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  • 10/18/2008

What Is The Secret And Philosophy Of Hajj?

holy kaba


There are four dimensions associated with this great act of worship - each one more deep-rooted and beneficial than the other.


1. The Ethical Dimension

The most important philosophy of Hajj is the ethical transformation which it induces within man.

 The ritual of ‘ihraam’ entirely removes man from material ostentations, external distinctions, extravagant apparels and ornamentations, and by prohibiting pleasures and engaging him in self-rectification - one of the duties of a ‘muhrim’ 1  , it distances him from the material world and engrosses him in a world of light, purity and spirituality, consequently causing those, who, in ordinary circumstances, find themselves to be weighed down by the burden of make-believe distinctions, ranks and honours, to suddenly feel light, easy and relaxed.


Subsequently, the performance of the other rituals of Hajj, one after the other, continually brings man closer to his Lord, strengthens his spiritual connection with Him, distances him from his gloomy and sinful past, and guides him towards a bright, luminous and pure future.


In view of the fact that every step of the Hajj-rituals is reminiscent of the events associated with Ibrahim, Ismaai’l and his mother Haajar, and personifies before man their self-sacrifice, altruism and struggle (in the path of God), and also given that the city of Mecca - in general - and the Masjid al-Haraam, the Ka’bah and the place of circumambulation - in particular - bring to mind the memories of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), the holy Imams (peace be upon them) and the struggle of the Muslims during the period of early Islam, this ethical transformation tends to be deeper and more profound such that in every corner of Masjid al-Haraam and the city of Mecca, man visualizes the faces of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny), A"li (peace be upon him) and the other holy Imams (peace be upon them), and hears the enthusiastic slogans of their mission. 


Indeed, all these together pave the way for an ethical revolution within hearts that are receptive and in a manner that is indescribable, and causes man to turn over a new leaf and opens up a new chapter in his life.  And it is not without reason that we read in our traditions that one, who performs Hajj, completely and perfectly…

يَخْرُجُ مِنْ ذُنُوبِهِ كَهَيْئَتِهِ يَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ‏

(Becomes free of sins just as he was on the day when his mother gave him birth) . 2


Truly, Hajj is a second birth for the Muslims - a birth which is the beginning of a new human life.

It is needless to mention that these effects and benefits, and those that we shall mention later, are neither for those who only content themselves with its exterior leaving aside its core, nor for those, who only view it as a means for recreation, tourism, pretension, dissemblance and acquiring personal material items - never acquainting themselves with its spirit and essence.  Their share would only be that, which they had set out to achieve!

holy kaba

2. The Political Dimension: 

As has been stated by one of the renowned Islamic jurisprudents, the Hajj rituals, apart from putting on display the most sincere and profound acts of worship, are also the most effective means for advancing the political objectives of Islam.


The essence of worship is attention towards God, while the essence of politics is attention towards the ‘creation of God’ - and these two aspects are observed to be as closely intertwined in Hajj as the yarns in a fabric! 

Hajj is an effective factor in establishing unity amongst the ranks of the Muslims.

Hajj is an instrument to combat nationalistic and racial fanaticism, and oppose confinement (of the Muslims) within their geographical boundaries.

Hajj is a means for eliminating the shackles of censorship and breaking the stranglehold of the oppressive leaderships prevalent in the Islamic nations

Hajj is a tool for transferring news of political affairs of the Islamic nations from one corner of the globe to another, and finally, it is an effective means for breaking the fetters of captivity and colonialism, and liberating the Muslims.


And it is for this reason that, during the period when oppressive tyrants like those belonging to the Umayyad and the Abbasid dynasties ruled over the Islamic regions and kept every kind of interaction between the various segments of the Muslims under close scrutiny in order to crush any kind of liberty-seeking uprising, the advent of the season of Hajj was an opening towards freedom, interaction between various segments of the great Islamic society and discussion of various political issues.


And it is on this basis that Amirul Mu"mineen (peace be upon him), expounding the philosophy that lay behind every act of worship, in connection with Hajj states:

الْحَجَّ تَقْوِيَةً لِلدِّينِ‏

(Allah has ordained (the rituals of) Hajj for the purpose of strengthening the religion) . 3

Again, it is not without reason that an eminent non-Muslim statesman has stated:  Woe unto the Muslims if they do not perceive the meaning (and significance) of Hajj and woe unto their enemies if they (the Muslims) ever happen to perceive it.


Even in the Islamic traditions Hajj has been regarded as the jihad of the feeble ones – one, in which even the old and weak men and women can join in and have a contribution in exhibiting the greatness and grandeur of the Islamic ummah and, by standing in circles around the holy Ka’bah and attesting to God’s unity and greatness, cause the hearts of the enemies of Islam to palpitate in trepidation.

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3. The Cultural Dimension 

The interaction between the various segments of the Islamic society during the season of Hajj can turn out to be the most effective factor for cultural exchanges and transfer of thoughts and ideas. 

 This is especially so in view of the fact that the grand gathering of Hajj is in reality, a true and natural representation of all the segments of the Muslims of the world (since there is no forced, forged or artificial factor involved in the selection of those proceeding for Hajj, the Pilgrims are individuals that come from all segments, races and languages associated with the Muslims all over the world, who have gathered under one roof).  And this is why we read in the traditions: One of the benefits of Hajj is the spread of the traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) throughout the entire Islamic world.


Hishaam Ibn Hakam, one of the learned companions of Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) says:  I questioned the Imam (peace be upon him) about the philosophy that lay behind the performance of Hajj and the circumambulation of the Ka’bah whereupon he (peace be upon him) replied: “God created the servants … and for the welfare of their worldly and religious affairs, He sent down His commandments for them - one of them being the congregation of the people from the East and the West (for the Hajj rituals).  This, in order that the Muslims become acquainted with one another, become aware of the states of each other, and (so that) every group transfers its business investments from one city to another … and in order that the memories and traditions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny) become known, and the people bring them to mind and do not forget them.”  4


And it was on this basis that the Muslims, during the suffocating eras in which the tyrannical caliphs and rulers had prohibited them from spreading these rulings, made use of this opportunity (of Hajj) to interact with the Imams (peace be upon them) and eminent religious scholars for solving their problems, understanding the rulings of Islam and comprehending the traditions and customs of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his holy progeny).

On the other hand, Hajj possesses the ability to be transformed into a gigantic cultural assembly in which scholars and intellectuals of the Islamic world, coming together for a few days in Mecca, propound their thoughts and exhibit their creativity before the others.

Essentially, one of the great catastrophes is that the boundaries between the Islamic nations become reason for them to become separate from each other, culturally.  As a consequence, Muslims of each nation only reflect upon their own selves and their own state of affairs, and this is something that effectively works towards dismembering and dissecting the single Islamic society; indeed, Hajj has the ability to stem this evil outcome.

And how beautifully has Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) stated in that tradition of Hishaam Ibn Hakam when he said: If all the people were to be concerned only about their respective countries and the problems existing therein, all of them would suffer destruction, their countries would face ruination, their benefits and welfare would be lost, and realities would become obscured and concealed.

holy kaba

4. The Financial Dimension 

Contrary to what some people imagine, utilizing the great assembly of Hajj for strengthening the financial foundations of the Islamic nations is not only not inconsistent with the spirit of Hajj but, according to the Islamic traditions, constitutes one of the philosophies for it, instead.


What is the harm if the Muslims, in that great gathering, were to lay the foundations of a common and associated Islamic market, and pave the way for commercial transactions amongst themselves in a manner such that neither do their profits enter the pockets of their enemies nor does their economy become dependent upon the others; and if such is the case, not only is this not ‘craving for the world’ but rather, an act of worship and jihad (in the way of God).


And it is for this reason that in that tradition of Hishaam Ibn Hakam from Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), an express reference has been made towards this aspect that one of the objectives of Hajj is strengthening the commerce of the Muslims and facilitating economic association and cooperation amongst them.


In another tradition, Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him), interpreting the verse...

 لَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُناحٌ أَنْ تَبْتَغُوا فَضْلاً مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ‏ 

(There is no blame on you in seeking bounty from your Lord) 5

 says: The meaning of this verse is ‘seeking livelihood’.


إِذَا أَحَلَّ الرَّجُلُ مِنْ إِحْرَامِهِ وَ قَضَى فَلْيَشْتَرِ وَ لْيَبِعْ فِي الْمَوْسِمِ

(And when a person comes out of his ihraam and completes the Hajj, he should conduct business transactions during the season of Hajj (for not only it is not a sin but on the contrary it carries rewards.)) 6

This meaning is also witnessed in a tradition 7  from Imam A"li Ibn Musa al-Ridha (peace be upon him) which explicitly enumerates the philosophies and objectives underlying the rites of Hajj; in the tradition, the Imam (peace be upon him) recites the following verse of the holy Qur"an:

لِيَشْهَدُوا مَنافِعَ لَهُمْ‏

(That they may witness advantages for them) 8 , a reference to the fact that the verse alludes to the spiritual benefits as well as the material ones - although both of them, from one perspective, can be looked upon as being spiritual in nature.

holy kaba

In short, if this great worship were to be utilized correctly and perfectly, and the Pilgrims of the House of God, at a time when they are active and their hearts are emotionally ready in that holy land, were to make use of this great opportunity for solving the various problems that plague the Islamic society by establishing various political, cultural and mercantile assemblies, it would surely serve to untie the knots and solve the problems; and perhaps this is why Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said:

لَا يَزَالُ الدِّينُ قَائِماً مَا قَامَتِ الْكَعْبَةُ

(The religion shall continue to stand for so long as the Ka’bah continues to do so) 9

Imam A"li (peace be upon him) too has said:

اللَّهَ اللَّهَ فِي بَيْتِ رَبِّكُمْ فَلَا يَخْلُو مِنْكُمْ مَا بَقِيتُمْ فَإِنَّهُ إِنْ تُرِكَ لَمْ تُنَاظَرُوا

(Fear Allah in the matter of His House (Ka’bah)!  Do not desert it for if it is deserted, divine reprieve shall be taken away from you) 10

And it is due to the immense significance of the above issue that in the Islamic sources of traditions a separate chapter has been devoted to it that if it were to ever happen that in a particular year the Muslims decide to refrain from going for Hajj, it would become obligatory upon the Islamic government to send them to Mecca by means of force!11, 12


1.One, who has worn the ihraam. (Translator’s comments).

2.Bihaar al-Anwaar, vol. 99, pg. 26

3.Nahjul Balaghah, sayings 252.

4.Wasaail al-Shia’h, vol. 8, pg. 9.

5. Holy Qur’an, ch. Al-Baqarah (2), vs. 198.

6.Tafseer A’yyaashi, as stated by Tafseer al-Mizaan, vol. 2, pg. 86.

7.Bihaar al-Anwaar, vol. 99, pg. 32

8.Holy Qur"an, ch. Al-Hajj (22), vs, 28. (Translator’s comments)

9.Wasaail al-Shia’h, vol. 8, pg. 14

10.Nahjul Balaghah, letter 47.

11.Wasaail al-Shia"h, vol. 8, pg. 15 (The Chapter of ‘Obligation Upon The Governor To Compel The People For Hajj’)

12.Tafseer-e-Namunah, vol. 14, pg. 76.

Related links:


Special edition on Hajj

Hajj Guideline and Important Information

Books On Hajj Complete Guide

Supplication or Dua Arafa

Hajj Guide for Pilgrims with Islamic Ruling.

Concise Treatise on the Rules of Hajj


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