Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage, is one of the greatest religious obligations and one of the five pillars on which Islam is built. Allah Almighty obligated it in order to erect the religion, firm its foundations and glorify its symbols. He ordered His friend, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to call on people in times immemorial to come to their Lord, respond to His call, receiving His mercy, obediently, in humility, spending their wealth, abandoning the worldly desires, bear for His sake weariness and exhaustion, in order to pay their dues to Him and to gain benefits. They left their worldliness behind and got rid of it for His sake. The season of Hajj is characterized by its high spirituality due to:
1) The prohibitions during the state of Ihram is based on lightening the materialistic and carnal aspect in humans in order to avoid many of its pleasures and whatever is actually hostile in them.
2) The benefits of many rituals of Hajj are unknown had it not been due to belief in the unseen itself and to submission to the command of Allah Almighty.
Both of these matters stimulate the spiritual aspect and absolute connection with Allah Almighty. What cause is there that is stronger than this one between a servant and his Lord?
It is apparent from numerous narrations from the Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and Imams from among his Progeny (peace be upon them all) that pilgrims, wherever they, are guests of Allah Almighty, who came to Him; so, they are destined to be rewarded by His great hospitality, enjoying His great rewards and generous giving, and all this is guaranteed for them.
Thus, in a tradition narrated by Mu'awiyah ibn Ammar, Imam Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says, "When people settle in [the valley of] Mina
, a caller calls out to them: 'If you only know in Whose precincts you have settled, you would then be certain of what you will receive in compensation [of your expenses and troubles] after you have been forgiven.'"[i]
In another tradition narrated from the Imam (peace be upon him), a man asked him in Al-Masjid Al-Haram
(the Great Mosque of Makah): "Who among people will carry the heaviest burden [of sins on Judgment Day]?” The Imam (peace be upon him) said, "He who stands at these two stations, Arafah
, and he runs between both these mountains (Safa
), then makes the rounds circling this House, then he prays behind the standing place of Ibrahim (peace be upon him), then he tells himself and assumes that Allah did not forgive him. Such person is amongst those who will carry the heaviest burden."[ii]
In another tradition from him (peace be upon him), he says, "Those who perform the Hajj
[the lesser pilgrimage] are guests of Allah: If they ask Him, He will give; if they plead to Him, He will respond; if they intercede on behalf of others, He accepts their intercession. If they remain silent, He will initiate with them, and he will compensate them for each dirham a thousand."[iii]
In a tradition related from Imam Abu Ja'far al-Baqir (peace be upon him), the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) said, "Pilgrims are of three types: One who will receive the largest share [of Allah's generosity] is one whose sins of the past as well as of the future are all forgiven, and Allah protects him from the punishment of the grave. After him in status is one whose past sins are forgiven, and he continues his deeds for the rest of his lifespan. After him is one whose family and wealth are protected.[iv]
And there are many other such texts.
Some traditions narrated by Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) indicate that one of the noble goals of Hajj and its desired benefits is that one acquaints himself with the legacies of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) and his traditions, so he may remember and not forget them. Similarly, in some of their traditions there is emphasis on emulating the Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), by observing some of the places where he had been and what he had done.
Therefore, the pilgrims have to exert an effort to do that as much as they can. They should visit the sites where the Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) had been or by which he passed, and remember his stations and the events associated with him, assimilate these traditions into their souls, and become passionate about them and about him (peace be upon him and his progeny) with their hearts, to affirm their love for him, confirm their relationship with him and strengthen their link to him, for he is the one who is affectionate towards the believers, merciful to them, the one who will intercede for them, whose intercession is accepted. May Allah Almighty reward him with the very best of rewards with which he rewards a prophet on behalf of his nation, and may He convey our salutation to him and our greetings.
Also, in order to perfect the pilgrimage, one should visit him (peace be upon him and his progeny), and win the honor of being in his courtyard, to greet him, in order to recognize the greatness of what we all owe him and renew the pledge his nation had pledged to him.
In a tradition narrated by al-Aslami, Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) says that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "One who goes to Makah for Hajj
but does not visit me in Medina, has shunned me; and one who has shunned me, I will shun him on the Day of Judgment. And whoever visits me, my intercession for him has become a certainty, and whoever’s intercession has become a certainty, his place in heaven becomes a certainty."[v]
All of this also applies to his Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them all) because they are of him and he is of them: they were created of his light and spoke on his behalf. One who loves them loves him, and one who honors them honors him. The pilgrim, therefore, should not miss the opportunity to become acquainted with their legacies visit their shrines, remember their traditions and fulfill the duty to the Prophet in respect to them (peace be upon them). Isma'eel ibn Mahran narrated Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) as saying, "If one of you performs the Hajj
, let him conclude it by visiting us because such is among the perfections of the Hajj
Some revered traditions indicate that among the benefits of performing the Hajj is to come to learn the religious rulings and to disseminate of the religious teachings throughout the world. This, indeed, is something worthy of attention these days especially when it comes to you, expatriates, after you have become dispersed in the valleys of the earth, in small groups, distant from the centers of religious education and surrounded by ideologies some of which do not believe in God.
It is for this reason that you surely need to fortify yourselves from the effects of the above and from its perils by educating yourselves with genuine ideologies derived from the teachings of Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them) which have been defended and safeguarded all this time by our eminent scholars whom our Imams (peace be upon them) made them the authorities for the believers to refer to during the long period of tribulation. You can, during this sacred season of Hajj, meet the sincere men of the Hawza (the religious seminary) as well as those who carry the genuine religious education who, too, visit the holy places. You can learn the accurate information and religious culture which they have, and you can discuss it with them.
As such, you will be able to bear the pristine religious education and take it back with you to your countries throughout the world, then disseminate it among those who reside there and fortify them through it. Thus, this blessed assembly becomes a season for studying and circulating the true ideologies and a cause for goodness and mercy to descend upon the believers.
Beware of not performing the Hajj and taking it lightly, after all the conditions are met that make it obligatory on you, because doing so is one of the major sins and a mortal sin which Allah Almighty considers as being the equivalent of heresy, saying, "… the Pilgrimage to this house is a duty mankind owes to God, those who can afford the journey, but if anyone denies faith [by neglecting Hajj], Allah is not in need of any of His creation” (Qur'an, 3:97).
One sacred tradition says, "If one is able to perform the Hajj
but does not, he has abandoned one of the legislations of Islam."[vii]
In a will by the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him), he said, "Do not abandon the pilgrimage to the House of your Lord lest you should perish."[viii]
Imam al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said, "If people abandon the pilgrimage to his House, punishment will then descend on them, and they will not be given a respite."[ix]
We have already discussed in the nineteenth chapter some points which are relevant to this.
There is one matter which one who desires to perform the Hajj should take care of and pay due heed to and focus his attention towards: learning the rules of Hajj and understanding them. This is so for two main reasons: firstly, because to do so is mandatory with regard to all obligations, in order to fulfill all that is required and be duly discharged of all obligations; and secondly, if any mistakes are made (due to improper preparation), it may cause complicated problems that are not easy to resolve and come out of.
Such education is achieved through two steps:
(1) by referring to books that deal with the rituals and rules of the Hajj and Umrah, each according to the Marja` whom he emulates, and study the rulings relevant to the Hajj before going there so he becomes familiar with them and is enlightened about them in advance. This is so because Hajj includes some hardships and distractions in addition to the shortage of time which most often prevents a pilgrim from becoming acquainted with and absorbing the pilgrimage rulings on his way going there.
(2) By staying in touch with the guides who have complete experience with the Hajj and are too pious and God-fearing to take it lightly or to be hasty in teaching it, those who are affiliated with pilgrimage caravans or who go individually. No matter how familiar one may be with the rulings relevant to Hajj, he must not feel that he does not need such a guide while acting upon these rulings and implementing them. Also, he may not be able to afford not to refer to the religious missions that take upon their shoulders the responsibility to guide the pilgrims and resolve their problems.
Since the pilgrim is dependent on the books teaching the rituals and rules of Hajj, as we have already indicated, which have taken the responsibility of teaching the important Sharia laws and rules of Hajj, we here do not have to detail its rulings, save a few issues with which the expatriates are afflicted, and which are not usually discussed in the said books or their likes; surely Allah is the One who corrects the paths of the believers.
We plead to Allah through His bounty and generosity to grant us and your own selves the ability to obey Him, to bless us all with performing of the pilgrimage to His Sacred House, while accepting our deeds, responding to our supplications and reforming our conditions; He is the most Merciful of those who have mercy, the Master of the faithful; He suffices us and how great He is in helping those who resort to Him!
Q1: What are the criteria of ability which makes the performance of Hajj obligatory?
A: In order to satisfy the criteria of “ability”, one has to meet the following:
1. The financial ability to perform the Hajj, either by being able to pay the needed expenses for Hajj, or due to the presence of someone who will bear the said expenses on his behalf.
2. The physical ability to perform the Hajj.
3. The way is open before the individual and travel is possible for him.
One who meets these conditions is obligated to perform the Hajj in the first year when they all become available. If he neglects to do so and does not perform it, he will remain liable to it even if he in later years became unable to meet some of these requirements. For more details, one should refer to books that deal with Hajj rites.
Q2: If I fulfilled the criteria of “ability” to perform the Hajj, but time does not permit me to do so because I have examinations to take, am I permitted to delay performing the Hajj so I may take the examinations?
A: It is not permissible to delay the Hajj for this reason, except when there is an extreme necessity to take the examinations so that your failure to attend the exams will cause a problem which you cannot bear, such as its being a cause for your banishment from that country to another where life is very difficult, or such sorts of serious problems.
Similar to these examinations are other commitments such as that of making a living by a particular job which will be lost because of going for Hajj.
Q3: A young unmarried man has recently become able to perform Hajj, and he is now considering getting married. If he travels to perform the Hajj, his marriage will be delayed for some time; so, which one he should take priority over the other?
A: Hajj has precedence, unless there is urgency in getting married so as delaying it would create a problem too difficult to bear.
Q4: The salary of a government employee in the West is transferred to a bank, and he then withdraws what he needs for his livelihood, keeping the rest in his account. As time passes by, his account balance rises to a sum which suffices to perform Hajj. Will he then become “able”, and will Hajj then become obligatory on him?
A: No, he will not be fulfilling the criteria of being “able”, and Hajj is not mandatory on him as long as he does not actually withdraw what suffices him to perform Hajj, as he does not own the sum of money in the bank account until he physically holds it.
However, it is best for him to hasten in withdrawing the funds sufficient to enable him to perform Hajj, so that Hajj will then become obligatory upon him, whereupon he will then perform it.
Q5: What if, in the supposition of the previous question, he receives his salary, and after spending from it as per his needs, he deposits what remains at the bank until his account balance is enough to cover the expenses of performing Hajj?
A: In such a situation, it is an obligatory precaution for him to perform Hajj: that is, he should withdraw the sum that suffices him to perform it, so that he is completely sure that he fulfills the condition of “ability” and that Hajj is obligatory upon him, and then he performs it.
But if a sum of money accumulates in his hands, such that it suffices him for performing Hajj, which he then deposits at the bank, there is no doubt that Hajj becomes obligatory upon him.
Q6: Continuing on from the previous scenario, if one is an employee of a private company which transfers his salary to the bank, not paying him directly, does performing Hajj become mandatory on him if his account balance reaches a sum that suffices him to perform it?
A: As an obligatory precaution, he should perform Hajj under such circumstances, and he should withdraw funds that suffice him as explained in the answer to the previous question.
But if he can receive the salary from them directly, and if the salary of a month is sufficient for Hajj, yet he agreed to its transfer to the bank, there is no doubt that Hajj becomes obligatory on him.
Q7: Regarding offering congregational prayers at both Sacred Mosques (at Makkah and Madinah), some people go to the upper floors, and pray with the intention that they follow the imam of the congregation prayers from there although they do not see any of the rows of congregation, nor do they see the imam himself; so, is it permissible to follow an imam from there?
A: There is a problem regarding the validity of prayers performed at such a height, and what is certain in the validity of prayers applies to non-excessive heights which do not conventionally undermine the communion of the place.
Q8: Is it permissible for a pilgrim to undertake Ihram in Jeddah city? If it is not, what can he do since airplanes land there?
A: It is not permissible, and he has to undertake Ihram at one of the Meeqats (the stations designated for Ihram) such as Juhfah.
However, he can make a vow to undertake Ihram in his city or any other place he passes by prior to boarding the plane, so his Ihram will be convened and he boards the plane in such a state. But he, in this case, has to sacrifice a sheep as Kaffara because of being shaded in the plane (which is one of the prohibitions of those in the state of Ihram).
Q9: If the Muslims belonging to other sects confirm the sighting of the new crescent, while it is not established according to us as per the Sharia – whether it is known that they erred or not – during these times when the ruler imposes his will in this regard, should one then observe the Hajj rites according to the established moon sighting as per our criteria, if one has a chance to do so?
A: It is not mandatory to do so, as it is sufficient to be there with them.
One who is enabled and graced by Allah Almighty to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages can refer to the books on the relevant pilgrimage rituals where the rules and disciplines are also explained.
[i]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 8, p. 65.
[ii]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 66.
[iii]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 68.
[iv]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 70.
[v]Ilal Al-Sharai', Vol. 2, p. 460; Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 10, p. 261.
[vi]Wasaail Al-Shi'a, Vol. 10, p. 254.
[vii]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 18.
[ix]Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 15.