Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) is the fifth of the fundamental practices, or pillars of Islam. Once a year, Muslims of all ethnic, social, racial groups and cultures gather in Mecca, before the Kaaba to praise God-Almighty as a collective community.
The pilgrims wear simple white clothes called an ihram. Everyone is equal and everyone focuses their attention to praising God-Almighty and renewing their sense of purpose in this world. Hajj occurs in the month of Dhul-Hijjah, the 12th month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Hajj must be completed by every sane, and physically and financially able adult once in their lifetime.
Publicly proclaim the (duty of) Pilgrimage for all humankind, that they come to you on foot and on lean camels, coming from every far-away point, So that they may witness all the (spiritual, social, and economic) benefits in store for them, and offer during the known, appointed days the sacrificial cattle that He has provided for them by pronouncing God’s Name over them. Eat of their meat and feed the distressed, the poor. (22:27-28) (1)
Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to God by all who can afford a way to it. (3:97) (1)
The History of Hajj
Islam teaches that Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was ordered to leave his wife, Hagar and their child Ishmael (Is’mail) in in Mecca and leave. After a few days, their supplies ran low, and both Hagar and Ishmael began to suffer from dehydration and were growing increasingly hungry. Out of desperation, Hagar began to run between two hills, known as Safa and Marwa, trying to see if she could spot any help coming in the distance. Finally, she came back to Ishmael and began supplicating to God-Almighty.
At that moment, Ishmael struck his foot on the ground a spring of water appeared from the same spot he hit his foot. With the water that came from this spring, Hagar and Ishmael not only had their own water source, but also were able to trade with passing nomads and caravans for goods and food. Upon his return to Mecca, God-Almighty ordered Abraham to build the Kaaba, a place of dedication and worship to God-Almighty meant to be a gathering place for all those who travelled through wishing to strengthen their faith in God-Almighty.
As years passed, the polytheists in Mecca began to use the Kaaba for their own gods and they began storing their idols inside the Kaaba.
After many years, God-Almighty directed Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to restore the Kaaba to its original purpose and state; a place for believers to come and strengthen their faith in God-Almighty, alone.
In 628 CE, Prophet Muhammad set out with 1,400 of his followers to reclaim the Kaaba. This was known as the first pilgrimage in Islam, and re-established the traditions of Prophet Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael.