Hajj in Pre-Islamic Times
Dr. Bilal Philips

Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of Prophet Ibrahim. However, with the passage of time both the form and goal of Hajj rites were changed. The process of distortion reached its peak with the introduction of idols to the Ka'bah, as was previously mentioned. Many major tribes with their allies and slaves used to come to Mecca and encamp there separately. Poets praised the bravery, renown, dignity, strength and generosity of their fellow tribesmen. They also satirized the other tribes by inventing exaggerated tales of the latter cowardice, stinginess and weakness. Competitions in generosity were also staged. In order to assert his superiority, the chief of every tribe set up huge cauldrons, slaughtered numerous camels and cooked the flesh which was then freely distributed for the "pilgrims". The sole objective of this extreme generosity was for their name to be exalted in the whole of Arabia and for it to be publicized that this person slaughtered so many camels and gave food to so many people. Singing, drinking, adultery and various kinds of immorality were indulged in, and the thought of God scarcely occurred to anybody.

The religious rites of Tawaf (circling of the Ka'bah) was reduced to a circus. Women and men went round and round the Ka'bah performing Tawaf stark naked. They said: "We shall go before God in the same condition in which our mothers gave birth to us." Prayer in the Masjid of Ibrahim was accompanied by hand-clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. The name of God was pronounced in the prayer of intent known as Talbiyah (Labbayka Allahumma Labbayk: "Here I am present, My Lord, I am present.") However, even this expression of reverence was distorted the following additions: "No one is your partner except one who is permitted by you. You are his master and the master of what he possesses."

Sacrifices were also made in the name of God; however, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured on the walls of the Ka'bah in the belief that Allah demanded flesh and blood. Even the four months of Hajj (Shawwal, Dhul-Qa'dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram), which Prophet Ibrahim had declared as sacred and free from war and bloodshed were not safe from their tampering. Later generations paid little regard to the sanctity of these months, and when they wanted to fight, they merely turned a sacred month into ordinary month for that year, then compensated for it in the next year.

Some people who were good intentioned in religion used to set out for Hajj without any provision for journey, and traveled there begging food along the way. They considered this form of begging an act of piety. They claimed that they were Mutawakkilun (those having full trust in God) and that they were proceeding towards the House of God, therefore, they were not in need of worldly materials. Doing business or working for one's livelihood during the Hajj journey were considered unlawful. Others used to give up food and water during Hajj and regarded this abstention as part of worship, while others stopped talking from the beginning of Hajj until its end.

These distorted Hajj rites continued to be practiced for nearly two and a half thousand years. No Arab Prophet was born during this long period, nor did any Prophet's genuine teaching reach the people of Arabia. Ultimately, however, the time arrived for granting the Du'a (prayer) of the Prophet Ibrahim which he had invoked while raising the walls of the Ka'bah.

Oh Lord! Raise up in their midst a Messenger from among them who will recite to them your revelations and instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and who will reform their morals.

[Noble Quran 2:129]

Consequently, a man arose from the progeny of Ibrahim whose name was Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) revived the same genuine and pure religion which was taught by Prophet Ibrahim. In the course of 21 years he completed the mission of purifying the Ka'bah and establishing Allah's religion as the law of the land, and he again declared the Ka'bah as the universal centre for worshippers of the one True God.

Along with the revival of Hajj, all the deviant and idolatrous customs of the period of ignorance which had become rampant since the time of Prophet Ibrahim were completely eliminated. All the idols in Ka'bah were smashed and removed, and the worshipping of other than Allah that was being done there was stopped. All invented rituals were wiped out and all fairs and carnivals were stopped. Furthermore, it was ordered that Allah's worship should only be carried out in the prescribed manner. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Take your rites of Hajj from me alone."

All indecent acts were strictly banned in Allah's statement:

There is to be no lewdness or wrangles during Hajj.

[Noble Quran 2:197]

Competitions among poets in the exaltations of their forefathers and clansmen's achievements were all stopped. Instead Allah told them:

And when you have completed your rites (of Hajj), then remember Allah as you used to remember your fathers, nay with a more vigorous remembrance.

[Noble Quran 2:200]

All competitions in generosity which were meant solely for pride and fame were terminated and in their place was revived the system which existed in Ibrahim's day, whereby animals would be slaughtered exclusively in the name of Allah in order that poor pilgrims may be fed during Hajj. Allah said:

Eat and drink but do not be excessive. Verily He does not love the wasteful.

[Noble Quran 7:31]

So mention the name of Allah over these animals when they are drawn up in lines. Then when their flanks fall (dead), eat from them and feed the beggar and the supplicant.

[Noble Quran 22:36]

The practice of spattering the blood of the sacrificed animals on the walls of Ka'bah and throwing of their flesh there was also stopped. Allah informed them that:

Their flesh and their blood do not reach Allah, but it is the devotion from you that reaches Him.

[Noble Quran 22:37]

Circling the Ka'bah in a state of nudity was strictly prohibited by the Prophet (peace be upon him) on Allah's command. And Allah further explained:

Say, who has forbidden the adornment (dress) given by Allah which he has bought forth for his servants.

[Noble Quran 7:32]

It was also strictly prohibited to interchange the months of Hajj so as to turn the Haram months in Halal ones for the purpose of battle. Allah said:

Postponement (of sacred month) is only an excess of disbelief whereby those who disbelieve are misled. They allow it one year and forbid it another year so that they may make up the number of the months which Allah has allowed in order to permit what Allah has forbidden.

[Noble Quran 9:37]

It was also prohibited to start for Hajj without taking provision and Allah said:

You must take provision for the journey because (not to take provision for a journey in the world does not mean taking provision for the Hereafter) the best provision for the Hereafter is piety.

[Noble Quran 2:197]

It was formerly considered an act of piety not to trade during Hajj because it was regarded as being unlawful in this condition to utilize sources of livelihood. This concept was also rejected by Allah who said:

It is no sin for you that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading).

[Noble Quran 2:198]

The system of performing Hajj without talking, without eating and without drinking was ended. After abolishing all other pre-Islamic customs. Hajj was made a model of piety, fear of Allah, purity, simplicity and austerity. When the pilgrims set out from their homes, they were ordered to purify themselves of all worldly pollution, abandon sexual relations with their wives and abstain from filthy language and indecent acts.

On all roads leading to Ka'bah, marks were fixed from scores of miles away to indicate that before proceeding beyond these limits, all pilgrims must put on the simple dress of Ihram, which consisted of only two sheets for men, so that the rich and the poor may become equal, distinctions of different nationalities may be eliminated and all may appear in the court of Allah in a state of oneness as worshipper full of humility. It was made Haram to kill any animal while in a state of Ihram or even speak of killing a human being. The object was to create an atmosphere of peace and to make the minds of the pilgrims spiritually inclined.

The four months of Hajj were again made sacred so that peace would reign on all roads leading to the Ka'bah and no pilgrim would be molested en route. When the pilgrims reached the Ka'bah in this manner, there were no festivals or carnivals, no fun and games and no frolic and revelry. There should only be the remembrance of Allah at every step. There are prayers, animal sacrifices, and circling of the Ka'bah. The only slogan which should be proclaimed in a loud voice is the Talbiyah: "Here I am present, Oh Allah for you I am present. I am present. You have no partner, I am present. Verily all praise and blessings are due to you. And to you belongs the entire sovereignty. You have no partner."

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said the following about a neat, clean, selfless and sincere Hajj: "Whoever performs Hajj solely for Allah and in the course of it abstains from sensual and sinful acts, he will return as pure as a new-born child."

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