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The Story of Abraham and how Hajj Started

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Make your trip more rewarding by understanding the religious significance of the symbols and signs of Hajj and Umrah.


Abraham is considered the friend of Allah in the Islamic tradition and holds an esteemed position amongst the Prophets and Messengers of Islam. Known as the father of the three Abrahamic faiths, Abraham’s original teachings were those of monotheism.


The Qur’an states, “And they say: Be Jews or Christians, then you will be rightly guided. Say: Instead, we follow the faith of Abraham, the monotheist, and he was not of those who associated partners with Allah.(2:135)”

In another verse, “Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was a monotheist (Hanif) who had surrendered to Allah (Muslim), and he was not of those who associated partners with Allah.(3:67)”
Thus, Abraham did not belong to an organized ‘religion’, but was a monotheist, surrendering to the commandments of Allah. His commitment to Allah’s oneness was enduring, which is emphasized by the number of trials he was subjected to. The first of those in relation to the Hajj was that of his and his family’s journey to Arabia. Upon Allah’s command, Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael with provisions in a desolate desert valley in Makkah, trusting that Allah would care for them.

He supplicated, “Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by the Sacred house: In order, O our Lord that they may establish regular prayer. So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits; so that they may give thanks.” (14:37)

Safa’ and Marwah

When their provisions had depleted, Hagar frantically searched for water running between the hills of Safa’ and Marwah in order to look for travellers in the distance. Allah showed mercy upon both mother and child by sending an angel to cause a spring of water to gush forth, The water of Zam Zam is sanctified and boasts miraculous beginnings. As a result, pilgrims re-enact Hagar’s search for water between the hills of Safa’ and Marwah as well as drinking from the Zam Zam well.

One of the major trials of Abraham was the command by Allah to kill his own son. A task which would seem impossible for most was taken up by Abraham keen to prove himself to his Lord.
And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham) said: O my dear son, I have seen in a dream that I must sacrifice you. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which you are commanded. Allah willing, you shall find me of the steadfast.”(37:102)

Ishmael’s steadfastness to the will of Allah is remarkable, to the extent that not only did he willfully participate in fulfilling Allah’s commandment, but he also encouraged his father. During this time, the devil attempted to discourage Abraham by sowing doubt within him. However, Abraham and Ishmael dispelled the devil by throwing stones at him and continued on their mission.

Then, when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had flung him down upon his face, We called unto him: O Abraham: You have already fulfilled the vision. Lo! Thus do We reward the good. Lo! That verily was a clear test. Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim.” (37:104-107)

Building the Kaaba

After overcoming the encounter with the devil, an event which is commemorated with the practice of stoning at the Jamarat, Abraham continued to realise Allah’s command, however Ishmael was spared and Abraham was ordered to sacrifice a ram instead. Consequently, this is the same order with which the Hajj rites are practiced and the ram (or lamb, cow etc.) is sacrificed on the 10th of Dhul-Hijja, also known as the day of Eid al-Ad’ha or Yaum al-Nahr.

Another aspect of the life of Abraham which plays a significant role in Hajj is when Allah ordained Abraham and his son Ishmael to build a house of worship for him and to call the believers towards it.
Behold! We gave the site to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): “Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” (22:26)

The Qur’an states, “The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah (Makkah): Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings. In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah – those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.” (3:96-97)
As they built and circled the Ka’bah, they supplicated, (Bukhari 583). In the Quran, “And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.” (2:127) This action is also re-enacted as pilgrims circle the Ka’bah seven times at the end of the Hajj (known as the tawaf al-ifaada) often supplicating to Allah with the same prayer as Abraham and Ishmael.

Hajj has been a pilgrimage since the time of Abraham and his sons, and that this pilgrimage not only involves passing through the valley of Makkah. Allah states in surah Hajj, “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.” (22:27)


As is evident, pilgrims still flock in multitudes to Hajj. From every walk of life and place on Earth, pilgrims participate in the Hajj seeking the pleasure of Allah the Most High. They retrace the footsteps of Abraham and his forbearing son Ishmael.

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