Announcing the Pilgrimage (Hajj)
(From In The Shade OF Quran)
When Abraham completed building the Ka'bah as instructed, he was ordered to declare the duty of pilgrimage as binding on all people, and to call on them to fulfil this duty. God also promised him that people would respond to his call, and that they would come from all corners of the globe, either on foot, or using every kind of fast mount that becomes thin as a result of a long journey: "Proclaim to all people the duty of pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every kind of fast mount. They will come from every far-away quarter." (Verse 27)
God’s promise to Abraham continues to be fulfilled, even today, and it is certain to continue well into the future. People’s hearts aspire to visiting the Ka'bah, passionately longing to see and walk around it. A person of good means will use some form of transport, while a poor person will still come, even though he may have to cover a long distance on foot. Tens of thousands flock to it from far away corners of the earth, every year, in response to Abraham’s proclamation of this duty made thousands of years ago.
People’s spirits roam around the House, recalling memories that are associated with it, and see near and distant images. The memory of Abraham as he abandons his small child, Ishmael, born to him in old age, yet whom he left alone with his mother. As he turned away to leave, he addressed a prayer to God, one which clearly reflected an issuing from an apprehensive heart: "Our Lord, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House, so that they may establish regular prayers. So, cause You people’s hearts to incline towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks." (14: 37)
We remember Hagar as she tries to find water for herself and her young child in that exceedingly hot place where the Sacred House was yet to be built. We see her dashing to and fro between the two hills of al-Safa and al-Marwah, feel her exceeding thirst, and watch her fear for her child as she's weighed down with the strenuous effort involved. She returns after covering the distance seven times, feeling something approaching despair, only to find water springing up between the blessed child's hands. That water was the Well of Zamzam, a spring of mercy in the middle of a barren desert
We recall the memory of Abraham and his vision: how he had no hesitation in offering his first son as a sacrifice. He carries a believer's submission to its highest standard: "He said: Dear son! I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you. Consider, then, what would be your view." (37: 102) And he is answered with equal obedience that demonstrates self-surrender to God in its clearest sense: "He answered: Father! Do as you are bidden. You will find me, if God so wills, one who is patient in adversity." (37: 102) But then God's grace is bestowed upon them and the son is released with a sacrifice sent by God: "We called out to him: Abraham, you have already fulfilled that dream-vision! Thus indeed do We reward those who do good. All this was indeed a trial, clear in itself. And We ransomed him with a tremendous sacrifice." (37: 104-107)
We also see the image of Abraham and Ishmael, many years later, as they raise the foundations of the House, praying to God with submission and humility: "Our Lord, accept this from us; You are the One that hears all and knows all. Our Lord, make us surrender ourselves to You, and make out of our offspring a community that will surrender itself to You. Show us our ways of worship and accept our repentance; You are the One who accepts repentance, the Merciful." (2: 127-128)
This is the story of how the Sacred House in Makkah was built and the basis on which it was founded. It was God who ordered His friend, Abraham (peace be upon him), to raise this House making belief in God’s oneness its solid foundation. He further ordered Abraham to purify it of all idolatry, and to proclaim to mankind the duty of offering the pilgrimage to the House, where they mention God’s name, not the names of false deities, over what they sacrifice of cattle He provides for them. They are to eat of it and to feed the needy and the poor in praise of God’s name, not the name of anyone or anything else. This means that it is a sacred House where God’s sanctities are respected. Paramount among these are the belief in God’s oneness, the opening of the House to worshippers who walk around it, stand before it in prayer, and bow and prostrate themselves to God, in addition to the prevention of bloodshed, the honouring of covenants and treaties, and the maintenance of peace.