Brothers in Islam! Hajj, or the Pilgrimage, was instituted by the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) to serve as the focal meeting place for all believers in the One God. Thus he made Makkah the center of the world-wide Islamic movement and installed his elder son, the Prophet Isma`il, there to continue his mission.
Idol Worship among Ibrahim’s Descendants
Only God knows exactly how long Isma`il’s children stayed on the right path. But within a few centuries of the death of Ibrahim and Isma`il people had abandoned their teachings and had gradually gone astray like all other people around them. Hundreds of idols were installed in the sacred Ka`bah, which had been built as a center for the worship of the One God.
Ironically enough, idols were made of Ibrahim and Isma`il too, whose whole lives had been spent eradicating idol-worship. The descendants of Ibrahim, who had repudiated all idols, began to worship idols like Lat, Manat, Hubal, Nasr, Yaghuth, `Uzza, Asaf, Na`i/ah and many more. They also worshipped the sun, moon, Venus, and Saturn. They also worshipped jinns, ghosts, angels and the spirits of their dead ancestors.
Superstition rose to such a level that if they did not have the family idol with them while away from home, they worshipped any stone they came across on their way. Or, if no stone was available, even a round ball made of clay with a sprinkle of goat’s milk over it served as their god.
Reverting to the same kind of priesthood which Ibrahim had fought so fiercely against in Iraq, they turned the Ka`bah into a sort of temple and installed themselves as priests there. Adopting all the tricks of priests, they began accepting gifts and offerings from pilgrims flocking from the four corners of Arabia.
In this way all the work done by Ibrahim and Isma`il was destroyed and the purpose for which they had introduced the system of Hajjwas superseded by different types of objectives.
How Corrupted Hajj Became
A Yearly Carnival
The degree to which Hajj was corrupted in that period of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) can be gauged from the fact that it degenerated into an annual carnival. For many tribes from near and far, Hajj became an important social event. Poets and clowns used it to brag and boast about the bravery, renown, dignity, strength and generosity of their tribes. They even resorted to hurling insults at one another.
The chiefs of the tribes vied with each other in flaunting their generosity. They slaughtered camel after camel with the sole purpose of extolling their name, generosity and hospitality. Singing, revelry, drinking, and adultery were part and parcel of the festivities. The thought of God scarcely occurred to anybody.
Tawaf (Circumambulation of the Ka`bah) did continue, it is true; but in what form? Men and women walked together around God’s House stark naked, saying, “We go before God just as our mothers gave birth to us”.
Worship also continued to be performed in the mosque of Ibrahim, but again, in what form? By clapping hands, by whistling and by blowing horns. The name of God was proclaimed, but with what words? They said: “Here am I, my Lord, I am present. No one is Your partner except the one who is Yours. You are its master, of whatever it possesses”.
They did make sacrifices in the name of God. But the blood of the sacrificial animals was spilt on the walls of the Ka`bah and their flesh thrown at its door in the belief that Allah needs that flesh and blood.
Sacrilege of Sacred Months
Ibrahim had declared four months of Hajj as sacred and had directed that no warfare should be waged in these months.
These people partially observed this sanctity; but if they wanted to fight during the sacred months, they simply declared Ibrahim’s ruling null and void for a particular period and added extra ‘holy months’ the following year.
Even those who were sincere towards religion were led into strange, excessive ways by their ignorance. Some people used to set out for Hajj without any provisions for the journey and lived by begging food. They considered this an act of piety, claiming that they had full trust in God and, while proceeding towards the House of God, had no need of worldly goods.
Doing business or working during the Hajj journey were generally considered unlawful. Many people gave up food and water during Hajj, and regarded this abstention as worship.
Others stopped speaking while on Hajj, which they called al-hajj al-mumit (the dumb Pilgrimage).
There were countless other customs of this type which I do not want to waste your time describing.
Restoration of Hajj
Fulfillment of Ibrahim’s Prayer
This situation lasted for about two thousand years. No prophet was born in Arabia during this long period nor did any prophet’s genuine teachings reach the people of Arabia.
Finally, however, the time arrived for granting Ibrahim’s prayer which he had made while raising the walls of the Ka`bah:
Our Lord! Do You send to them a Messenger, from among them, who shall convey unto them Your revelations, and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify and develop them. (Al-Baqarah 2:129)
The perfect man who descended from Ibrahim was Muhammad ibn `Abdullah (blessings and peace be on him).
Just as Ibrahim was born into a family of priests, so was Muhammad into a family which had been for centuries priests of the Ka`bah. Just as Ibrahim struck a blow with his own hands against the priesthood of his family, so did Muhammad finally eradicating it for good.
Again, just as Ibrahim strove to end the worship of false gods and bring people under submission to the One God, so did the Prophet Muhammad revive the same pure deen (religion) which had been introduced by Ibrahim.
After 21 years, when he had completed this work, once again, at God’s command, he declared the Ka`bah the center of all those in the world who surrendered to God alone and issued the same summons to the people to come to it for Hajj as had Ibrahim.
A duty owed to God by all men is the Pilgrimage to the House, if one is able to make his way there. And as for the disbeliever, God is All-sufficient, needing nothing from all the worlds.(Aal `Imran 3:97)
The article is an excerpt from Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi’s book “Let Us Be Muslims”.