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Hajj (Pilgrimage) between Symbolic Worship and Responsiveness to Abraham’s Call to Monotheism

Hajj (Pilgrimage) between Symbolic Worship and Responsiveness to Abraham’s Call to Monotheism

Hajj to Mecca

Hundreds of thousands make hajj to Mecca

At the beginning of the sacred month of Dhu Al-Hijjah according to the Islamic (Hijri) lunar calendar, the world is wakened to a touching scene of vast masses of Muslims putting on white sheets at Mecca.

This is the Islamic major pilgrimage (Hajj) which is seen by many people as unpopular with the Abrahamic religions. That is why there is ample room for misunderstanding, vilification, contestation and even attribution to paganism.

Many questions are asked by non-Muslims about the aspect of worship in this ceremony which seems unconventional for the followers of the previous heavenly messages preceding the final message of Islam brought forward by Prophet Muhammad.

Hajj is an act of worship involving much more symbolism than the other acts of worship in Islam. it is performed in response to Abraham’s call

However, as the proverb goes: “if the reason is known, the surprise is blown!” Let’s know more about this controversial ceremony to identify its spiritual meanings and track its origins and decide if they are heavenly or pagan ones.

Symbolism in Hajj (Pilgrimage)

The aspect of worship in the Islamic acts of worship is not equally clear and direct. It rather differs from one act of worship to another. The aspect of worship is very clear and direct in some acts of worship like prayer. It is contact, connection and communication between man and God where the former disconnects oneself from the universe and privately connects oneself with God alone, apart from all worldly concerns and worries which may interfere with such spiritual communication.

The aspect of worship is less clear and direct in other acts of worship like fasting. It is an act of worship which is passive rather than active. A believer gives up one’s desires to become closer to God by being more willing to do other acts of worship for seeking the pleasure of God.

The aspect of worship is even much less clear and direct in other acts of worship like almsgiving. It is an act of worship involving property purification of the potentially illegal or suspicious gain and giving it up to others, especially the needy, in the different forms of benefaction and philanthropy. While God does not receive alms or charity, a believer draws close to God by purifying one’s property of the potentially illegal gains and even giving up a part of one’s legitimate property to charity.

The aspect of worship in major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah) may be the least clear and direct among all Islamic acts of worship. It involves much symbolism like stripping off sewn clothes, going to the Holy House of God in Mecca, circumambulation round, touching the corners and holding the curtains of the Ka`bah, kissing the Black Stone, jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts, stopping at Arafah, slaughtering sacrifices, throwing pebbles and shaving or cutting hair. All of those are rites involving symbolism and spirituality as follows:

Stripping off Sewn Clothes

Ihram for men

Ihram for men

If a Muslim man intends to make major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah), he has to get into the state of self-denial (Ihram) by denying himself any gratification of his usual desires, mainly his sexual desire. So, a Muslim man, unlike woman, takes off his worldly, fancy clothes, then takes a bath and wraps himself in the sheets with which he will go to meet his Maker, in the first place, at the grave. They are two sheets of cloth, one covering the upper part of the body, whereas the other covers the lower part. No clothes may be worn under or over such sheets. In the Qur’an, God says:

Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of Ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – God knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of God. And fear Me, O you of understanding. (Al-Baqarah 2:197)

The purpose of putting on the Ihram sheets is having otherworldly feelings by taking off the worldly clothes and keeping away from all worldly distractions and temptations. The Muslim making major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah) seems as if he was wearing his shroud. Abu Hurairah reported that Prophet Muhammad said: “Remember the destroyer of pleasures (meaning death)”  (At-Tirmidhi & An-Nasa’i)

Circumambulation Round the Ka`bah

Circumambulation round the Ka`bah

Circumambulation round the Ka`bah

Muslims do not worship the Ka`bah. They just turn towards in prayer and circumambulate it in major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah). They worship God by turning to or circumambulating the Ka`bah, like the angels. Just as God has a house in heaven that angels circumambulate, called “Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mur”, He also has an equivalent house on earth which people circumambulate. At-Tabary reports that Qatadah said: “The Messenger of God said: ‘Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mur is a mosque in heaven above the Ka`bah. If it falls, it will fall on it. Seventy thousand angels enter it every day. When they get out of it, they do not come back.’” (a hadith ranked “authentic” by Al-Albany)

Kissing the Black Stone

Hijr Ismael

Hijr Ismael (a low wall beside the K`abah where Abraham constructed a shelter for Ismael)

As indicated above, Muslims do not worship the Ka`bah or the Black Stone. Also, when they touch the corners or hold the curtains of the Ka`bah, they do not worship the Ka`bah but God.

The Prophet and his Companions themselves did that though they firmly believed in God and that the Ka`bah including its contents including the Black Stone are such inanimate objects which neither bring benefit nor cause harm.

`Umar narrated that he kissed the Black Stone and said, “I know that you are a stone and can neither benefit anyone nor harm anyone. Had I not seen the Messenger of God kissing you, I would not have kissed you.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

The purpose of kissing the Black Stone is supplication to God for the forgiveness of sins. Ibn `Umar reported that the Messenger of God turned to face the Stone, then he put his lips on it and wept for a long time. Then he turned and saw `Umar bin Khattab weeping. He said: ‘O `Umar, this is the place where tears should be shed.’” (Ibn Majah)

King Abdullah kisses the Black Stone

King Abdullah kisses the Black Stone

Several hadiths are reported on the authority of Prophet Muhammad, indicating that the Black Stone was sent down from Heaven. That is why it is seen as a means of showing subservience before God for the forgiveness of sins.

Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of God said, “The Black Stone descended from Paradise and it was whiter than milk, but it has become black due to the sins of the children of Adam.” (At-Tirmidhi & Ahmad)

Ibn Abbas reported that the Messenger of God said about the (Black) Stone: “By God! God will raise it on the Day of Resurrection with two eyes by which it will see and a tongue that it will speak with, testifying for whoever touched it in truth.” (At-Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah)

Jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts

Jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts

Jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts

In major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah), Muslims jog between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts in commemoration of Lady Hagar, Prophet Abraham’s wife and Prophet Ismael’s mother, and her absolute confidence in and total reliance on God. After she had submitted to God’s will, she used up all worldly ways and means. She kept jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts for seven times in quest of water until God blessed her and her baby with water.

About Lady Hagar and jogging between Al-Safa and Al-Marwa mounts for seven times, we read the following in Ibn `Abbas’ long hadith recorded by Al-Bukhari:

“…and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.” The Prophet said, “That is why people jog between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa)…” (Al-Bukhari)

The Inviolable House of God (Holy Sanctuary)

The Inviolable House of God

The Inviolable House of God

God does not literally have a house to live therein. Neither the Ka`bah nor the holy mosque in Mecca is a literal house of God. It is just a holy sanctuary where people go to worship God. God is the Lord rather than occupier of the House. In the Qur’an, God says:

Therefore, let them worship the Lord of this House; Who fed them against hunger, and secured them against fear. (Quraish 106:3-4)

The House of God is occupied by the Servants of God who spend the night standing and prostrating themselves before God. In the Qur’an, God says:

And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, “Peace!”; Those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing (Al-Furqan 25:63-64)

The House of God was built for those servants to spend the night in prayer, seclusion, bowing down and prostration. In the Qur’an, God says:

And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].” (Al-Baqarah 2:125)

Also, the House of God was built for major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah). In the Qur’an, God says:

God has made the Ka`bah, the Sacred House, standing for the people and [has sanctified] the sacred months and the sacrificial animals and the garlands [by which they are identified]. That is so you may know that God knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth and that God is Knowing of all things. (Al-Ma’idah 5:97)

Stopping at Arafah

Stopping at Arafah

Stopping at Arafah

Stopping at Arafah is the greatest pillar of Hajj. Prophet Muhammad said: “Hajj is (stopping at) Arafah” (Imam Ahmad & Abu Dawud)

A pilgrim stops at Arafah to worship and make remembrance of God at Arafah on the 9th of Dhu Al-Hijjah. Stopping at Arafah symbolizes turning to God in repentance and supplication to His grandeur in hope of His mercy, pleasure and forgiveness despite the high temperature at the peak hours of the day at Arafah.

Stopping at Arafah may be the most strenuous rite of hajj for a pilgrim usually stays at Arafah throughout the 9th of Dhu Al-Hijjah. That is why stopping at Arafah has so great merit that it is considered the greatest pillar of hajj. Maybe, Arafah is given this named for people stay there and so they know one another (yat`arafun).

Spending the Night at Muzdalifah (Al-Mash`ar Al-Haram)

Almashar Alharam Mosque at Muzdalifah

Almashar Alharam Mosque at Muzdalifah

After leaving Arafah, a pilgrim goes to Muzdalifah (Al-Mash`ar Al-Haram) for taking a rest. A pilgrim makes remembrance of God over there at night, before going to Mena for throwing pebbles and stoning the Devil. In the Qur’an, God says:

But when you depart from `Arafat, remember God at Al-Mash’ar Al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray. (Al-Baqarah 2:198)

So, spending the night at Muzdalifah is intended for taking a rest at the end of the strenuous day of Arafah, making remembrance of God, and making ready for throwing pebbles at Mena as Muzdalifah is situated between Arafah and Mena.

Throwing Pebbles

Throwing Pebbles at Mena

Throwing Pebbles at Mena

On the morning of the Feast of Sacrifice, corresponding to the 10th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, a pilgrim goes to Mena for throwing pebbles and stoning the Devil. On the feast day, a pilgrim throws Jamrat Al-`Aqabah Al-Kubra, i.e. 7 small bean-shaped pebbles at a symbol representing the Devil. On each of the next three (Al-Tashriq) days, a pilgrim throws 21 pebbles at three symbols of the Devil at three adjacent spots.

Thus, a hasty pilgrim (who spends only two days after the feast day at Mena) throws 49 pebbles. Yet, the tardy pilgrim (who spends three days after the feast day at Mena) throws 70 pebbles.

The purpose of throwing pebbles is following in the footsteps of Prophet Abraham when he stoned the Devil at those spots. Ibn `Abbas reported that Prophet Muhammad said: “When Abraham, God’s intimate, came to perform the rites of hajj, the Devil appeared to him at Jamrat Al-`Aqabah spot. So, he threw seven pebbles at him until he was immersed into the earth. Then, he appeared to him at the second Jamrah spot. So, he threw seven pebbles at him until he was immersed into the earth. Then, he appeared to him at the third Jamrah spot. So, he threw seven pebbles at him until he was immersed in the earth.” Ibn `Abbas said: “You stone the Devil and follow your father’s faith.” (Al-Mustadrak)

Slaughtering Sacrifices

Sheep to be slaughtered as sacrifices

Sheep to be slaughtered as sacrifices

Sacrifices have to be slaughtered by many pilgrims like Al-Muqrin (the pilgrim who makes hajj and `Umrah at the same time) and Al-Mutamatti (the pilgrim who makes `Umrah first, then gets out of the Ihram state and enjoys (Yatamatta) lawful things and then gets back into the Ihram state).

Other pilgrims have to slaughter sacrifices to compensate for omissions, mistakes and shortcomings in the rites of hajj. In the Qur’an, God says:

And complete the Hajj and `Umrah for God. But if you are prevented, then [offer] what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And do not shave your heads until the sacrificial animal has reached its place of slaughter. And whoever among you is ill or has an ailment of the head [making shaving necessary must offer] a ransom of fasting [three days] or charity or sacrifice. And when you are secure, then whoever performs `Umrah [during the Hajj months] followed by Hajj [offers] what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And whoever cannot find [or afford such an animal] – then a fast of three days during Hajj and of seven when you have returned [home]. Those are ten complete [days]. This is for those whose family is not in the area of al-Masjid al-Haram. And fear God and know that God is severe in penalty. (Al-Baqarah 2:196)

Sacrifices are also slaughtered in commemoration of Abraham and Ismael. God ransomed Ismael with a great sacrifice when he proceeded to slaughter his son just as he saw in a dream in response to God’s decrees for prophets’ dreams communicate something right and true commanded by God. In the Qur’an, God says:

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if God wills, of the steadfast.” And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead, We called to him, “O Abraham, You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good. Indeed, this was the clear trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice, (As-Saffat 37:102-107)

Shaving or Cutting Hair

Shaving or cutting hair

Shaving or cutting hair for pilgrims

After a pilgrim finishes major/minor pilgrimage (hajj / `Umrah), he shaves or cuts his hair, which is called “Tahallul” (end of self-denial), symbolizing rebirth after purification of sins towards the end of hajj. Abu Hurairah reported: “I heard the Messenger of God saying, “Whoever performs Hajj (pilgrimage) and does not have sexual relations (with his wife), commits sins, or dispute unjustly (during Hajj), then he returns from Hajj as pure and free from sins as on the day on which his mother gave birth to him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Why do Muslims Reject Symbolism in Christianity Though Hajj Involves Symbolism?

There is no denying that most Islamic acts of worship and ceremonies involve symbolism. In Islam, an act of worship is scarcely devoid of symbolism. For example, the pronunciation of the testimony of faith involves symbolism as a new Muslim takes a bath and pronounces this testimony as a proclamation of the renunciation of non-Islamic abominations and aberrations and a proclamation of a new pure, immaculate life under the shade of monotheism and obedience to God. Yet, a new Muslim may be clean and has already taken a bath and does not need to take a bath once again.

Prayer involves several symbolic acts like the ritual ablution / dry ablution, wiping socks and the like, turning towards the Qiblah (Ka`bah direction) and lining up for the congregational prayer, etc.

Neither the ritual ablution, nor the dry ablution, nor wiping socks and the like totally cleans the body. As for turning towards the Qiblah, this is a symbolic act symbolizing the unification of the worship of God by performing it in only one direction by all Muslims everywhere in the world. Lining up for the congregational prayer is also a symbolic act symbolizing the unity and unification of Muslims for the obedience to God.

Almsgiving also involves symbolism. Lady `A’ishah used to perfume the dirhams she would give up as an act of charity. When she was asked about that, she made clear that she liked that her dirhams should have been perfumed for they would fall in God’s hand before the beggar’s. A dirham would not literally fall in God’s hand. This is rather a symbolic expression.

Fasting also involves symbolism. According to several hadiths (prophetic statements) of Prophet Muhammad, the fasting Muslim’s mouth smells better than musk. Literally speaking, the fasting Muslim’s mouth does not smell well. The abovementioned hadiths are just symbolic ones.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, symbolism is strictly well-defined in Islam. No symbolism is recognized under Islam unless conclusive evidence from the Qur’an and/or the Sunnah proves it.

In Islam, we do not find ancient books and writings being collected and interpreted fancifully and symbolically like the Old Testament in the Bible. Likewise, we do not find the Qur’an and the Sunnah being interpreted fancifully and symbolically like the New Testament in the Bible. In Islam, there is no room for such symbols which are not well-evidenced especially in terms of creed or practice.

In particular, Muslims do not ascribe a son or an incarnate to God based on fancy or symbolism. They do not offer prayers, give alms or observe fasting fancifully or symbolically. Islam as both a creed or practice is always pending authentic evidence. Even well-evidenced symbols cannot extend unto irrelevant creeds or practices. They just apply to the subject matter of evidence. A symbolic law has nothing to do with Islam unlike the case in the contemporary Christianity.

Is Hajj a Pagan, Idolatrous Ceremony?

The true religion of God preceded paganism and idolatry, not vice versa. That is to say, people had followed the religion of God and then paganism and idolatry existed later on. Adam and Eve were faithful monotheists rather than pagans or idolaters. But, monotheism was affected by paganism and idolatry subsequently.

Abraham Shrine

Abraham Shrine (the stone on which Abraham stood to build the Ka`bah)

Then, heavenly messages succeeded one another from Noah’s message to Muhammad’s message as purification for the true religion of God of the aberrations of paganism and idolatry. Whenever paganism and idolatry derailed the true religion of God on earth, a prophet would be sent to make the necessary corrections and purify the religion of God of paganism and idolatry.

Hajj specifically is an act of worship which God legislated for Prophet Abraham and other prophets after him. In the Qur’an, God says:

And (remember) when We prepared for Abraham the place of the (holy) House, saying: Ascribe thou no thing as partner unto Me, and purify My House for those who make the round (thereof) and those who stand and those who bow and make prostration. And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine. (Al-Hajj 22:26-27)

Hijr Ismael

Hijr Ismael (a low wall beside the K`abah where Abraham constructed a shelter for Ismael)

Commenting on the last verse, Ibn Kathir remarked: “That is to say, ‘O Abraham, call people to hajj to the house which we commanded you to build.’ He purportedly replied: ‘O Lord, how can I call people though my voice will not be heard by them?’ God said: ‘Just call and we will make your voice heard.’ Thereupon, Abraham got up…and called: ‘O people, your Lord made a house for you to make pilgrimage.’ It is purported that mountains got down so much that Abraham’s voice echoed all over the earth, and prospective children at women’s wombs and men’s backbones were caused to hear. Everything, including stones, adobes and trees, heard him. The people whom God destined to make pilgrimage until the Judgment Day repeated: ‘Labbayka Al-Lahumma Labbayk! (here we are, Lord, at your service!)’ This is reported on the authority of Ibn `Abbas, Mojahed, `Ekrimah, Said, Ibn Jubayr etc.”

Accordingly, the Inviolable House of God in Mecca is the first house of God to be built for worship and pilgrimage. In the Qur’an, God says:

Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Bakkah – blessed and guidance for the worlds. (Aal `Imran 3:96)

Abu Dharr reported: “I asked the Messenger of God: ‘Which mosque was built first?’ He said: ‘Al-Masjid Al-Haram (in Mecca).’ I said: ‘Then which?’ He said: Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa.’ (in Jerusalem)…” (Al-Bukhari)

The Historic Zamzam Well

The Historic Zamzam Well (Genesis 21:19)

However, as usual, when a long time passed after the times of Abraham, paganism and idolatry gradually sneaked into the religion of God, which was spoilt as a result. Thus, hajj, inter alia, was transformed from a divine act of worship into a pagan, idolatrous ceremony. For example, the Meccan polytheists made and worshipped idols at the Inviolable House of God. Some polytheists even used to circumambulate the Ka`bah while being naked.

Therefore, Prophet Muhammad came to erase the innovated aspects of paganism and idolatry and revive the monotheistic Abrahamic faith. Prophet Muhammad said: “The most beloved religion by God is the tolerant monotheism.” (Al-Bukhari)

When Prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca, he entered the Inviolable House of God and smashed the idols and images. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud reported: “the Messenger of God entered Mecca (in the Year of the Conquest) and there were three hundred and sixty idols around the Ka`bah. He then kept hitting them with a stick in his hand and saying: ‘Truth (i.e. Islam) has come and falsehood (disbelief) vanished. Truly, falsehood (disbelief) is ever bound to vanish.’ (Al-Israa’ 17:81) ‘Truth has come and falsehood (Iblis) cannot create anything.’ (Saba’ 34:49)” (Al-Bukhari)

In the tenth year A.H. (After Hejira), God and Prophet Muhammad disassociated themselves from the last idolatrous blemishes at the Inviolable House of God and the sacred places as a whole. In the Qur’an, God says:

And [it is] an announcement from God and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that God is disassociated from the disbelievers, and [so is] His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away – then know that you will not cause failure to God. And give tidings to those who disbelieve of a painful punishment. (At-Tawbah 9:3)

God sent down revelations to Prophet Muhammad preventing the pagan idolaters from desecrating His House through their idolatrous practices and rituals since some of them would circumambulate the Ka`bah while being naked. In the Qur’an, God says:

O you who have believed, indeed the polytheists are unclean, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Haram after this, their [final] year. And if you fear privation, God will enrich you from His bounty if He wills. Indeed, God is Knowing and Wise. (At-Tawbah 9:28)

Idols round the kabah

Imaginary picture showing idols round the Ka`bah

Therefore, Abu Hurairah reported: “On the Day of Nahr (10th of Dhul-Hijja, in the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Abu Bakr was the leader of the pilgrims in that Hajj), Abu Bakr sent me along with other announcers to Mena to make a public announcement: ‘No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year and no naked person is allowed to circumambulate the Ka`bah.’” (Al-Bukhari)

Consequently, hajj is a heavenly rather than pagan ceremony. Muslims make hajj in response to Abraham’s call on people and prayer that people’s hearts should incline toward the House of God. About that, in the Qur’an, God says:

And [mention, O Muhammad], when Abraham said, “My Lord, make this city [Makkah] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols. My Lord, indeed they have led astray many among the people. So whoever follows me – then he is of me; and whoever disobeys me – indeed, You are [yet] Forgiving and Merciful. Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful. (Ibrahim 14:35-37)

Hajj in the Previous Heavenly Messages

Pilgrimage as an act of worship is not strange to the previous heavenly messages, especially Judaism and Christianity, according to the Bible including the Old Testament and the New Testament.

As for the Old Testament, it tells us that God built several houses throughout various points of time and that those houses were intended for acts of worship resembling those involved by hajj.

Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem

Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem

Maybe, the earliest house of God in the Old Testament was that built at Bethel (Genesis 12:6-9), (Genesis 13:1-4), (Genesis 28:16-22), (Genesis 35:1-20), (Judges 20:26-27), (Judges 21:2).

Another one of the most important houses of God in the Old Testament was that built at Shiloh (Judges 18:31), (1 Samuel 1:1-3), (1 Samuel 1:9-10), (1 Samuel 1:24-28), (1 Samuel 4:3-5)

The holiest house of God in the sight of both Christians and Jews according to the Bible including the Old Testament and the New Testament is more likely to be the one built at Jerusalem by Solomon who brought to it the Ark of the Covenant including its content, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle from the City of David (1 Kings 8:1-66)

ark of covenant

The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord

According to the New Testament, the House of God built by Solomon remained in Jerusalem and did not move elsewhere until the times of Jesus, who tried to cleanse it (Matthew 21:12-17), foretold its destruction (Matthew 24:1-2), and predicted the House of God’s movement from  Jerusalem (John 4:19-22).

In general, the Bible tells us that the acts of worship that used to be done at the houses of God included purification and the change of clothes [Ihram in the Islamic pilgrimage] (Genesis 35:2), raising voices while supplicating God [Talbiyah, invocation and remembrance of God in the Islamic pilgrimage] (Judges 21:2), slaughtering sacrifices (Judges 20:26-27), prostration before God (1 Samuel 1:1-3), prayer and vow (1 Samuel 1:9-11), jogging and circumambulation (Psalms 26:6-8), (Psalms 48:12-14), (Joshua 1:6-16), shaving or cutting hair (Numbers 6:1-21)

The Bible also tells us that the House of God contained holy buildings (Matthew 24:1-2) and holy contents (1 Kings 8:1-66).

tent of meeting

The Tent of Meeting

Accordingly, there is no big difference between the Inviolable House of God in Mecca and the acts of worship done there, and the houses of God built later according to the Bible and the acts of worship done there. They are just different names for similar things. What Muslims call hajj and `Umrah used to be done in the previous divine messages but under different names.

And what is more, the Bible, including the Old Testament and the New Testament, involves both direct and indirect references to hajj and `Umrah at Mecca. Those references may be reviewed in a separate post entitled: “Makkah (Mecca) in the Bible


To sum up, hajj is an act of worship involving much more symbolism than the other acts of worship in Islam. The difference between symbolism in hajj and other acts of worship in Islam and symbolism elsewhere is that symbolism in Islam is well-evidenced and well-defined and any such symbolism may not extend elsewhere other than the exact subject matter of the relevant evidence. Hajj is a ceremony that is performed in response to the Abraham’s call and as an answer to his supplication. In the Qur’an, God says:

And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship God, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight. (Al-Bayyinah 5:98)

Hajj is not strange or new to the previous divine messages. It used to be made but in a different manner and under a different name though the rituals are essentially the same. In the Qur’an, God says:

For every people We have laid down a ritual of sacrifice (although the purpose of the ritual is the same) that they pronounce the name of God over the cattle He has provided them. Your Lord is One God; so submit yourselves to Him alone. And give, (O Prophet), glad tidings to those that humble themselves (before God), (Al-Hajj 22:34)


  1. The Qur’an
  2. Tafsir Ibn Kathir
  3. Tafsir At-Tabary
  4. Sahih Al-Bukhari
  5. Sunan At-Tirmidhi
  6. Sunan An-Nasa’i
  7. Sunan Ibn Majah
  8. Sunan Abu Dawud
  9. Musnad Al-Imam Ahmad
  10. Al-Mustadrak by Al-Hakim
  11. The Holy Bible

Read Also:

Why Muslims Perform Pilgrimage (Hajj)

A Brief Guide to Hajj (Pilgrimage)

Hajj (Pilgrimage) in the Bible

An Introduction to Hajj

What is Hajj (Pilgrimage)?

Makkah (Mecca) in the Bible (1/2)

Makkah (Mecca) in the Bible (2/2)

Soucre Link

Christian Questions about Islam (2)

What Is the Qur’an?

What is َQur’an?

The Qur’an is the miraculous word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), whose recitation is considered as an act of worship and found in Mushaf copies.

Qur’an  was transmitted with infinite precision and all the texts contained in it were subject to strict criteria set by the collection-committees formed by Sahabah (companions )of  the Messenger of Allah, may Allah be pleased with them, in terms of acceptance or rejection.

Zaid ibn Thabit, may Allah be pleased with him, one of those who undertook this task was not to accept one verse in the Qur’an except that two witnesses testified that it was read before the Messenger of Allah-peace be upon him.

Such strict standards remained until the reign of Caliph Osman ibn Affan, may Allah be pleased with him, who saved the standard copy of the Qur’an. Blachere, a French thinker notes, “The credit after God gets back to the Caliph Othman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) for his contribution before the year 655 A.H in the removal of risks arising from the existence of many copies of the Qur’an, and to him alone, Muslims accredit the task of the authentication of their text along generations”.

Names of the Qur’an:

The Qur’an has many names. It is called: “The book”, as in the words of God Almighty:

“By the clear Book”. (2:43)

It is also called “the Criterion”, as in the words of God Almighty:

“Blessed who descended the Criterion to his servant (1:25

And also, “al-Dhikr” as in the words of Allah Almighty:

“And this [Qur’an] is a blessed message which We have sent down. Then are you with it unacquainted?” (21:50)

It is also called Al-Nur (light) and Al-Tanzil (Revelation descending).

Miracles of the Holy Qur’an

When revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him)-, he called for faith in God, His unity and individuality in worship.

The Makkah-community tried hard to criticize the Qur’an to find fault within it and overthrow the call of Islam. The Qur’an came down in their language. They were shocked by the highest language and coolest style in which the Qur’an came ;they felt that their words cannot rival its words for it is not like their words!

The Qur’an challenged them to come up with something similar to it, and they were unable to do so. Allah says:

“Say, (If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants).”(17:88

The books of biography and Sunnah of the Prophet quotes a part of the conflict and struggle at the front of disbelief as regards to the nature of the Qur’an and its splendor: 

“Al-Walid Ibn Mughira was told by Abu Jahl to combat the Qur’an and linguistically find fault in it . The latter replied that he had never heard such beautiful words in his whole life! He told him that the Qur’an had the most perfect words, perfect rhyme and tune, perfect grammar and style. It was perfect in everything!” 

Jubayir ibn Mut’im (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

“When I was pagan, I heard the Messenger of Allah- peace be upon him- reading the Qur’an in Maghrib Prayer until he reached the verse: (Are they created from nothing or are they the creators?, Did they create the heavens and the earth but they are not sure, or do they have the treasures of your Lord, or are they the rulers?[Al-Tur: 35-37]) , I felt that My heart was near to fly”.

Blacher notes: “The Qur’an is not a miracle with its content and teachings only. It can also be, before anything else a wonderful, a literary masterpiece that surpasses all that humanity has adopted. The second caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) who was at first among the strongest opponents of the new religion of Islam, has become one of the most enthusiastic supporters of it after hearing a piece of the Qur’an”.

The Qur’an Tells about Former Nations

The Qur’an presents the news of the previous nations and foretells about the future of later times. When the Jews and the Christians wanted to guide history on their behalf and claimed that Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, was following their religions, the Qur’an responds to them and rectifies the matter. It points out that Prophet Abraham was neither a Christian nor a Jew and he was rather a Muslim (Monotheist). The Qur’an says:

“O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason? Here you are – those who have argued about that of which you have [some] knowledge, but why do you argue about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows, while you know not. Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah]. And he was not of the polytheists. Indeed, the most worthy of Abraham among the people are those who followed him [in submission to Allah] and this prophet, and those who believe [in his message]. And Allah is the ally of the believers”. (3-65-68). 

The credibility of this scripture is revealed in the disclosure and clarification of the facts and the abolition of falsehood without favoritism of one sect at the expense of others.

It is a book of justice and honesty. Allah Almighty says:

“And from those who say, “We are Christians” We took their covenant; but they forgot a portion of that of which they were reminded. So We caused among them animosity and hatred until the Day of Resurrection. And Allah is going to inform them about what they used to do.”(5:14

Therefore, the Qur’an denied the allegation of the deity of Christ and brought Jesus’ true words in this regard:

“And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?’” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness. “(5/116-119). 

The Qur’an, moreover, pointed out that  the descent of Jesus-peace be upon him-at the end of time will be a rectification to his message which suffered distortion and falsification:

“And when the son of Mary was presented as an example, immediately your people laughed aloud. And they said, “Are your gods better, or is he?” They did not present the comparison except for [mere] argument. But, [in fact], they are a people prone to dispute. Jesus was not but a servant upon whom We bestowed favor, and We made him an example for the Children of Israel. And if We willed, We could have made [instead] of you angels succeeding [one another] on the earth. And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path.” (43:57-61). 

Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him- tells that:

“Jesus, son of Mary ,peace be upon him- will descend at the end of life. The Amir of Muslims will summon him to lead prayer but he will reply “No some you are the princes of yourselves as an honor to this nation”. Narrated by Muslim, No. 225.

The Qur’an also indicates that the closeness to the Lord and the remoteness from him are bound by following the true religion and belief. When Jews and Christians claimed that they were closer to Allah (God) than other nations, despite their deviation from the right path, the Qur’an responded to them by saying:

“But the Jews and the Christians say, “We are the children of Allah and His beloved.” Say, “Then why does He punish you for your sins?” Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination. ‘” (5:18)

The Qur’an stated that it has not come to destroy all that was mentioned in the previous scriptures of good values, but came to complete them and become the best and everlasting scripture for humanity till the end of life on earth:

“And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. “(5:48

The Holy Qur’an’s wonders and miracles are not limited. It tells about the stages of man’s creation and destiny from creation to death:

“O People, if you should be in doubt about the Resurrection, then [consider that] indeed, We created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a clinging clot, and then from a lump of flesh, formed and unformed – that We may show you. And We settle in the wombs whom We will for a specified term, then We bring you out as a child, and then [We develop you] that you may reach your [time of] maturity. And among you is he who is taken in [early] death, and among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing”.(22:5). 

The Qur’an employs reasonable evidence in strengthening its credibility in minds, drawing attention to the universe, the visible book (i.e. logical progression in knowing the Creator), and matching it to what is in the written book, that is the Qur’an itself. Allah says:

“And [mention] the Day when We will resurrect among every nation a witness over them from themselves. And We will bring you, [O Muhammad], as a witness over your nation. And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy and good tidings for the Muslims. “(16:89). 

The Qur’an includes rulings regarding the acts of worship so that humans can be in contact to their Lord; it gives mention to rulings regulating people’s relationship to each other like just punishment:

“And there is for you in legal retribution [saving of] life, O you [people] of understanding, that you may become righteous. “(2:179

It orders maintaining justice even with enemies:

“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. ” (5:8

The Qur’an also includes a code for ethics and transactions, including the prohibition of usury, cheating, theft, deception, hatred, and murder of innocent souls without right.

It enacts good ethics such as honesty, charity and righteousness, even with peaceful enemies. In his book Muhammad in Mecca Montgomery Watt, says: “In my opinion, whatever our religious position, we should consider the message of the Qur’an to be a creative breakthrough in Mecca. There is no doubt that there were problems that required solutions, and attempts to alleviate them arose, but it was impossible to move from these problems and crises to the message of the Qur’an by logical thinking. There is no doubt that the message of the Qur’an solved social problems, moral and intellectual, but not at once. An historian may suppose that Muhammad have brought such ideas solving serious problems by chance which is not possible. Neither empirical attempts nor active thought can explain to us as it should be the message of the Qur’an”.

the Qur’an refers to ethics in common with former nations (the Jews and the Christians). Allah says:

“And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except Allah; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give zakah.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing.”(2:83)

When it forbids riba (Usury), he condemns the Jews for legalizing it and declares the deed to be unjust. In the Holy Quran Allah Almighty says:

“And [for] their taking of usury while they had been forbidden from it, and their consuming of the people’s wealth unjustly. And we have prepared for the disbelievers among them a painful punishment.”(4:161)

And says,

“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing. “(5:48) 

Dr. Wurrant, a US philosopher, historian and thinker says”…For fourteen centuries, the Qur’an has been preserved in the memory of Muslims, evoking their imagination, their morality, and advancing their knowledge. The Qur’an instills the easiest and least mystical beliefs into minds, avoiding the formalities rigid rites, and the doctrines most free of paganism and priesthood. It is accredited with raising the moral and cultural levels for Muslims. It enabled them to have established codes of social order and unity. It, also, encouraged them to have health-care rules and free their minds from myths and illusions, injustice and cruelty. It helped the slaves and weak among Muslims and maintained a degree of moderation and chastity not matched in any part of the world inhabited by the white man.. “.

The Qur’an Attracts the Minds  of Thinkers with its Miraculous Nature

Irving , an American Orientalist says, “The Torah was one day the only regulating guide to man’s behavior. When Christ appeared, Christians followed the teachings of the Gospel, and now the Qur’an replaced it. The Qur’an was more comprehensive and detailed than the previous two scriptures. It rectified changes and distortions in those two books. It contains everything and all laws. It is the seal of heavenly scriptures. It calls for mercy, serenity and high moral doctrines”.

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Spotlights on the Birth of Prophet Muhammad

Spotlights on the Birth of Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad

The one the priestess meant was the yet unborn grandson of Abdul-Muttalib

Some men of the city of Mecca went on a trip to Syria. On the way, they met a monk. Four of these Meccans decided to stop for a while to talk with the monk.

In those days, monks lived in places where there were very few people so that they could worship Allah. They also were people who read books and knew many stories. Only a few Meccans could read. All they knew about was trade and enjoying themselves. They knew they would hear interesting and entertaining stories from the monk.

After talking for a while, the monk asked the men, “where are you from?” They answered, “We are from Mecca.” The monk then told them, “Allah will send a prophet to Mecca soon.”

The four men went on their journey, thinking about the things the monk had said. Each of them wished that the new prophet would be his own son.

Abdul-Muttalib was asleep in the Ka`bah. He had a strange dream. He saw a tree growing until it reached the sky. The tree had branches that spread to the East and the West. It appeared that a very bright light was shining on the tree. Abdul-Muttalib saw the Arabs and the non-Arabs bowing to the tree. The tree continued growing larger, higher, and brighter. Then he saw some people from Quraysh holding to the branches of the tree, while other Qurayshis tried to chop down the tree. A very handsome youth stopped them from chopping down the tree. Abdul-Muttalib saw himself putting his hand out to grab the tree, but he could not reach it. He woke up from his sleep frightened.

Abdul-Muttalib sat thinking of the dream and what it meant, but he could not find an explanation for it. The next morning he went to the priestess of Quraysh to ask her to explain the dream. The Arabs always asked the priest or priestess for the explanation of dreams.

When the priestess saw Abdul-Muttalib, she saw signs of worry on his face, so she asked, “why do you look so worried?”
Abdul-Muttalib answered, “I had a dream that frightened me.” Then he told her all about the dream.

When he finished, she said, “If your dream ever comes true, then one of your sons will control the East and the West. All the people will follow him.”

Abdul-Muttalib was pleased with what the priestess had told him. Later, when he met his son Abu Talib, he told him about the dream and what the priestess had said. Then he said to his son, Abu Talib, “I hope you are the one the priestess meant in her explanation.”

But the intended one was not Abu Talib. The one the priestess meant was the yet unborn grandson of Abdul-Muttalib. Abdul-Muttalib had a son named `Abdullah who was married to Aminah, daughter of Wahb. Aminah was expecting a baby. Before the baby was born, `Abdullah had gone on a trading trip. He became ill on the trip and died. `Abdullah never saw his son.

During her pregnancy, Aminah felt no pain or discomfort. She had always heard women complaining about the hardships of pregnancy, but she felt very well. During these months, Aminah had many dreams. One night, in a dream, she saw a light coming out of her. The light was shining on the castles of Syria.

Another night, she heard a voice in her dream. The voice said, “Aminah, you are carrying the greatest man in the world. When you give birth, give him the name, Muhammad, and tell no one about this dream.”

Aminah woke up and looked around but there was no one in the room. She tried to go to sleep again but she was still thinking about what she had heard in the dream.

It was time for Aminah’s baby to be born. She gave birth to a beautiful, clean baby boy. Since the boy’s father had died months earlier, Aminah sent the news to her son’s grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib. Abdul-Muttalib was sitting in the Ka`bah when the news came. He was delighted. He went to Aminah and carried the boy happily to the Ka`bah. When he brought the baby back to her, he said, “I have named him Quthm.”

Abdul-Muttalib had a boy named Quthm but he had died when he was nine years old. That made Abdul-Muttalib very sad. So when Aminah gave birth to a boy, Abdul-Muttalib wanted to name him after the dead boy.

Aminah had to tell him, “I was ordered in a dream to call him Muhammad.” Abdul-Muttalib picked up the baby, kissed him and said, “I hope that my grandson, Muhammad, will be a great man.”

On the seventh day after the birth of Muhammad Abdul-Muttalib ordered animals to be slaughtered and asked the people of Mecca to come to a feast. After everyone had eaten, Abdul-Muttalib brought out his grandson, Muhammad, to show him to the people. Everyone said that he was such a beautiful baby. The people also felt sad for the baby because he was an orphan. His father had died before seeing him.

One of the men asked Abdul-Muttalib, “What did you name him?” Abdul-Muttalib answered, “I have named him Muhammad.”
Another man asked in surprise, “Why did you name him Muhammad? No one in your family or people was ever named Muhammad.”
Abdul-Muttalib did not want to reveal that Aminah was asked in a dream to name him Muhammad, so he said, “I wanted Allah to praise him in Heaven and I wanted people to praise him on Earth.”

When the visitors left, not one of them realized that this orphan baby was the one chosen to lead them from darkness to light. They did not know that he was the answer to Ibrahim’s prayer the day Ibrahim was ordered to build the Ka`bah:

Our Lord, send unto them a messenger from among themselves to show them your signs, to teach them the Qur’an and wisdom, and to purify them. You are All-Mighty and All-Wise. (Al-Baqarah 2:128)


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