A long, long time ago, about 4000 years ago (and Allah knows best), at the time of the prophet Ibrahim, four events took place that changed the course of history for all Muslims; events that gave rise to one of the pillars of Islam: Hajj (pilgrimage).
As-Safa and Al-Marwa; the Well of Zamzam
Ibrahim, who was a messenger of Allah, married Sarah from Greater Syria. However, Sarah could not bear child. Seeing how Ibrahim would wish so much for a child, she advised him to marry their servant Hajar; which he did. Ibrahim and Hajar had a child; his name was Ismail.
Shortly after his birth, Ibrahim received the revelation from Allah to take his wife Hajar and his son Ismail and leave them in a deserted place in the Arabian Peninsula. When Ibrahim was about to leave them, his wife Hajar asked him if this decision came from him or from Allah, he answered from Allah; she said: He (Allah) will not make us perish.
After Ibrahim left the surroundings, and their food and water ran out, Ismail began to cry. Having nothing to sustain him, Hajar searched tirelessly for traces of a caravan on the horizon. So she went back and forth between two hills: As-Safa and Al-Marwa. She was leaving As-Safa to go to Al-Marwa, and one; she left Al-Marwa to return to As-Safa, and two; always imploring Allah to save them; she made this journey seven times, but with no sign of life. At that moment, Ismail was crying incessantly; then Allah sent His angel Gibril to spring a water source nearby. The spring gushed out so much that Hajar said “Zimmi, Zimmi” (stop, stop) trying to contain the water. This is what we believe is the origin of the name of the source Zamzam.
With a well of water in the desert, life became possible; hence, caravanners began to pass by, exchange goods for Zamzam’s water, and even settled down. That’s how this valley was populated and became Makkah.
The messenger Ibrahim also implored Allah to provide for his family:
“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.”
Surah Ibrahim (14 – 37)
And when he (Ismail) 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 Allah wills, of the steadfast.”
And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead,
We called out to him, “O Abraham!
You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.
That was truly a revealing test.
And We ransomed him (Ismail) with a great sacrifice,
and blessed Abraham ˹with honourable mention˺ among later generations.
Surah As-Saffat (37 – 102-108)
This is why at the end of the Hajj, on the day of Eid Al-Adha (Celebration of the Sacrifice), it is encouraged to sacrifice a ram or any other form of cattle.
The stoning of Shaytan (The Devil Iblis)
This past story does not go without the temptation of the devil (Shaytan) to entice Ibrahim’s family to disobey the order of Allah. In short, Shaytan tried to tempt Ibrahim, Ismail, and Hajar so that Ibrahim would reject the idea of sacrifice.
He began by whispering to Ibrahim: “You are not going to kill your son, your only son! Allah certainly does not want this, it is only a dream…” (of course, I’m paraphrasing)
Realizing that this is a devil’s temptation, Ibrahim took rocks and pelted them to keep Shaytan away.
He then went to whisper to Ismail: “You are not going to let your father kill you, Allah certainly does not want that, this is madness…”
Realizing that this is a devil’s temptation, Ismail took rocks and pelted them to keep Shaytan away.
He then went to Hajar and whispered: “You’re not going to let your husband kill your only son, Allah certainly doesn’t want it, it’s murder…”
Realizing that this is a devil’s temptation, Hajar took rocks and pelted them to keep Shaytan away.
As we have seen, Allah did not want this act to be accomplished, He wanted to strengthen their faith and reward them with a great and useful sacrifice.
Moreover, this situation turned into an obligatory ritual of Hajj, the one of stoning the Devil in these three spots where the Devil tried to tempt Ibrahim’s family to go astray.
Construction of the Ka’ba; a call to Hajj (pilgrimage)
And [mention, O Muḥammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House, [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who perform ṭawāf and those who stand [in prayer] and those who bow and prostrate.
Surah Al-Hajj (22 – 26)
And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites [of worship] and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of Repentance, the Merciful.
Surah Al-Baqara (2 – 127-128)
Call ˹all˺ people to the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel from every distant path,
That they may witness [i.e., attend] benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known [i.e., specific] days over what He has provided for them of [sacrificial] animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor.
Surah Al-Hajj (22 – 27-28)
And [mention] when We made the House [i.e., the Kaʿbah] 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 ṭawāf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].”
Surah Al-Baqara (2 – 125)
So it was Ibrahim and Ismail who built the Ka’ba together, Ibrahim called for pilgrimage and Allah taught them the rituals of Hajj. Since then, yearly, thousands and now millions of Muslim pilgrims perform the Hajj in order to worship their Creator, the One and Unique: Allah.
There is another aspect of Hajj that needs to be addressed; it is melting pot of races. Muslims, millions of them, from all across the globe, from all hemispheres, converge into one holy place. Each male is shrouded in white cloth, regardless of status, class, or race. Equality and unity are at stake in this holy place; never minding all the turmoil in the world, this is one place that has kept its sanctity by the will of Allah.
This might also be the reason that the Prophet made this clear in his famous farewell sermon in his only pilgrimage, here is an excerpt:
“O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim, which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
Hadith Bukhari 1623
When you think about it, it is Allah that created all of this diversity and differences.
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.
Surah Ar-Rum (30 – 22)
However, there is one bond that trumps race and lineage; faith:
And brought together their hearts. If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have brought their hearts together; but Allah brought them together. Indeed, He is Exalted in Might and Wise.
Surah Al-Anfal (8 – 63)
To learn more about these subjects, read FAITH The Process of Belief