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History of Hajj

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Title: History of Hajj  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Hajj, Mecca, Muzdalifah, Tawaf, Miqat
Collection: Hajj, Islamic Pilgrimages, Mecca
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

History of Hajj

History of Hajj encompasses a period starting from the time of Abraham through the establishment of Islamic Hajj by Islamic prophet Muhammad to the present day of hajj where millions of Muslims perform their pilgrimage annually.


  • Origin 1
  • Pre-Islamic Arabia 2
  • Muhammad and Hajj 3
  • Hajj in Medieval and Ottoman eras 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


In Islamic tradition, pilgrimage was introduced during the time of prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). According to tradition, by God’s command, Abraham left his wife Hagar (Hajar) and his son Ishmael (Ismail) alone in the desert of ancient Mecca with little food and water that soon ended. Mecca was then an uninhabited place.[1] In search of water, Hagar desperately ran seven times between the two hills of Safa and Marwah but found none. Back in despair to Ishmael, she saw the baby scratching the ground with his leg and a water fountain underneath.[2][3] Because of the presence of water, tribes started to settle in Mecca, Jurhum being the first such tribe to arrive. When grown up, Ishmael married in the tribe and started living with them.[3] The Quran states that Ibrahim, along with his son Ishmael, raised the foundations of a house that is identified by most commentators as the Kaaba. After the placing of the Black Stone in the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, Ibrahim received a revelation in which Allah told the aged prophet that he should now go and proclaim the pilgrimage to mankind.[2] The Quran refers to these incidents in 2:124-127 and 22:27-30. Shibli Nomani mentions that the house raised by Abraham was 27 feet high, 96 feet long, and 66 feet wide.[4]

Pre-Islamic Arabia

Pre-Islamic Arabs were idol worshippers. Kaaba was still the center of their worshipping,[5] and was filled with idols and images of angels.[6] During the annual pilgrimage season, people from home and abroad would visit Kaaba. The Quraysh tribe was in charge of entertaining and serving the pilgrims. Shibli Nomani mentions that the pagan Arabs introduced some unholy rites during their pilgrimage. Unlike today's Hajj, they did not walk between the hills of Safa and Marwah and did not gather at Arafat. Some would maintain silence during the whole course of pilgrimage. Except the people from Quraysh tribe, others would perform tawaf in naked state. During the initial years of Muhammad's prophethood, the pilgrimage season offered Muhammad the occasion to preach Islam to the foreign people who came to Mecca for pilgrimage.

Muhammad and Hajj

The present pattern of Hajj was established by Islamic prophet Muhammad who made necessary reforms to the pre-Islamic pilgrimage of the pagan Arabs.[7] Mecca was conquered by the Muslims in 630 CE. Muhammad then cleansed the Kaaba by destroying all the pagan idols, and re-consecrated the building to Allah.[6] Next year, at the direction of Muhammad, Abu Bakr led 300 Muslims to the pilgrimage in Mecca where Ali delivered a sermon stipulating the new rites of Hajj and abrogating the pagan rites. He especially declared that no unbeliever, pagan, and naked man would be allowed to circumambulate the Kaaba from the next year.[8] In 632 CE, shortly before his death, Muhammad performed his only and last pilgrimage with a large number of followers, and taught them the rites of Hajj and the manners of performing them.[9] In the plain of Arafat, he delivered a famous speech – known as The Farewell Sermon – to those who were present there.[10] From then, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam.

Hajj in Medieval and Ottoman eras

During the medieval times, pilgrims would gather in capital cities of

  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b Peters, F. E. (1994). The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places.  
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ Shibli Nomani. Sirat-un-Nabi. Vol 1, Lahore
  5. ^ Haykal (2008). The Life of Muhammad. p. 35. 
  6. ^ a b Haykal (2008). The Life of Muhammad. pp. 439–40. 
  7. ^ "Hajj". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  8. ^ Haykal (2008). The Life of Muhammad. p. 501. 
  9. ^ Juan E. Campo, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam.  
  10. ^ Malcolm Clark (2011). Islam For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 99.  
  11. ^ Peters, F. E. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. p. 164. 
  12. ^ Juan E. Campo, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam.  
  13. ^ Robinson, Francis, ed. (1996). The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press. p. 139.  
  14. ^ Tarikh al-Khulafa (History of the Caliphs) by Jalaluddin al-Suyuti
  15. ^ Peters, F. E. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. p. 71. 
  16. ^ John Block Friedman, ed. (2013). Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 270.  
  17. ^ John Block Friedman, p.269
  18. ^ Peters, F. E. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. p. 74. 
  19. ^ Peters, F. E. The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. p. 87. 
  20. ^ Singer, Amy (2002), Constructing Ottoman Beneficence: An Imperial Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem, SUNY Press, p. 141,  


See also

In medieval Iraq, the principle gathering points for the pilgrims were Kufa and Basra where the former was connected to the Hejaz region by The way of Zubayda. The caravans crossed the Nejd region to reach Medina, and then proceeded to Mecca for pilgrimage.[18] In medieval Syria, the departure point for the pilgrims was Damascus, while in Egypt, it was Cairo. The total journey would take approximately three months on average.[19] Commanders for the caravans leaving from Cairo and Damascus were designated by the Muslim sovereign and were known as Umara' al-Hajj (singular: Amir al-Hajj). They were in charge of protecting the pilgrims of the caravan, and securing funds and supplies for the journey.[20]

A good deal of information on medieval hajj comes from the firsthand observations of three Muslim travelers - Nasir al-Khusraw, Ibn Jubayr, and Ibn Battuta - who themselves performed pilgrimage and recorded detailed accounts of Hajj-travels of medieval time. Khusraw performed hajj in 1050 CE. Starting his first journey from Granada in 1183 CE, Ibn, Jubayr, a native of Spain, performed his pilgrimage in 1184 and then went to Baghdad.[16] Ibn Battuta, a native of Morocco, left his home in 1325 and performed his pilgrimage in 1326 CE.[17]

[15] Both Harun and Zubayda performed Hajj several times and spent huge money in the cities of Hejaz.[14][13] To facilitate pilgrimage journey, a road measuring 900 miles was constructed, stretching from Iraq to Mecca and Medina. The road’s construction was probably undertaken during the third Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi, father of fifth Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, around 780 CE, and was later named The way of Zubayda, after the name of Harun’s wife as she is noted for conducting improvements along the route and furnishing it with water cisterns and eating houses for pilgrims at regular intervals.[12]

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