What Was Hajj Like in the Pre-Islamic Era?

12 July, 2020
Q Could you clarify for me the rites of Hajj in the pre-Islamic times?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him).

2- With the passage of time, people changed both the form and the goal of Hajj rites. The distortion reached its peak with the introduction of idols to the Kabah.

3- This state of distortion continued till the birth of Prophet Muhammad; who revived the hajj rituals and the true spirit of hajj.


As regards your question, we cite for you the following:

Hajj during the Time of Prophet Ibrahim

Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). However, with the passage of time, people changed both the form and the goal of Hajj rites. The distortion reached its peak with the introduction of idols to the Kabah.

Many major tribes used to come to Makkah with their allies and slaves 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’s cowardice, stinginess and weakness. The tribes initiated competitions in generosity.

To assert his superiority, the chief of each tribe set up huge cauldrons, slaughtered numerous camels and cooked the flesh. He also distributed all this for the “pilgrims” for free.

The sole objective of this extreme generosity was to exalt their name in the whole of Arabia. It was also for the publicity that this person slaughtered so many camels and gave food to so many people.

People indulged in singing, drinking, adultery and various kinds of immorality. Also the thought of Allah scarcely occurred to anybody.

Reducing the Hajj Rites

The religious rite of tawaf (going around the Kabah) was reduced to one round. Women and men performed tawaf stark naked. They said, “We will go before Allah in the same condition in which our mothers gave birth to us.”

Prayer in the Station of Ibrahim was accompanied by hand-clapping, whistling and the blowing of horns. The name of Allah was pronounced in the prayer of intent known as talbiyah (Labbayk Allahumma labbayk; “Here I am present, My Lord, I am present.”)

However, even this expression of reverence was distorted by 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 Allah. However, the blood of the sacrificed animals was poured on the walls of the Kabah in the belief that Allah demanded flesh and blood. Even the four months of Hajj (Shawwal, Dhul-Qi`dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram) were not safe from their tampering.

Little Regard to the Sacred Months

Later generations paid little regard to the sanctity of these months, and when they wanted to fight, they merely turned a sacred month into an ordinary month for that year, then compensated for it in the next year.

Some people who had good intentions in religion used to set out for Hajj without any provision for the 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 Allah) and that they were proceeding towards the House of Allah; therefore, they were not in need of worldly materials.

Doing business and 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.

Prophet Muhammad and Reviving Hajj Rituals

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 when Allah answered the duaa (supplication) that the Prophet Ibrahim had made while raising the walls of the Kabah, “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.” (Al-Baqarah 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 that had been taught by Prophet Ibrahim.

In the course of 21 years, he completed the mission of purifying the Kabah and establishing Allah’s religion as the law of the land, and he again declared the Kabah as the universal center for worshippers of the One True God.

Along with the revival of Hajj, all the deviant and idolatrous customs of the Period of Ignorance that had become rampant since the time of the Prophet Ibrahim were completely eliminated.

Destroying the Idols around the Kabah

All the idols in the Kabah were smashed and removed, and the worship of other than Allah that was being done there was stopped. All the invented rituals were wiped out, and all the fairs and carnivals were stopped.

Furthermore, it was ordered that Allah’s worship should only be carried out in the prescribed manner. The Prophet 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 nor wrangles during Hajj.” (Al-Baqarah 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.” (Al-Baqarah 2:200)

Putting and End to Odd Practices around the Kabah

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

Almighty Allah says, “Eat and drink but do not be excessive. Verily He does not love the wasteful.” (Al-A`raf 6:31) “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.” (Al-Hajj 22:36)

📚 Read Also: Modern Challenges to the Spirit of Hajj

The practice of spattering the blood of the sacrificed animals on the walls of the Kabah and throwing 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.” (Al-Hajj 22:37)

Going around the Kabah naked was strictly prohibited by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) on Allah’s command. And Allah further explained, “Say, who has forbidden the adornment (dress) given by Allah which He has brought forth for His servants.” (Al-A`raf 6:32)

It was also strictly prohibited to interchange the months of Hajj so as to turn the haram months into halal ones for the purpose of battle. Almighty Allah says, “Postponement (of a 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.” (At-Tawbah 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.” (Al-A`raf 6:26)

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 says, “It is no sin for you that you seek the bounty of your Lord (by trading).”(Al-Baqarah 2:198)

The system of performing Hajj without talking, without eating and without drinking was ended.

New Meanings of Hajj

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 the roads leading to the Kabah, marks were fixed to indicate the miqats, the points beyond which all pilgrims must wear the simple dress of ihram. This consists of only two sheets for men so that the rich and 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 worshippers full of humility.

It was made haram to hunt any animal while in a state of ihram. 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 the roads leading to the Kabah and no pilgrim would be molested en route. Now when the pilgrims reach the Kabah, there are 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, tawaf of the Kabah. The only slogan that should be proclaimed in a loud voice is the talbiyah: “Here I am present, O 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, “Whosoever 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.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.