn. The intention is not to worship the stones on the House. Rather the One being worshipped is God who is the Creator of man’s body and soul.11

A Demonstration of Man’s Spiritual Development

We must realize that all acts of worship including the pilgrimage are indeed demonstrations of the various levels of spiritual development of the Prophets and God’s friends. They display the road covered on the journey towards God. They express how they have moved through the various stages of servitude and reached the position of proximity to God. It is clear that worshipping is the movement of man’s soul towards God. The Noble Prophet said:

إِ نمَا فُرِضَتِ الصّلاةُ وأُمِر بِالحَجِّ والطّوافِ وأُشْعِرتِ المَناسِكُ لإقَامَةِ ذِكْرِ اللهِ، فإِذا لم يكُنْ في قَلبِكَ لِلمذكُورِ الّذي هو المَقصُودُ والمُبتَغى عَظَمَةٌ ولا هَيبَةٌ فَما قيمَةُ ذِكْرِك؟

“The prayer was made obligatory, performing the pilgrimage and the circumambulation of the Ka’ba were commanded, and the rituals (of Hajj) were made known, only to establish the remembrance of God. If there is no sense of greatness or awe in your heart for the One remembered Who is the objective and the desired one, then of what value is your remembrance?”12

Therefore, the pilgrimage ceremonies are a demonstration of a perfect man’s orderly spiritual development that carefully follows the various stages of development. He cuts himself off from all material interests and worldly affairs. He pulls himself out of involvement in the darkness of the self. He reaches the state of submersion in the illumination of the Lord’s Domain. A true pilgrimage is a spiritual motion. It is a development that occurs in the real self.

Pilgrimage stands for perfection. It implies the conversion of a potential power into its physical realization. It is similar to the conversion of one metal to another one in chemistry. It is not a game or entertainment as considered by some fools. How can one compare these childish perceptions with the moving developments of those who are struggling towards proximity to God?

Malik ibn Anas, who is the founder of the Malikiyah sect, narrated that once when he was accompanying Imam Sadiq on a pilgrimage trip, the Imam who was riding a horse could not say ‘labbayk.’13 Every time he tried, his voice got stuck in his throat and he fell down from his horse. Malik said: “O’ grandson of the Prophet of God! Say labbayk. You must say labbayk.” Then Imam Sadiq said:

يا بنَ أبي عامِر، كيفَ أجسِرُ أنْ أقولَ: لَبّيْكَ اللّهمَّ لَبّيكَ، وأخْشى أنْ يَقولَ عزّ وجلّ لا لَبّيكَ ولا سَعْدَيكَ.

“O son of Abi A’mer! How dare I say “labbayk Allahumma labbayk”14 when I fear that God the Almighty may reply: “No. I neither accept you nor shall I admit you.”

If one can set out for and reach the Ka’ba, touch the Hajar al-Aswad with his hands, let his heart reside on the slopes of the Arafah Hills, let him realize God’s symbol of the forbidden, sacrifice the lamb of selfish desires using certitude and contentment as a knife, then he is a real Hajji when he returns if he has been converted to a heavenly gem.

Pilgrimage and the Forgiveness of Sins

Imam Sajjad said that pilgrimage is “a flight to Him from your sins.” Once you return from the pilgrimage, your sins are forgiven and you are freed from the heavy burden of sins just as when you were first born. There are many traditions in this regard. We shall refer to a few of them here. It has been quoted on the authority of Imam Sadiq :

إنّ رسُولَ اللهِ صلّى اللهُ عليهِ وآلِهِ تَلَقّاهُ أَعرابيٌّ فقال: يا رسولَ اللهِ، إنّي خَرجْتُ أُريدُ الحَجَّ فعَاقَني وأَنا رَجُلٌ مَيِّلٌ (يعني كَثيرَ المَالِ) فَمُرْني أَصنَعْ في مَالي ما أَبلُغُ بهِ ما يبلُغُ به الحَاجُّ. (قال) فَالتَفَتَ رسُولُ اللهِ الى أبي قُبَيسٍ فقال:لو أَنّ أبا قُبَيسٍ لكَ زِنَتُهُ ذَهَبَةٌ حَمراءُ أَنفَقتَهُ في سبيلِ اللهِ ما بَلَغتَ ما بَلَغَ الحَاجُّ. إنَّ الحَاجَّ إذا أخَذَ في جِهازِهِ لم يَخطُ خُطْوَةً في شَيءٍ مِن جِهازِهِ إِلا كَتَبَ اللهُ عَزَّ وجَلَّ لهُ عَشْرَ حَسَناتٍ ومحَى عَنهُ عَشْرَ سَيّئاتٍ ورفعَ له عَشْرَ دَرَجَاتٍ، فَإذا رَكِبَ بَعِيرَه ُلم يَرْفَعْ خُفّاً وَلم يَضَعْهُ إلاّ كَتَبَ اللهُ لهُ مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ، فإذَا طَافَ بِالبَيْتِ خَرَجَ مِن ذُنُوبِه، فإذَا رَمَى الجِمارَ خَرَجَ مِن ذُنُوبِه… فَعَدَّدَ رَسُولُ اللهِ كَذا وَكَذا مَوقِفاً إذا وَقَفَها الحَاجُّ خَرَجَ مِن ذُنُوبِه ثُمّ قالَ: أَنّى لَكَ أنْ تَبْلُغَ ما يَبلُغُ الحاجُّ؟

A Bedouin visited the Noble Prophet of God and said: I left my house and set out for pilgrimage. However, for some reason I could not proceed, and lost the opportunity to go on pilgrimage. I am a rich man. Tell me what I can do so that God grants me what He grants a Hajji.” The Prophet looked at the Abu Qubays mountain and said: “If this mountain was made of red gold and it was all yours, you could not get the reward that God gives a Hajji if you donated it all for the sake of God.

When a pilgrim begins preparing his provisions for the journey, he is given the reward for ten good deeds and ten of his wicked deeds are forgiven for every step that he takes for its preparation. His rank near God is elevated ten degrees. When he rides in his mount, God will record the same kind of reward for him for every step that he raises up and lowers. Once he performs the circumambulations of the House of God, his sins are gone. When he throws stones at the symbols of idols, his sins depart.” The Prophet repeated the same sentence for each of the stations. Then he said: “How can you attain the reward that the Hajji attains?”

Then Imam Sadiq added:

وَلا تُكتَبُ عَليهِ الذّنوبُ أرْبَعَةَ أشْهُرٍ وتُكْتَبُ لهُ الحَسَناتُ إلاّ أنْ يأتِيَ بِكَبِيرَةٍ.

“No sins will be recorded for him for four months (after Hajj) while his good deeds will be recorded, unless he commits a major sin.”

Pilgrimage and Asking Others

When Imam Sajjad heard someone beg from the people, he said:

وَيحَكَ، أغَيرَ اللهِ تسأَلُ في هَذا المقامِ؟ إنّه ليُرجَى لمِا في بُطونِ الجِبالِ في هذا اليَومِ أن يَكونَ سَعِيداً.

“Shame on you! Are you begging from others in this place? Here God’s Mercy is so encompassing that it is even expected that whatever lies in the depths of the mountains shall benefit from it and become prosperous today.”15

Regarding this tradition, the late Fayz said: “Prosperity is relative. Everything has one form of prosperity. It may be meant that plants grow from the depths of the mountains which may then undergo many changes and finally result in the formation of a fetus that turns into a prosperous man.” In another recording of this tradition in Mustadrak al-Wasa’el instead of ‘depth of the mountains’, it is written ‘inside pregnant women.’ The Arabic words for these two phrases are very similar to each other with one dot being the difference. A man asked Imam Sadiq in the Al-Haram Mosque: “Whose sin is greater than everyone else’s?” He replied:

مَن يقِفْ بهَذَينِ المَوقِفَينِ؛ عَرَفَةَ والمُزدَلِفَةِ، وسَعى بَينَ هذَينِ الجَبَلَينِ ثمّ طَافَ بهذا البَيتِ وصَلّى خَلفَ مَقامِ إبْراهِيمَ ثُمّ قالَ في نَفْسِهِ أو ظَنَّ أنَّ الله لم يَغفِرْ لهُ فَهوَ مِن أعظَمِ الناسِ وِزراً.

“Whoever stops at these two stations of Arafeh and Mash’ar, does the ceremonies for between the two hills (of Safa and Marwa), circumambulates around this House and prays at the station of Abraham, then says to himself or thinks that God has not forgiven him - has committed the greatest sin.”16

Imam Sadiq said:

مَا مِن رَجُلٍ مِن أهْلِ كُورَةٍ وقفَ بِعَرَفَةَ مِن المُؤمِنينَ إلا غَفَرَ اللهُ لأَهلِ تِلكَ الكُورَةِ مِن المُؤمِنينَ. ومَا مِن رَجُلٍ وقفَ بَعَرَفَةَ مِن أهْلِ بيتٍ مِن المُؤمِنينَ إلا غَفَرَ اللهُ لأهلِ ذلكَ البَيتِ مِن المُؤمِنينَ.

“Whenever a faithful man from a village or a town stops in Arafeh, God will forgive all the faithful men from that village or town. Whenever a faithful man stops in Arafeh, God will forgive all the faithful members of his household.”17

It should be noted that faith that is the root of piety is stressed here.

Invitation to Hajj is Honoring Man

God honors man, places the crown of nobility on his head, awakens his long asleep conscience, encourages him to be grateful and invites him to go on pilgrimage and circumambulate His House.

وَلِلّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ الْبَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيلاً

“Pilgrimage to the Sacred House is a duty men owe to God, - those who can afford the journey.” [The Holy Qur’an, Al-i-Imran 3:97]

This means that God who has created man, provided for his sustenance and given him many blessings has the right to invite man to come to His House as a sign of being grateful to Him. This will preserve man’s nobility.

The Amazing Blessings of Hajj

Now let us consider the many blessings that God grants those who visit His House. Sa’d Al-Iskafi narrated that he heard Imam Baqir say:

إنَّ الحَاجَّ إذا أخَذَ في جِهازِهِ لم يَخطُ خُطْوَةً في شَيءٍ مِن جِهازِهِ إِلا كَتَبَ اللهُ عَزَّ وجَلَّ لهُ عَشْرَ حَسَناتٍ ومحَى عَنهُ عَشْرَ سَيّئاتٍ ورفعَ له عَشْرَ دَرَجَاتٍ حتّى يفْرُغَ مِن جِهازِهِ مَتى ما فَرَغ.

“When someone begins preparing his provisions for the Hajj, he does not take a step in its preparation but that God the Almighty records ten good deeds for him, forgives ten of his sins, and raises his rank ten degrees until he finishes his preparations, leaves the house and starts his trip. Then God will give him better rewards.”18

Imam Sadiq said:

الحُجَّاجُ يَصدُرونَ على ثَلاثةِ أصنافٍ؛ صِنفٌ يُعْتَقُ مِن النّارِ وَصِنْفٌ يَخْرُجُ من ذُنوبهِ كَهَيئَةِ يومِ وَلدَتهُ أُمُّهُ وصِنْفٌ يُحْفَظُ في أَهلِهِ ومَالِهِ، فَذلِكَ أَدْنى مَا يَرجِعُ به الحَاجُّ.

“The Hajjis are divided into three groups after they return from Hajj. A group of them is freed from the Fire. Another group includes those whose sins are forgiven and are just as they were when they were born. The third group includes those whose family and wealth will be safeguarded. This is the minimum benefit that one gains.”19

The difference is clear since the reward one gets depends on one’s intention and the degree of recognition of the secrets of worshipping.

  • 1. This right has not been mentioned in the version transmitted in Tuhaf al-‘Uqul.
  • 2. Bakka same as Mecca, perhaps an older name. The foundation of the Ka’ba goes back to the Prophet Abraham .
  • 3. Hagar
  • 4. Nahjul Balaghah, Subhi Salih, Sermon no.192.
  • 5. A sacred well in Mecca situated a few metres east of the Ka’ba. The Zamzam well is also called the Well of Ishmael. The well is 35 metres deep and is marked by an elegant dome. The water is considered health-giving, and pilgrims (hajis) collect it in bottles and bring it back home to their own countries. One of the last things a haji tries to do is to dip his or her future burial clothes in the Zamzam. Muslim tradition tells that the Zamzam was opened by the angel Gabriel to save Hagar and her son Ishmael from dying of thirst when they were in the desert. From the sources available, the Zamzam appears to have been revered long before the Prophet Muhammad , that is from pre-Islamic times.
  • 6. Part of the pilgrimage ceremony includes the devotional act of walking seven times back and forth between the knolls of Safa and Marwa. This act retraces the footsteps of Hagar (wife of Prophet Abraham) during her desperate search for water for her infant son Ishmael, after they were left in the desert by the Prophet Abraham in response to a divine vision.
  • 7. The sacred Black Stone built into the south-east corner of the Ka’ba at a height of approximately 4 feet.
  • 8. The step-stone used by the Prophet Abraham during the original construction of the Ka’ba.
  • 9. Tafsir-i-Namunah, v.3, pp.14-17.
  • 10. He meant that whoever has a question that bothers him can ask it.
  • 11. Bihar al-Anwar, v.10, pp.209-210.
  • 12. Hajj, Barname’ye Takamul, pp.80, 93.
  • 13. An Arabic phrase said in the pilgrimage meaning “Here I am at Your service”.
  • 14. Here I am at Your service, O Lord! Here I am!
  • 15. Hajj, Barnameye Takamul, p.228; quoted from al-Wafi, v.2, p.42.
  • 16. This means that having bad suspicions about God and being hopeless of God’s mercy is very dangerous. It is a great sin.
  • 17. Hajj Barnameye Takamul, p.228.
  • 18. Hajj Barname’ye Takamul, p.48, quoted from al-Kafi, v.4, p.254.
  • 19. Ibid, quoted from al-Wafi, v.2, p.4.